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Energy and Buildings 43 (2011) 27602766

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Energy and Buildings


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Airow and heat transfer in double skin facades


Teshome Edae Jiru a, , Yong-X. Tao b,1 , Fariborz Haghighat c,2
a
b
c

Mechanical Engineering, University of Maryland Baltimore County, 1000 Hilltop Circle, Baltimore, MD 21250, United States
Mechanical and Energy Engineering, University of North Texas, 3940 North Elm St, Denton, TX 76207, United States
Building, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Concordia University, 1455 de Maisonneuve Blvd. West, Montral, Qubec, Canada H3G 1M8

a r t i c l e

i n f o

Article history:
Received 21 March 2011
Received in revised form 4 June 2011
Accepted 23 June 2011
Keywords:
Computational uid dynamics
Double-skin facades
Surface heat transfer coefcients
Energy efciency

a b s t r a c t
Airow and heat transfer simulation was conducted for a DSF system equipped with a venetian blind,
using computational uid dynamics (CFD) with RNG turbulence model, for a three-level combination of
slat tilt angle and blind position. The CFD prediction was validated using experimental data collected for
a mechanically ventilated DSF equipped with venetian blinds. The predicted trends in glass and blind
surface temperatures of the CFD model are compared well with the experimental measurements. The
present study indicates that the presence of venetian blinds inuences the surface heat transfer coefcients (SHTCs), the temperature and the air distribution in the DSF system. For the cases considered, the
changes in the position of the blinds (outer, middle, and inner) have more effect on the distribution of
temperature, velocity, and SHTCs compared to the changes in the slat angles ( = 0 , 45 , 90 ).
2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction
Double-skin facades (DSFs) are building envelopes comprised
of two glasses, a ventilated air cavity in between and solar control
devices placed within the cavity. The ventilated cavity functions
as a thermal buffer by reducing undesired heat gain during the
cooling season, heat loss during the heating season and thermal
discomfort due to asymmetric thermal radiation. DSFs also play an
important role in glare control and maximization of day lighting
through proper positioning of shading devices.
The facade systems of commercial buildings are the main component of the building envelope that receives external heat gains
such as solar irradiance transmitted directly through the facade
or indirectly as secondary heat ux from absorbed irradiance. The
temperature increase through absorption on shading devices inside
such double facades depends on air volume ow rates and the
optical characteristics. The energy efciency of the DSFs can be
enhanced by controlling the slat angle of the shading device and
the openings for supplying air to and exhausting from the cavity for
natural and mixed mode ventilation. DSFs can be classied based
on the type of ventilation and construction. The ventilation of the
DSF cavity can be either natural or mechanical [1]. The driving force
for natural ventilation is either thermal buoyancy or wind pressure.
The airow is therefore not easy to control nor is it continuous since

Corresponding author. Tel.: +1 410 455 4779/3553; fax: +1 410 455 1052.
E-mail addresses: tejiru@umbc.edu (T.E. Jiru), yong.tao@unt.edu (Y.-X. Tao),
haghi@bcee.concordia.ca (F. Haghighat).
1
Tel.: +1 940 565 2400; fax: +1 940 369 8675.
2
Tel.: +1 514 848 2424x3192; fax: +1 514 848 7965.
0378-7788/$ see front matter 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1016/j.enbuild.2011.06.038

it depends on the weather condition. Mechanically ventilated DSF is


usually part of the heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC)
system of the building. It can be used to pre-heat the outdoor air or
exhaust the indoor air.
Experimental and numerical models have been used for studying the performance and optimization of DSFs. Models that have
been used for the prediction and analysis of the performance of
DSFs include analytical and lumped models [2], dimensional analysis [3], network models [4], zonal models [5] and airow network
models coupled with energy simulation [6,7]. Detailed studies have
also been conducted using computational uid dynamics (CFD) and
experiment for mechanically ventilated facades [8], for naturally
ventilated facades [9] and for naturally ventilated facades equipped
with venetian blinds [10]. Gratia and De Herde [11] evaluated the
inuence of the shading device position and color within a double
facade on the summer cooling using thermal simulation software.
Cooling energy reductions of 13.514.1% were predicted when the
blind was moved from a position close to the inner glazing to the
centre of the cavity. Other similar studies have also been conducted
[12,13].
The objective of this study is to model and simulate the airow
and heat transfer phenomena in the DSF system using CFD technique and study the inuence of the location of the blinds and the
slat angle on the temperature and air distribution in the air cavity
and on the glass surfaces.

