International architecture firm NBBJ has created Sunbreak, a new prototype for user-controlled sunshades that will not only lower energy costs, but also give buildings a dynamic appearance throughout the day.
Technology currently exists for automatically regulating solar gains in buildings, but the downside to these systems is that they often lack manual controls, and one of the most common complaints heard from workers in modern office buildings is that they do not have enough control over their environment. Automatic sunshades go up or down based on the time of day but if it happens to be cloudy outside or if users want natural light in a room when the shades are down there may be nothing they can do.
Inspired by Santiago Calatrava’s garage door design of 1985, the current prototype takes advantage of folding geometry, and a movable track system controlled by sensors and a mobile app. This unique geometry can transform to allow sunlight to bounce off its surface and reach further into buildings or fold down to block light out completely.
By using sensors to detect when people are present in a room, Sunbreak will automatically raise or lower shades and save energy during periods when part of a building is unoccupied. If someone is in the space the shades will open automatically to provide users with natural light, but they can also be manipulated with an app for iPhone and Android. In addition, the shades can be lit with specialized LED lighting, providing building managers with even more control over a building’s appearance at night.
Sensors will detect the proximity of clouds and adjust the shades accordingly to provide optimal natural lighting. The system is also programmed to measure solar radiation, unlike other current sunshade systems that only deal with visible light. The added ability to control the system based on weather conditions and the amount solar radiation further reduces energy costs and makes buildings more resilient to changes in exterior temperatures.
NBBJ is currently searching for a client to apply the concept on a large-scale building.