Big windows are back

Researchers at UCL have developed ‘intelligent’ thermal shutters for buildings that will automatically open or shut depending on outside temperature.

The aim of the shutters is to allow architects and developers to bring big windows back into buildings, while keeping them thermally efficient.

‘Over the past few centuries, buildings became lighter with more glass introduced into their walls. Now windows are shrinking again, sometimes to medieval proportions, to reduce heat loss. That’s because heat energy can go through windows five to 20 times faster than through well-insulated walls,’ said Prof Stephen Gage from UCL’s Bartlett School of Architecture.

‘Sadly,’ he added, ‘the use of windows to flood spaces with light is being lost, and people find themselves living drab lives under increasingly dull artificial lighting.’

Prof Gage argues that with advances in technology, such shutters could act to insulate a building on a cold, dark winter day, open locally on demand on a spring morning and open fully on a sunny afternoon.

To demonstrate their effectiveness, the researchers have built the new shutters into an experimental pavilion which wraps itself up when it is cold and then unwraps itself when weather conditions are favourable or when occupants demand it.

The pavilion will be on display for the duration of the UCL Bartlett Summer Show as part of the London Festival of Architecture which runs from 21-28 June 2008. More information on the show can be found here.