2. Case description
The case selected for the development and verication of the DSF
models is an experimental test cell from Jiru and Haghighat [5]. The

T.E. Jiru et al. / Energy and Buildings 43 (2011) 27602766

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Nomenclature
CFD
Ca1
Ca2
cp
DSFs
Ek
Fkj
g
IB
HVAC
Jk
k
L1
L2
L3
L4
MB
OB
p
qin,k
qout,k
qsol
qtrans
Sh
Sk , S
ui
uI
SHTCs
T
To
Tex
Tindoor
Toutdoor
Tref
y

computational uid dynamics


outer cavity
inner cavity
specic heat capacity
double skin facades
emissive power of a surface k
fraction of energy leaving surface j that is incident
on surface k
gravity
inner blinds
heating, ventilation and air conditioning
radiosity of surface k
surface
exterior glass of the double pane
interior glass of the double-pane
venetian blinds
interior glass of the ventilated DSF
middle blinds
outer blinds
pressure
energy ux incident on a surface from the surroundings
radiosity of surface k
total solar radiation
transmitted solar radiation
volumetric heat source
user-dened source terms
velocity
uctuating velocity
surface heat transfer coefcients
temperature
air temperature at the inlet
air temperature at the exit
room air temperature
outside air temperature
reference (inlet) temperature
distance from a wall, vertical distance from the bottom of DSF

Greek symbols

absorptance

transmittance

viscosity

density, reectance
k
reectivity of surface k

thermal conductivity
effective thermal conductivity
eff

test cell is 2.5 m high, 1.6 m wide and, 3.6 m long. The south facing
side of the cell, which was 1.6 m wide and 2.5 m high, has a DSF
with an outer double-pane facade, and an inner facade as shown in
Fig. 1. The outer double-pane facade, L1 and L2 are 8 mm and 6 mm
thick clear glasses, respectively. The air cavity between L1 and L2 is
15 mm wide. The internal pane (L4) is 6 mm thick clear glass. The air
cavity between L2 and L4 is 15 cm wide. A venetian blind (L3) was
installed in the air cavity between L2 and L4 and divides the air cavity into outer (Ca1) and inner (Ca2) cavities. The slats were inclined
at 45 from the horizontal. The air from the test cells entered into
the DSF cavities through an opening located at the bottom of the
inner layer (L4), as shown in Fig. 1, and was extracted at the top
of the DSF by a fan. The test cell was equipped with a continuous
monitoring system to measure the energy consumption, the indoor

Fig. 1. A mechanically ventilated DSF. L1 is the exterior glass of the double pane; L2
is the interior glass of the double-pane; L3 is the venetian blinds; L4 is the interior
glass of the ventilated DSF; Ca1 is the outer cavity; and Ca2 is the inner cavity, To is the
air temperature at the inlet, Tex is the air temperature at the exit, Tindoor is the room
air temperature, Toutdoor the outside air temperature, qsol is the total solar radiation,
qtrans is the transmitted solar radiation, is thermocouple and is pyranometer [5].

