Guest Post by Robert Brockman, Senior Commercial Channel Manager at Saint-Gobain North America

As today’s building trends place new demands on leading corporations plus CRE owners and investors, the role of science in commercial building construction has grown significantly.

Through a focus on science in occupant experience (OX), buildings are becoming more comfortable, healthy and energy efficient. Welcome to this primer on commercial building science that will demonstrate its importance in the current competitive CRE world.

What Is Building Science?

Building Science is an area of study that sees a building as a holistic series of interrelated systems, designed to provide comfort and safety to the occupants with a high degree of energy efficiency. The application of Building Science principles requires insight into and experience in the forces and stresses the environment places on a building. By including all of these factors as a critical way to create buildings, we help our partners avoid costly structural problems while maximizing the value through the personal comfort and well-being of the occupants.

Your CRE investment is influenced by three main elements: the building envelope, mechanical systems, and building occupants.

Building Envelope

The building envelope is the union of structural components in a building, including the exterior walls, the foundation, windows, doors, and roof. A well-designed building envelope allows for adequate moisture control, regardless of the weather conditions outside the building.

Mechanical Equipment

The mechanical equipment element encompasses all mechanical objects within a building, such as HVAC systems, ducting throughout the building, lights, computers, printers, plumbing and security systems. Many mechanical systems have an obvious purpose, such as cooling or heating a building, but they frequently have a subtler function, such as improved indoor air quality (IAQ) by increasing the air flow in or out of the building.

Building Occupants

Building occupants include all the living things, specifically people and plants, inside a building. People directly affect the flow of the heat, air, and moisture in a building by using equipment and lighting, adjusting the thermostat, using restrooms, and operating food service facilities. Occupants also impact the integrity of the building envelope by opening and closing doors and windows. And, since people and plants themselves release heat and moisture into the building, they also affect the flow of heat, air, and moisture.

Each of these elements in turn are interconnected with three important “flows” in a building — heat flow, air flow and moisture flow.

Heat Flow

Heat flow, also known as heat transfer, is the passing of thermal energy from a hot body to a colder body. When a physical body, such as an object or fluid, is at a different temperature than its surroundings or another body, a transfer of thermal energy occurs in such a way that the body and the surroundings reach thermal equilibrium. Heat transfer can never be stopped; it can only be slowed down. A good example of heat transfer is the sun radiating heat to a colder building.

Air Flow

Air flow occurs only when there is a difference between the exterior and interior of a building. Air will flow from a region of high pressure to one of low pressure — the bigger the difference, the faster the flow. A good example of this is the rush of wind you may feel when bypassing the revolving doors to enter a commercial lobby.

Moisture Flow

Moisture flow is the passage of moisture from the exterior to interior of a building, most often caused by rain, snow and condensation. This can cause substantial damage and create health threats for its occupants by eventually leading to mold and microbial growth. Moisture is unavoidable; however, it is controllable, through proper moisture management techniques.

With insight into the importance of building science in helping achieve today’s commercial building objectives, your teams can help lead to a future of more sustainable, healthy buildings.

Robert Brockman is Senior Commercial Channel Manager at Saint-Gobain North America