A Classification of Elements Associated with the Concept of Adaptability Based on Functional Scales

Document Type : Original Article


1 Professor, Faculty of Architecture, College of Fine Arts, University of Tehran

2 Associate Professor, Faculty of Architecture, College of Fine Arts, University of Tehran

3 Assistant Professor, Faculty of Architecture, Tehran Art University

4 Kish International Campus, University of Tehran


The transfer of any concept from the sciences to engineering needs a comprehensive understanding and an ability to connect the two. Thanks to their evolution and passing of the test of time, the use of biological features has always been of particular importance. Adaptability is one of the main characteristics of living organisms, which let them survive in changing environments and ultimately results in their evolution. It can involve a number of aspects in architecture: functional, structural, formal, cultural, and commercial. On this basis, it is essential to pay attention to scale in any concept transfer from the sciences to architecture. The present research studies the scale in the original science and tries to define corresponding scales in architecture. Determining corresponding scales facilitates the use of a given scientific concept in architecture. The research starts with a study of the concept of adaptability in biological sciences based on their characteristics and scales; and then seeks ways to transfer them into architecture using a solution-centred approach. The research method is deductive starting from macro- and then moving on to micro-levels of the sciences. Finally, adaptability is studied in various built-environment scales with its associate elements classified. The connection between the two areas is made, first through the introduction of analytic units as datum points, and then the establishment of corresponding levels. This approach prevents possible misconceptions caused by incompatible scales in the two realms.