air temperatures, the heat uxes through the facade, the temperature distributions in the air gap and on the facade surfaces, and
the airow rate. The sensors in the DSF system were positioned at
0.4 cm, 1.35 m, and 2.3 m from the oor as shown in Fig. 1.
The measured average volumetric ow rate at the outlet due to
the exhaust fan is 54 m3 /h. The measured total solar radiation, outdoor, indoor and inlet temperatures measured on April 23, 2005
are shown in Fig. 2. The steady-state simulation conducted in this
study used the maximum outdoor temperature of 17 C and the
maximum indoor temperature of 20 C as boundary conditions. The
corresponding maximum inlet temperature and total solar radiation values were 20 C and 275 W/m2 respectively.
A parametric study was also conducted to identify the inuence
of the slat angle ( = 0 , 45 , 90 ) and the position of the blind in the
air cavity: outer (OB), middle (MB), and inner (IB). Fig. 3 shows the
position of the blinds and the slat angle. Table 1 gives the location
of blinds and the slat angles used in the parametric study.

Fig. 2. The measured inlet and boundary conditions [5].

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T.E. Jiru et al. / Energy and Buildings 43 (2011) 27602766

atures. In glass facades and blinds, the conduction heat transfer


equation can be given as:

xj

T

xj

+ Sh = 0

(4)

The volumetric source term Sh is the absorbed solar radiation,


which is given by the absorptances and the thicknesses of glasses
(L1, L2, and L4) and blinds (L3).
The thermal radiation heat transfer between glasses and blind
surfaces was calculated using surface-to-surface (S2S) radiation
model. The S2S radiation model employed for this study assumes
the surfaces to be gray and diffuse. Emissivity and absorptivity of a
gray surface are independent of the wavelength. Also, by Kirchoffs
law, the emissivity equals the absorptivity and for a diffuse surface, the reectivity is independent of the outgoing (or incoming)
directions. The energy ux leaving a given surface is composed of
directly emitted and reected energy. The reected energy ux
is dependent on the incident energy ux from the surroundings,
which then can be expressed in terms of the energy ux leaving all
other surfaces. The energy reected from surface k is given as
qout,k = Ek + k qin,k

(5)

Fig. 3. Location and dimension of a blind slat [5].

3. Modeling and simulation


A CFD approach was employed to model and simulate the
airow and heat transfer in the DSF system. The application of conservation of mass and momentum to an incompressible laminar
ow results in the continuity and the momentum (NavierStokes)
equations.
ui
xi
uj

(1)
p

ui
=
+
xj
xi
xj




ui
xj

(cp T ) +
=
t
xj (ui cp T )
xj

qin,k =

N


Fkj qout,j

(6)

j=1

Therefore, the energy that is given off (radiosity) of surface k is


qout,k = Ek + k

N


Fkj qout,j

(7)

j=1

+ gi

(2)

The airow in the DSF air cavity is turbulent involving mean and
uctuating velocity elds. One approach of modeling turbulence
is Reynolds averaging. This method introduces additional term,
Reynolds stresses ui uj , in the governing equations that need to be
modeled in order to achieve a closure. A common method employs
the Boussinesq hypothesis [14] to relate the Reynolds stresses to
the mean velocity gradients. The RNG k- model, selected for this
study, has been found to be more accurate and reliable for a wider
class of ows than the standard k- model. The energy equation for
the air in the cavity has the following form.


The amount of incident energy upon a surface from another surface is a direct function of the surface-to-surface view factor, Fjk . The
view factor Fjk is the fraction of energy leaving surface k that is incident on surface j. For N surfaces, using the view factor reciprocity
relationship, qin,k yields:


eff

T
xj


+ Sh

(3)

The thermo-physical properties are assumed constant except for


the air density, which is treated using the Boussinesq approximation. The air properties are evaluated at standard atmospheric
pressure and at the average of the indoor and outdoor temper-

Table 1
Cases for parametric study.
Slat angle ()

45

90

Blind position

OB
(x = 1.87 cm)

MB
(x = 7.5 cm)

IB
(x = 1.31 cm)

