Metal That Breathes – TED Talk Tuesday

Doris Kim Sung Metal That Breathes

Why do humans have to adapt to buildings? Why can’t architecture adapt to humans? This is the question posed by architect Doris Kim Sung. Before there was air conditioning, buildings had thick, insulated walls that kept the interiors cool in the summertime and warm in the wintertime. But in the 1930s floor-to-ceiling windows became the norm and with that came our reliance on mechanical air conditioning.

So how do we reverse our energy-wasting ways? Doris Sung wants us to look at biology. Being a biology major before she went into architecture, Sung did a lot of study on human skin. Now she is applying the same principals of biology to her work. Treating architecture as an extension of the body challenges the notion that buildings have to be static and climate-controlled. Thermo-bimetal is a smart material made of two different metals laminated together. Dynamic and responsive, curling as air temperatures rise, the result is metal that breathes.

When you’re tired of opening and closing those blinds day after day, when you’re on vacation and there’s no one there on the weekends to be turning off and on the controls, or when there’s a power outage and you have no electricity to rely on, these thermo-bimetals will still be working tirelessly, efficiently and endlessly.

Metal That Breathes Metal That Breathes

Sung, in collaboration with the Associate Dean of School of Architecture at Woodbury University, Ingalill Wahlroos-Ritter and founder of Nous, Matthew Melnyk, constructed an installation to show how thermobimetal technology offers us a chance to rethink the way we live.

As Sung mentions, a practical application of this technology is in glass facade systems.  Check out this proposal for a thermobitmetal louver system, ideal for retrofitting all glass buildings for thermal efficiency.