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Energy Concepts for Low Energy Buildings

An Interdisciplinary Process
Marion Hiller and Matthias Schuler
TRANSSOLAR Energietechnik GmbH, Nobelstr. 15, 70569 Stuttgart, Germany

The reasons for a client or investor to ask for a sustainable low energy building differ depending on
the project. Besides the classical ecological reasons our experience shows that publicity and
economical aspects like investment and running costs are important too. An intelligent design has the
capability not only to reduce the energy consumption but also to reduced costs and to strengthen the
architecture. Thereby, the market for low energy buildings can be increased.
For an intelligent building design, a close co-operation between the architect and the different
engineers is mandatory from the beginning of the concept and planning phase of the building. In
particular, the climate engineer a new branch of engineering - supports the architect by developing
and integrating the energy concept. The climate engineer makes sure that all energy and comfort
relevant aspects are taken into account and works on integral solutions that go beyond the classical
separation of disciplines. This interdisciplinary activity is very important since building components of
an intelligent design often have more than one function like loading-bear and air ducting.
Modern computational planning tools which now move out of the research field into the application
field enable the climate engineer to evaluate and optimize the energy concept. Here, program packages
like TRNSYS for the dynamic thermal building simulation, RADIANCE for daylight and glare
calculation and FIDAP for simulation of airflow are used.
Working in the field of climate engineering for 6 years TRANSSOLAR realized about 30 building
projects. The following projects illustrate our work and experience in the interdisciplinary process of
low energy building design and realization including the application of different planing tools.
The conventional design process shows an essentially linear structure (figure 1). It begins with a predesign function such as the preparation of a Design Brief and Functional Program to be carried out by
the architect and the client. In the following Schematic Design Phase the main design parameters
(massing, orientation, fenestration pattern) are often determined by the client and the architect only.
However, architects are poorly placed to acquire detailed knowledge about new technologies and
processes such as performance simulation. Input on orientation for passive solar, daylighting potential,
measures to control solar overheating etc. is only sought in the Design Development Phase. By this
time, the client and architect may be locked into a sub-optimal solution. Advanced systems and
features are often added on to the basic design in later phases, but this does not lead to very high
levels of performance, disturbs the process, and is very costly. (Larsen, 1999)

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Bidding &


Figure 1: Conventional Design Process (Larsen, 1999)

For an economical and ecological building, the conventional design process must be replaced by a socalled integrated design process. Therefor, a close cooperation between the architect and the different
engineers as a design team is mandatory from the beginning of the concept and planing phase of the
building. The classical design team needs to be extended to specialists like the climate engineer.
In an integral design process, more time is spent in concept and design development tasks, but
experience shows that time is saved and problems are minimized during the contract documentation
stage (figure 2).



using CBIP


cost (LCC)
and Life-cycle



Provide as-built
and operating

Final Life Cycle

Cost (LCC)


Develop preliminary building

envelope design
Select and form

Develop concept design(s)



Develop preliminary lighting

and power system design


Complete contract
documentation, including working
drawings and specifications


(Site Inspections)

Develop preliminary design

for ventilation, heating and
cooling systems

Examine site

Develop QA
strategies for
construction and

Develop QA
for operation



Carry out


Figure 2: Integrated Design Process (Larsen, 1999)

The climate engineer a new branch of engineering - supports the architect by developing and
integrating the energy concept. He makes sure that all energy and comfort relevant aspects are taken
into account and works on integral solutions that go beyond the classical separation of disciplines.
This interdisciplinary activity is very important since building components in an intelligent design
often have more than one function. Unsuspended heavy ceilings, for example, have a direct influence
on the supporting structure and the thermal features of the building in terms of heating and cooling
requirements, as well as impact on sound insulation and indoor acoustics.
Consulting the architects, the climate engineers aim is the development of a building with optimized
thermal and visual comfort as well as minimal energy consumption and low HVAC equipment costs.
The advantage for the building owner is that the fee for the additional engineer turns out to be a good
investment with high return. Projects which have been completed with the assistance of climate
engineers led to considerable savings in the investment and operating costs, even taking into account
that some costs were shifted from the HVAC equipment to the building construction. An example is
the integration of buried pipe into the building's foundation, thus pre-conditioning the outside supply
air and thereby replacing a chiller system.
For checking the functionality of energy and ventilation concepts and their optimization the climate
engineer applies computer-aided planing tools.

