Thesis

Numerical methods for predicting heat and moisture transfer through porous building materials

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Abstract

Building energy consumption is directly impacted by weather parameters such as temperature, solar radiation, atmospheric pressure, relative humidity and wind velocity. The knowledge of the building hygrothermal performance enables the design of energy efficient buildings and the prediction of overall durability and sustainability of envelopes. Therefore, designers and builders are interested in modeling the long-term performance of the envelopes by means of accurate, reliable and fast simulation tools.Several numerical models have been proposed in the literature to study the heat and moisture transfer in building materials. In general, this problem is solved by traditional methods, such as finite-difference and finite-volume methods, using mainly implicit schemes. Nevertheless, these methods impose costly sub-iterations to treat the nonlinearities and very fine discretization, which increase substantially the simulation computational cost. Therefore, this research has been focused on the development and analyses of numerical methods for efficiently simulate the problem of heat and mass transfer through porous materials.In the first part of this thesis, improved schemes of the traditional numerical methods have been developed to eliminate costly sub-iterations to treat nonlinearities, to improve the order of accuracy and to save computer run time. Despite the great progress with the new numerical schemes, the conclusion of the first part shows that we still have to deal with large systems of equations, particularly when treating multi-dimensional transfer problems. For this reason, to reduce even more the computational burden and the size of the system, a reduced-order model, based on spectral methods is proposed in the sequence to provide an accurate description of the physical phenomena. The degrees of freedom of the solution is strongly decreased while maintaining the model fidelity. It ensures a computational cost much lower than the complete original model.All these methods are applied to problems related to building physics, such as single and multilayer nonlinear transfer, the determination of optimum insulation thickness, the process of moisture buffer effects and transfer in one- or two-zone building models. In conclusion, we show how to build efficient numerical models, in terms of computational cost and accuracy, to investigate the heat and mass transfer in porous materials.

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