No
blinds

The inlet, outlet as well as the wall boundary condition were


specied using the measured data (Fig. 2) for numerical solution of
the model equations. The maximum outdoor temperature of 17 C,
and indoor temperature of 20 C were used as the boundary conditions and a temperature of 20 C as inlet condition. The no slip
velocity boundary conditions at the surface of all layers (L1, L2, L3,
and L4) and adiabatic boundary conditions at the bottom surface
(see Fig. 1) were assumed.
Many correlations have been proposed which relate the outside
surface heat transfer coefcient with wind speed. Since no wind
speed measurement was taken near the site of the DSF, a standard
value of 29 W/m2 K, which corresponds to wind speed of 6.7 m/s
was used [16]. On the side of the inner layer (L4) facing the indoors,
the surface heat transfer coefcient has a value of 8 W/m2 K, which
was calculated using empirical relation from ASHRAE handbook
[18]. The surface heat transfer coefcients within the computational domain were calculated using the algorithms implemented
in the Fluent 6.3 code [15].
The cavity air is extracted from cavities through an exhaust at
the top the DSF (as shown in Fig. 1) by a fan. Therefore, the outlet
condition was modeled as ow boundary and specied using the
measured volumetric ow rate of 54 m3 /h and a measured exhaust
temperature of 25 C. The boundary condition at the inlet was set
at a zero gauge pressure and a temperature of 20 C, which was
also the measured average indoor temperature. The values of the
turbulent kinetic energy and is dissipation rate at the inlet depend
on the turbulence intensity, length scale and inlet velocity [10].
The two-dimensional governing equations which model turbulent ow and heat transfer, in the DSF system, were solved

T.E. Jiru et al. / Energy and Buildings 43 (2011) 27602766

2763

Fig. 4. Comparison of the measured and calculated temperature in the outer (Ca1)
and inner (Ca2) facade cavities.

using FLUENTs pressure-based solver. The simulation were rst


run without the S2S radiation model until convergence using rstorder upwind discretization and then second-order discretization
for the convection terms to increase the accuracy of the nal solution. Second-order accuracy was used for the viscous terms. After
convergence was reached for the second time, the simulation was
restarted with the S2S model. The SIMPLE algorithm, which uses a
relationship between velocity and pressure corrections to enforce
mass conservation and to obtain the pressure eld, was selected for
pressure-velocity coupling. The continuity, momentum and energy
equations were deemed to have converged when the residuals were
less than the specied value of 106 .
4. Results and discussions
4.1. Validation of the CFD simulation
The temperature distributions in the outer cavity (Ca1), inner
cavity (Ca2), and venetian blinds (L3) are predicted so that the overheating of the DSF cavity and the venetian blinds can be controlled
and the energy exchanged is monitored as the ventilating air ows
through the cavity. Moreover, the temperature distribution in the
inner glass (L4) should be known for the evaluation of the thermal
comfort in the room. The CFD simulation result was validated using
experimental data for slat angle  = 45 described above. The vertical proles for the measured and CFD predicted temperatures are
depicted in Figs. 4 and 5. The experimental data shows the temperature of the air in the outer cavity (Ca1) was always greater than
that of the inner cavity (Ca2). This is because the inlet is at the bottom of L4 (Fig. 1), and the resulting an uneven distribution of the
ventilating air allows more ventilating air ow to Ca2 than Ca1. As

Fig. 6. (a) Temperature contour and (b) velocity vector plots in the DSF system with
blinds at the middle and  = 45 .

the air moves up the DSF cavity, its temperature increases and this
stratication phenomena is captured by the CFD prediction in Fig. 4.
However, the predicted temperature at Ca13 is lower than the predicted temperature at Ca23. The discrepancy is the result of the
absence of lateral mixing, which could increase the temperature in
the outer cavity at Ca13. The two-dimensional model developed
in this study could not capture the three-dimensional effects such
as lateral mixing (see also Fig. 6). Fig. 5 shows that the measured
temperature at L32 is below the temperatures at L31 and L33.
The discrepancy at L32 can be due to measurement error than prediction. Figs. 4 and 5 show that although the CFD under-predicted
the temperature, except for the blinds (L3), it follows the trend of
experimental data.
The temperature contour in Fig. 6(a) shows higher temperatures
at the upper parts of the DSF than the lower parts. This is because
heat is transferred from the slats, which are at higher temperature than the glasses due to their higher absorptance. This increase
in temperature also augments the upward ow due to buoyancy
effect, resulting higher velocities at the upper section than lower
section. The vector plot in Fig. 6(b) shows that air velocity in the
outer cavity (Ca1) is greater than that of the inner cavity. This is
due to the lower temperature difference between the inner glass
layer (L4) and the blinds (L3) than L3 and L2.
4.2. Parametric study

