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Conference - Mass Matters in Low Carbon Building Design

03 Sept 2012
This event has now finished and the information below is for reference only.

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Where: Cairn Auditorium, Post Graduate Centre, Heriot Watt University, Edinburgh
Times: 09:00 - 16:15



This Conference is suitable for building engineers, architects, developers, regulators, house owners, renewable energy professionals, construction industry professionals and manufacturers.

Thermal mass in buildings acts in a number of different ways that are potentially very important in creating the comfortable, safe and affordable Low Carbon Buildings (LCBs) we need for an unpredictable future.  This conference is designed to inform attendees about why, how, when and where mass is important in design. Examples will be given of how it has been successfully incorporated into new and traditional low carbon buildings and approaches and tools will be described that can be used by designers to optimally place and utilise mass in buildings.

Mass is increasingly being seen as a key feature of LCBs for a wide range of reasons:

  1. Inertia: Mass is effective in dampening indoor temperatures during extremes of weather to avoid overheating and overcooling. Thermal mass in a building provides "inertia" against temperature fluctuations. This keeps indoor air temperatures within a safe band width so reducing energy consumed to condition the indoor climate and preventing occupants from being exposed to thermal extremes. This in increasingly important as populations move into fuel poverty as well as for all building occupants when the energy supplies fail, e.g. during storms or heat waves.
  2. Storage: To store free ambient energy from the heat of the day time sun in winter or the cool of the night in summer or occupants, conditioning systems and equipment. The weight of the mass in the building, its thermal capacity, will dictate exactly how much energy can be stored in the building’s materials. The more energy one can store, the more ambient energy one can potentially use to do the work of a building and the less increasingly costly imported fossil fuel or nuclear energy one needs to import.
  3. Usefulness: The value of that stored energy at different times of day or year will depend on the rate at which outdoor temperature peaks or troughs are experienced indoors for minutes or days or even months. This is a function of the capacity for energy storage in the building and the design of its volumes in relation to the dominant energy sources. These include the sun and the wind and a key feature of a building in relation to them is the extent to which those volumes are exposed to them – i.e. Coupled to the earth (stable temperatures) or the sky (fluctuating temperatures). God is in the details of getting Mass right in buildings, from where it is located, to what materials are adjacent to it, what finishes they include and air systems they are part of.
  4. Complex Systems: To design mass correctly, an understanding of how the mass design impacts on both the comfort of occupants and the value of building integrated renewable energy systems is key. Both of these aspects of the design require designers to understand how these individually complex systems interact with the building between them act as part of the load shifting and load shaving systems necessary to move solar and wind energy around the building to when and where it is needed for comfort and facilitating maximum use of free energy to do the work required indoors. Ambient energy must be harvested and stored in the structure of the building and made available as electricity and heat at the right time and place. No one said Mass design was simple.

Mass offers the potential to build safer, more comfortable buildings in more extreme climates; to run buildings largely on clean, renewable ambient energy and create climate resilient buildings.   As we move from the age of cheap fossil fuels we will have to rapidly evolve new, (perhaps old!) solutions to keeping people safe and comfortable.   This may mean re-learning once highly developed skills - like how to naturally ventilate a building and how to optimally use mass in conjunction with ventilation regimes in different climates.  Mass buildings were a feature of Scotland in the age before cheap energy and will be again as we search for ways of combating one of the growing banes of our society which is fuel poverty.   How we get enough mass into the right places in a building to make it optimally effective and cost efficient is key to the discussion we will have on the day.

The Mass Matters Conference will provide a forum for a developing conversation on ways forward for policy makers, building designers and the construction industry as a whole.   The conference starts with a review of how issues of mass are already included in our building regulations by Steven Scott of the Scottish Government.  Next we look at some of the assumptions underlying their inclusion in the regulations including the actual measured data on real U-Values through walls in Scotland, by Paul Baker of Glasgow Caledonian University.

Kevin Bowe and David Jenkins of Heriot Watt University will look at how different design tools describe the effect and impact of thermal mass and where the strengths and weaknesses of each approach lie.  Paul Tuohy of the University of Strathclyde describes how important mass can be in domestic and commercial building design in terms of comfort, overheating and energy saved, and how this can be captured in the design process.

Andy Ford (Mott Macdonald), Patrick Bellew (Atelier Ten) and Andy Pearson (Star Refrigeration), all world leaders in their fields, will describe a range of systems they have used involving mass storage in labyrinths, building structures and ice with a clear outline of the approach they took in the design of the systems and the strengths and weaknesses of the systems in use.

Roger Curtis (Historic Scotland) will describe how mass traditionally functioned in historic buildings and how those functions can be understood and preserved in good refurbishments of historic buildings.   Fan Wang (Heriot Watt University) will outline a theoretical and laboratory based study of how solar energy can be used to warm the structures of traditional Scottish tenements and Tom Grassie (Napier University) will describe a live demonstration project using similar principles in his own house with a review of the energy and comfort implications of his system, and the impact of the system on his annual energy running costs for an ordinary family in a refurbished traditional home.


The Cairn Auditorium, Post Graduate Centre, Heriot Watt University


Each paper will be 20-25 minutes long with questions taken after each paper.

09:00 Coffee and Registration  
09:30 Session 1: Where Mass Matters in the Regulations Chair: Phil Banfill
09:35 The Role of Mass in Scottish Building Regulations Steven Scott
10:00 Measured dynamic heat transfer through mass walls Paul Baker
10:30 How SAP, Dynamic Simulation (IES) and the Passive House method deal with Mass - A comparison of approaches Kevin Bowe &
David Jenkins
11:00 The impact of thermal mass in relation to comfort, overheating and energy use in UK buildings. Paul Tuohy
11:30 Coffee  
11:50 Session 2: Mass storage and use in larger buildings Chair: Colin Porteous
11:55 Dynamic Thermal Structures - moving energy around seasons and buildings Andy Ford
12:25 Ice cooled buildings - ice storage systems in the UK Andy Pearson
13:05 Labyrinths - inter-seasonal storage and release Patrick Bellew
13:35 Lunch  
14:10 Session 3: Making the most of Mass in existing buildings Chair: Sue Roaf
14:15 Making the most of Mass in refurbished historic buildings Roger Curtis
14:30 Solar Heating Systems - passive heat storage - warm wall systems in Scottish tenements Fan Wang
15:25 Hybrid Solar Thermal Mass System for Housing Tom Grassie
15:55 Full Panel Discussion on modelling Mass with audience participation  
16:15 Thanks and Close  



The delegate pricing is as follows:

  • CIC Start Online Member, one delegate = £125 +VAT
  • CIC Start Online Members, group of two or more delegates = £99 +VAT per delegate
  • Non-member, per delegate = £150 +VAT

An invoice will be sent shortly after the conference.

YOU CAN EXHIBIT FOR ONLY £100 +VAT - More information on sponsorship and exhibition pricing is avalable here



Sorry this event is now fully booked.


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