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Possibilities and Pitfalls of Computer Simulation for Building Moisture Analysis

Photo of Computer-based simulation tools allow designers to gauge the risk of moisture problems in building design. Tivoli Gough, USDA Forest ServiceComputer-based simulation tools allow designers to gauge the risk of moisture problems in building design. Tivoli Gough, USDA Forest ServiceSnapshot : Moisture problems are much less expensive to correct in the building design phase than after the building is constructed. Computer-based simulation tools allow designers to gauge the risk of moisture problems. Although simulation can be useful as a design tool, designers must be aware of model limitations and potential pitfalls.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Glass, Samuel V.Zelinka, Samuel L.
Research Location : Forest Products Laboratory
Research Station : Forest Products Laboratory (FPL)
Year : 2014
Highlight ID : 581

Summary

Research around the world has led to development of a variety of computer-based simulation tools for building design and analysis. A growing number of architects and engineers are using computer-based hygrothermal (heat and moisture) simulation as a design tool. Such a tool allows a designer to predict the moisture and temperature conditions that occur within building exterior walls or roofs over time. This type of analysis can improve the understanding of how the building envelope responds to the interior and exterior environment and can help identify potential moisture performance problems. Although there is a large body of research literature on hygrothermal simulation and building moisture performance, little guidance is available to building designers; a technology transfer gap exists. Forest Service researchers published an overview article in Wood Design Focus that discusses the usefulness of moisture simulation as well as its limitations. As with any type of simulation, the results are only as good as the inputs and assumptions. Hygrothermal simulations are particularly sensitive to indoor and outdoor conditions as well as material properties. Example simulations of light-frame and cross-laminated timber wall assemblies illustrate the usefulness of hygrothermal analysis in the design of wood buildings.