ADAPTIVE BUILDING EXOSKELETONS: A biomimetic model for the rehabilitation of social housing

Giuliana Scuderi



This research is an attempt to describe a new biomimetic model for the rehabilitation of social housing. In particular, the constructions built in Europe in the post Second World War period suffer of material and social degradation requiring architectural, functional and structural interventions. The analysis of the state of the art underlined the importance of the envelope in the definition of new performances and standards. Through a bio-mimicry approach, the paper shows the process leading to the definition of a building exoskeleton: a structural envelope able to solve complex sets of problems integrating different building systems. Adaptability results being a fundamental property to define an effective seismic and structural behavior but also to respond to changing user’s needs and environmental conditions. In the last part of the paper, information about feasible technologies and techniques to realize the exoskeleton are presented. Finally, the conclusions show the potentiality of the model if applied in critical contexts where intensive and diffusive interventions of recovery of social housing are needed.


Building exoskeleton; social housing; adaptability; biomimicry; structural envelope.

Full Text:



Andersen, H.T. (2001). The new urban politics of Europe: the area-based approach to regeneration policy. In: H.T. Andersen & R. van Kempen (Eds.), Governing European Cities: Social Fragmentation, Social Exclusion and Urban Governance, pp. 233-253. Aldershot: Ashgate.

Baumeister, D. (2007, May 8). Biomimicry. Presentation at the University of Washington College of Architecture. Seattle, USA.

Benyus, J. M. (2002). Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature. New York: William Morrow Paperbacks.

Brand, H. (1994). How Buildings Learn: What happens after they’re built? New York: Viking Press.

Castellano, M. G., Indirli, M., Carpani, B., Clemente, P., Forni, M., Martelli, A. (2000, November 8-10). L’applicazione pilota dei dispositivi in lega a memoria di forma: il campanile della chiesa di S. Giorgio a Trignano. FIP Industriale. Nota tecnica 1538. Atti del 28° Convegno Nazionale AIM, Milano, Italia.

Castellano, M. G., Medeot, R., Manos, C., Forni, M., Indirli, M., Martelli, A., Spadoni, B., Venturi, G., Azevedo, J. J., Renda, V., Croci, G., Biritognolo, M., De Canio, G., Persia, F. and Rinaldis, D. (1997, August 25-27). Seismic protection of cultural heritage through shape memory alloy based devices. Conference seminar on seismic isolation, passive energy dissipation and active control of vibrations of structures. Taormina, Italia.

Castro, R., Denissof, S. (2005). [Re]Modeler, Métamorphoser. Parigi: Le Moniteur.

Denzin, N. K. and Y. S. Lincoln (2000). Introduction - The Discipline and Practice of Qualitative Research. In: N. K. Denzin and Y. S. Lincoln (Eds), Handbook of Qualitative Research, pp. 1-29. London: Sage.

De Rossi, A. (2004). Programmi complessi e qualità del progetto urbano. In: Ferrero, G. (Ed.), Valutare i programmi complessi. Savigliano: L’Artistica Editrice.

Di Biagi, P. (2001). La grande ricostruzione : Il piano Ina-Casa e l'Italia degli anni cinquanta. Roma: Donzelli Editore.

Glaser, B. (1992). Basics of grounded theory analysis. Mill Valley: Sociology Press.

Grecchi, M. (2008). Il recupero delle periferie urbane. Da emergenza a risorsa strategica per la rivitalizzazione delle metropoli. Rimini: Maggioli.

Harris, S. Y. (2001). Building Pathology: Deterioration, Diagnostics, and Intervention. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons.

Huang, Y., Wada, A., Iwata, M., Mahin, S.A. and Connor, J.J. (2001). Design of Damage-Controlled Structures. In G. Oliveto (Ed) Innovative Approaches to Earthquake Engineering, Ashurst: WIT Press.

Kaplan, B. and Maxwell, J. A. (1994). Qualitative Research Methods for Evaluating Computer Information Systems. Thousand Oaks: Sage.

Lovell, J. (2010). Building Envelopes: An Integrated Approach. Princeton: Princeton architectural press, Architecture Briefs series.

Malinghetti, L. E. (2011). Recupero edilizio. Strategie per il riuso e tecnologie costruttive. Milano: Il Sole 24 Ore.

Murie, A., Knorr-Siedow, T. and Van Kempen, R. (2003). Large Housing Estates in Europe: General Developments and Theoretical Backgrounds. RESTATE report 1. Utrecht: Urban and Regional research centre, Utrecht University.

Pawlyin, M. (2011). Biomimicry in architecture. London: RIBA publishing.

Power, A. (1997). Estates on the Edge. The Social Consequences of Mass Housing in Northern Europe. London: Macmillan.

Reap, J., Baumeister, D. and Bras, B. (2005). Holism, Biomimicry and Sustainable Engineering. ASME International Mechanical Engineering Conference and Exposition. Orlando, FL, USA.

Rush, R. (1986). The Building systems integration handbook. Hoboken: Wiley.

Skifter Andersen, H. (2003). Urban Sores. On the Interaction between Segregation, Urban Decay and Deprived Neighbourhoods. Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing Limited.

Snodgrass, A. and Coyne, R. (2006). Interpretation in architecture: design as a way of thinking. London: Edition Routledge Taylor & Francis Group.

Sousa Cruz da, P. J. (2013). Structures and Architecture: New concepts, applications and challenges. Boca Raton: CRC Press.

The University of Bath (2008). Biomimetics: Copying ideas from nature into engineering. Bath: University of Bath.

Turkington, R., Van Kempen, R. and Wassenberg, F. (2004). High-rise housing in Europe. Current trends and future prospects. Delft: DUP Science.

Yin, R. K. (1989). Case Study Research - Design and Methods. Newbury Park: Sage.

Yin, R. K. (1993). Applications of Case Study Research. Newbury Park: Sage.

Zambelli, E. (2004). Ristrutturazione e trasformazione del costruito. Milano: Il Sole 24 Ore.


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2015 International Journal of Architectural Research: ArchNet-IJAR


- ISSN (Online) #1938 7806 - ArchNet-IJAR is covered by ArchNet@ MIT Libraries, Avery Index to Architectural Periodicals, EBSCO, CNKI, Pro-Quest, Scopus-Elsevier, Web of Science.

- Published work in ArchNet-IJAR is licensed under Creative Commons: CC-BY--NC-ND license, see

Copyrights © Archnet-IJAR 2007-2018


Hit Counter
Visitor Hits Since 15 Jan 2014