Thermal Physics for Buildings Lab

Energy efficiency, indoor environmental health and building comfort

Thermal Physics for Buildings Lab


Andrea Gasparella
Faculty of Science and Technology
Free University of Bozen-Bolzano
Piazza Università 5, 39100 Bolzano/Bozen
T +39 0471 017200

Access conditions
The lab is only accessible to researchers at the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano. Appointments can be made to visit the lab.

  • Purdue University

  • Eindhoven University of Technology

  • TU Wien (Technical University of Vienna)

Reference projects
  • EN-LAN: ENvelope LAbs Network of South Tyrol for evaluating the efficiency of building envelopes
  • Air/air-heat recovery in ventilation and air-conditioning systems
  • Intelligent building automation system for optimising energy consumption and the indoor environment
About the lab

The lab provides advice and support to companies interested in developing technological solutions for constructing energy-efficient buildings with a high level of comfort for their occupants. The research focuses on investigating the dynamic behaviour of opaque and transparent building envelopes and domestic installations, especially mechanical ventilation systems, with the aim of improving both comfort and energy efficiency, while creating a healthier indoor environment. To achieve this objective, the researchers employ a combination of field tests and computer simulations performed in the lab.

Analysis of the dynamic behaviour of opaque building envelopes

The researchers analyse the energy performance of individual building envelope components, explore their impact on the comfort of the building’s occupants and examine how they interact with the rest of the building and its facilities. They also investigate the effectiveness and behaviour of various technical building envelope solutions, looking at buildings in the planning stage and inspecting real-life conditions in both summer and winter. This involves climatic conditions being simulated in the lab as well as open-air testing.

Analysis of thermophysical properties

The lab is able to measure the thermophysical properties of building materials, especially insulators. The thermal conductivity, thermal diffusivity and specific thermal capacity readings can be used in energy models to create detailed analyses of the performance of buildings and building envelope components. The measurements can also be used for the theoretical or experimental analysis of opaque components.

Thermophysical and environmental testing

The researchers use and develop instruments and methods for performing on-site measurements of the key thermophysical and environmental properties of buildings and building envelopes. This enables them to calculate the energy performance, thermal/hygrometric comfort, indoor air quality and acoustic and visual comfort directly on and in existing buildings.

Modelling and calculations

The researchers have access to sophisticated calculation tools for evaluating and optimising a building’s performance. Examples include numerical finite element models (FEM), computational fluid dynamic (CFD) models and dynamic simulation codes. These instruments are used individually or in combination with one another to perform simulations that simultaneously take into account numerous physical aspects (multi-domain and multi-physics). By carrying out the numerical modelling of thermophysical processes in various building envelope components and rooms, the engineers determine the energy and acoustic performance of buildings and their facilities as well as the effect of light. The results are collected for individual components, buildings and urban developments. In addition, by practising multi-objective optimisation, the researchers are able to create extremely efficient designs.

Performance of systems under operating conditions

Changes in the environment and a building’s properties mean that the efficiency of systems under actual operating conditions differs from the values used during the calculation of their nominal performance. The researchers in the lab develop and use techniques for determining the performance of ventilation systems, applying these to both the entire system as well as to individual components, such as air/air-heat recovery units.