Online educational resource on achieving indoor environmental quality with radiant based HVAC systems
Not for profit educational resource on indoor environmental quality.
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not for profit educational resource


14 points every architect, engineer, contractor and their clients should know about building science - sample slides. For additional support visit our visitor services page.

Our integrated design program has over 2100 slides illustrating architectural, interior design and HVAC engineering principles which contribute to indoor environmental quality and energy allocation for conditioning the occupants and building.

The following course materials on building science theory are samples from the lecture and based on a Steven Covey principle of "Begin with the End in Mind". They are a very small but important sample of the Covey principle and are provided here to give you an idea of what kind of materials we'll be discussing during the program.

The course is also registered with AIA and participants can earn up to 21 Learning Units.

For more sample slides visit our list of training modules.

Figure 1: This principle is so easy to say but oh so difficult to manage in real life. Think about all the problems associated with buildings and most will come down to addressing the inward and outward flow of mass and energy.

Figure 2: The driving gear on enclosures is balance - a balance in mass and energy. On a macro scale it’s the elements of earth seeking equilibrium. Wet goes to dry, hot goes to cold, high pressure goes to low pressure. On a micro scale occupants try to control this ever seeking equilibrium in part with the building enclosure.

Figure 3: Think of the enclosure as a it steps in the way of energy and mass seeking equilibrium it becomes a filter, sponge and capacitor; capturing gases and particulate, ad/absorbing moisture and gases and storing energy in the form of heat.

Figure 4: The relationship between the outdoor climate and indoor climate is dynamic; and we ask the enclosure to be a governor of sorts – to knock down the extremes so we have a reasonable chance at creating indoor climates suitable for human occupancy. However, industry is very good at testing those limits with poor architecture, bad interior design and inadequate HVAC systems; and it shows up in poor indoor environmental health which contributes to lost productivity, lower academic scores and unsustainable energy consumption.

Figure 5: Improving enclosure performance requires us to understand the hierarchy of damage functions. At the top of the list is moisture and it matters not if it is a liquid gas or solid. Moisture supports pathogens and allergens and causes material damage. Heat is next with UV light and ozone. These three are destructive as they break down materials into gases and particulate. All four lead to poor indoor environmental health related to indoor air quality and thermal comfort and increase the maintenance and operating costs for the owners/occupants.

Figure 6: Building analysis tools such as finite element analysis allow us to model building elements in their environment. Shown are three slides from a yearly simulation of ground temperatures for a building in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. During the course we’ll run the entire model to show you what thermally occurs at various depths along a foundation wall and slab over an entire year. How does this impact buildings? We'll discuss this at length in the course.

Figure 7: We think it helps to look at enclosures as outdoor clothing and gear. It matters not if the assembly is a wall, roof or slab - the same forces of nature are applied...inside wants out and outside wants in. We don’t want the enclosure to sweat, nor do we want it to stink and we don’t want it to break down into respirable products. Choosing enclosure materials and system to keep it warm, dry and ventilated is no different than choosing cold climate clothing and gear to keep you warm, dry and ventilated.

Figure 8: Ventilating a building takes pressure…more specifically differential pressure. In the old days when energy was cheap and materials of construction were more eau natural it worked to some degree…you could rely on the differences between the inside and outside to move air through at an undefined rate to dilute the indoor pollutants. But that philosophy doesn’t work today. Energy is not cheap and it’s going to get more expensive. Air flow travels over less natural materials and over more synthetic products in buildings. We can no longer rely on leaky buildings so we have to “build tight and ventilate right” and that takes pressure induced by fans. You need fans to suck bad air out and fans to bring outdoor air in and they should be somewhat balanced. Unbalanced pressures can create problems for the building and occupants....oh and yes the heat from the exhaust air should be recaptured and used to preheat the incoming air (see HRV and DOAS).