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Computer-aided planning tools which have left the research laboratories and have been introduced for
application in the engineering practice facilitate the evaluation of concepts in the fields of indoor
climate, day-lighting and indoor air flow. The climate engineer applies these tools for checking the
functionality of energy and ventilation concepts and their optimization. Thus, the impacts of decisions
made during the planning phase can be evaluated and additional investments for oversized equipment
can be reduced. The climate engineer does of course takes the responsibility for the consequences of
the proposed energy and ventilation concept. Several software programs are used as planning tools
such as TRNSYS for dynamic building simulation, RADIANCE for daylight calculations and FIDAP
for simulating indoor air flows.
Thermal Building Simulation with TRNSYS
The dynamic building simulation is essential for the consulting work in order to verify the expected
thermal behavior of the building. The dynamic simulation package TRNSYS allows to simulate the
thermal behavior of buildings taking into account thermal mass, solar gains and intelligent control
strategies for ventilation, heating and cooling.
The building itself can be composed by several thermal zones which may interact by an interzonal
airflow and heat transfer through adjacent walls. Since the envelope of buildings get more and more
transparent and the glazing properties become more sophisticated, the way of modeling glazing
systems is very important in order to obtain reliable results. Therefor, the window model of TRNSYS
is based on the Program WINDOW 4.1 from LBL taking into account the angular dependency of
transmission, reflection and absorption of the single panes and the temperature dependency of the loss
coefficient. External and internal shading devices can be defined and used as temporarily heat
protection. The boundary conditions like internal gains and utilization can be modeled in detail.
For the simulation weather data like solar radiation, ambient temperature and humidity and wind speed
are used in an hourly resolution. Typical results of an hourly simulation are the monthly or annual
heating and cooling load, temperature and load statistics and the actual temperature profiles. Since
TRNSYS does not only calculate the temperature of the air node but also the surface temperature, the
results can be used for comfort evaluation.
In addition to the building simulation TRNSYS allows to specify components like ventilator, solar
collector, seasonal heat storage and ground heat exchanger. Thereby, the interaction of the building
with an active system can be simulated.
Daylight calculations with RADIANCE
The evaluation of the light quality in a room should be based on luminance calculations in order to
obtain valuable and reliable results. This is due to the fact that lighting quality assessment is much
more than simple determination of illumination levels on a work plan. Contrast ratios in the field of
view, glare, veiling reflections on a visual display terminal (VDT),and uniformity are important
parameters that must be assessed. This is possible with the RADIANCE program package for
calculating light propagation and light distribution in rooms of any complex geometry. Both, daylight
and artificial light calculations can be performed. Results are photometric properties like the
illuminance at a reference point or the luminance distribution in the field of view. For better
visualization photorealistic images of the surveyed room can be obtained including the complete
photometric information at each point.
Simulating indoor air flows with FIDAP
FIDAP is used to calculate and visualize the air flows inside and around a building. Especially, details
of natural convection systems and comfort aspects depending on the fluid velocity need to evaluated.
The program is based on a finite element method and can be applied for various flow situation.
Typical results are temperature and velocity array plots.

