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OISD: Architectural Engineering is an interdisciplinary group working in the field of construction technology, structures, building physics and sustainability. The group is involved in both pure and 'close to 'industry' research with a wide portfolio of UK, European and International activities. It has a broad technical skill base that includes architecture, building physics, structural and mechanical engineering and construction economics.
The well equipped modern laboratory facilities at Oxford Brookes University have been developed to support a wide range of testing and development needs for industry and research.Tailored support is offered to meet clients’ needs and achieve compliance with codes and standards. It can develop products, systems, or approaches from initial design through to analysis, prototype testing, certification and delivery to market.
The group has a well-equipped structural testing laboratory capable of performing physical tests on a wide range of construction products from individual beams, panels or fasteners to complete building envelope and light steel or timber frame assemblies. The equipment in the laboratory is complemented by an experienced team of engineers capable of analysing the test results, performing advanced structural modelling (e.g. finite element analysis) and, where appropriate, working with clients to improve the performance of their product or system.
Physical testing of construction products is often required to evaluate their structural resistance, assess their performance against theoretical or computer-generated predictions, to demonstrate performance as part of an accreditation process (e.g. CE marking), or as part of a product development programme. In some instances the test requirements are clearly defined by a British Standard or Euronorm, but in many cases it will be necessary to devise a suitable test programme to meet the specific requirements of the client and performance characteristics of the product. Over recent years, the group has undertaken a wide variety of tests on a range of products and is well-qualified to advise clients on issues such as test set-up, test programme (number and type of test) and specific sampling and testing requirements for CE Marking.
The central feature of the structural laboratory is a large reaction frame. This has been designed to accommodate a range of shapes and size of test specimen from purlins, joists or cladding panels up to 8m long to rectangular sections of wall or flooring system. The majority of tests undertaken in this rig involve the application of either bending or compression loads to structural elements. However, a recent extension to the rig means that it is now also capable of undertaking racking tests on light steel or timber frame wall panels. In all cases, loads are applied to the test specimen by one or more computer-controlled hydraulic jacks, ensuring precision loading at a pre-determined rate. Smaller products such as wall ties or brackets may be tested in tension or compression in one of the laboratory’s smaller testing machines. These machines may also be used to undertake shear tests on fastener assemblies.
The group has extensive experience in all forms of building physics energy analysis, relating to energy flows at both the detail level and the whole building scale using the latest sophisticated computer software and laboratory testing where appropriate.
Heat flow through building details can be determined using a variety of two-and three-dimensional conduction models to assess thermal bridging. Both steady state and dynamic modelling can be undertaken.Hygrothermal (heat and moisture) analysis allows condensation risk to be calculated, from simple one dimensional problems up to complicated three-dimensional involving internal steel framing.Whole buildings can be modelled using dynamic thermal simulation software and subjected to different climatic regimes to assess passive design strategies (thermal mass, glazing, shading and other fabric enhancements) internal comfort conditions and energy use.Lighting simulation can be used to evaluate daylighting performance (daylight factors) and artificial lighting requirements for any combination of room geometries and surface reflectances.In the laboratory, existing or bespoke test rigs can be used to test cladding panels and joints for air-tightness at controlled pressures, establishing confidence in their performance when installed. Other possible tests include thermal transmission measurement with calibrated temperature sensors and heat flux meters.
In recent years there has been a growing trend to require some form of third party accreditation or certification for the construction products used on their buildings. Several schemes are currently in use in the United Kingdom including BBA Certification, Trada’s Q Mark and the Steel Construction Institute’s SCI Assessed. With the introduction of the Construction Products Regulation (CPR) on 1st July 2013, CE Marking is now compulsory for many construction products, including non-structural elements such as metal cladding sheets. It is the responsibility of anyone wishing to place a construction product on the market in the UK, or elsewhere in the EU, to ensure that it complies with the CPR. Failure to comply is a criminal offence.
The group has broad experience in assisting construction product manufacturers with a variety of accreditation and assessment schemes, including CE marking. Services range from advising manufacturers on the requirements for CE marking to undertaking physical testing, computer modelling and analysis to meet the requirements for Initial Type Testing (for CE marking) or other third party accreditation. Recent activity in this field includes testing of self-supporting metal cladding sheets to BS EN 14782 and composite wall and roof panels to BS EN 14509.
