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Proceedings Paper

Prismatic louver active façades for natural illumination and thermal energy gain in high-rise and commercial buildings
Author(s): A. Vlachokostas; C. Volkmann; N. Madamopoulos
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Paper Abstract

High-rise and commercial buildings in urban centers present a great challenge in terms of their energy consumption. Due to maximization of rentable square footage, the preferred urban façade system over the past 50 years has been the “curtain wall”, only a few inches thick and comprised of modular steel or aluminum framing and predominant glass infills. The perceived Achilles heel of these modern glass façade systems is their thermal inefficiency: They are inadequate thermal barriers and exhibit excessive solar gain. The excessive solar gain has a negative impact on lighting and cooling loads of the entire building. This negative impact will be further exacerbated with rising energy costs. However, rather than view the glass façade’s uncontrolled solar gain merely as a weakness contributing to higher energy consumption, the condition could indeed be considered as related to an energy solution. These glass façades can be retrofitted to operate as a provider of daylight and energy for the rest of the building, taking advantage of the overexposure to the sun. With today’s technology, the sun’s abundant renewable energy can be the driving force for the energy transition of these building envelopes. Illumination, thermal energy, and electricity production can be directly supplied from the sun, and when correctly and efficiently managed, they can lead to a significantly less energy-intensive building stock. We propose a multi-purpose, prismatic, louver-based façade to perform both daylight and thermal energy harvesting with a goal of offering a better daylight environment for the occupants, and reduce the energy consumption and carbon footprint of the building. While decentralized air-conditioning units are commonly accepted as façade “plug-ins”, such decentralization could be utilized with more benefits by passively managing the interior space conditions, without using any extra power. Just as living organisms respond and adapt to the environmental changes in their surroundings, the proposed multi-purpose prismatic louver façade can be responsive and resilient to daytime sky conditions, environmental temperatures and occupant needs by exploiting options presented by the three sides of the prismatic louvers. The façade is highly configurable since every side of the prismatic louver façade can perform a different operation. The prism itself operates as a redirector of sunlight from the glass façade to the ceiling and consequently diffuses the sunlight throughout the room, providing higher and more uniform illumination levels. In addition, each side of the prismatic louver can be implemented in multiple ways (e.g., visibly transparent photovoltaic cells, luminescent solar concentrators). The ability to rotate the prismatic louvers along their axes allows the user to expose a set of different surfaces to the sun’s radiation in accordance with different climatic conditions and occupant needs. Thus, the prismatic louvers help achieve a selective control and management of the incoming light that allows us to manipulate the incoming energy for the benefit of the building and its occupants.

Paper Details

Date Published: 7 June 2013
PDF: 8 pages
Proc. SPIE 8883, ICPS 2013: International Conference on Photonics Solutions, 888317 (7 June 2013); doi: 10.1117/12.2022026
Show Author Affiliations
A. Vlachokostas, The City College of New York (United States)
C. Volkmann, The City College of New York (United States)
N. Madamopoulos, The City College of New York (United States)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 8883:
ICPS 2013: International Conference on Photonics Solutions
Prathan Buranasiri; Sarun Sumriddetchkajorn, Editor(s)

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