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EXAMPLE 1: DATAPEC Headquaters, Gniebel

The design team
Kauffmann Theilig und Partner, Stuttgart,
Structural Engineers:
Pfefferkorn und Partner, Stuttgart, Germany
Energy Concept:
TRANSSOLAR, Stuttgart, Germany
HVAC Engineers:
Engineering office Schreiber, Ulm, Germany
The primary goal in the development of DATAPEC's new office building was to create work places
with optimized thermal and visual comfort and to minimize the investment costs for ventilation and
cooling systems. The design and construction of the building in combination with the ventilation
system was meant to avoid the investments for an air conditioning system. The central atrium was
designed to function as "a center providing freshness and coolness in summer." Thus the building
should function entirely on its own and not act only as an envelope.
Reaching the above mentioned goals it must be considered that most of the work places at DATAPEC
(a company distributing hard- and software for large administration offices) have at least 2 computers.
Therefore artificial lighting, glare problems, as well as internal gains of nearly 300 Watts per work
place have to be considered in the design.
Measurements in the client's old office showed that most employees felt comfortable with a lighting
level of ~ 100 Lux which was realized by taping opaque foils onto the windows. 30 Lux was felt to be
even more comfortable, as opposed to the standard regulations of work places demanding 300 - 500
Lux at desk level.
Commonly constructed buildings that use artificial lighting all day have high internal gains, leading to
an overheating of the rooms. This requires the installation of a cooling system. In addition, the room
depths (8 - 12 m) prohibit the use of one-sided window ventilation (according to the ventilation
Basic Concept
The basic idea was to have the building components with several functions, for instance:
atrium: air and light duct, offering a climate between office room and outdoor
floor: air duct and thermal storage as well as load-bearing structure
facade: passive shading device and recreation area
Due to these multifunctional building components the investment cost could be reduced. The main
concept components are:
Building Shape
The circle shape of the atrium with intermediate climate anticipates the general shape of the
building - a circle. Thus, the external facade area is minimized. This has two advantages: less
erection costs, less heat losses. Moreover the glazing area is small compared to commonly used
building designs (structural glazing etc.). Again this has two advantages: less heat losses in winter,
less heat gains in summer.

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Deep balconies and the overhang roof are used as fixed sun protection and prevent direct light
coming into the work places. Therefore, the problem of glare is reduced and strong contrasts can
be avoided which are important aspects for computer work areas. At the same time, the structure
with the core atrium provides lighting on both sides i.e. indirect through the atrium leading to
an uniform illumination level.
Building services
A local air supply is necessary for an entire room depths of up to 12 m. Air outlets are integrated
in the floor. The floors have a thickness of 30 cm due to static and building physic reasons. Tubes
with 10 cm diameter were put into the neutral zone of the ceilings. This method has no negative
influence on the structural behavior. These tubes are used - within some limits - as ducts for fresh
air and electric services. They are positioned nearly radial round the atrium.
Air ventilation
Fresh air comes in through a buried pipe below ground level. Thus the air will be precooled in
summer and preheated in winter by the earth. After passing the buried pipe and the heat exchanger
of the heat recovery system the air is blown by ventilator into the central atrium. The atrium serves
as manifold for the in-tube ventilators. These small ventilators suck the air from the atrium and
blow it through the tubes into the office rooms. The exhaust air is collected under the ceiling and
sucked by exhaust ventilators to the recovery system. After transferring the heat, the air is expelled
on the roof.
at day:
- solar gains of the atrium are blocked by an
internal sun shading device in the increased
roof and then vented there
- the overhang roof and large outstanding
balconies are good for shading device for the
windows from south east to south west
- fresh air pre-cooled by using an underground
channel is blown into the atrium
- ventilators bring fresh air from the atrium
through the double floor which is ventilated at
- exhaust air is directly vented above roof
at night:
- the atrium has a cross ventilation through
ventilation shaft s at floor and roof level
- cool air at night is conducted - naturally or
mechanically supported - through the office
zones and the double floor to activate the
building mass as cold storage

Figure 3 Summer concept of DATAPEC

Predesign with computer tools
Parallel computer simulations were conducted to verify the expected thermal behavior of the building.
Since effects like heat and cold storage in parts of the building are necessary functions, dynamic
building load simulations were carried out. In the described project, the program package TRNSYS [1]
was used. The profiles of the various air temperatures in the rooms of the building allow to examine
the function of the proposed concept and to make corrections. From this information guidelines for the
architect and HVAC engineer can be obtained. The structural engineers had to judge the influences of
changing temperatures of the ceilings.
The daylight simulations were carried out with the program package ADELINE which has an interface
to the thermal simulation package TRNSYS. Thus internal gains by electric light that depend on the
amount of daylight can be considered and strategies for minimizing internal gains can be validated.
The resulting heating- and cooling-demand show the client the future operating costs and allow a
description of the economy of different building components (like glazing, insulation, ventilation).

