One of the most conspicuous uses of materials is architectural cladding. It’s also among the most demanding applications, given the challenges of moisture penetration, heat transfer, UV degradation, and more. New materials not only offer striking visual effects while meeting these challenges, but they also provide creative strategies related to energy conservation and material optimization. High-performance concretes do away with steel reinforcing and reduce thermal conductivity. Metal, glass, and ceramics are profiled and shaped, adding structural rigidity even as less material is used. Responsive shading materials actively reduce solar heat gain while permitting views. The objective in architectural skins today is achieving more with less.

Zaragoza Bridge Pavilion, Zaha Hadid Architects
From Transmaterial 3, Blaine Brownell, Princeton Architectural Press, 2010 Zaragoza Bridge Pavilion, Zaha Hadid Architects

Glass-fiber-reinforced concrete
Rieder Faserbeton-Elemente FibreC is a lightweight, high-performance concrete that requires no steel reinforcement. A special extrusion process incorporates layers of fiberglass into a concrete matrix; in the top layer and underlayer, the fibers are undirected and scattered, and in the medium layer they take the form of roofings (fiber bundles). The omission of steel reinforcement allows the construction of slim concrete elements that are highly stressable despite being extremely thin-walled. The result is a slab 0.3 to 0.5 inches (8 to 13 millimeters) thick, which is very lightweight, yet has a high flexural strength. FibreC slabs are fabricated in different colors before being hardened for 28 days. Owing to its formability, the so-called concrete skin offers flowing transitions from interior to exterior surfaces and a smooth covering for edges and corners. As fibreC can be used for all surfaces, traditional spatial boundaries disapper, and interior and exterior conditions may be treated similarly.

High Line 519, Roy Design
From Transmaterial 3, Blaine Brownell, Princeton Architectural Press, 2010 High Line 519, Roy Design

Vault-Structured Metal
Ultralight patterned metal panels
Dr. Frank Mirtsch Numerous phenomena can be observed in nature that are the result of controlled self-organization. Bionic vault-structuring is a method to generate a three-dimensional pattern in metallic sheets. Thanks to the controlled self-organization arrangement, a minimum of plastic deformation is required for forming the patterns. Because of their high rigidity, vault-structured, three-dimensional facet-structured components can be produced in stainless steel with greatly reduced wall thickness. Vault-structured materials, even if thin and lightweight, are highly resistant to bending and to stress caused by thermal expansion, and they have other advantageous properties with application potential for lightweight structures. When flow bypasses three-dimensional profiled surfaces, there is a higher convective heat and mass-transfer coefficient compared with smooth surfaces.

GreenPix Installation, Simone Giostra & Partners
From Transmaterial 3, Blaine Brownell, Princeton Architectural Press, 2010 GreenPix Installation, Simone Giostra & Partners

Zero-energy media wall
GreenPix GreenPix is the first zero-energy media wall, absorbing solar energy during the day to power displays at night. The panels can be used to create stunning media effects on very large building envelopes that are viewable from both inside and outside the building. Designed by the architecture firm Simone Giostra and; Partners, GreenPix is a transparent media wall for dynamic content display, including playback videos, interactive performances, and live and user-generated content. Its “intelligent skin” interacts with building interiors and outer public spaces using embedded, custom-designed software, transforming the building façade into a responsive environment for entertainment and public engagement. GreenPix allows daylight into the building while reducing its exposure to direct sunlight. The photovoltaic density pattern increases the building’s performance, allowing natural light when required by the interior program, while reducing heat gain and transforming excessive solar radiation into energy for the media wall. The photovoltaic system can be connected to local battery storage or to the grid, and power can be sold back to the electric company.

Holt Renfrew store, Janson Goldstein and Front Inc.
From Transmaterial 3, Blaine Brownell, Princeton Architectural Press, 2010 Holt Renfrew store, Janson Goldstein and Front Inc.

Convex Series—Shapes
Geometric cast glass
Nathan Allen Glass Studios Exploiting the potential for enhanced dimensionality in glass, Nathan Allen has developed new production methods for tempering and laminating their Convex Series. Developed in partnership with Janson Goldstein and Front Inc. of New York City, this new glass may be profiled with various geometric patterns to create an undulating, multifaceted surface. Convex Series glass can be produced as single-layered glass panels from 1/4 inches to 3/4 inches (.6 centimeters to 1.9 centimeters) thick and can be safety tempered as well. It is available in clear and low-iron glass. Cast textures and privacy coatings are also available.

Sensitive Apertures
From Transmaterial 3, Blaine Brownell, Princeton Architectural Press, 2010 Sensitive Apertures

Sensitive Apertures
Cellular ceramic light apertures
Ben McDonald Sensitive Apertures is a modular slip-cast ceramic building skin designed to admit a small quantity of light through a refractive glass aperture. This opening redirects sunlight onto the inside surface of the cell, projecting an even, luminous glow to the interior space. The 1 percent open apertures admit levels of light desired for interior circulation zones as well as insulate a building from solar heat gain and loss.