Fig. 5. Comparison of the measured and calculated temperature of the blinds (L3)
and the inner glass (L4).

Parametric study was also conducted to identify the inuence


of the slat angle ( = 0 , 45 , 90 ) and position of the blind in the
air cavity: outer (OB), middle (MB), and inner (IB) (see Table 1).
Fig. 7 shows qualitative comparison of the inuence of blind posi-

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T.E. Jiru et al. / Energy and Buildings 43 (2011) 27602766

Fig. 7. A qualitative comparison of the inuence of blind position and slat angle on the cavity temperature distribution.

tion and slat angle on cavity temperature distribution in the cavity.


In all cases the blind surfaces have higher temperatures than the
glass surfaces and the air in the cavity. The temperature distribution away from the blinds is uniform and close in value to that of
the no blind case. The blind position has more inuence on the
temperature distribution than the slat angle.
As shown in Figs. 810, the surface temperatures of the glazing
and blinds are increased due to the solar heat gains compared with
the ambient (17 C) and indoor (20 C). For MB and IB blind positions, the temperature away from the surfaces is close in value to
the no blinds case or to the indoor temperature. The peak values
for each case in the gures are at the position of the blinds. The
gures also show that although there are changes in the values of
temperature in the cavities due to the changes in the slat angle,
they are less signicant compared to the change in blind position.
The lower temperature for MB position shows that the middle position is probably suitable in providing a lower temperature on the
inner glass surface (L4). The high temperature on the inner glass
surface (L4) for IB cases could be desirable for winter conditions as
it reduces heat transfer from the indoors and the cavity air serves
as a buffer. Specically for the IB position, it can create thermal discomfort due to radiation asymmetry and increases cooling load in

summer. The middle position (MB) works better than inner position
(IB), which can be mitigated by increasing the airow rate. However, the cost of running the fan has to justify energy saving due to
DSF application.
The temperature distributions on the surface of the inner glass
layer (L4) are depicted in Fig. 11. As stated above, the temperature
of the inner glass surface is highest for IB position. Although the no
blind case resulted in the lowest temperature distribution on L4, it
is higher than outside temperature (17 C), indicating the buffering
effect of the DSF system and a reduction of heat loss during winter.
The blinds are however required for reducing the solar load.
Figs. 1214 illustrate the velocity distribution at the mid-height
(y = 1.25 m) of the DSF. The velocity distribution is not exactly
symmetrical even when there is no blind, which shows that the
temperature distribution has inuenced the airow distribution.
For the MB and OB positions, the highest velocity is in the outer
cavity (Ca2), whereas for IB higher velocity is in the inner cavity
(Ca2). This result corresponds to the location of the highest temperature in the horizontal temperature distributions in Figs. 810. The
change in slat angle slightly moves the prole curves and the location of the maximum velocity. This again indicates that the changes

Fig. 8. Horizontal temperature prole in the air cavity at y = 1.25 m and  = 0 , where
W is cavity width.

Fig. 9. Horizontal temperature prole in the air cavity at y = 1.25 m and  = 45 ,


where W is cavity width.

T.E. Jiru et al. / Energy and Buildings 43 (2011) 27602766

2765

Fig. 13. Velocity prole in the cavity at 1.25 m (mid height) and  = 45 .
Fig. 10. Horizontal temperature prole in the air cavity at y = 1.25 m and  = 90 ,
where W is cavity width.