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Finetuning of the building design

After approving the draft building concept all members of the design team had to draw consequences
for their own work area. The structural engineer, for instance, had to integrate the tube into the floors,
i.e. into the iron support structure. The HVAC had to redesign the ventilation system etc. Since all
planners had to consider technical and economic limits a real optimization process was conducted by
The minimization of the external surfaces and the insulation level of opaque walls (14 cm mineral
wool), roof (16 cm foam-glass) and transparent building parts (windows U-value 1,3 W/mK) result in
a heating load of 25 kWh/ma. This low value (30% below the actual regulation) is achieved by the
building envelope, heat recovery of the exhausted air and to a smaller extent by increased internal
gains. The heating period of the office building of DATAPEC is reduced to 6 months. The concept of
double-use (building parts are used for air conducting) has a significant effect on the costs associated
with the ventilation system (see economic consequences).
During the erection phase a lot of details for the new system components had to be considered. Since
the components were unknown to the building people, there were many questions to answer. However
this ensured a correct implementation of all new components. Thus, after conclusion of the erection
phase, the new system components (underground air duct, integrated air ducts) worked very well. At
commissioning difficulties occurred only with well-known components.
For HVAC the first estimation excluding cooling was 1.100.000 DM. The final total costs were
700.000 DM. However changes of the structural construction, underground air duct, imbedded ceiling
ducts and increased planning requirements reduced the total investment savings for the client to
250.000 DM.
Although the investment costs were reduced, the design team's salary was not reduced as it would be
demanded by engineering regulations. This was only possible since it was agreed before the start of
the design phase, that the planning engineer would benefit, if the investment costs were below
standard level. Ultimately the investment costs for heating, venting and air conditioning are only 5%
of the total erection costs. In addition the client benefits every year from reduced operating costs of the
building which are now about 20.000 DM (at the actual energy price level)
Energy consumption
During the real occupation of the building the energy demand for heating, lighting and electrical
applications has been measured and compared to the design values.
25 kWh/ma
30 kWh/ma
9 kWh/ma
11 kWh/ma
Other electricity
50 kWh/ma
60 kWh/ma
Real building performance
The offices are used as intended, partial with more internal heat sources than intended
Reduced atrium temperatures lead to comfort problem due to the air inlet and no radiators at the inner
face - solution: atrium temperature at 20C; - visual comfort problems by reflection of light bulbs in
the standard glass walls;- water problems due to leaky water wall pool
Side effects (PR, Green Labels ...)
Hugo-Hring-Preis 1997 BDA Bund Deutscher Architekten, Landesverband Baden-Wrttemberg,
WWF-example building
PR-effect: in Europe the owner company is now well-known by architectural publications

internal used for company PR

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The design team

Murphy / Jahn, Chicago, USA
Structural Engineers:
Werner Sobek, Stuttgart, Germany
Energy Concept:
TRANSSOLAR, Stuttgart, Germany
HVAC Engineers:
Flack+Kurz, San Francisco, USA

