Standard Article


  1. D. Michelle Addington,
  2. Daniel S. Schodek

Published Online: 15 JUL 2002

DOI: 10.1002/0471216275.esm006

Encyclopedia of Smart Materials

Encyclopedia of Smart Materials

How to Cite

Addington, D. M. and Schodek, D. S. 2002. Architecture. Encyclopedia of Smart Materials. .

Author Information

  1. Harvard University, Cambridge, MA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 JUL 2002


An inextricable link has existed historically between a building's characteristics—form, appearance, and function—and the characteristics of the different materials that were available and suitable for construction. As exemplified by historical building traditions in stone and wood, early architects sought to understand intuitively the intrinsic physical behavior of commonly available materials to exploit their properties in designing and constructing buildings. Conversely, later innovations in the type and availability of materials strongly impacted the development of new architectural forms as architects began to respond to changing societal demands and new building functions emerged. This trend is illustrated by the development of steel in the nineteenth century and the related emergence of long-span and high-rise building forms. Today, architects are beginning to look forward to using the developments in smart materials to bring new solutions to long-standing problems and also to exploit the potential of smart materials in developing new building functions, forms, and responses. The wide variety of smart materials available has great potential for use within the field, but, in this area, their applications remain only marginally explored.

This article outlines and discusses smart materials in conjunction with needs currently defined in architecture. In some cases, smart materials have been proposed as replacements for conventional materials, and in other cases, smart materials have been proposed for improving the functionality of standard building systems. All of these developments can be positioned into the third category titled “Smart materials”. The impact of incorporating these materials into standard architectural practice will be significant, particularly in regard to energy use and building performance, but far more interesting potentials derive from reconsidering smart materials as fundamental conceptual elements in design rather than only as mprovements to existing elements.

Several different smart materials would be involved in the development of this component, including sensors and actuators, electroluminescents or LEDS, and perhaps even shape-memory alloys. A smart assembly would operate at the next level of functionality beyond the smart component. There are many “high-tech” assemblies currently used in architecture. These assemblies integrate several types of components and technologies to achieve multiple functions. A smart assembly would be designed to manifest the same behaviors, but do so in the most strategic manner. Shading could be accomplished at the micron or molecular level by using smart materials, and thermal control could take place discretely and transiently by selective placement of phase change materials and thermoelectrics. The smart assembly would maximize functionality and minimize the number of components.


  • Classification;
  • Architecture;
  • Smart materials;
  • Taxonomy;
  • Applications;
  • Design;
  • Traditional architecture;
  • Glazing;
  • Lighting;
  • Energy;
  • Monitoring and control;
  • Smart rooms