A simulation-based sustainable building envelope design optimization strategy


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

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  • Sha LIU


Awarding Institution
Award date2 Oct 2013


Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the immoderate human activities have had many negative impacts on the natural environment. The aggravation of the greenhouse effect is one of the most serious problems threatening the existence of life on the Earth. The primary cause of this crisis is the accumulation of the Greenhouse Gases (GHGs) inside the atmosphere. Buildings which consume large amounts of energy during their life cycles have been recognized as one of the major contributors to the GHG emissions. In order to slow down the pace of global warming, improving buildings' energy efficiency and environmentally-friendliness has become an urgent task. It has been proven that heat and light are the two major aspects which require large amounts of energy. Therefore, building envelope design which has a close connection with these two elements is necessary to be developed. Besides, improving the design of building envelopes to enhance their performance physically is also a convenient and effective method to attain sustainable building. On the other hand, cost is another important element which has great influence on the success of projects. To save cost reasonably is always an aim of the project owners. In order to realize the trade-off between the cost and building performance, this study proposes an optimization strategy which aims to reduce the capital which is devoted to projects as well as the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from buildings as much as possible at the same time. Life cycle analysis is applied here to assess the budget and the carbon emission of building envelopes from construction to demolition of the project. In order to evaluate the thermal and lighting performance of the building, simulation software Ecotect is also employed to mimic the real world situation so as to provide credible data for the following processes. Through the interactions between the simulation software and the Multi-Objective Particle Swarm Optimization (MOPSO) method, a series of Pareto-optimal solutions will be generated. In order to procure the optimum building envelope design scheme, this study also proposes a "∆ comparison method" to help decision makers to select the most economical and sustainable design. Three real cases, two from Hong Kong and one from Mainland China, are picked to demonstrate the effectiveness of this strategy. The results show that the optimum building envelope designs generated through this method can reduce large amounts of carbon emission than the initial ones, and the life cycle costs of projects are also decreased. Additionally, compared with the traditional design optimization methods, the strategy proposed in this study can take the continuous design variables into consideration and largely save the calculation time.

    Research areas

  • Buildings, Performance, Computer simulation, Design and construction, Sustainable buildings