This informal CPD article Simulation for Thermal Bridging was provided by SimScale, a new, cloud-based approach to CAE, FEA and CFD.
Evaluating thermal and energy performance
Thermal bridging is a vital aspect to be considered when evaluating the thermal and energy performance of buildings. Studies have shown that heat loss due to thermal bridging may account for 11%-29% of the energy demand for heating (Evola et al., 2011). Within the construction industry, complying with building standards is essential and the proper tools are needed to help identify areas of thermal bridging and mitigate against heat loss. Cloud-native engineering simulation enables architects and engineers to model the impact of heat conduction and thermal bridging on their building designs.
What is Thermal Bridging?
Thermal bridging is a localized phenomenon found in building envelopes or structures where there is a difference in heat flow or thermal conductivity when compared to adjacent components. For example, two different ambient conditions can exist on the internal and external side of an insulated wall. The temperature difference between the conditions on either side leads to thermal bridging within the wall. Thermal bridging can happen locally anywhere that two different ambient conditions meet - not just wall junctions. Roofs, attic staircases, sliding doors, and balcony connections, among others, are susceptible. Window frames or facades with glazing are especially prone to thermal bridging.
Why Does Thermal Bridging Matter?
The primary effects of thermal bridging can be readily observed. Visible indicators like mould development in roof and walls and/or condensation build-up in window glazing or window frame can mean thermal bridging is present. These primary effects will, in turn, cause major secondary effects including damage to the material of building structures and, as revealed in studies, can lead to unnecessary heat loss through the building envelope.
Mitigating for thermal bridging at the design phase of construction is the best and most efficient way to minimize the heightened energy demand that can occur as a result of unintended thermal bridges. Attempting to measure and mitigate against thermal bridging retroactively, by replacing parts, is more resource and time consuming than integrating thermal bridging consideration into your design workflow.
Engineering Simulation for Improved Building Energy Performance
Engineers and architects require tools to identify where thermal bridging is happening and to design preventive measures to mitigate against it. As thermal bridging can be localized, it can be captured using heat and fluid transfer simulations, which show us the movement of heat.
Simulation can identify whether thermal bridging will occur and quantify its relative importance. This will inform design decisions, such as adding insulation or providing designers with insights on how the addition of new materials might affect internal temperature conditions. Engineering simulation also helps to verify compliance with building regulations as showing compliance with building standards is critical for lowering unnecessary energy demands.
Cloud computing makes engineering simulation more accessible than ever before for architects and engineers wishing to model the impact of heat conduction and thermal bridging on their building designs. Simulation can be set up and run quickly, without any required hardware or downloads, and enables designers to visualize heat conduction inside and outside of building models. This accessibility and ease of use will pave the way for a generation of buildings with improved standard compliance and overall energy performance.
We hope this article was helpful. For more information from SimScale, please visit their CPD Member Directory page. Alternatively please visit the CPD Industry Hubs for more CPD articles, courses and events relevant to your Continuing Professional Development requirements.