Building Physics & Environmental Systems

Theory and analysis methods relative to performance of enclosure systems and introduction of design and integration of mechanical and electrical building systems. Topics covered include: enclosure systems and performance metrics, conceptual and technical design theory, operational principles, and maintenance issues, all necessary for determining the selection of passive and active environmental control systems within a building including: enclosure systems, heating, ventilation, air conditioning, lighting, and acoustical systems

The way we build and operate buildings has changed dramatically over the past decade, facing economic and environmental challenges that have led to a variety of high performance technologies emerging in the field. In response to these changes the Building Construction department at Virginia Tech has developed a “Sustainable Building Performance” (SBP) track as part of the building construction major, which focuses on sustainable performance and energy management skills for the design, construction, and operation of our buildings.

This course prepares students of the SPB option with the theoretical and analytical background knowledge required for the later courses of this track dealing with systems performance management, energy management, and sustainability assessments.

Students will examine building enclosure systems and how they relate to the analysis and design of environmental systems. They will be instructed in lectures covering the theoretical background and then apply the acquired principles in lab exercises and hands-on projects in the construction teaching laboratory in Bishop-Favrao Hall.

Learning Objectives

Having successfully completed this course, the student will be able to:

  • Comprehend the conceptual nature of the engineering principles and dynamics of building envelope and environmental control systems.
  • Choose and apply appropriate analytical methods and tools necessary for the analysis and design of building envelope and environmental control systems.
  • Differentiate how various building systems contribute to addressing specific sets of building performance criteria.
  • Investigate and identify suitable material and methods required to meet building operational requirements.
  • Communicate verbally and in writing about analysis and design topics relative to construction projects, specifically addressing design requirements of building envelope systems and their integration with environmental control systems.

Syllabus - Overview

Building Envelope Systems (30%)
  • Design theory of layered envelope systems
  • Concepts of thermodynamics in solids for heat transfer analysis in wall, window, roof, and floor systems
  • Hygrothermal performance and vapor diffusion
  • Acoustic Performance
Analysis and Design Theory of Building Systems (50%)
  • Concepts of thermodynamics in fluids and gases for heating and cooling load analysis
  • Psychrometric calculations
  • Principles of refrigeration
  • Hydronic heating and cooling technologies
  • Principles of air distribution and balancing
  • Duct system design
  • Piping system design
  • Sensing and control design
  • Applied electricity in buildings and power distribution systems
  • Lighting systems and daylighting integration
  • Control and signal systems
Intro to Building Performance Assessment (20%)
  • Energy Audits
  • Residential Building Assessment Tools
  • Residential Building Performance Programs