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MID&C Students Collaborate with Kinesiology on Radiant Barrier Technology

Students build dog houses using Aluminet

The research that Ryan Salvas’ Sustainability for Integrated Project Delivery seminar accomplished this spring will prepare these students for conducting and managing actual, deep qualitative and quantitative research when they graduate and enter the integrated architectural and construction management field. Masters of Integrated Design & Construction students focused their research in the context of sustainability and on developing an experiment that promoted energy retrofitting existing buildings. They collaborated with Dr. David Pascoe in Kinesiology to test the performance of Aluminet, a reflective, open weave, metallic mesh, to develop it as a radiant barrier. Architecturally, radiant barriers began to be widely accepted into residential construction in the 1970s and were popular into the early 2000s when they fell out of favor because it was difficult to quantitatively prove their benefit. The students hoped their experiment would change this perception.

Students looked at radiant barrier types, applications, and installations, and decided on testing the retrofit of Aluminet as a radiant barrier alternative in overhead applications.  Most exciting to the students was the hypothesis that because Aluminet was so drastically different than other radiant materials, that it would be able to perform in temperate climates, where seasonal shifts are not addressed by currently available products.  As the experiment began to take shape, the Department of Kinesiology worked hand-in-hand with the students in developing the full scope and step-by-step procedure of the testing protocol. Given all of the resources, constraints, and opportunities, the experiment evolved into the construction of a series of scale houses, each containing a separate attic and living space.  Each doghouse had one of three radiant materials installed in one of four different locations, plus one control (no radiant barrier) for a grand total of thirteen doghouses.  The premise was to test the doghouses in the thermal chamber, and monitor the temperature differentials over time in both hot and cold sessions.

The preliminary results were very encouraging.  The students found that the Aluminet 70 (the denser weave), when installed above the roof rafters, was the only doghouse that performed well in both climate types, and could in fact act as a temperate climate radiant barrier. From this research, the class was able to publish a number of peer reviewed articles in both architectural and scientific journals, as well producing enough qualitative and quantitative hard data to entice interest from external and internal venture capital.