Architect designs breathing panels

Summary:Panels made from thermo-bimetals might be the ultimate in net-zero energy.

Architecture should adapt to human needs and not the other way around. That's according to Doris Kim Sung, an architect and associate professor at the University of Southern California’s (USC) school of architecture. Sung is working on a prototype intelligent panel system that the designer touts as the ultimate in net-zero energy.

Most of the smart building skins that allow a building to breathe are still controlled using some form of mechanical power, whether electric or human. Sung's panels use thermo-bimetals (TBM), a lamination of manganese and nickel which are commonly used in thermostats. Since the two metals have different coefficients of thermal expansion, the laminated panels deform according to changes in temperature. So the thermo-bimetal panels react without any energy use other than their own inherent properties and the surrounding environment. The panels effectively open and close in response to light and heat on their own.

Although Sung initially thought the material would mostly be used in commercial applications, the architect sees more promise in passive residential systems. A huge hurdle of course is the cost of using the thermo-bimetals. At $100 per four by eight sheet, the material is beyond premium.

Innovation in Bloom [Builder Magazine]

Image: DO|SU Architecture

This post was originally published on

Topics: Innovation


Contributing Editor Sun Joo Kim is an architect and creative consultant based in Boston. Her projects include design and master planning of museums, public institutions, hospitals, and university buildings across the U.S. She holds a degree from Carnegie Mellon University and is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council. Follow he... Full Bio

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