Automatic Skyscraper Shades Bend and Fold to Keep You Comfy

It's the very worst part of working in a giant climate-controlled building: Depending on the time of day, half of the offices end up roasting while the others freeze to death. How about a smart skyscraper skin that adjusts window by window based on the angle of the sun, saving energy and allowing workers to control their own temperature destinies?

Sunbreak is a shading prototype from architects at NBBJ which uses sensors to measure and respond to solar activity. When it's sunny, the shades slide closed, blocking light and heat. When it's cloudy or shady outside, the shades use solar panels to reflect more sunlight into the interior, allowing those inside to conserve electricity.

The key to the design is the unique three-hinged shade inspired by a famous garage door which morphs from an opaque shutter to an abstract set of vertical blinds to an awning. But an important detail is the ability to override the system as needed. Panels can also be controlled one-by-one, so if a conference room needs to be darkened for a presentation, or an office is too cold and could use some solar gain, someone inside can simply use an app on their iPhone to raise or lower the screen. It can also sense when no one is in the space—like on the weekends—and put the entire building in energy-conservation mode.

It's just a prototype for now, but it's an idea that's sure to resonate with the corporations that are funding these massive skyscraper projects. According to NBBJ, in their work with companies like Samsung and Google, the biggest complaint they hear from workers is they don't have enough control over their environments.

While some buildings today have exterior sunshades, even kinetic ones, using this kind of technology to design a hyperefficient skyscraper from scratch could offer even more cost savings. You might not need to invest as much in expensive lighting or cooling systems, for example, and you could also eliminate some decor (no more ugly blinds). One thing's for sure, it would definitely change the way the skyscrapers of the future look, inside and out. [Sunbreak]