The Climate Change Emergency: Adapting the Built to the specific needs of the Elderly with the fabrication of Façade Prototypes

Author: Prof Emanuele Naboni STSM Period: 2020-01-08 – 2020-02-13


Hosting institution:University of Cyprus, Department of Architecture

From ITC: No



As the urban population increases in European cities and mainly ages, issues related to climate change are tangible to the elderly. Climate change summed to urban heat island (UHI) affects cities climatic patterns, with the manifestation of extreme and more frequent weather events, including heatwaves. Climate change in dense cities place stresses on everyone, but disproportionately on the vulnerable elderly and those with chronic illness. Older people are the most at risk because of decreased mobility, changes in physiology, and their limited thermal adaptive capacity.
Given that the most exposed segment of the population, the elderly, are exposed to new extreme climatic conditions, it is crucial to retrofit public spaces and buildings in order to mitigate such conditions. The design of short term interventions, such as the addition of smart urban surfaces and canopies, should be pursued. These designs should reduce summer temperatures both in outdoor spaces and in indoor spaces. Whereas there has been a certain amount of researches that are looking into an implementable design solution that foster mitigated climatic conditions, little emphasis was posed into the fabrication and the testing of easily installable and deployable devices for building facades.

The purpose of the STSM is thus to computationally developing and fabricating a series of prototypes tiles that, when applied to build on their outer façade layers of buildings,should improve both outdoor and indoor conditions by the means of material geometry. The purpose is thus to develop tiles that when applied to buildings could ameliorate climatic conditions (in winter and summer) so that elderly can pleasantly continue their outdoor activities without being affected by the extreme conditions given by climate change.


1) The first phase was focused on framing how climate change will have significant on the elderly population residing in urban environments.    2) The second phase was on framing more specifically how the effects of high temperature, depending on pre-exposure health status, psychological well-being, and social characteristics are a risk for the elderly population.
3) The third phase was about discussing the implement ability of architectural shelter solutions (some of which are already developed University the Sheldon action) to the mitigation of Climate Change. As such, prototypes are studied referring to the psychology and physiology of older adults along with the changing of climate and extreme events.
4) Following, and this is the core of the work, the design and the fabrication of climatic architectural tiles was sought. This leveraged the skills of the host of providing support on computation, on the adaptive mechanical system, on the use of advanced robots. The tiles are about ten and are preliminary made of concrete and have different geometries
5) Preliminary monitoring of performances is made with a series of sensors and with the aid of thermal cameras positioned in a testing room. Summer and winter conditions are simulated in a laboratory.


Here are some testing showing how different tiles geometrical aggregation leads to different temperature, thus potentially leading to cooler summer outdoor spaces and these results are soon being disseminated in the journal Energy and Buildings. The output is a Sheldon publication aimed at policymakers, researchers, practitioners and those involved in developing new façade technology that accommodate the needs of older adults to adapt to climate change.

Operating with the University of Cyprus was critical to gain knowledge of computation and fabrication of architectural design systems that adapts to climate change providing comfort to the elderly. This STSM results are aligned with Sub Working group 4.2: Solutions for Ageing Well in the Community. Specifically, the STSM stands in between “Adaptation to Climate Change” and how this should be managed at a local – urban and architectural design level in order to accommodate the needs of elderlies.




Further output is the prototypes that will be a practical solution that can be developed further and integrated into cities. Finally, the data generated will be of public domain thus being a valuable base for third parties interested in developing similar mechanisms The outputs of the work are confronted with scientific findings and potentially a debate about the implementation and the transferability of the outcome into the community of Sheldon as well as the international community of practitioners, policymakers and researchers within the filed. This theoretical underpinning to finding solutions for climate change and the elderly will be disseminated in a shared journal article and other platforms.

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