BioSkin - Research potentials for biologically inspired energy efficient façade components and systems

The research study was targeting the identification of strategic research potentials in the field of biomimetics for innovative facade technologies of the future. With the identification of useful principles of biological role models and the transfer to bionic facade concepts, inter­disciplinary R&D research activities are improved to enable the develop­ment of sustainable solutions for climate-adaptive energy-efficient facades systems of the future.

Short Description




Starting point and motivation

Human-made constructions and biological systems are exposed to the same environmental conditions and needs. Hence, the requirements to shells in the nature and envelopes of buildings are comparable.

Considering that the façade has the largest surface area of the building envelope, it also holds a substantial potential in gain and loss of energy and comfort. Modern facades shall not only protect from unwanted influences, but also utilize solar energy, provide high thermal and visual comfort, and control daylight and fresh air inlet. Last but not least, they shall take the aesthetic, psychological, physiological and social needs of residents into account.

These complex demands put a great technical challenge on facades, but also show the great potential for saving energy and reducing CO2 emissions. The search of new and robust solutions for - long term spoken - truly sustainable facades, which combine maximum energy efficiency and comfort with minimum resource consumption and embodied energy is the leading motif of the basic research study BioSkin.

Scope and objectives

The objective of the basic research study is to utilize the potential of the cross-disciplinary field of Biomimetics to identify innovative solutions in nature for new facade designs. The search in the large diversity pool of nature is directed by target indicators for the facade of the future: Integrative multifunctionality (embedding functions in material-structures), self-regulating adaptation (self-activating adaptability), and conservation of resources and localization (local usage and application optimization of materials).

Methodological approach

For the study, the core mission of Biomimetics - to learn from nature - and process of the analogy research (top-down principle) is applied. It investigates on the basis of precise core questions functional skills analogies in nature, identifies their principles and evaluates their transmission capability. Promising biological principles are supplied subsequently by several abstraction and selection processes to a new (biomimetic) technical concept.

The evaluation of results is accompanied by a developed innovation process and by the involvement of an internationally renowned, interdisciplinary team of experts from biomimetic architecture, facades, chemistry, biology, materials science, botany and ecology along the project duration.

Results and conclusion

Based on the survey of the status quo of modern façade solutions and the trends for future facades, 40 functional criteria have been defined, which are translated from technical parameters to abstract quality requirements. These requirements have been conferred to biological questions to carry out extensive research on potential biological models. In total, some 240 biological organisms are identified which show transmission potential of their principles for facades. 43 role models have been incorporated into biological data sheets, templates in an ordered structure, to illustrate the function and the biological characteristics of the organism. The results are summarized in the data collection "Bionic Database".

In a next step, based on an iterative process of systematic selection and evaluation, about 30 biological principles have been extracted as a design basis for biomimetic concepts. Applying a biomimetic transfer process, 37 sketches for possible biomimetic façade concepts have been developed. 4 biomimetic concepts have been considered for more specific analyses to test for their application potential in defined reference scenarios including types of buildings, thermal qualities and different climate locations.

The future facade requirements (principle database), the collection of potential biological role models (bionic database) and the biomimetic façade concepts (best case models) are available online in a "catalog for bio-inspired facades" to enable more interdisciplinary research and development. The results of this study provide a basis for new and usable research perspectives on innovative energy-efficient façade technologies, and valuable interdisciplinary know-how for various scientific disciplines and for emerging technologies in the construction industry.

Future prospects

The positive feedback from dissemination activities and the extensive data collection triggered high interest in the results for further developments. The evaluation and selection process of BioSkin provides methods and tools for the challenging and interdisciplinary exchange activities between technical and natural sciences, and are available to get implemented in similar projects. Herein, the involvement of Biomimetic experts is important. The rapid development traced on international level and the positive feedback from biomimetic disciplines show that the identified potentials can be advanced to experimental research in order to develop visible biomimetic products from innovative ideas.

Project Partners

Project management

DI Susanne Gosztonyi
Austrian Institute of Technology AIT, Department Energy

Project or cooperation partner

Project support by international expert group (subcontractors):

Contact Address

Austrian Institute of Technology AIT, Energy Department
DI Susanne Gosztonyi
Giefinggasse 2, A-1210 Wien
Tel.: +43 (0) 50550-6582
Fax: +43 (0) 50550-6613