Designing Intelligent Buildings

Smart materials and systems that create high thermal, acoustic and ventilation performance are key to intelligent building design.

Intelligent buildings are those in which the building fabric, space, services and information systems can respond in an effective manner to the demands of the owner, the occupier and the environment. The result is a sustainable, responsive, effective and supportive environment where individuals and organisations can achieve their objectives. Technology is fundamental, but is an enabler rather than an end in itself.

The Intelligent Buildings International (INBI) journal is a fantastic resource on this — going beyond traditional engineering and architecture solutions to examine new methodologies and tools for intelligent buildings, smart materials and systems.

An example of an intelligent building is '2226', designed by Austrian architect Dietmar Eberle, using Porotherm clay block. The building was designed to work without heating, cooling or a mechanical ventilation system — almost everything usually considered indispensable for maximising comfort in multi-level buildings.

The sole sources of heat are present in the building fabric, the building's users (on average a person emits about 80 watts in thermal energy), and office equipment and appliances such as PCs, photocopiers and coffee machines. The necessary temperature stability is ensured first and foremost by its thermal storage or mass using Porotherm clay blocks.

In '2226', the Porotherm walls have been given a smooth, breathable lime plaster finish on both sides to ensure breathability and pure indoor air quality. The triple-glazed windows with their completely insulated frames are also a proven element in the construction kit — '2226' has no heat recovery ventilation system. Instead the architects opted for window-based, or rather, shuttered aeration.

While luxury is seen in the thick block walls and generous interior spaces for good ventilation — and would be considered out of the question for downtown investment projects where every rentable square metre is measured — '2226' was not expensive to build. The costs of materials required to achieve greater thermal mass and longevity were offset by dispensing with technical equipment.

Porotherm is a highly intelligent, technologically-advanced building system, specifically designed to self-ventilate while also managing moisture, temperature and sound. It is a high performance walling solution suitable where the complexity of integrated building design demands increasing technology and energy efficiency.

As an apartment or office building fabric, Porotherm also provides added acoustic, fire-proof and low maintenance benefits.

'2226' is a simple building where modern technology meets the 20th century. Like so many other simple buildings, it is the result of thoughtful planning. The building is a much-visited object of identification for architects and construction professionals in a day and age where regulations and constraints give rise to a longing for simplicity, and a growing appreciation of more intangible values.

By Chris MacPherson - Published on Eboss