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Typical envelope constructions and thermal properties in existing historic buildings

asked 2014-09-28 23:31:48 -0500

Irina gravatar image

updated 2017-05-04 13:44:12 -0500

As an energy modeler, I routinely have to build models of existing historic buildings. Almost always there is no information available on detailed building envelope construction other than that the walls are made of brick or the floors are timber construction. I can only guess what thermal properties the exterior envelopes of such existing buildings might have. Does anyone know a good resource that would list the most common wall/roof/floor/windows construction assemblies and their thermal properties by decade (1890s, 1920s, etc.) ?

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Can you please clarify which specific region or country you are talking about?

Julien Marrec gravatar image Julien Marrec  ( 2014-10-12 10:08:16 -0500 )edit


I practice in Chicago so my interest is in historical building construction of the Midwest.

Irina gravatar image Irina  ( 2014-10-14 14:25:59 -0500 )edit

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answered 2014-10-13 13:48:34 -0500

updated 2014-11-12 16:11:47 -0500


EXTRA - New Info Just Posted 11/12/2014

Jason Glazer recently posted info on bldg-sim about the Building Technology Heritage Library. You might be able to get some info on old building construction from some of those docs

I think you are going to be out of luck on this quest. We've been trying to find similar information for the past few years and have been unable to find any good studies of the kind. I've unsuccessfully tried to get funding to develop such a resource but I'll keep at it. Asking this question shows that industry really needs such a resource

For famous or historically important buildings, we have sometimes found drawings in architectural literature and magazines. When that fails, we see if the architect designed similar buildings of the same type that are described in the literature.

Besides the architectural journals and magazines, some resources we have used in the past for our projects include:

  • ASHRAE Handbook (Fundamentals Chapters on Heating Load Calcs and Thermal Resistance Calcs)
  • Architectural Time Saver Standards Building Materials and Systems
  • Architectural Time Saver Standards Exterior Wall Design
  • Mehta, Scarborough, Armpriest "Building Cosntruction, Materials, and Systems"
  • Linda Brock, "Designing the Exterior Wall"
  • Stein, Reynolds, Grondzik, Kwok "Mechanical and Electrical Equipment for Buildings"

Those resources help understand various wall designs. To assign an age to different wall designs we then tried to look up information about buildings of various vintages in other databases such as

  • Emporis
  • Commercial Building Inventory (from COMMBuildings)
  • Buildings Energy Databook
  • NEEA Commercial Building Stock Assessment
  • DOE Building Performance Database (Interface makes this very difficult at present)
  • NREL report "U.S. Department of Energy Commercial Reference Building Models of the National Building Stock"

Good Luck!

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Thank you, Ralph.

I will review the resources you suggested. A friend suggested that I should contact local Chicago historical preservation companies dealing with existing construction. They might have some recommendations on resources. I will keep everyone posted on my findings.

Irina gravatar image Irina  ( 2014-10-14 14:26:23 -0500 )edit

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Asked: 2014-09-28 23:31:48 -0500

Seen: 337 times

Last updated: Nov 12 '14