I’ve spent quite a lot of the last few month or two submerged in Excel spreadsheets, working with heat balance equations.  It’s the kind of in-depth logical-mathematical task which is immensely satisfying, and we’ve been given enough grounding in the principles of building physics and facade heat exchange to be able to work in some depth, which I appreciate.

Building the spreadsheet, too, has been deeply enjoyable – structuring it so that it works as efficiently as possible; anticipating problems, always working toward the next step; altering the underlying steps so that each outcome makes as much sense as possible, and overcoming the brain-cudgelling moments of confusion.  It’s awesome to know the complexities and reasoning and to pull them together into a (hopefully) meaningful outcome. It’s shown me once again that I do by far my best work when given open ended, extended tasks and the freedom to drill down into the layers of information and complexity or to range around the subject.  Independent research and thinking is rewarding, and I get keen.

In practice, this has meant work like this: analysing internal gains, to figure out the necessary offset.

Internal gains for each room, in w/m2: varying concentrations depending on occupancy, equipment and so on.  This allows the facades to be engineered independently to compensate for the immediate conditions.
And the internal gains broken down by source (lighting/equipment/occupants).

In the end I engineered a perfectly balanced building, but I’m not completely happy with the result.  It depended too heavily on glazing with a relatively high U-value, which, while it allows heat to escape, wouldn’t actually result in a particularly comfortable environment.  The best change to make, and the way I’d pursue this investigation further, would be to rotate the floor plan 180 degrees.  This would put the hot office area on the north side, which would make it rather easier for it to lose its internal gains.  I’d also like to run it through the Passivhaus analysis spreadsheet, and see how it does by their reckoning, given that they use broadly the same principles but some different techniques to arrive at an estimation of performance…

This work has reminded me of a big part of why I love studying architecture: the sheer breadth.  It’s wonderful to be able to go from cultural history to thermodynamics and back again.