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Kinetic Architecture: New book explores innovations in active façades

Kinetic Architecture: New book explores innovations in active façades

The book, co-authored by Arup's Russell Fortmeyer, illustrates the various ways architects, consultants, and engineers approach energy and comfort by manipulating air, water, and light through the layers of passive and active building envelope systems.


By Arup | May 20, 2014

Arup has announced that Russell Fortmeyer, LEED AP, BD+C, an associate in Arup's Los Angeles office, has co-authored a book on kinetic architecture with industry expert Charles Linn, FAIA, an architect who has specialized in architectural journalism for more than 25 years. Kinetic Architecture: Designs for Active Envelopes was published in April by Images Publishing Dist Ac. The foreword is written by well-known German architect Christoph Ingenhoven.

The Scottish architect and professor Alan Dunlop, in his review in the April issue of 'The Architects Journal,' wrote that the book succeeds as it "explores in a comprehensive and rigorous manner how contemporary architects have reacted to escalating international concern over the use of natural resources and climate change by modulating their designs to consume less energy, perform better and respond to site context."

The book is focused on facades as the intersection of energy and human comfort, as well as aesthetics, with a detailed exploration of the historical use of facades as dynamic building elements. The book illustrates the various ways architects, facade consultants, and engineers approach energy and comfort by manipulating air, water, and light through the layers of passive and active building envelope systems.

Common techniques include shading strategies, such as high-performance operable blinds, double-skinned facade systems that create an active thermal barrier with accommodations for seasonal adjustments, and the simple practice of installing lift-and-pivot replacement windows. It also explores radically new ideas in facade technology, such as hydronic shroud systems that run water through porous ceramic pipes to create an evaporative cooling effect blanketing a building's exterior. Most examples are geared at reducing solar heat gain in buildings in warm climates, or reducing heat loss in colder climates.

"This book is meant to illustrate that dynamic approaches to high-performance design are more common than one might think, and that it's not out of the question for designers of projects large and small to consider these systems," said Fortmeyer. "The applications discussed within the book apply to a range of building projects, from highly sophisticated technically advanced buildings to those with an almost do-it-yourself aesthetic."

The main objective of Kinetic Architecture is to explore innovative design and construction practices that promote energy efficiency, cost effectiveness, and comfort. It discusses the trend towards energy and facade consultants becoming a single role, embracing a belief that the building envelope is increasingly the key component for delivering energy efficiency for buildings. 

It also identifies the emerging market for controls, sensors, and dynamic building systems that place kinetic facades within reach of a variety of architectural projects, with a conclusion that considers future developments in facade technology that consider energy generation, water purification, and other responses to pressing need for environmental sustainability.

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