Influence of Interactions among Adjacent Buildings on Their Energy Consumption for Sustainable Neighborhood Design

Open Access
Zhao, Mingjie
Graduate Program:
Architectural Engineering
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
October 31, 2014
Committee Members:
  • Jelena Srebric, Dissertation Advisor
  • Jelena Srebric, Committee Chair
  • William P Bahnfleth, Committee Chair
  • Mosuk Chow, Committee Member
  • Stephen James Treado, Committee Member
  • Building energy
  • Building interaction
  • Sustainable neighborhood design
  • Energy simulation
Sustainable neighborhood and building design has become a popular research interest in recent years. Most current building design processes do not involve the consideration of the urban neighborhood where the building is located. Although few previous studies investigated the interactions between buildings, studies based on realistic neighborhoods and utility data are limited. University campuses can be taken as a neighborhood case study with reach data sets available through the campus facility management offices. This thesis project has studied a campus neighborhood to evaluate how interactions among adjacent buildings affect the infiltration and shading of individual buildings in this environment. The thesis research objectives include (1) quantification of the effects of surrounding buildings and urban neighborhood patterns on the infiltration and energy consumption of a building, and (2) development of a workflow to promote design of sustainable neighborhood with the LEED Neighborhood Development (ND) guidelines. By performing case studies using the utility data measured for buildings in this selected neighborhood, results of the paired T tests show that the neighborhood patterns had statistically significant effects on the building energy consumption. In order to quantitatively evaluate the effects of interactions between surrounding buildings, one building in this neighborhood was also chosen for detailed simulations. The simulation aimed to estimate the infiltration rates and energy consumption by using three simulation tools: CFD0 (Computational Fluid Dynamic simulation tool), CONTAM (multi-zone simulation tool), and EnergyPlus (energy simulation tool). The results show that with different layouts of surrounding buildings, the monthly percentage difference of infiltration loads can be as high as 14%, which confirms the findings in the case study. Based on the model established for this neighborhood, sensitivity analyses were performed to evaluate the influence of two neighborhood variables including heights of surrounding buildings and site orientation. The results show that the monthly infiltration rates decrease with the increased heights of surrounding buildings. The largest monthly percentage difference of infiltration loads is 25%. For simulation cases with different site orientations, the largest monthly percentage difference for infiltration loads is 18%. In addition, this research study investigated the infiltration rates for different U.S. climate zones using the neighborhood model. The simulated results show that Madison, WI has relatively higher air infiltration rates than the infiltration rates in Baltimore, MD and Atlanta, GA. However, the differences in infiltration rates among the three investigated climate zones are limited and not as significant as other comparison cases in the sensitivity analysis. With the simulation results, this thesis project also included an investigation on the LEED Neighborhood Development (ND), aimed to promote construction of sustainable campuses by combining the research findings with the requirements and credits in LEED ND. The developed workflow included selection of construction site and orientation. The surrounding buildings in the urban neighborhood should be considered to benefit the new construction by providing shading and wind shielding. In summary, by reducing infiltration rates and providing additional shading, the impact of interaction among adjacent buildings on the building energy consumption is not negligible by an average monthly difference of 12%. Results of this dissertation project may lead to an increased awareness that a building is impacted by its immediate surroundings and provided a reference for the future design of sustainable neighborhood.