Addis, W. & J. Schouten. Principles of Design for Deconstruction to Facilitate, London: CIRIA, 2004.
Aguiar, Francisca C. & Julia Bentz & Joao M.N. Silva & Ana L. Fonseca & Rob Swart & Filipe Duarte Santos & Gil Penha-Lopes. “Adaptation to Climate Change at Local Level in Europe: An Overview”, in Environmental Science and Policy, Vol. 86 (2018), pp. 38-63.
Ahren, Jack & Sarel Cilliers & Jari Niemela. “The Concept of Ecosystem Services in Adaptive Urban Planning and Design: A Framework for Supporting Innovation”, in Landscape and Urban Planning, Vol. 125 (2014), pp. 254-259.
Al-Obaidi, Karam M. & Muhammad Azzam Ismail & Hazreena Hussein & Abdul Malik Abdul Rahman. “Biomimetic Building Skins: An Adaptive Approach”, in Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Vol. 79 (2017), pp. 1472-1491.
Araos, Malcolm & Lea Berrang-Ford & James D. Ford & Stephanie E. Austin & Robbert Biesbroek & Alexandra Lesnikowski. “Climate Change Adaptation Planning in Large Cities: A Systematic Global Assessment”, in Environmental Science & Policy, Vol. 66 (2016), pp. 375-382.
Araya-Munoz, Dahyann & Marc J Metzger & Marc J. Stuart & Neil Stuart & A. Meriwhther & W. Wilson & Luis Alvarez. “Assessing Urban Adaptive Capacity to Climate Change”, in Journal of Environmental Management, (2016), pp. 314-324.
Barozzi, Marta & Julian Lienhard & Alessandra Zanelli & Carol Monticelli. “The Sustainability of Adaptive Envelopes: Developments of Kinetic Architecture”, in Procedia Engineering, Vol. 155 (2016), pp. 275-284.
Bayer, C. & M. Gamble & R. Henry & S. Joshi. AIA Guide to Building Life Cycle Assessment in Practice, Washington: American Institute of Architects, 2010.
Braham, William W. Architecture and System Ecology, New York: Routledge, 2016.
Burton, I. Adapt and Thrive: Options for Reducing the Climate Change Adaptation Deficit, Ontario: (unpublished manuscript), 1992.
Calarco, Allan & Joan Gurvis. Adaptability; Responding Effectively to Change, United States of America: Center for Creative Leadership, 2006.
Carter, Jeremy G. “Urban Climate Change Adaptation: Exploring the Implications of Future Land Cover Scenarios”, in Cities, 2018, pp. 73-80.
Chudley, R. Maintenance and Adaptation of Buildings, London: Longman, 1983.
Collins, P. Changing Ideal in Modern Architecture, Montreal: McGill-Queen University Press, 1965.
Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment & Greater London Authority. Open Space Strategy: Best Practice Guidance: A Joint Consultation Draft by the Mayor of London and CABE Space, London: Greater London Authority Press, 2008.
Conrad, Michael. “Analyzing Ecosystem Adaptability”, in Mathematical Biosciences, Vol. 27, Issues 3-4 (1975), pp. 213-230.
________ . Adaptability: The Significance of Variability from Molecule to Ecosystem, Michigan: Plenum Press, 1983.
Cooper, J.A.G. & J. Pile. “The Adaptation-resistance Spectrum: A Classification of Contemporary Adaptation Approaches to Climate-related Coastal Change”, in Ocean & Coastal Management, 94 (2014), pp. 90-98. DOI: 10.1016/j.ocecoaman.2013.09.006
Douglas, James. Building Adaptation, New York: Spon Press, 2006.
Euler, M. “Selbstorganisation, Strukturbildung und Wahrnehmung in: Biologie in unserer Zeit”, in Jahrg, 30 (2000) /Nr.1.
European Commission. Adapting to Climate Change in Europe- Options for EU Action, Brussels: Green Paper, 2007.
Frazer, John. An Evolutionary Architecture, London: Architectural Association London, 1995.
Glenn, Reynders. Quantifying the Impact of Building Design on the Potential of Structural Storage for Active Demand Response in Residential Buildings, PHD Thesis, Google Scholar, 2015.
Gallopín,  G.C. “Linkages Between Vulnerability, Resilience, and Adaptive Capacity”, in Global Environmental Change, 16(3) (2006), pp. 293-303.
Gosling, Jonathan & Paola Sassi & Mohamed Naim & Robert Lark. “Adaptable Buildings: A Systems Approach”, in Sustainable Cities and Society, Vol. 7 (2013), pp. 44-51.
Graham, Fay R. & T. Lyer-Raniga. ”Life - Cycle Energy Analysis of Buildings: A Case Study”, in Buil’d Res Inform, Vol. 28, Issue 1 (2000), pp. 31-41.
Gruber, Petra. Biomimetics in Architecture, Architecture of Life and Buildings, Morlenbach: Springer, 2011.
Haddad, Brent M. “Ranking the Adaptive Capacity of Nations to Climate Change When Socio-political Goals Are Explicit”, in Global Environmental Change, 15(2) (2005), pp. 165-176.
Halleux, Jean-Marie & Szymon Marcinzak & Erwin van der Krabben. “The Adaptive Efficiency of Land Use Planning Measured by the Control of Urban Sprawl. The Cases of the Netherlands, Belgium and Poland”, in Land Use Policy, 29(4) (2012), pp. 887-898.
