Last edited 12 Aug 2016

Building science

'Building science' or 'building physics' is a broad term that refers to our knowledge of the physical behaviour of buildings and their impact on energy efficiency, comfort, health, safety, durability and so on. It is the application of the principles of physics to the built environment. An understanding of building science is vital if the design of buildings is to be optimised and the performance of buildings maximised.

The National Institute of Building Sciences (USA) propose that building science applies empirical techniques to design problems, and explains why buildings work and why they fail. They suggest that modern building science needs to consider buildings as systems, '…an integrated assembly of interacting elements, designed to carry out cooperatively a predetermined function.' [Gibson 1960]. This is important as buildings are generally complex, one-off prototypes and it is only by considering them as a series of interacting systems that standardised analysis becomes possible.

Building science is concerned with the full life cycle of buildings from planning and design through to construction, facilities management, building pathology, conservation and demolition. It is a collaborative process that can involve disciplines such as architecture, civil, structural and building services engineering, and specialist fields such as acoustic, lighting and so on.

This is a broader subject area than the related discipline of building engineering physics which considers in more detail the energy performance of buildings and their indoor and outdoor environments.

Building science can be interpreted widely or narrowly, however aspects of building design that might be considered 'building science' could include:

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