Theses Doctoral

Design and Analysis of Smart Building Envelope Materials and Systems

Lin, Qiliang

As the largest consumer of electricity, the buildings sector accounts for about 76% of electricity use and 40% of all U.S. primary energy use and associated greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Research shows that a potential energy saving of 34.78% could be achieved by the smart buildings comparing to conventional buildings. Therefore, a smart management of building sectors becomes significantly important to achieve the optimal interior comfort with minimal energy expenditure. The ability of adaptation to the dynamic environments is considered the central aspect in smart building systems, which can be segmented into the passive adaptation and the active adaptation. The passive adaptation refers to the designs that do not change with the dynamic environment but improve the building overall performance by the integration of originally separated components, or by the application of advanced engineering materials. The active adaptation refers to the building management system (BMS) that actively responds and evolves with the changing environment, through the continuous monitoring of the surroundings via the sensor network, and the smart response through the controlling algorithms in the central controlling unit.

This Ph.D. dissertation focuses on developing materials and systems for the smart building envelope, including a photovoltaic integrated roof with passive adaptation, and self-powered window systems with active responses environment. As the skin of a building, the building envelope provides the first level resistance towards air, water, heat, light and noise, which makes it the ideal target for the passive adaptation to the environments, as well as the perfect sensing location in the building management system for the active adaptation.

This dissertation starts with a discussion of the building integrated photovoltaic thermal (BIPVT) roofing panel, including the fabrication, performance demonstration, and micromechanics-based theoretical modeling. The panel is structurally supported by a functionally graded material (FGM) panel made with high-density polyethylene as the matrix and aluminum particles as reinforcement. It prevents the heat from entering the building and directs the heat to the water tubes embedded inside the panel for the thermal energy harvesting, such that the overall energy efficiency is significantly improved. The design, fabrication and performance of the system is discussed, and an innovative non-destructive analysis method is developed to captures the authentic particle distribution of the FGM.

As the main structural component, functionally graded material is comprehensively tested and modeled in elastic, thermoelastic, elastoplastic, and thermo-elastoplastic performance, based on the equivalent inclusion based method. An ensemble average approach was used to convert the particles’ interaction in the microscope to the averaged relation in the macroscope, such that both particle to matrix influence and particle to particle pair-wise interactions are characterized. The idea of the equivalent inclusion method extends to the plastic modeling of the FGM, by formulating an ensemble average form of the matrix stress norm in the macroscale that incorporate the local disturbance of particle reinforcement in the microscale. The accuracy of the proposed algorithm is verified and validated by comparing with another theory in homogeneous composite and experiments, respectively. To the best of the author’s knowledge, no prior theoretical algorithm has been proposed for the elastoplastic modeling of functionally graded materials. Therefore, the proposed algorithm can be used as a foundation and reference for further investigation and industry prediction of graded composites.

Based on the theoretical modeling of the mechanical properties, a high order plate theory is also proposed in this dissertation to study for the thermo-mechanical performance of the FGM panel, to provide structural design guideline for the BIPVT panels. The shearing and bending behaviors are decomposed, solved independently, and combined to formulate the final solution. The shear strain components are assumed to follow a parabolic variation across the thickness, while the bending components follow the solution from classical plate theory. Closed-form solutions for the circular panel under different loadings are provided, with verification by comparing to other models and validation to experiments.

Two smart window systems are proposed and demonstrated in this dissertation to actively monitor the building environment with active responses, and energy harvesting techniques are investigated to harvest energy from ambient environment the eternal power supply to the system. The thermoelectric powered wireless sensor network (TPWSN) platform is first demonstrated and discussed, where the energy is harvested from the temperature difference across the window frame. The TPWSN sits completely inside the window/façade frame with no compromise of the outlook and continuously monitors the building environment for the optimal control of the building energy consumption and indoor comfort. The energy harvesting technique grants eternal battery lifetime and significantly simplifies the installation and maintenance of the system with considerable saving of time and cost. In addition, the platform provides energy to various types of sensors for different kinds of sensing needs and store the data to the Google cloud for permanent storage and advanced analytics.

The thermoelectric powered system works well for the sensors and microcontrollers but fails to provide enough power to the actuators. A novel sun-powered smart window blinds (SPSWB) system is designed, prototyped, and tested in this dissertation with solar energy harvesting on window blinds which provides enough power for the actuators. The thin-film photovoltaic cells are attached on one side of slats for energy harvesting and a PVdF-HFP coating is attached on the other side for the passive cooling. The voltage regulation and battery management systems are designed and tested, where a stable 55% energy efficiency from the PV into the battery has been achieved. The automatic control of the window blinds is accomplished with the help of sensors and a microcontroller. The energy equilibrium analysis is proposed and demonstrated with the local solar data to incorporate the influence of local weather conditions and solar zenith angle, from which we demonstrated that much more power than needed can be harvested. The abundant energy harvested validates the feasibility and the robustness of the system and proves its wide application potentials to various sensors and applications.

In conclusion, both passive and active adaptations to the environment are investigated to build up the next generation of smart building envelope systems. The building integrated photovoltaic thermal roof is designed, fabricated, tested, and modeled in detail, which provides structural support to the external loads and improves the energy efficiency of buildings. The smart window/façade systems serve as a platform for various sensors and actuators via the energy harvesting from the ambient environment, and could significantly improve the energy expenditure with minimal impact of internal comfort.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics
Thesis Advisors
Yin, Huiming
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 13, 2020