Thermal regulation of buildings in climates with daily and seasonal weather changes can prove challenging and result in high building energy consumption. While adaptable façades with tunable infrared transmitting properties could modulate solar transmittance through the building envelope and, as such, increase energy efficiency, available technologies to meet these needs are often expensive, relatively complicated, and challenging to implement in a lightweight form factor.
Motivated by these limitations, this report presents a novel tunable light-modulating technology for energy-efficient pneumatic façades in the form of polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) film with a thin gold surface coating. Sequential stretching and relaxing of this film results in strain-induced microscale surface cracks that can significantly modulate both visible and near infrared light transmission, and consequently, the material’s solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC).
The material’s tunability has shown a significant potential to reduce building energy use, as assessed with building simulation software. The technology offers additional advantages for light modulation in pneumatic façades including real-time operation, ease of implementation and control, and predictable performance. Façade design guidelines for the integration of the infrared-regulating film into ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE) building envelopes and climate suitability are described, and a critical evaluation of material durability, optical clarity, and material costs are provided.