Boundary Conditions
The climate of Bangkok is a tropical climate with high ambient temperatures of 25 - 30 C and high
humidity of 56 - 91 % during the whole year. The annual global solar radiation on the horizontal
comes to over 1500 kWh / m a including many days with a solar radiation level over 1000 W/m .
The international Airport will be open 24 h a day. Due to the climate requirements of 24 C air
temperature, a relative humidity of 50-60% and the high internal heat loads (persons, lighting and
electric devices) the airport needs to be continuously cooled and dehumidifacted. Also, the envelope
has to fulfill all different kinds of requirements like shading, use of daylight, acoustics and so on.
The dimensions of the terminal building is 440 m x 100 m. The concurses have a total length of 3,5
km including waiting areas for the passengers.
The aims of the project are to provide a maximum of thermal comfort with a minimum of energy
consumption and to optimize the daylight situation. The use of solar energy for the cooling process
shall be investigated.
Energy Concept
Thermal and visual comfort for the occupants of a room are not defined by air temperature only, but
also radiation with its three components solar radiation, daylight and heat radiation has to be taken into
Air conditioning of large volume enclosures with internal building elements creates a high cooling
demand in relation to the actually occupied space. In the case of the NBIA the total volume of the
building is split into unconditioned zones at higher levels and cooled occupied zones at low levels
drastically reducing the total cooling demand because mechanical cooling is applied only in spaces
where it is actually needed.
Two different mechanical systems for cooling are used. First there is a radiant floor cooling using
chilled water piping in the concrete slabs to directly remove solar radiation hitting the floor. The floor
surface stays cool and therefore thermal comfort is increased.
The second system cools the supply air to the space. In a displacement ventilation system this air is
supplied to the space at low velocity creating a sea of cool air on the floor. The conditioned zone
covers an air volume up to a height of 2.5 m above the floor in each occupied space. Due to the fact
that warm air raises a thermal stratification in the hall is induced. In the unconditioned higher levels
the air warms up to about ambient temperature. The reduction of conditioned air volume is reducing

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the cooling loads of the building and also decreases the need for thermal insulation of a large part of
the building envelope.
The glazed parts of the concourses of the NBIA use single laminated glass units with different values
for transmission, reflection and absorption of solar radiation and daylight depending on their position
on the envelope. Using ceramic frit of different densities and a sun protection coating the intended
material properties of the glass are achieved. In the lower parts of the envelope more glazing is applied
and a lower degree of fritting is used to allow a good view to the outside. In the roof parts less glazing
with a denser frit is used to achieve good solar protection against the high sun of Thailand keeping
these parts of the envelope optically transparent.
The membrane parts of the envelope are constructed using a translucent multi layer membrane
assembly that allows a part of the sunlight to pass as diffuse light into the building. Due to its low
specific weight and its high strength these membranes can be used in wide spanning roof
constructions. This translucent roof construction ensures sufficient daylighting levels for the building
In addition to this the membrane construction works as a baffle layer for sound protection from the
outside (aircraft noise) and from the inside (room acoustics). Between the weather protecting outer
membrane made of teflon coated glass fibers and the inner membrane translucent sound baffles are
mounted with an air gap on both sides. This baffle layer absorbs noise from the outside and the inside.
The inner membrane is a laminate of two layers. The layer facing the room is a low-e coated
transparent foil being in radiative exchange with all internal surfaces of the building. Low-e coatings
block the radiative heat exchange between the warm membrane construction and the internal building
parts and is transparent for daylight and sound due to its very low thickness. This low-e coated surface
has an additional advantage. Instead of radiating heat from the hot roof the radiation of the cooled
floor surfaces is reflected to the room by this low-e coating which is improving thermal comfort for
the occupants as they thermally sense cooler surrounding surfaces. The other laminate layer is a
perforated teflon glass fiber which lets the internal sound pass to the absorbing baffles and does not
reflect it.

fritted glass



low-e coating


supply air 18C

4 ac/h

Tair= 24C
Toperative = 27C

reduced long wave radiation

floor surface


Figure 4: Energy concept of the concourses

Concept evaluation by simulation
The proposed energy concept has been evaluated by detailed simulations. Due to its flexibility
TRNSYS was applied to examining the thermal comfort of different building parts (see Figure 5). For
the building simulation, the ability to model the solar transmission through the membrane parts and the
different fritted glazing parts was essential. Also, the longwave radiation exchange becomes very
important between the solar heated envelope with a low-e coating and the mainly active cooled floor.
A finite element model of the floor cooling system has been integrated in the building simulation.