Depending on the type of product and its Attestation of Conformity (AoC) level, manufacturers wishing to CE mark their products may need to engage the services of a Notified Body. Although not a Notified Body itself, the group has good relationships with BM Trada and Lloyds Register, both of whom are Notified Bodies.
There is specialist expertise in the department in lightweight structures, off site construction technology and environmental physics.The heavy structures rigs in the laboratory have been configured to optimise the testing of components and assemblies both in the horizontal and the vertical with the additional facility to induce racking forces.The ability to model and test the performance of the external envelop in conjunction with the structure can inform the design of highly efficient buildings.
Life Cycle costing is defined as the evaluation of the cost of an asset over its planned service life. The commonly adopted definition can be found in BS/ISO 15686-5 Buildings and Construction Assets. By following the standardised method described in the standard the life cycle and cost planning data can be established based on material performance, cost in use and initial cost. This in turn can inform decisions on best value and the environmental impact through a total life cycle.The Research team at Brookes is well placed to give expert analysis, testing and client advice from an experienced team that is highly qualified and informed through appropriate test programmes and research both in the laboratory and on site. The team has particular expertise in the energy usage of buildings and building monitoring including the performance of insulation and isolation strategies. In addition the team has a successful history of component and product design to meet client's performance aspirations plus concept modelling and verification in preparation for third party approval and assurance.
The team is well-equipped and has the experience to carry out building monitoring and testing. Co-heating tests, in which an empty building is heated to 25°C over a two to three week period, enable the as-built fabric performance to be assessed and compared with predictions, thus ‘closing the loop’ between design and practice. The test links the energy use of the building with external temperature conditions, producing a heating factor in Watts per Kelvin temperature difference. Logging equipment, weather stations, heaters, controllers, meters and fans are all kept in the laboratory.Ongoing monitoring of occupied buildings can also be arranged, using the latest discreet wireless equipment to log temperatures, relative humidity and carbon dioxide concentrations. In addition, sub-metering of electricity use (for instance lighting circuits, fans and pumps) can be undertaken, alongside monitoring of external conditions, hot water flows and photovoltaics generation as necessary.There is a unique linkage across groups in this area, with the Low Carbon Building Group specialising in post-occupancy evaluation. This enables user perceptions to be correlated to internal conditions and energy use, with consequent valuable lessons about the interaction of human behaviour and building performance.
The department has particular experience and expertise in developing new products and in the measurement and verification of the performance of products and installations. Measurement commonly takes place both in laboratory test conditions as well as in situ as an integrated part of a constructed project. The laboratory has a stock of appropriate test equipment including a hot box and instrumentation both for laboratory and site use.The team includes individuals with extensive expertise in computer modelling and simulation which reduces the need for testing and simulation to a minimum.
Oxford Brookes University (Oxford Institute of Sustainable Development, OISD) has been active in the offsite and MMC sector since 1989. It has considerable experience and expertise in the special requirements that make this sector a successful alternative to traditional methods of construction.The Architectural Engineering Group within OISD has worked with many of the major brands in the offsite construction market and understands the relationship, synergy and balance required between design, manufacture and construction to deliver excellence in products and processes. The group is familiar with prefabrication and the discipline of system design, manufacture, and assembly and the application of lean principles. In addition the availability within the department of predictive modelling and laboratory test facilities allows the group to reduce the risk of poor performing details. It can also explore any problems that could be associated with the interface with site activities. The department is familiar with most generic types of offsite manufacture including modular, cellular, framing, both open and closed panel, and hybrid products. It is skilled in establishing the balance of investment to production levels to meet client and user needs together with the appropriate level of mechanisation and automation. Similarly the department has experience of material handling, JIT supply and supply chain integration.OISD has close links with the appropriate trade associations such as SCI and TRADA and the major material producers and suppliers. It has a reputation for supporting the development of innovative products and techniques. It achieves this through the team’s excellent knowledge and experience of the behaviour of modern materials and their physical properties. This expertise is reinforced through access to our building physics laboratory for testing and proving and a long term specialist research and development program. In addition to its own resources the department can draw on the work of researchers and experts working in complimentary fields from within the University.
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Prof Nicholas Whitehouse »
Oxford Institute for Sustainable Development Oxford Brookes University Headington Campus Oxford UK OX3 0BP