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Adaptable envelopes integrated in building refurbishment projects

Specific challenge:The refurbishment of the existing building stock requires ground-breaking strategies in order to meet targets for reduced energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. One of the most important components to be addressed with an innovative approach is the building envelope, which has to develop into an active rather than a passive element, meeting more functions than just the separation of the outer space from the interior with insulation.

The concept of adaptable envelope is twofold. On the one hand, it is designed to accommodate further modifications (such as future renovation or technology upgrades). On the other hand, the envelope is able to adapt to a dynamic and intricate environment by measuring and processing multi-source information (e.g. outdoor and indoor environment conditions, occupancy, behaviour of users and envelope performance) in order to respond to the building occupant’s instructions and to evolving environmental conditions in an appropriate timing and extent.

Scope: Proposals should address breakthrough solutions to improve roof and façade functional characteristics to enable the building envelope to adapt to a dynamic, mutable and complex environment during its lifetime. Research is expected to cover for example, advanced materials or technologies for energy generation and storage; smart and performance insulation materials; near infrared reflecting and cool coatings; adaptable innovative pre-cast solutions; strategies for improved air quality, moisture control, ventilation control and energy recovery; enhanced acoustic properties; improved fire resistance; automated blinds or movable sun barriers with interrelated issues of summer overheating, air-tightness and natural light use; integration of innovative sensing systems to control and optimise the real time performance of the envelope; or advanced building control systems to control the active envelope.

In addition, proposers should also seek to include in the adaptable envelopes features that could facilitate the future renovation or conversion of the whole or part of the building (fostering creativity and an active role of architects and engineers at design stage), such as:

-          Adaptability to different shapes, taking into account tolerances, façade conditions, stability of existing façades, building orientations and general conditions of the building during its lifetime;

-          Conversion of rooms, or buildings, to new usage;

-          Possibility to integrate new solutions (upcoming technologies) and systems, covering the whole cycle from component design, to the structural aspects and to their installation;

-          Self-adaptation, which is important in relation to current weather and building load situation, and changing use patterns (including new users, or family instead of single users).

-          The integration of the active envelope with building control systems to provide real time control to the envelope according to actual environmental conditions and/or energy demand.

Clear evidence of technical and economic viability should be provided by validating and demonstrating the proposed adaptable envelope in real case retrofitting projects.

For this topic, proposals should include an outline of the initial exploitation and business plans, which will be developed further in the proposal project.

Activities expected to focus on Technology Readiness Levels 4-6.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU between EUR 3 and 6 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

Expected impact:

                Total (primary) energy consumption reduction by a factor 2 to 4 with respect to the values before installation of the adaptable envelope.

                Improved indoor environment.

                Demonstration of the replicability potential in a real case-study.

                Provide solutions with a return on investment below 7 years.

                Validation and market uptake of active building elements.

Type of action:  Research & Innovation Actions