Eco-Active Building Envelopes

Developing the next generation of building envelopes to restore our ecosystem

Rethinking the way buildings are constructed, from consuming our resources to having a positive impact on our environment using emerging nanomaterials.

Today, climate change already manifests its effects on the global environment with prolonged and more extreme weather events, such as heat waves, droughts, floods and bushfires. Impacts in the built environment include increased mortality and morbidity, poor air quality, and scarcity of fresh water supply. An urgent reduction in global carbon emissions is the only viable possibility to mitigate global warming and ensure the survival of the ecosystems on our planet.

The construction industry alone accounts for 38% of the global CO2 emissions and 35% of the total energy consumption. With the current urbanisation pace, climate change and slow adoption of mitigation measures, it is likely that cities, in the future, will face a lack of resources and experience unhealthy environments.

Our vision proposes a new generation of building envelopes that could give back, repair and restore the ecosystem they work within, a future where buildings will no longer be detrimental for the environment – but an active part of its restoration.

This project will define a roadmap for the implementation of the different nanotechnologies at the building scale. It explores potentials and limitations for their applicability in building envelopes by identifying and analysing a comprehensive array of criteria that maximise performance within a circular economy framework.

This project resonates with a broad spectrum of United Nation Sustainable Development Goals (UN-SDG) and, in particular, is underpinned by regenerative design principles (SDG-12), while contributing to advance the Australian manufacturing sector (SDG-9). It will particularly focus on:

  • Nano-structured coatings that exploit the radiative heat dissipation into deep space. These materials can contribute to reduce the urban heat island effects (SDG-3, SDG-11) through passive cooling and promote atmospheric water capture (SDG-6) through surface condensation effects;
  • Metal-organic frameworks to capture and store carbon dioxide from the atmosphere for air-filtering (SDG-3) and bio-availability for food production (SDG-2);
  • Materials with advanced photonic and photovoltaic properties to convert solar radiation into useful energy (SDG-7, SDG-12).

The multidisciplinary approach will include studies aimed at identifying complementary, as well as conflicting, operating conditions of the different nanotechnologies, urban context and climates, building design and component engineering. Small-scale prototypes will be developed with the University Core Facilities. These prototypes will be installed and monitored on PHEBE, the new School of Architecture, Design and Planning’s testing module for building components, with cash support from the School. Both desktop studies and experimental approaches will guide the research in the definition of potential applications, barriers for adoption and opportunities for development.

This project paves the way for innovative research, education and outreach agendas within the Sydney Nano Institute and across the University. It aims at identifying pathways for cross-sectoral innovation while prototyping new building envelope components that integrate pioneering nanomaterials.

Arianna Brambilla

Lecturer - Architectural Technology
  • Room 325 Wilkinson G04

D'Alessandro Deanna

Professor and Australian Research Council Future Fellow
  • +61 2 9351 3329
  • Room 457/Lab 442 School of Chemistry F11