Environmental impact and performance of transparent building envelope materials and systems
Building envelopes are elements with a long lifetime, which provide a barrier between internal and external space and contribute to the internal environmental conditions provision. Their complex role ensures a large impact on the environmental and energy performance of a building and the occupant perception of a space. This study looks at the use of novel materials and processes to help reduce the environmental impact of buildings by improving facade and transparent roof design. There are three main strands to the work. First, novel building components, ETFE foil cushions were examined. Physical testing has shown that ETFE foil cushions compare favourably to double glazing in terms of thermal and daylighting performance which was also noted as one of the most likeable feature by occupants. Environmental impact analysis has indicated that ETFE foils can reduce the environmental impact of a building through reduced environmental burden of both the construction and operation of the building. Secondly, a cradle-to-gate Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) was carried out for float glass, which considered the environmental impacts of glass manufacture. The embodied energy was calculated to be 13.4 ± 0.5 GJ per tonne while the total number of eco-points 243 ± 11 per tonne. It is shown that float glass is comparable to the use of steel, and highly preferable to the use of aluminium as a cladding panel. Finally, a concept design tool (FACADE) was developed by defining a large number of office facade models and employing dynamic thermal, daylighting and environmental impact modelling to create a database which can be accessed through a user friendly interface application. A parametric analysis has indicated that using natural ventilation where possible can reduce the environmental impact of offices by up to 16%. Improving the standard of the facade and reducing the internal heat loads from lighting and equipment can reduce environmental impact up to 22%. This study makes a significant contribution to understanding the environmental impact of building envelope individual and integrated components.