Figure 9:  Unbalanced pressures on buildings can be imagined with the simple use of a plumber’s plunger. You know when you push down on a plunger it increases the outbound flow of mass, and when you pull back you increase the inbound flow of mass. If the plunger is sealed against a surface it can act like a “pump” – a diaphragm pump to be more specific. Wind pressures, stack effect and mechanical fans will have the same effect on the enclosure as if you were pushing or pulling on a plunger. When you push on an imaginary plunger attached to the inside of a building you move air mass from the inside to the outside which lowers the internal pressure which means outside air mass at a higher pressure will want to come inward - and it will do that through cracks in the building...the opposite is true when you pull back on the plunger. That air flow is uncontrolled which means if it is hot, cold, moist and contaminated it will become an energy, air quality and thermal comfort problem.

Figure 10:  Uncontrolled air flow moving from the inside to the outside creates all sorts of problems. One of the more common issues with the outward flow of warm moist air is condensation. Should air with sufficient moisture come in contact with a surface of a suitable cold temperature it will condense. Condensation on windows is a visual indicator of what could also be occurring within the wall, floor and roof. You can smell the problems with musty odours and see the results of this with mould and mildew, staining and ice dams at roof edges. Sometimes all it takes to create condensation is the use of a setback thermostat...

Figure 11:  Keeping the outside out and the inside in – is not that complicated in principle. Take a good old Tilley hat designed to keep the sun and rain off your head, face and neck. Houses built without a hat have sun and moisture problems. House with wide brims have fewer problems. I say better to have “dry hat hair” than rotten skin cancer nest pas?

Figure 12:  Tomas Auer and Geoff McDonell are two engineers who get that buildings should do the bulk of the heavy lifting when it comes to regulating heating and cooling for occupant comfort. Both get the insanity of solving thermal problems with mechanical solutions when better alternatives are available. Most thermal problems solved today with combustion or compression can be solved with stuff that has no moving parts, doesn’t need to be fed calories (i.e. gas, oil, coal, wood) and requires little to no maintenance (i.e. mechanical therapy). That stuff is insulation, caulking and good windows. Above FEA study we did with FlexPDE demonstrates the inside surface temperatures and heat flow based on various amounts of insulations. Notice a thicker wall has less energy flow which results in a warmer surface. Warm indoor surfaces in winter and cool indoor surfaces in summer are good....poor insulation destroys warm winter surfaces and cool summer surfaces.

Figure 13:  Warmer surfaces in winter and cooler surfaces in summer takes us back to our discussion on mean radiant and operative temperature and the meaning of "radiant based HVAC". Solving operative temperature problems with insulation is good because it improves comfort while reducing the use of energy while lower operating and maintenance costs. People get better academic scores and have higher productivity when they are in environments that are comfortable.

Figure 14:  Windows are good, windows are bad. Too much and you feel like you’re inside an Easy·Bake Oven. Too little and you get sensory deprivation. Selecting windows is an art and a science and we’ll show you how to do both.

So there you have it, a few sample slides from our building science lecturer...just a hors d'oeu·vre from our library of over 2100 slides addressing a small but important element of integrated design and radiant based HVAC systems. In the program we will get into this and a whole lot more? How much more? Well just follow the links to the other parts of our website and you’ll get a feel for the scope of materials that we’ll be covering.

See you soon.

Robert Bean, R.E.T., P.L.(Eng.)
Registered Engineering Technologist - Building construction (ASET #8167)
Professional Licensee (Engineering) - HVAC (APEGA #105894)
Building Sciences / Industry Development
ASHRAE Committees: T.C.61. (CM), T.C.6.5 (VM), T.C. 7.04 (VM), SSPC 55 (VM)
ASHRAE SSPC 55 - User Manual Task Leader

Note: The author participates on several ASHRAE and other industry related committees but be advised the materials and comments presented do not necessarily represent the views of these societies, only the president of the society or nominated representative may speak on behalf of the organization.

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