Research

BRIGHTWALL


 

After a two-year research and design process, the BrightWall project has been completed. UNStudio will now investigate key aspects of the panel design and manufacturing process. Based on the FP7 (the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development) call for energy savings in buildings, the BrightWall project is researching fiber optics based translucent concrete. The goal of the research is the development of a fully insulated facade system that will allow for controlled daylight to pass while lowering in the heating load in a building. The partners in the nine member consortium range from concrete manufacturers to architects to fiber optics specialists.

 

Introduction

Today there is a large energy use for lighting in the EU, which corresponds to approximately 15% of electricity consumption. This is largely explained by the fact that more than half of European artificial light is currently being emitted from ineffective incandescent light bulbs. In addition, more than 90% of indoor working environments are illuminated by fluorescent lighting during daytime, with high energy consumption and heat production, which, during sunny days, may require other climate control.

For this reason, as set out in the energy end-use efficiency and energy services directive (2006/32EC), the EU has a goal of reducing electricity consumption by 9% by 2017. The transfer of exterior daylight into buildings can have a significant impact in terms of energy efficiency gains in lighting and have, additionally, a high potential for both the regulation of indoor climate and for innovation in architecture and product design.

BrightWall

BrightWall is a new building material – translucent concrete in the form of an insulated sandwich panel – which has a high architectural and aesthetic potential. The material combines high strength with precisely embedded optical fibres and strong thermal performance. The new system can be applied as passive and daylight-transferring exterior walls in new buildings and renovations. Modular construction has proven to be the choice for many buildings due to all the associated advantages, namely its cost-effectiveness and the fact that buildings can be constructed in up to half the time, when compared to conventional construction. Precast concrete sandwich panels, comprised of two concrete faces and a fully insulated core, can be used on most types of buildings.

Image: The unique texture of the BrightWall panel is also functional, allowing the light guides to transmit light completely through the panel.



Material Composition

The concept employs a combination of high-strength concrete (HSC) and light-conducting fibres integrated in the elements through an innovative production process, thereby forming a translucent building material with substantial flexibility and numerous capacities. In order to achieve the desired thermal insulating properties, the concept of sandwich construction is utilised with a core of insulating material through which the optical fibres pass. This provides a degree of stability during the production process.

Image: Left: Polycarbonate Draw Tower; Right: Light Guides.



BrightWall Capacities

The combination of materials forges a unique set of thermal properties and high structural strength. These elements may eventually have the capacity to be load-bearing and thus provide an energy effective building envelope material. This signifies the creation of a novel material that not only bears unique physical parameters, but also provides important aesthetic, tactile and cultural characteristics with significant market potential for companies in the construction and creative industries.

The aesthetic and graphic possibilities of the concept are numerous. UNStudio explored many of these possibilities with the understanding that the system can play a dual role of supplying daylight and thermal comfort during the day while providing outward signage when lights are on at night. The production process now allows a ‘pixel pitch’ down to 20mm.

 

BrightWall Prototype

The BrightWall team created a prototype panel in real factory conditions using the production process designed for the project. The prototyping is proof positive of the production concept and the clear possibility for upscaling. BrightWall can be produced with standard contemporary techniques. It is clear that the process may also be scaled up with full digital processes.

BrightWall Consortium

The following partners are involved in the technological development of the BrightWall project:

Danish Technological Institute (Denmark) - Coordinator
Agencia Estatal Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (Spain)
Centre d'Etudes et de Recherches de I'Industrie du béton (France)
Confac A/S (Denmark)
Danmarks Tekniske Universitet (Denmark)
Dupont Lightstone ApS (Denmark)
Ecochoice SA (Portugal)
Polymer Optics Ltd (United Kingdom)|
UNStudio (The Netherlands)

Posted by: UNStudio / Inventive Materials Platform

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