Holy Grail? A Smart Green Building With Living Skin

Sure, you’ve heard of smart buildings, but how about living ones? Okay, well, not exactly–but the new Self-Activated Building Envelope Regulation (SABER) membrane system for buildings being pioneered by University of California engineer Luke Lee and architect Maria-Paz Gutierrez performs functions oddly similar to the skin of a living creature, adjusting light gain and air-flow as needed.

The SABER building membrane (which comes to us via Inhabitat) works via  light-sensitive cells composed of micro-lenses and pockets of photosensitive gel; the gel contracts in sunlight, opening up tubes that, in turn, allow more air to flow into the building in stronger light. The humidity regulation models itself on nature’s water-moving mechanisms, using polymers that expand with increased moisture, opening up tiny tubes to increase airflow. The upshot being, when it’s sunny, humid and, presumably, warm outside, the building would open up and allow more circulation; when it’s darker and drier (i.e., in the winter) the building would maintain a stronger barrier against the elements.


So far, only the lenses have made it to the prototype stage, but we’re hoping that the entire SABER system will catch the eye of a company with deep enough pockets to make this system commercially viable. After all, a building that can respond to the environment in terms of energy efficiency–without the use of a lot of computers, sensors and other gizmos with the possibility to fail–seems like the Holy Grail of green building.

Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.

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