Five Fabric Skins Help Buildings Beautifully Harvest the Weather


1. Harvesting water. Part of the prototype cloth is designed like a lotus leaf with microscopic spikes and depressions to make water bead, though letters absorb water so they appear. Photo via Filiz Klassen.

Architecture, says designer Filiz Klassen, is infatuated with "super materials" and gimmicks. Instead of building for the gee-whiz factor, however, Klassen wants to build with new incarnations of existing materials that, as she says, "make visible the effects of the weather," and in addition also use the weather's energy for practical, but also beautiful, effects.

"I was fascinated with all the material innovation taking place, but what made sense to me is that that's a tool to show the effects of the environment on a building...I was looking into materials that can harvest, transfer and release energy...that would change our perception of the buildings."


2. Harvesting water. A building skin of net would guide and accumulate rain for potable water use of the building. Photo via Filiz Klassen.

To Klassen, the materials that we could use in our buildings would help to change architecture from a more passive to a more active part of our environment, and at the same time lessen the local impact of buildings on climate change.


3. Harvesting water and generating light. Integrated photovoltaic cells power LEDs that respond to barometric pressure to change luminosity on rainy and cloudy days. Photo via Filiz Klassen.

To Klassen, the LED mesh fabric is like a second generation of the rain net featured in number 2. above, because this prototype fabric soaks up water for a building's use, but when integrated with the photovoltaics, and LEDs plus sensors, also illuminates rain collection and gives us more light on rainy, cloudy days.

4. Harvesting wind. Here a prototype fabric of wind quills form a building's outer skin. The oscillation of the quills generates electricity which in turn is used for LED illumination that changes based on the patterns of the quills. Photo via Filiz Klassen.

Klassen describes the purpose of her different prototype fabrics that use wind as attempts to make the effects of wind visible. Klassen is also exploring using piezoelectric material for the quills as a way, she says of generating robust small-scale electricity "from the internal compression and tension forces that result from the wind quills' motion."


5. Harvesting temperature changes. The LEDs in the fabric skin are lit from photovoltaics, but change color based on building heat and temperature shifts. Photo via Filiz Klassen.

Making building surfaces brighter without the need for so much energy-sapping lighting was Klassen's goal with her prototype light fabrics. In the light/temperature LED skin prototype, High-frequency RGB LED lights are powered with photovoltaics, while microcontrollers sensitive to temperature then render the infrared changes in a visual display. In other words, on hot days or hot spots on the building you see red, while blue and green indicate colder areas and yellow and orange are inbetween. Klassen hopes that this type of light skin over a building would help reduce dependence on artificial heating and cooling.

Klassen said her next set of prototype fabrics will try to make use of or harvest carbon dioxide and heat into practical and beautiful skins.

Read more at TreeHugger about pizoelectric and other fabrics
LED Umbrella is powered by rain
Power Shirt Generates Electricity from Physical Motion
Solar Textiles: Coming Soon (We Hope) to Clothing Near You

Tags: Buildings | Energy Efficiency