Fig. 14. Velocity prole in the cavity at 1.25 m (mid height) and  = 45 .

Fig. 11. Temperature distributions on the inner glass surface (L4), where H is height
of the DSF.

in the position of the blinds affected the air velocity prole in the
cavities more that the changes in slat angle.
The variations of the surface heat transfer coefcient (SHTC) on
glass layer L2 (x = 0) and on glass layer L4 (x = 0.15 m) are shown
in Figs. 15 and 16. It can be observed that the changes in the slat
angle have less effect on the heat transfer coefcient compared to
the changes in the blind location when the slat angle is increased
from 0 to 45 . The SHTC on L2 is highest when the blinds are at
OB (Fig. 15) and the SHTC on L4 is highest when the blinds are at
IB position (Fig. 16). The closeness of the blind to the layer results
in more turbulence on the surfaces and hence an increase in SHTC.
Furthermore, the SHTC at L2 for the 90-OB case is lower than 45-OB

Fig. 12. Velocity prole in the cavity at 1.25 m (mid height) and  = 0 .

and 0-OB cases (Fig. 15), and the SHTC at L4 for the 90-IB case is
lower than 45-IB and 0-IB cases (Fig. 16). However, the SHTC at L2
for the 90-OB case is higher than 0-MB, 0-IB, 45-MB and 45-IB cases
(Fig. 15), and the SHTC at L4 for the 90-IB case is higher than 0-MB,
0-OB, 45-MB and 45-OB cases (Fig. 16). These differences indicate
that, although the slats completely are closed and the air cavity
is divided into two cavities (Ca1 and Ca2) with very little airow
when the slat angle is 90 , the closeness of the blind to either L1 or
L2 increased the SHTC. Additionally, due to the differences in the
surface temperatures, the SHTCs at L2 and L4 are not equal.
The results in this study indicate that the presence of venetian
blinds inuences the SHTCs, the temperature and the air distribution in the DSF system. Specically, for the cases considered,
the changes in the position of the blinds (OB, MB, and IB) is more
important than the changes in slat angles ( = 0 , 45 , 90 ). When

Fig. 15. SHTC on the second glass layer (L2).

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T.E. Jiru et al. / Energy and Buildings 43 (2011) 27602766

cavity air, glass, and blind surface temperatures predicted using


the two-dimensional CFD model followed the trend of experimental data. The CFD simulation results showed that the presence of
venetian blinds inuences the SHTCs, the temperature and the air
distribution in the DSF system. Specically, for the cases considered, the changes in the position of the blinds (OB, MB, and IB)
affect the SHTCs, the airow and temperature distribution than the
changes in the slat angles ( = 0 , 45 , 90 ).
References

Fig. 16. SHTC on the inner glass layer (L4).

the blinds (L3) are positioned close to the glass surfaces (L2 and
L4) the turbulent boundary layer caused by the blinds (L3) overlap with the thermal boundary layer of the glass surfaces (L2 and
L3) and heat transfer enhancement was obtained (Figs. 15 and 16).
Similar results, using two-dimensional CFD models, for other type
of windows where the blinds are very close to the glazing layers were obtained by Shahid and Naylor [18]. For larger cavity
width (0.55 m), Ji et al. [17] showed that the presence of venetian
blinds at one-third of the cavity width does not impose a great
effect on the SHTCs because the glass surfaces and the blinds are
not close enough to cause interaction of their turbulent boundary layers. The discrepancies of the two-dimensional could be
due to the simplications in the geometry, the three-dimensional
effects such as reverse ow and local short circuiting, the effect
of heat transfer through the frames and experimental errors. A
detailed three-dimensional model of the DSF system can give more
accurate prediction by changing the predicted values of the temperature, velocity, and SHTC without signicantly changing the
trend of the temperature, velocity, and SHTC distributions shown
in Figs. 916.
5. Conclusion
Although there were discrepancies in the quantitative predictions of the CFD model when compared with the experiments, the

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