Last edited 13 Jul 2016

Building engineering physics

Building engineering physics relates to the energy performance of buildings and their indoor and outdoor environments. By properly understanding and applying building engineering physics, it is possible to develop high performance buildings that are comfortable and functional, and to minimise the environmental impacts of their construction and operation.

The idea of a new discipline of building engineering physics was introduced by the Royal Academy of Engineering in a report 'Engineering a low carbon built environment – The discipline of building engineering physics', published in January 2010.

The report suggested that: 'The UK will not be able to achieve its target of reducing carbon emissions by 80% by 2050 unless it urgently addresses carbon emissions from the built environment. Buildings currently account for 45% of our carbon emissions but it is estimated that 80% of the buildings we will be occupying in 2050 have already been built. '

Building engineering physics is a convergence of the disciplines of building services engineering, applied physics and building construction engineering. It is more focused than the related subject of building science or 'building physics' considers more broadly our knowledge of the physical behaviour of buildings and their impact on energy efficiency, comfort, health, safety, durability and so on.

The principal aspects of building engineering physics include:

  • Thermal performance.
  • Acoustics.
  • Air movement.
  • Climate.
  • Construction technology.
  • Building services.
  • Control of moisture.
  • Lighting.

The Royal Academy of Engineering report suggested that the motivation for promoting a new discipline was driven by a historic lack of awareness or recognition by built environment practitioners of the importance of building engineering physics, and a lack of understanding about how to apply the principles in building design.

This in part, they believe, was because building projects are traditionally led by architects rather than engineers, and strategic design decisions do not adequately address building energy performance.

This issue has to some extent been addressed by the introduction of building engineering physics to many architecture degree courses. Building services engineers also commonly undertake building engineering physics modules as part of their training.

The benefits of building engineering physics include:

  • Capital cost reduction: Better design decisions and reduced design fees.
  • Operating cost reduction: Energy efficiency, resulting in lower energy bills and lower exposure to energy price rises.
  • Creative design focused on real life building performance rather than compliance.
  • Occupant satisfaction: High performance buildings can result in better productivity and comfort of the occupants.

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