Compliant Shading Enclosure / Brent Vander Werf

Open Section © The CoDAF

Brent Vander Werf’s creates a movable mechanism within the air-gap of a glass enclosure to regulate the amount of sun, shade and shadow permitted in a space. Powered by the energy from the sun, the mechanism passively expands or closes to make the opening the correct size to meet the desired comfort level.

More about the shading system after the break.

Open to Closed Series © The CoDAF

The shading system utilizes a bi-metal element that is bonded to high expansion and low expansion alloys. A slight change in temperature makes the alloys produce an opposing force, causing the element to deform and rotate.  The system requires no maintenance or user input once installed, and by adjusting the parameters of the alloys, the mechanism can suit a variety of climates.

Building Section Closed © The CoDAF

“By placing the bi-metal element within a sealed glass enclosure, like may double pane window systems, an increased amount of temperature change can be obtained due to the greenhouse effect and a passively actuated heat sensor is achieved with a wide range of rotational motion and force exertion. The actuator is then coupled with a bistable mechanism, or an elastic element which produces spring-like characteristics by storing and releasing kinetic and potential energy, thus snapping the aperture and attached shading membrane closed with maximum heat input and vice versa, snapping the aperture back open as heat input diminishes significantly, opening the aperture once again to what’s beyond the glass,” explained the designer.

Mid Section © The CoDAF
Closed Section © The CoDAF

Thesis Title: Elastic Systems for Compliant Shading Enclosure

Date Published: May 15th, 2009

Patent Pending (Established May 5th, 2010)

Cite: Cilento, Karen. "Compliant Shading Enclosure / Brent Vander Werf" 22 Jul 2010. ArchDaily. Accessed 15 Sep 2014. <>


  1. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    A fascinating idea- imagine if the same principle could be applied at the nano scale!

  2. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Very cool to see the idea in it’s early stages.
    Would love to see more info on the house they’ve installed this proto on..?

    • Thumb up Thumb down 0

      The house is the University of Arizona’s entry into the Solar Decathlon competition. More information can be found at their website,, or at the department of energy’s solar decathlon page. Brent’s window was definitely a big topic of interest for visitors of the house.

  3. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Thought this was done by Jean Nouvel way back in the 90s with some building in Paris?

    • Thumb up Thumb down 0

      It was – Arab World Institute 1981 (project) – great concept, great building!

      • Thumb up Thumb down 0

        Weren’t Jean Nouvel’s apertures powered?

        Similar to the Monde Arab, I wonder if the apertures here make any noise, or enough noise to disturb its residents. I know the Monde has that issue.

  4. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    You are right, they are powered by motors. Still, it’s the same concept, older technology – the design was done 30 years ago.
    I spent some time inside the building in 93 and saw the apertures moving – don’t remember hearing any irritable noise.

Share your thoughts