Heidrich, O. & D. Reckien & M. Olazabal & A. Foley & M. Salvia & S. De Gregorio Hurtado & H. Orru, et al. “National Climate Policies across Europe and their Impacts on Cities Strategies”, in Environ. Manag, 2016, pp.  36-45.
Herrmann, Eva Maria, & Marcus Kaiser & Tobias Katz. Furnishing | Zoning., Basel: Brikhauser, 2014.
Hirt, Sonia A. Zoned in the USA; The Origins and Implication of American Land-use Regulation, Ithaca and London: Cornell Unversity Press, 2014.
Hudec, Martin & Lea Rollova. “Adaptability in the Architecture of Sport Facilities”, in World Multidisciplinary Civil Engineering-Architecture-Urban Planning Symposium, Bratislava: Slovak University of Technology. 2016, pp. 1393-1397.
IPCC. Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability, United Kingdom and New York, 2014.
Junker, Rune Gronborge & Armin Ghasem Azar & Rui Amaral Lopes & Karen Byskov Lindberg & Glenn Reynder & Rishi Relen & Henrik Madsen. “Characterizing the Energy Flexibility of Buildings and Districts”, in Applied Energy, 225 (2018), pp. 175-182.
Kagan, Sacha & Antoniya Hauerwass & Verena Holz & Patricia Wedler. “Culture in Sustainable Urban Development: Practices and Policies for Spaces of Possibility and Institutional Innovations”, in City, Culture and Society, 13 (2018), pp. 32-45.
Karana, Elvin & Owain Pedgley & Valentina Rognoli. Materials Experience; Fundamentals of Materials and Design, Waltham: Elsevier, 2014.
Karimpour, Mahsa & Martin Belusko & Ke Xing & Frank Bruno. “Minimising the Life Ccycle Energy of Buildings: Review and Analysis”, in Building and Environment, 73 (2014), pp. 106-114.
Kincaid, David. Adapting Building for Changing Uses, London and New york: Spon press, 2002.
Konig, Holger & Niklaus Kohler & Johannes Kreibig & Thomas Lutzkendorf. A Life Cycle Approach to Buildings, Munich: Aumüller Druck, 2010.
Kretzaer, Manuel & Lundger Hovestadt. Advancements in Adaptive Architecture, asel, Switzerland: Birkhäuser, 2014.
Lofland, L.H. The Public Realm: Exploring the City’s Quintessential Social Territory, New York: Aldine de Gruyter, 1998.
Luo, Limin & WenJun Zhang. “A Review on Biological Adaptation: with Applications in Engineering Science”, in Selforganizology, 1(1) (2014), pp. 23-30.
Martinelli, Letizia & Alessandra Battisti & Andreas Matzarakis. “Multicriteria Analysis Model for Urban Open Space Renovation: An Application for Rome”, in Sustainable Cities and Society, 14 (2014), pp. xxx.e10-xxx.e20.
Merelli, Emanuela & Nicola Paoletti & Luca Tesei. “Adaptability Checking in Complex Systems”, in Science of Computer Programming, Vol. 115-116 (2016), pp. 23-40.
Metzger, Marc J., et al. “A Spatially Explicit and Quantitative Vulnerability Assessment of Ecosystem Service Change in Europe”, in Regional Environmental Change, 8 (2008), pp. 91-107.
Moffat, Sebastian & Peter Russel. “Energy-Related Environmental Impact of Buildings”, in Assessing Buildings for Adaptability, 2001.
Nuffida, Nur Endah. “On Architecture and Energy: the Concept of (Generating) form through Adaptation”, in International Conference Green Architecture for Sustainable Living and Environment, Indonesia: Institute of Technology Sepuluh Nopember, 2014, pp. 154-164.
Pandremenos, J. & E Vasiliadis & G. Chryssolouris. “Design Architectures in Biology”, in 45th CIRP Conference on Manufacturing Systems 2012, Patras: University of Patras, 2012, pp. 448-452.
Parsaee, Mojtaba & Mohammad Parva & Bagher Karimi. “Space and Place Concepts Analysis Based on Semiology Approach in Residential Architecture; the Case Study of Traditional City of Bushehr, Iran”, in HBRC Journal, 11(3) (2015), pp. 368-383.
Peck, Joel R. & David Waxman. “What is Adaptation and How Should it Be Measured?”, in Journal of Theoretical Biology, 447 (2018), pp. 190-198.
Rahim, Asiah Abdul & Zuhairi Abdul Hamid & Ismawi Hj Zen & Zulkefle Ismail & Kamarul Anuar Mohd Kamar. “Adaptable Housing of Precast Panel System in Malaysia”, in ASEAN Conference on Environment-Behaviour Studies. Bangkok, Thailand: Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, 2012, 369-382.
Reickien, Diana & Monica Salvia & Oliver Heidrich & Jon Marco Church. “How Are Cities Planning to Respond to Climate Change? Assessment of Local Climate Plans from 885 in the EU-28”, in Journal of Cleaner Production, 191 (2018), pp. 207-219.
Reid, Robert G.B. Biological Emergences; Evolution by Natural Experiment, London: The MIT press, 2007.
