You are here

National Science Foundation Living Wall

National Science Foundation Living Wall Research

Buildings consume 40% of the world's total energy use and produce 35% of the world’s CO2 emissions. Most of this energy and emission are caused by various mechanical and electrical systems to heat, cool, ventilate, and light building spaces. This cost can be largely reduced by developing and implementing innovative building envelope systems, where most heating and cooling loads are transmitted while most natural energy resources are directly available (such as solar, daylight and wind). Experience (e.g., Courtney et al. 2005) shows that an optimally designed wall system can effectively reduce current building energy load by 20-50%. Recent advances in materials science and engineering (e.g., phase change materials, surface coaling techniques) show great potentials to revolutionize the conventional method of building material development and application using wood, concrete, brick, and foams etc. Progress in smart materials developed for aerospace or biomedical applications (e.g., temperature-responsive polymers, photomechanical materials) provides exciting opportunities to improve the energy efficiency of buildings [1, 15-21]. Meanwhile, research in life science and biomimicry provides many creative insights into diverse engineering designs. Biomimicry is a relatively new science field that studies nature’s best ideas and imitates these designs and processes to solve human problems. The life-sustaining principles that exist in nature are translated into design parameters that promote sustainable, culturally-appropriate, and life-friendly engineering. It is interesting to note how both the aircraft and building systems industries have recently turned to nature for design inspiration. For instance, researchers at Sandia National Laboratories and various universities are developing a lightweight, fracture-resistant material for aircraft parts. Inspired by the underside of the abalone shell, this composite ceramic has tested twice as strong as high-tech ceramics, primarily because it can slide under stress and absorb energy [12]. In essence, biomimicry provides a holistic framework for engineering design that challenges human to consider sustainability, intelligent resource management, and the social factors in which engineering innovations will ultimately be applied. With the goal of achieving net-zero-energy buildings in the U.S. by 2030, this proposal is aiming to develop a brand new interdisciplinary academic program named Bio-Architectural Science and Engineering (BASE) by establishing a highly integrated cross-disciplinary research and education program. The project will apply biomimicry principles to explore opportunities and challenges of developing innovative climate-adaptive building systems with modern material science and technologies. The project will particularly develop intelligent and integrated building envelope systems with smart materials and innovative structures, upon a series of advanced and multi-disciplinary studies on material science, structure engineering, heat transfer, fluid mechanics, system optimization, and architecture integration. The proposed wall material and structure concept acquires the original idea from biomimicry of living body’s thermo-regulation systems (i.e., respiratory and circulatory systems) that can effectively and promptly adapt to surrounding environment with sophisticated heat transfer processes and metabolic adjustments. The new design will substantially revolutionize the traditional wall concept and configuration that primarily focus on the conduction mechanism (i.e., insulation influence) of wall heat transfer to the environment.

Links to the Submitted Proposal and Research Reports

Theme by Danetsoft and Danang Probo Sayekti inspired by Maksimer