Breathing Panel


created by: Apostolos Marios Mouzakopoulos, Dimitrios Aidonis, Giombattista Areddia

Automated ventilation systems are usually complex building features. Moving elements require motors that add cost, weight and energy consumption to the construction, while they are often significant in size, reducing the structure’s visual delicacy.

Smart materials are here to change this paradigm and open the path towards a new architecture.

The breathing panel is a low cost, lightweight, durable and efficient modular ventilation panel. It uses a shape memory alloy wire to create an opening equal to 35% of the panel’s total area.

Our research gave us the oportunity to experiment using a responsive material. By studying its behavior as well as its advantages and limitations we drew conclusion on how it could be used in architecture. After a thorough multi-directional experimentation phase, we focused on an application that is of essential architectural meaning.

The use of muscle wire as an actuator of an opening-closing ventilation panel mechanism demonstrated the capacity of “smart materials” to serve as real-scale building elements.

A system like that has a series of advantages:

First, it consists of modular lightweight components. There are no motors or mechanis-ms involved, which means that the structure is significantly lighter and visually delicate.


The actuating mechanism itself is more reliable than a conventional equivalent. Muscle wire does not rely on mechanical or electical parts. I relies on its own chemical composition. It is autonomous and can be actuated practically infinite times. Maintenance cost is therefor minimal.

The overall construction cost is also low. Less weight and absence of sophisticated mechanisms means easy, low cost construction and assembly.