BIOCOOL - Bio-inspired Surfaces for the Evaporation Cooling of Building Envelopes

The BIOCOOL project will explore the transfer of morphological principles from leaves of deciduous trees, with optimized thermal properties and efficiency of evaporation to the parametric design of form-optimized architectural ceramic surfaces for climate control of building envelopes. The study paves the way for an industrial research project.

Short Description

Starting point / motivation

Due to climate change and the need to reduce the overall energy demand in buildings and to avoid urban heat islands, there is an urgent need for further development of passive cooling techniques that reduce energy consumption, support the environment and the ecosystem, and provide a satisfactory level of comfort.

The improvement of direct evaporative cooling systems for building envelopes aims at improved effectiveness for use in temperate climates. Bioinspiration has emerged in recent decades as an innovation method for developing sustainable solutions for the built environment.

Contents and goals

The BIOCOOL project will explore the transfer of morphological principles from biology to form-optimized architectural surfaces for climate control of building envelopes.

The integration into the building system, in particular the water cycle and energy management, and the impact on the urban space on pedestrian and neighborhood level will be investigated in concepts and simulations.

The building envelope is interpreted as an energy carrier and as an active element in the sense of ecosystem services, and the impact on urban space and environment is assessed in several scales and aspects.


In deciduous trees, the shape of the leaves determines the thermal properties and in particular the efficiency of evaporation and thus cooling. Based on existing fundamental research and new insights into these shape principles, parametric design and machine learning are used to fabricate panels of porous materials with 3-D surface structures.

This shape-function relationship, as well as the use of specially adapted ceramic materials with defined porosity and microstructure, is expected to increase the evaporation efficiency of the panels compared to conventional technologies.

The performance of the installed prototypes with respect to their thermal properties will be investigated, comparatively evaluated, and sustainable low-tech concepts for system integration will be designed.

The study is conducted by two academic institutions with long experience in energy design and building physics, involving students. The marketability and cost-effectiveness of the innovation are ensured through workshops with industry stakeholders.

Expected results

BIOCOOL paves the way for an industrial research project by preparing data on proof-of-concept prototype experiments and analysis on the impact of the new technology. The successful exploration is not only interesting for the building sector, but also for other technology areas where heat exchangers are used, and thus has a large market potential.

Project Partners

Project management

Bernhard Sommer - University of Applied Arts Vienna, Department Energy Design

Project or cooperation partners

  • Sascha Alexandra Zaitseva - University of Applied Arts Vienna, Ceramics Studio
  • Ulrich Pont - Vienna University of Technology, Department of Building Physics and Building Ecology

Contact Address

Bernhard Sommer und Petra Gruber
University of Applied Arts Vienna
Oskar Kokoschka-Platz 2
A-1010 Vienna
Tel.: +43 (1) 71133-2372