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Exploring Building Performance with PSU Students

by Mike Manzi & Stephen Endy

PSU students help Bora understand actual building performance at three Oregon schools through research collaboration.

Since 2012, Bora has participated in a joint research program with the School of Architecture at Portland State University.  This program, partly funded through NCARB grants, links students in PSU’s advanced building technology courses with local practitioners to conduct research in a wide range of topics related to building performance. Participating firms are able to direct research that might not otherwise be possible within their practice, by using student hours and the resources of the PSU research laboratory. At the same time, the students gain practical experience through their interactions with professional teams and learn how to apply their research on  real-world projects.

During the 2015 Fall Term, two teams conducted parallel research with Bora, exemplifying the value of this collaboration. The first team analyzed building envelope performance at three completed Bora projects.  The project included a review of construction drawings and material specifications to determine the effective performance values of the thermal envelope. The team also used  thermographic imaging of each school to identify gaps and weak points in the actual construction assemblies.  With this information, each school was reconstructed as a computer model for analysis within the Sefaira Architecture energy modeling program.  As described in the research poster (click to view pdf), various “What If” improvements to the building envelope were studied to see how they would have impacted overall energy.

The second team analyzed thermal comfort at the same three schools, using data loggers in classrooms to measure on site temperature and humidity.  The students also compiled feedback from a simple teacher survey that covered thermal comfort satisfaction and the effectiveness of certain sustainable design features unique to each school.

The results, illustrated on the presentation boards (click to view pdf), produced by the students , provide valuable lessons about the effectiveness of various details and strategies used by Bora over the years, and data collected by the students will be used for internal educational purposes in an upcoming workshop [March 2016] focused on building performance. Bora seeks to obtain this type of information  through a broader post occupancy evaluation process recently developed and in the early stages of implementation.