Adapt: An experimental design for the application of thermo-responsive shape memory polymers into building envelopes
The future of architecture in New Zealand goes hand-in-hand with its ability to adapt to climate change projections. Since the establishment of the modern era, construction materials have remained largely unchanged. Steel, timber, concrete, and brick are all very static in functionality, are the backbone of our built environments. The shifting climate conditions anticipated in the coming decades require adaptable and resilient construction materials. Temperature Rise for New Zealand is 0.3°C to +0.9°C by 2030 and 0.6°C to +2.7°C by 2070, (O’Connell and Hargreaves 1). The expected increase in temperatures around New Zealand homes will negatively affect the internal thermal comfort of occupants.
The development of shape memory polymers (SMPs) as an auto-responsive and functional system that responds to numerous environmental stimuli becomes a viable option for smart material integration into external building envelopes. The useful properties of SMPs as a lightweight material with reversible shape-changing capabilities, and deformation mechanisms are becoming increasingly realistic for practical implementation into building facades (Mohamed).
The implementation of thermo-responsive shape memory polymers into residential building facades allows for a real-time automated response to manage climatic temperature variances for present and future vulnerabilities of buildings and their occupants. Reinventing building envelopes using shape memory polymer application has the potential to create efficient passive cooling methods which may satisfy the demand for architectural climatisation and improve indoor thermal comfort for occupants. Establishing a proof-of-concept for adaptable and resilient design needs to be fast-tracked into New Zealand’s mainstream construction, showcasing smart materials' necessity and innovative capabilities. The reactionary approach to construction is not a viable option for future climate change projection. The damage to buildings without immediate implementation of climate-adaptive design will be irreversible and detrimental for thousands of New Zealanders. The future of building materials within the construction industry must endeavour to steer away from traditional building materials into the inevitable smart material technology.