Analyzing present and future climatic trends on the thermal energy performance of attic structures

Pr'Out, Kahntinetta
Major Professor
Baskar Ganapathysubramanian
Committee Member
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Mechanical Engineering
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Mechanical Engineering

Climatic changes have resulted in negative impacts across the globe. Few industries are immune to these impacts, the buildings energy sector being no exception. While the entire envelope contributes to the energy demands of a typical building, the attic space proves to be unique. These unique spaces experience complex heat and mass transfer phenomena due to its contents, structure, as well as construction materials and the associated properties. Significant heat loss or gain occurs at the interface of the attic floor and ceiling of an occupied space; therefore, it has become imperative to understand the energy characteristics of attic spaces. Even more so now since climatic changes are causing higher outside temperatures.

This work examines the impacts of climate trends on the energy performance of attic spaces over the next thirty years. Considering six unique attic geometries, configured to architectural standards, analyses are performed against four climatic scenarios within six major United States cities. Investigating three thermal characteristics: attic air temperatures, peak roof deck temperatures, and thermal loads this work is able to explore the design robustness of each geometric configuration across several climate zones. While this work can be conducted and/or validated through experimental work and field tests, it was done using a novel numerical framework. Results from this work show that with a general increase among attic surface temperatures and surface fluxes which results in higher attic air temperatures, peak roof deck temperatures, and larger thermal loads, specifically cooling loads. Additionally, despite differences in attic geometries, similar light weight construction shows that the average peak times were similar for all structures located within the same geographical location.