Fundamentals of Building Science: Intro

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The disruptions in Middle East oil supplies that resulted in the energy crises in 1973 and 1979 coupled with the recognition that U.S. oil production had peaked (about 1970) abruptly caused modifications in building construction methods, such as tighter construction standards, increased insulation, reduced ventilation regulation, and more efficient systems.

These changes resulted in complaints about poor indoor air quality and sick buildings, and thermal discomfort linked to problems in performance and durability. These issues sparked an increased effort of scientific study in building performance that, decades later, involves recognizing the relationships among building components, equipment, and building systems during design, construction, and operation of the building. In the new millennium, climate change, limited resources, volatility in energy markets, and a need for sustainable practices have emerged as issues that further drive scientific study of buildings.

Building science is the study of building dynamics and the functional relationships between a building's components, equipment, and systems, and the effects associated with occupancy and operation, and the outdoor environment to understand and prevent problems related to building design, construction, and operation. Through application of information coming from many disciplines (i.e., construction technology, material science, physics, meteorology, engineering, and architectural design), the building science field works to understand the physical performance of building parts, buildings, and the built environment, and translates it into proper design and construction methods. The goal is to maximize occupant comfort, health, and safety; and optimize performance through energy efficiency and structural durability. Building science plays a vital role in recognizing how changes and advancements in components, equipment, and systems affect the role of the various building materials and systems.

In this Section, selected concepts related to building science are introduced. These topics include a discussion of thermal characteristics of the building envelope, indoor air, moisture dynamics, ventilation, and thermal insulation. They are introduced because of their connection to building electrical and mechanical systems.

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