Revi, A. & D.E. Satterthwaite & F. Aragon-Durand & J. Corfee-Morlot & R.B.R. Kiunsi & M. Pelling & D.C. Roberts & W Solecki. “Urban Areas”, in Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Part A: Global and Sectoral Aspects. Scopus, 2018, pp. 535-612.
Ribatti, Domenico. “An Historical Note on Cell Theory”, in Experimental Cell Research,364(1) (2018), pp. 1-4.
Roberts, C.D & R. Boon & N. Diederichs & E. Douwes & E. Govender & A. McInnes. “Exploring Ecosystem-based Adaptation in Durban, South Africa: Learning-by-doing at the Local Government Coal Face”, in Environment & Urbanization, 24(1) (2012), pp. 1-29.
Rodrigues, Carla & Fausto Freire. “Adaptive Reuse of Buildings: Eco-efficiency Assessment of Retrofit Strategies for Alternative Uses of an Historic Building”, in Journal of Cleaner Production, Vol. 157 (2017), pp. 94-105.
Rodrigues, Fernanda & Raquel Matos & Ana Alves & Paulo Ribeirinho & Hugo Rodrigues. “Building Life Cycle Applied to Refurbishment of a Traditional Building from Oporto, Portugal”, in Journal of Building Engineering, Vol. 17 (2018), pp. 84-95.
Ross, Brandon E. & Diana A. Chen & Sheila Conejos & Amin Khademi. “Enabling Adaptable Buildings: Results of a Preliminary Expert Survey”, in International Conference on Sustainable Design, Engineering and Construction, Singapore: National University of Singapore, 2016, pp. 420-427.
Saghafi, Mohammad Djavad & Maryam Ahmadi. “A Study of Adaptable Architecture Pertinence in Iran”, in International Conference on Green Buildings and Sustainable Cities, Tehran: Procedia Engineering, 2011, pp. 656-665.
Savage, Tony & Xin Yao. “Adaptability in Organisms and Artifacts: A Multi Level Perspective on Adaptive Processes”, in Cognitive Systems Research, 11(3) (2010), pp. 231-242.
Schmalhausen, I.I. Factors of Evolution. The Theory of Stabilizing Selection, Philadelphia: Blackiston, 1949.
Schnadelbach, Holger & Petr Slovak & Geraldine Fitzpatrick & Nils Jager. “The Immersive Effect of Adaptive Architecture”, in Prevasive and Mobile Computing, 25 (2016), pp. 143-152.
Schwarz, Michael & Martin Birke & Emanuel Beerheide. “Soziale Innovation: Die Bedeutung Sozialer Innovationen für eine Nachhaltige Entwicklung”, in VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, 2010, pp. 165-180.
Senatore, Gennaro & Philippe Duffour & Pete Winslow. “Exploring the Application Domain of Adaptive Structures”, in Engineering Structures, Vol. 167 (2018), pp. 608-628.
Sijakovic, Milan & Ana Peric. “Symbiotic Architecture: Redefinition of Recycling Design Principles”, in Frontier of Architectural Research, Vol. 7, Issue 1 (2017), pp. 67-79.
Smit B. & J. Wandel. “Adaptive Capacity and Vulnerability”, in Global Environ Change, 16(3) (2006), pp. 283-292
Tompkins, Emma L. & Neil W. Adger & Emily Boyd & Sophie Nicholsoncole & Keith Weatherhead & Nigel Arnell. “Observed Adaptation to Climate Change: UK Evidence of Transition to a Well - adapting Society”, in Global Environmental Change, 20 (4) (2010), pp. 627-635.
Unwin, Simon. Analysing Architecture, New York: Routledge, 2009.
Vilches, Alberto & Antonio Garcia-Martinez & Benito Snachez-Montanes. “Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of Building Refurbishment: A Literature Review”, in Energy and Buildings, Vol. 135 (15 January 2017), pp. 286-301
Wilkinson, Sara J. & Hilde Remoy & Craig Langston. Sustainable Building Adaptation, Chichester: John Wiley & Sons, 2014.
Wong, Liliane. Adaptive Reuses, Berlin: Birkhäuser, 2017.
Yanine, Franco Fernando & Federico I. Caballero & Enzo E. Sauma & Felisa M. Cordova. “Building Sustainable Energy Systems: Homeostatic Control of Grid-connected Microgrids, as a Mean to Reconcile Power Supply and Energy Demand Response Management”, in Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 2011, pp. 1161-1191.
Yousef Mohamed & Abeer Samy. “Smart Materials Innovative Technologies in Architecture; Towards Innovative Design Paradigm”, in International Conference – Alternative and Renewable Energy Quest, Spain: Energy Procedia, 2017, pp. 139-154.
Yuan, Yanping & Xiaoping Yu & Xiaojiao Yang & Yimin Xiao & Bo Xiang & Yi Wang. “Bionic Building Energy Efficiency and Bionic Green Architecture: A Review”, in Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Vol. 74, issue C (2017), pp. 771-787.
Zari, Maibritt Pedersen. “Ecosystem Services Analysis: Mimicking Ecosystem Services for Regenerative Urban Design”, in International Journal of Sustainable Built Environment, Vol. 4, Issue 1 (2015), pp. 145-157.
Zevi, Bruno. Saper vedere l’architettura, Tehran: Shahidi, 2009.