Building Physics

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Prof. Dr. Jan Carmeliet

Airflow Windtunnel  
The Airflow around buildings is tested in the ETH/Empa wind tunnel.

The Chair of Building Physics focuses on the development of new systems to conserve, produce, convert, and store energy at the building and urban scales. We develop holistic urban energy retrofit concepts based on advanced energy systems at the city quarter scale, integrating energy- positive buildings that distribute energy to other older buildings, which in turn provide energy storage. These concepts are developed for a changing urban environment and climate, taking into account the behavior of their occupants and guaranteeing such sustainable living conditions as health and well-being. Our approach encompasses multiscale observations ranging from the nanoscale of materials to the macroscale of buildings and city quarters.

Our research focuses on:

  • Creating a multiscale model that integrates the urban microclimate and energy systems at the building and city quarter scales.
  • Developing and evaluating new urban energy retrofit scenarios at the city quarter scale, taking into account urban heat island effects and climatic change.
  • Engineering new materials and analyzing their physical, mechanical, and chemical behavior.

Time- and spatially-resolved particle image velocimetry in the ETH/Empa atmospheric boundary layer wind tunnel and Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) are combined to gain understanding of the heat, air, and moisture flow at the scale of materials, building components, buildings, street canyons, and urban areas. CFD is combined with building energy simulation, mesoscopic climate, and porous material transport models.

Physical, mechanical, and chemical processes – including salt crystallization, leaching of biocides, damage, and stick-slip in granular media – are studied in porous and granular materials at nano- to macroscopic levels of observation.

llustration of wind speed around and through a porous high-rise building (design by Gramazio & Kohler) based on PIV measurements performed at the ETH/Empa wind tunnel
Cellular Multiscale  
Multiscale model for cellular materials.
Micro X-ray  
Micro X-ray tomography of salt crystallization in natural stone.
Micro X-ray  
Micro X-ray tomography of the swelling of wood during sorption.
Discrete Element Simulation  
Discrete element simulation of stick-slip in granular media.
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