Buildings are structures of defined spaces that protect people and their belongings from the exterior environment, in particular harsh weather conditions, such as wind, rain, and excess of sun radiation. Buildings evolved from primitive structures providing mere shelters to sophisticated structures responding to environmental context, where various features and elements have emerged from necessity to raise comfort and quality of life [11
]. Building envelopes, consisting of the basic elements of windows, walls, roofs, and floors, represent the interface between the outdoor environment and the indoor occupied spaces, where significant energy savings can be achieved when designing proper solutions that are responsive to specific climatic factors [13
]. Environmental conditions are constantly changing and creating new challenges for building envelopes to accommodate [14
]. Occupant’s activities as well as environmental factors, such as air movement, humidity, temperature, solar radiation, air quality, noises, affect comfort inside buildings [15
]. Considering the building envelope as a barrier or a shield, such as applying high resistant thermal solutions [17
], limits design solutions that utilize environmental changes in their performance and create mediums to affect interior conditions more efficiently. Vernacular building solutions that reflect environmental context by utilizing prevalent winds, radiation, and temperature, promote improved energy performance of buildings [18
], yet these solutions are not necessarily air-tight and water-tight. In this respect, implementing adaptive solutions that reflect environmental context can enhance the performance of building envelopes, increase occupant comfort, and potentially reduce energy demands.
Proposals for adaptive building envelopes have been emerging since the last century; some are theoretical, yet potentially applicable. A pioneering theoretical example from the 1980s is the “polyvalent wall” [19
]; it consists of thin layers that are able to absorb, reflect, filter, and transfer energies from the environment. Nowadays, emerging technologies together with advanced manufacturing techniques have great potential to realize more complicated concepts [20
]. These technologies, in particular information technology, enable buildings to self-adjust and respond to varying environmental conditions [20
]. Mechanical services attachment and integration of advanced materials are distinguished as current means for adaptation.
Some advances in building envelope design have aesthetic and functional roles, such as the Kunsthaus Graz by architects Cook and Fournier, where its free form envelope stands out of the surrounding traditional buildings, and the outer media skin illuminates as a response to exhibited art projects [21
]; whereas a functional example is the Council House 2 Building in Melbourne by architect Mick Pearce, receiving a top green star rating, where the envelope consists of several systems that manage ventilation, water, lighting, and cooling, to enhance the sustainability and efficiency of the building [22
], see Figure 1
. Furthermore, advances in recent years represent a more adaptive trend in building envelope design, where responsive and kinetic principles are more prevalent [23
]. For example, the Bio-Intelligent Quotient (BIQ) building, by Splitterwerk and Arup, consists of algae filled panels (photobioreactors) that capture heat and generate electricity [26
]; and the One Ocean Thematic Pavilion, by SOMA Architecture, consists of a kinetic facade of deformable lamellas that control day-lighting [27
]; see Figure 1
. Despite the existing array of advanced building designs, the majority of the building stock is static. In this paper, we propose to implement successful adaptation strategies from nature to building envelope design to facilitate adaptation to environmental conditions while employing materials and other resources more efficiently.