A case study of Dutch residential buildings

Investigating the impact of adaptive facades on reducing the thermal energy demand


EngD trainee ir. A.A. (Afaq) Butt
University supervisor dr. ir. R.C.G.M. (Roel) Loonen
Company supervisor E.J. (Jonathan) van den Ham
Name of company TNO
Period of project Jan 2020 – Dec 2022



In an effort to reduce the global CO2 emissions, the EU has recommended building performance directives that would require the renovation of the vast majority of Dutch residential buildings. Current renovation solutions involve increasing insulation levels that occupy indoor spaces and pose a risk of overheating in summers. The advent of advanced materials, components, and systems has made it conceivable to design building envelopes capable of changing properties based on stimuli - adaptive facades.

This project investigated the potential of adaptive facade technologies (AFTs) in achieving the energy reduction targets compared to thick insulation packages (AFTs - dynamic insulation, solar absorptance external shading, and ventilation). A simulation framework coupling building performance simulation tool with genetic algorithms was developed to optimize the annual control of AFTs, develop model predictive control (MP control) and determine the upper performance bound of AFTs. The upper performance bound can be used by R&D specialists to develop AFTs with application-centric optimum properties, while, building developers may use the findings to benchmark AFTs against other energy solutions and determine feasibility.

AFTs with MP control reduced the total heating and cooling by 562 kWh/ 6% to 2676 kWh/ 27% compared to static high insulation (R 4.0 m2K/W). By combining select AFTs on a single application and using the co-optimization simulation framework to develop consolidated MP control, a renovation solution can be developed that reduces the total energy demand by 40%, outperforming the ultra-thick R12 insulation packages.