Breathing facade skin of polycarbonate sheets

Breathing Skins showroom wins EPSE innovation award

Breathing facade skin of polycarbonate sheets

Breathing facade skin of polycarbonate sheets
The Breathing Skins showroom shows how to control the permeability of facades and thus to adapt the indoor climate to the user’s specific requirements. The project centers around a breathing facade skin using transparent solid polycarbonate sheets from Covestro.

The idea behind the seminal Breathing Skins showroom is to use the outer envelope of buildings to variably adapt the indoor climate to the needs of the occupants. The project centers around a breathing facade skin using transparent solid sheets of the polycarbonate Makrolon®. This is modeled on a natural, organic skin. Further explanations are provided by a video at the website www.breathingskins.com.

Covestro recently won the innovation award of the European Polycarbonate Sheet Extruders Organisation (EPSE) for this development. It was the eighth time the organization had held the Best Polycarbonate Projects Competition to recognize outstanding applications with polycarbonate sheets.

Controllable permeability
Tobias Becker’s proprietary development makes it possible to infinitely vary the permeability of facades and thus adapt the indoor climate to the user’s specific requirements. Germany’s Federal Minister for the Environment Barbara Hendricks and Maria Krautzberger, president of the German Federal Environment Agency, have now presented Tobias Becker with the Federal Ecodesign Award in the Young Talent category.

The inspiration for developing a breathing facade skin comes from the idea of ventilating an interior via pore-like air ducts without creating a draft. These ducts can be sealed pneumatically so as to be airtight by applying a small overpressure to the facade element. A low-energy compressor controls around 140 pneumatic “muscles” per square meter without any visible technology. Applying a small underpressure widens the reversible air ducts fitted between two perforated, transparent solid sheets of Makrolon® GP clear 099 polycarbonate from Covestro. The sandwich design weighs less than eleven kilograms per square meter.

The more the pneumatic muscles dilate, the more the facade’s appearance changes. Permeability for light and air as well as see-through visibility can be modified locally and gradually. The concept is based on biomimetics, the basic idea of which is to observe nature closely and turn the findings into technical applications.

Breathing Skins showroom
The showroom is a prototype for testing breathing skins facade technology and experiencing it at an emotional level. The organic-like facade skin and the soft, meandering form of the Breathing Skins showroom complement each other perfectly. Geometrically speaking, the facade is made up of six arcs with different radii. The solid sheets’ good thermoforming properties produced excellent results.

The facade is over ten meters long, has an area of 25 square meters and is split into several elements. To reinforce the image of a continuous facade, the load-bearing parts of the sandwich facade elements are all made of solid polycarbonate sheets. The interior has an area of eight square meters and a clear height of 2.4 meters.

A wooden structure with edges 4.5 by 4.5 meters long marks the vertical limit of the interior. The ceiling panel rests on four round, recessed larch supports mounted outside the interior. The modular components are so small and light that each of them can be carried by two people. The laminated birch surfaces make you want to touch them, and create a warm effect that provides an excellent contrast to the plastic facade.

More than just transparent glazing
The showroom demonstrates that polycarbonate sheets can be used for more than just transparent glazing in architectural applications. Their mechanical properties and the fact that they are milled during the machining process enable easy integration of controllable elements such as the pneumatic muscles. Transparent facades of all building typologies thus become a tool for controlling energy management and interior climate.

About Tobias Becker:
Tobias Becker invented and obtained legal protection for the Breathing Skins facade technology while he was studying architecture (ILEK, Institute for Lightweight Structures and Conceptual Design at the University of Stuttgart). Planning the showroom was the subject of his dissertation. The showroom was implemented independently in a project group with fellow student Simon Huffer, who was responsible for planning the wooden structure. See www.breathingskins.com.

About Covestro:
With 2015 sales of EUR 12.1 billion, Covestro is among the world’s largest polymer companies. Business activities are focused on the manufacture of high-tech polymer materials and the development of innovative solutions for products used in many areas of daily life. The main segments served are the automotive, electrical and electronics, construction and the sports and leisure industries. Covestro, formerly Bayer MaterialScience, has 30 production sites around the globe and as of the end of 2015 employed approximately 15,800 people (full-time equivalents).

Find more information at www.covestro.com, www.breathingskins.com and www.epse.org/breathing-skins-showroom.

Forward-looking statements
This press release may contain forward-looking statements based on current assumptions and forecasts made by Covestro AG. Various known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors could lead to material differences between the actual future results, financial situation, development or performance of the company and the estimates given here. These factors include those discussed in Covestro’s public reports which are available on the Covestro website at www.covestro.com. Covestro assumes no liability whatsoever to update these forward-looking statements or to conform them to future events or developments.

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