The Thermal Mass and Buoyancy Ventilation Research Project is part of a wider research project to investigate how to create a more responsible building system. The Research Project uses holistic design to reduce a building’s environmental impact and energy usage. Modern building practices incorporate many complex systems that are energy intensive to both produce and operate. The Research Project is looking at testing internal thermal masses, a material that can control interior temperature and ventilation passively.
To do this, the researchers are applying Optimal Tuning Theory, using an application to optimize the design. The designers calculate the proportions of the thermal mass and ventilation openings by using data on of the height of the building, the occupant load, and the surface area of thermal mass. The resulting proportions of thermal mass and ventilation can be a starting point for design. Thus, buildings could be passively ventilated, free of mechanical heating and cooling systems.
This is a two-phase project, beginning with an undergraduate phase and continuing with a graduate phase. During the undergraduate phase, the team will complete an “experimental cycle” in which the Optimal Tuning Theory will be tested at three scales: a small “desk-top” experiment, a human-scale experiment, and a habitable structure experiment. The experimental cycle will test the theory with two different materials acting as the thermal mass: concrete and softwood. This cycle will validate the theory experimentally, and the high-quality data collected from it will provide a baseline for the graduate phase of research.