In architecture, climate responsiveness is often seen as a technical function that involves a myriad of mechanical and electronic sensing, actuating, and regulating devices. At the same time, however, many biological systems are able to respond to environmental feedback without the aid of these technologies — the pinecone, for example, is actuated by environmental change, curling open to disperse its seeds after it falls from a tree.
Inspired by the pinecone, students in Simon Schleicher’s Flexible Hybrid Structures course created the Smart Greenhouse: a concept for an environmentally adaptive structure meant to provide passive shading and ventilation. As temperature increases throughout the day, more water evaporates off the plants inside the dome-shaped greenhouse structure, curling open the facade and lowering internal temperature back to equilibrium. Similarly, as the hot sun dries out the panels at midday, these panels fold closed to provide shading for the plants beneath them. Just as a botanist must carefully regulate shading and ventilation throughout the day in current greenhouse structures, both elements of this system must operate in careful balance to provide the right climate for the plants.