Therma performance of buildings with post-tensioned timber structure compared with concrete and steel alternatives
Thesis DisciplineCivil Engineering
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
This thesis describes the influence of thermal mass on the space conditioning energy consumption and indoor comfort conditions of multi-storey buildings with concrete, steel and timber structural systems. The buildings studied were medium sized educational and commercial buildings. When calculating a building’s life-cycle energy consumption, the construction materials have a direct effect on not only the building’s embodied energy but also on the space conditioning energy.
The latter depends, amongst other things, on the thermal characteristics of the building’s materials; thermal mass can also be an influence on comfort conditions in the building. A modelling comparison has been undertaken between three very similar medium-sized buildings, each designed using structural systems made primarily of timber, concrete and steel.
The post-tensioned timber version of the building is a modelled representation of a real three-storey educational building that has been constructed recently in Nelson, New Zealand. The concrete- and steel-structured versions have been designed on paper to conform to the required structural codes and meet, as closely as possible, the same performance, internal space layout and external façade features as the real timber-structured building. Each of these three structurally-different buildings has been modelled with two different thermal envelopes (code-compliant and New Zealand best-practice) using a heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) system with heating only (educational scheme) and heating and cooling (commercial scheme). The commercial system (with cooling) was applied only to the buildings with the best-practice thermal envelope.
The analysis of each of these nine different construction and usage categories includes the modelling of operational energy use with an emphasis on HVAC energy consumption, and the assessment of indoor comfort conditions using predicted mean vote (PMV). From an operational energy use perspective, the modelling comparison between the different cases has shown that, within each category (code-compliant, low-energy and low-energy-commercial), the principal structural material has only a small effect on overall performance. The most significant differences are in the building with the best-practice thermal envelope with the commercial HVAC system, were the concrete building has slightly lower HVAC energy consumption, being 3 and 4% lower than in the steel and timber buildings respectively
The assessment of indoor comfort conditions during occupied periods through using PMV for each of the three categories shows that the timber structure consistently exhibited longer periods in the over-warm comfort zone, but this was much less pronounced in south-facing spaces. To examine the reasons for the less acceptable PMV in the timber-structure versions, an analysis of indoor timber and concrete surface temperatures was carried out in both buildings. It was found that, particularly in north-facing spaces, there were large diurnal swings in the temperatures of timber surfaces exposed to solar radiation.
These swings were much less in the case of concrete surfaces so the environment was perceived to be more comfortable under such conditions because of the reduced influence of higher mean radiant temperatures.
To moderate this potential downside of solar-exposed internal timber surfaces, better results are achieved if, when timber is used for thermal mass, the timber is not exposed to direct solar radiation, for example locating it in the ceilings or on the south side of the building.
Two other approaches to combating the potential overheating problem in the timber-structured buildings were analysed in an illustrative mode; addition of external louvres to reduce direct solar gains at critical times of day and year; and use of phase change material (PCM) linings to act as light-mass energy buffers. Although external louvres increase comfort conditions significantly by reducing the periods of an overly warm environment, they produce an increase in heating energy consumption through reducing beneficial solar gains. The use of PCM linings shows little benefit to overall indoor comfort conditions for the building of this case-study.