finished pods

Thermal Mass & Buoyancy Ventilation Research Project

  • Overview


    Newbern, AL
    5th-Year & Master’s Project

  • Project Team

    Cory Subasic, Jeff Jeong, Livia Barrett, & Rowe Price

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 applies a holistic approach to thermal mass which could provide a powerful short-cut for designing climate-resilient buildings. Modern building practices incorporate many complex systems that are energy-intensive to both produce and operate. The Research Project, in partnership with McGill University, tests internal thermal masses as a material that can control interior temperature and ventilation passively.

students and professors sitting under finished pods
Creating a predictable and proportional passive system by revisiting thermal mass in the 21st century.

To do this, the researchers are applying mathematical scaling-rules, using an application to optimize design. The scaling-rules optimize internal thermal mass thickness and surface area to reach a target temperature and ventilation rate. The resulting proportions of thermal mass and ventilation can be a starting point for design as the scaling-rules account for schematic elements such as building height and occupant load. 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 completed experiments that validated the scaling-rules while comparing concrete and wood as internal thermal mass materials. The high-quality, baseline data yielded from the initial experiments will be applied to full-scale building design in the graduate phase of research. The team is designing two occupiable “Test Buildings,” continuing to compare thermal mass materials, which will also expel cooled-air into a summertime gathering space below. These spaces will be tested to further validate optimize thermal mass’s capabilities and demonstrate the building systems’ environmental benefits.

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