Adaptive Shells and Structures for the Built Environment of the Future

CRC 1244

For resource-efficient construction, ISYS conducts research into control and observer concepts and fault diagnosis of adaptive structures as well as building physics applications.


CRC 1244 investigates the fundamentals, the potential and the effects of the integration of adaptive elements in load-bearing structures, cladding systems and interior fittings of our buildings. Adaptivity is understood as the targeted modifiability of geometry, material and component properties.

Worldwide, construction accounts for approx. 60% of resource consumption, approx. 50% of mass waste and approx. 35% of energy consumption and emissions. A more severe situation due to an increased construction volume is forecast due to demographic change. The use of adaptive structures in the building industry is intended to curb this development. Up to now, load-bearing structures have been designed for peak loads, some of which occur very rarely. These structures are therefore inefficient because they are oversized for most of their service life. By using adaptive structures, a building can adapt to the current situation and optimum behaviour with regard to load absorption and energy consumption can be achieved. In addition to the technical requirements of the planned improvements, the construction of living space will create a piece of 'home' for the residents, and comfort factors should not be neglected.

The research project advances a completely new way of building. A declared goal of the CRC 1244 is to reduce the weight of the building and thus also the materials used, so that resource-efficient methods are promoted. The reduced use of building materials ensures better recyclability. In addition, the grey energy used in construction is to be reduced in order to counter the major problems facing our society, such as excessive energy consumption and, as a result, global warming. The energy required to generate the adaptation must be weighed against these savings.

The research project is divided into the following project areas, which are characterized by highly multidisciplinary questions. The participating institutes are listed below and originate from various fields, such as architecture, civil engineering, mechanical engineering, aerospace and social sciences.

A: Planning and Design Methodology

The use of fully integrated adaptive elements in load-bearing structures requires the advancement of planning methods. Special emphasis is placed on research into design and form-finding methods involving sensors, actuators and control as well as the integration of newly formulated safety concepts.

In addition to the load-bearing structures, the building envelopes are of great relevance for building physics properties. These are of decisive importance with regard to wind, humidity, solar radiation or acoustic properties. Adaptive building envelopes can interact with the user and thus influence the interior comfort, which consists of well-being, performance and health of the occupants. New comfort concepts are developed for creating optimum room climates that meet the energy requirements in terms of heating, cooling, etc.

ISYS is involved in the following areas:

  • A05: Building physics system concepts and planning methods for construction and operation of adaptive structures
  • A06: Structural integration of active elements into the building structure

B: System Technology and Sizing

In this project area, technical implementation and system integration are developed. Due to the desired material savings and the resulting reduction in mechanical and thermal inertia, buildings can no longer be regarded as stationary systems. Instead, a systems theoretical point of view is taken and the dynamic interaction between buildings and the environment is considered. Due to the new design, questions in the field of system dynamics will come into focus. The reduced use of building materials is compensated by the introduction of energy. External static and dynamic loads in the structure induce stresses, deformations and accelerations which are to be homogenized. This avoids peak loads that could damage the structure or impair the user comfort and comfort characteristics of the building.

In order to be able to make predictions about the structural behaviour and apply system theoretical approaches, system models are desirable. The modelling and simulation of adaptive structures is carried out so that resulting models can be used for observer, feedforward and feedback control design. Implementation of optical deformation measurements and estimation of system states plays an important role. The use of novel control strategies is investigated, e.g. in the field of networked and distributed control. The developed system is subject to strict safety-critical regulations, as failure can have catastrophic consequences. Therefore, methods and technologies for fail-safe elements and fault tolerance must be developed while maintaining adaptivity. This sub-area additionally assumes decisive tasks in the technical foundation, methods and reduction of the visual analysis of adaptive systems.

ISYS is involved in the following areas:

  • B02: System state estimation and optical deformation measurement
  • B03: Methods and technologies for fail-safe elements and structures of adaptive constructions
  • B04: Control and regulation concepts for adaptive structures

Since classical sensor and actuator technology can be used only to a limited extent in adaptive structures, new elements are investigated in this project area. This includes the development, design and demonstration of kinematically effective and building-physically adaptable sandwich elements, integrated fluid actuators and high-performance sensory fibers. Furthermore, principles for the design, manufacture and implementation of building-physically adaptive elements are to be created.

Over the next four years, an adaptive ten-storey structure will be built on the site of the University of Stuttgart, on which investigations will be carried out and research results will be validated. This sub-area is also responsible for other central tasks, e.g. the construction of small functional models and validation test benches. The construction of the demonstrator is the result of the cooperation between the previous project areas, which provide the theoretical basis through sound research results.

ISYS is involved in the following areas:

  • Z01: Functional model and demonstrator
  • Z02: Central tasks of the Collaborative Research Centre


The creation of a basis for the holistic assessment of adaptive shells and structures is an important evaluation criterion. This way, sound statements on profitability and energy efficiency are made in order to validate the declared goal of the Collaborative Research Centre. The analysis covers the entire life span, starting with the mining of raw materials, through production and use up to dismantling. Furthermore, social expectations and requirements for the broad recognition of adaptive structures are collected.


  • M. Heidingsfeld, P. Rapp, M. Böhm & O. Sawodny, “Gramian-based Actuator Placement with Spillover Reduction for Active Damping of Adaptive Structures”, IEEE International Conference on Advanced Intelligent Mechatronics, Munich, Germany, 2017, pp. 904-909, doi:10.1109/AIM.2017.8014133
  • P. Rapp, M. Heidingsfeld, M. Böhm, O. Sawodny & C. Tarín, “Multimodal Sensor Fusion of Inertial, Strain, and Distance Data for State Estimation of Adaptive Structures using Particle Filtering”, IEEE International Conference on Advanced Intelligent Mechatronics, Munich, Germany, 2017, pp. 921-928, doi:10.1109/AIM.2017.8014136
  • J. Wagner, M. Heidingsfeld, M. Böhm & O. Sawodny, “Gramian-Based Actuator Placement for Static Load Compensation in Adaptive Structures”, GACM Colloquium on Computational Mechanics, 2017, doi:10.18419/opus-9334


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