Orbit Tower

Proposal for a Hybrid Structural-Facade System Featuring a Self-Adaptive Solar Shading Device



Photo of Enrica Oliva

Enrica Oliva

Werner Sobek New York


Photo of Michele Andaloro

Michele Andaloro

Project Manager and Engineer

Werner Sobek Stuttgart


Photo of Werner Sobek

Werner Sobek

Werner Sobek




While most of high-rise buildings feature a core surrounded by a spatial frame defining the volume, one could envision a column-free plan where the perimeter structure is constituted of steel cables, working in tension to suspend the floor plates and transferring the loads to the core by means of story-high trusses located along the perimeter, as well as diagonally across the floor, at the mechanical levels.

The steel cables feature custom fittings to support the fully-glazed skin and allow for an optimized redistribution of the loads between the supporting members. The resulting hybrid scheme has beneficial impacts from a structural, sustainability, and indoor environmental quality standpoint.

The abundant natural light, penetrating through the fully-glazed skin, is controlled by an adaptive shading system, integrated with the IGU, consisting of perforated steel sheets woven together by two-way shape-memory alloy hinges that enable the component to work like an origami, opening and folding automatically according to the exterior environmental conditions: in the summer, the unfolded geometry creates an external overhang that varies with each panel exposure and alleviates the energy demand required for cooling; in the winter, the folded shape allows for a higher solar heat gain, thus lowering the heating energy demand. Therefore, the self-adaptive skin designed allows for unobstructed views throughout the envelope, as well as for an optimized control of the light, both in terms of energy and of daylighting comfort, thus mastering a Class A metropolitan office space.

Ultimately, the proposed hybrid scheme, fostering an optimized behavior of the load bearing members and an absolute minimization of the facade elements, has led to significant improvements: 11% less steel, 6% less concrete, 35% less embodied energy are required, when compared to a standard high-rise construction with identical geometry and featuring steel columns around the perimeter and an aluminum curtain wall facade.


There are several ways to improve the energy performance of a building; however a certain level of compromise in terms of aesthetics, natural daylight and organization of the interior spaces

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Smart Materials are capable of automatically and inherently sensing or detecting changes in their environment and responding to those changes with some kind of actuation or action (Lelieveld, 2013). These

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An innovative cable-suspended structural skin replaces the typical aluminum-and-glass curtain wall in a 44-story office building in the heart of Manhattan, New York, significantly reducing its embodied energy and

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The fabrication process for the shading system envisions contemporary cutting edge techniques, such as numerically controlled machines and robot, which enable for a flexible and efficient management of mass-customized products

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Performance Optimization

Another crucial feature of the metal sheets is the perforation pattern that is beneficial from multiple points of view:

From a structural standpoint, it cuts the selfweight of the

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The daylighting study has included five parameters in order to validate the performance of the proposed design in terms of natural light utilization and comfort for the users. The

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The analysis shows that the proposed design has a good daylighting behavior: the floor plan is well lit and the natural light plays a key role in mastering the interior

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Conclusion and Future Work

The following assumptions have been made for a “conventional” office building with identical geometry, as a means of comparison with the proposed solution:

Geometry and program

Identical to the proposed

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ODA New York – architectural design credit
Metals in Construction magazine 2017 Design Challenge – entry was awarded 1st prize
Maritime Museum – structural and facade engineering concept by Werner Sobek

Rights and Permissions

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Fiorito, F., Sauchelli, M., Arroyo, D., Pesenti, M., Imperadori, M., Masera, G., Ranzi, G. (2016). “Shape morphing solar shadings: a Review” Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 55 (2016): 863-884.

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