Building Science Concepts

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"Building science is a field of knowledge that draws upon physics, chemistry, engineering, architecture, and the life sciences. Understanding the physical behavior of the building as a system and how this impacts energy efficiency, durability, comfort and indoor air quality is essential to innovating high-performance buildings." - Whole Building Design Guide[1]

This section is under development and is planned to cover topics such as heating and cooling loads, fundamentals of HVAC systems, energy conservation measures, and others. Refer to the additional resources section below for links to external content.

Heating and Cooling Loads

  • Basics of heat transfer - learn about the three modes of heat transfer: conduction, convection, and radiation.
  • Basics of internal gains - learn how different sources produce internal gains in a building such as lighting, equipment, and occupants.
  • Fenestration performance - learn about heat transfer through glazed assemblies (windows) and the metrics used to quantify performance.
  • Infiltration - learn how air leakage into and out of the building occurs and how this phenomenon affects the heating and cooling loads.

More content coming soon!

HVAC Fundamentals

  • Fundamentals of HVAC - a quick primer on key concepts related to HVAC design and operation.
  • HVAC system types - detailed descriptions of how systems operate, and how they are represented in simulation software.

More content coming soon!

Energy and Other Metrics

Energy Conservation Measures

Energy conservation measures (ECMs, also commonly referred to as energy efficiency measures - EEMs) are specific design decisions that are made to reduce energy consumption of a particular piece of equipment, or a system as a whole. Most commonly, multiple ECMs are implemented together in an effort to reduce energy consumption to meet a specific goal or target.

For a crash course on various energy conservation measures that can be applied to a design project, check out this list of ECMs, organized by building system/component.

Passive Design

More content coming soon!

Additional Resources

  • Solar Decathlon Building Science Education Series - This excellent series of building science education videos was created by the U.S. Department of Energy to support the annual Solar Decathlon competition. The series includes primers on how buildings consume energy, zero energy buildings, building envelope, HVAC, lighting, and plug loads. The videos are led by Dr. Paul Torcellini from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and hosted on Heatspring, an educational platform focused on topics such as solar, green building, energy efficiency and other technologies. Users must create an account to access the Solar Decathlon videos, but the course is free.
  • EnergyPlus Building Physics Modules - Presentations and exercises on five building physics topics: Insulation, Thermal Mass, Internal Gains, Infiltration, and Daylighting. Suitable for self-study or for use in a university course. Presentations cover general building physics concepts then show how to model them EnergyPlus. Developed in 2010 by GARD and IIT.

Links to external websites are provided as a convenience for further research, but do not imply any endorsement of the content or the operator of the external site, as detailed in BEMcyclopedia's general disclaimers.


  1. "Building Science Concepts". Whole Building Design Guide.
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