2022 12 14

Experts from OsloMet driving research into digital twins that considers building physics

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While research into digital twins has advanced significantly in recent years, little so far has been done that takes into account building physics, including for façades. The Staticus Care EEA project is addressing that gap, and key to this are project partners OsloMet.

The 3-strong team of researchers from this leading Norwegian University – Associate Professor Dr. Dimitrios Kraniotis, Post-doctoral Researcher Dr. Guilherme B.A. Coelho, and Assistant Professor Mr. Christian N. Rolfsen – are all from the B3 research group of the Department of Built Environment. Along with digital twins and building physics, their academic interests also cover the use of timber, climate change modelling, and BIM. 

We asked them to tell us more about their reasons for getting involved in this project, what they hoped to learn, and what they will bring to the table.

An ideal project for a research team focused on building physics and digital twins

The StaticusCare project is an excellent fit for the B3 research group for several reasons.

Firstly, the fact that this project has a strong focus on innovation and brings together partners from across Europe was attractive. Secondly, the group was keen to work on developing a product that will make a significant contribution to reducing greenhouse gases from the building sector. And thirdly, the fact that the project entails close collaboration with the building industry, including one of Northern Europe’s largest full-service façade contractors, was also important.

Most important of all is the close alignment between the priorities of the project and the research group’s focuses. 

“Our research group of Building Technology, Materials and Physics – B3 focuses on building physics, climate adaptation, climate change modelling and life cycle assessment,” explains the leader of the group, Dimitrios Kraniotis. “In parallel, the Department of Built Environment is hosting one of the Trimble Technology Labs, which has an emphasis on BIM and digital twins.”

“So, our North Star is the development of digital twins of building physics using sensing data,” Kraniotis continues. 

“Furthermore, we are interested in the interdisciplinary verification of hygrothermal performance, energy efficiency, and the climate adaptation of a timber-based façade system with low embodied greenhouse gas emissions which contributes to climate change mitigation.”

Running simulations and feeding digital twins using experimental data

According to Dimitrios Kraniotis and Guilherme Coelho, experimental data from sensors gathered during the project will be put to a wide range of uses. “We will use this data to develop numerical models for our simulations, and then to validate various numerical models.”

“Then we will run a series of numerical simulations in order to assess the performance of the façade system in various geographical locations. These simulations will include hygrothermal (HAM) and building energy simulations (BES), and the evaluation of the indoor environment (thermal comfort, indoor air quality, visual comfort etc.), all under various exterior climatic scenarios based on the current situation and possible future conditions.”

This experimental data will also be fed into the digital twins model developed during the project. “These digital twins will be connected to the simulation tools mentioned above,” explains Dimitrios Kraniotis and Christian N. Rolfsen. “The concept of digital twins is rather new, but they have already been used widely in the building industry and in research. However, there has been very little exploration into digital twin models that consider building physics (either of a façade or indoor environment).”

Moving towards modern façade systems based on timber structures

Another key area of interest that the OsloMet researchers can work on during this project is the use of timber. 

“Timber buildings and structures are at the core of our research,” Kraniotis points out. “We have evaluated the hygrothermal performance and potential deterioration patterns of several buildings (including cultural heritage buildings) built from timber, brick, stone and concrete. We have also looked at the indoor moisture balance and energy use, based on both current climate and that of the future.” 

“This project takes us one step further as the focus is on developing a modern façade system. Furthermore, the analysis will include several aspects of building physics, both on the façade and material level as well as at the level of rooms and buildings.”

Teaching outcomes as well as research ones

One important feature of OsloMet’s involvement in this project is that it will benefit the department’s students, as well as its researchers.

“Our teaching is research-oriented and practical,” says Dimitrios Kraniotis. “The results from this project will function as a prominent example of a building design that fulfils strict energy requirements and durability criteria – even as the climate changes – and at the same time has a low carbon footprint.”

“In addition, research-wise, the project will function as a basis for future interdisciplinary research that exploits digital twins in other aspects of building physics.”

A team of highly experienced building physics researchers

The OsloMet team that is participating in the StaticusCare EEA project, has a strong background in building physics, energy performance assessment, timber buildings and climate modelling, including climate change. These competencies will be essential for the analysis of experimental data, as well as the interdisciplinary numerical investigation of the façade system. 

Dr. Dimitrios Kraniotis is an Associate Professor at the Department of the Built Environment of OsloMet and a senior researcher at the Norwegian Institute of Wood Technology. He is an expert in building physics, life-cycle assessment of buildings, and sustainability in the built environment, and the author of 60 publications. He also serves as an editor, guest editor and reviewer in top journals, and has been a member of scientific committees in several international conferences. Dr. Kraniotis brings experience of participating in over 15 R&D projects (funded by bodies such as the EU, EEA Grants, and the Norwegian Research Council). Most of these projects have dealt with building physics, heat, air and moisture transport, and energy efficiency in buildings, in particular in timber buildings.

Dr. Guilherme B.A. Coelho is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Department of the Built Environment. He is an expert in building physics with a focus on studying the effects of climate change in buildings. He has participated in national and international projects, is the author or co-author of 10 publications, and serves as a reviewer in several top journals. With his PhD focusing on the impact of climate change on buildings and his expertise in heat, air and moisture transport, as well as climate change modelling, his knowledge will be crucial for the assessment of the façade system under future climate scenarios during this project. 

And Mr. Christian N. Rolfsen is a Senior Lecturer (Assistant Professor) at the Department of the Built Environment, where he delivers courses on Surveying, The Building Process, and Architecture and Design. He has also lectured in building physics on the Master’s programme course. Christian has been the research leader of the BIM-Research Group and has many publications in BIM research. He is the author or co-author of 17 publications and also serves as a reviewer in several journals. Mr. Rolfsen has participated in numerous national and international research projects that focus on the involvement of BIM in the design phase, and modelling existing buildings, especially cultural heritage buildings.

About OsloMet and the Department of the Built Environment

All three project participants are members of the Building Technology, Materials and Physics – B3 research group, which is part of the Department of the Built Environment (BE) at the Oslo Metropolitan University – also known as OsloMet. OsloMet is Norway’s 3rd largest university, with around 22,000 students. And the Department of the Built Environment (BE) is also sizable, with approximately 850 students and 70 employees. The Department is well known for its research activities, and is ranked first within the Faculty of Technology, Art and Design in this area. The B3 research group is one of 8 research groups in the department, and its focuses on building physics and climate adaptation, climate change modelling, life cycle assessment of buildings and use of timber in the built environment. IT benefits from use of the Trimble Tech Lab at OsloMet, which is equipped with software that will allow the development of the digital twins model for this project, along with its coupling with the experimental data and the numerical simulations.

The project “Developing a more environmentally friendly automated façade system that is integrated into the building’s control systems” is funded by the 2014-2021 Norwegian Financial Mechanism Program “Business Development, Innovation and SMEs” and EEA and Norway Grants.

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