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SBIA Concourse Case 1


East-West oriented, Fritted Glass 76% -> 0%

constant temperature of 13C for floor cooling
realistic schedules for occupancy


Air (Conditioned Levels)
Air (Lower Unconditioned Zone)
Air (Higher Unconditioned Zone)
Floor Cooling Inlet
Floor Cooling Outlet
Surface of Cooled Floor
Operative Temperature


Temperature in C




Figure 5: Building and system temperatures of a Figure 6: Temperature distribution of a concourse

concourse segment at extreme ambient conditions

For the energy concept the thermal stratification of the unconditioned parts over the condition lower
parts is very important. But how does raising air flows along the warm facade influence the
stratification? How long does it take to build up a stratification in the morning? And what happens
when the facade gets colder in the evening? For answering these question indoor air flow simulations
were performed by the CFD program FIDAP parallel to the thermal simulation. The simulation
showed that the induced airflow along the warm facade is not strong enough to destroy the
stratification (see figure 6).
The facade quality with respect to the indoor light situation has been optimized by utilizing the
daylight simulation programs SUPERLITE and RADIANCE.
Beside the concept evaluation one main task of the simulation process was to determine the required
optical and energetic parameters of the envelope.
Material development and experimental concept evaluation
Together with industrial partners the design team worked on solutions for the realization of the
required optical and thermal parameters of the glazing system as well as the membrane configuration.
Especially, the membrane configuration with its various requirements like shading, use of daylight,
acoustics and low longwave emittance turned out to be much more complicated. Both, a glazing
system sample and a membrane configuration sample were install in a test box for optical review.
Also, for verifying the stratification in a translucent membrane hall, smoke experiments were
performed in an indoor tennis court (scale approx. 1 : 3). On hot summer days a stabile stratification
could be visualized.
Concept of the energy supply
After the optimization of the energy consumption of the building, the energy supply side has been
examined and different supply concepts like solar thermal collector system, photovoltaic and cogeneration has been compared with an electrical driven chiller. It turned out that the co-generation of
power and refrigerating in combination with a thermal storage provides the highest CO2 saving rate for
the lowest cost. Also, this system causes the lowest annual total costs. The disadvantage of higher
investment costs can be compensated for the client by an energy contracting model.

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Total Annual Costs of Energy Concepts

Annual CO2 Savings





Mio US$/a





















Systems compared to Energy Storage System

Total Annual CO2 Emission: 217 634 t/a
CO2 Emission of Electricity Production : 0.629 t/MWhel

55 000



60 000


Annuity of

Annual CO2 Reduction in t/a


50 000
45 000

- 18.9 %

35 000
30 000
25 000
20 000
15 000
10 000

- 3.3 %
- 1.5 %

5 000
Photovoltaic System

Basis Concept



with Storage

Solar Thermal

- 18.9 %

40 000


Figure 7: Total annual cost of different supply


Solar Thermal

Cogeneration without Cogeneration System


Figure 8: Annual CO2 Savings of different

supply concepts

FIDAP, FIDAP Users Manual, Fluent Inc, New Hampshire., USA
HOLST, S.(1999), Khlkonzept am Beispiel Flughafen Bangkok, 21. Internationler velta kongre
99, St. Christoph / Tirol, Austria.
LARSEN, N., (1999), The C-2000 Integrated Design Process, meeting of Task 23: the optimization
of solar energy use in large buildings, Toledo, Canada, March.
LARSON,G.W. and SHAKESPEAR, R., (1997), Rendering with Radiance, Morgan Kaufmann
Publisher, Inc. San Francisco, USA.
LBL, (1994), WINDOW 4.1 Program Description, Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, Berkeley,
SCHULER, M.,(1998), conference of sustainable low energy office buildings, Kopenhagen,
Denmark., October 9.
SEL, (1996); TRNSYS Manual Version 14.2;. Solar Energy Laboratory, Univ. of WisconsinMadison, USA.
SUPERLITE Adeline 2.0 IEA Solar Heating and Cooling Program, Task 12

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