Evaluation of the Thermal Performance of Innovative Pre-Fabricated Wall Systems through Field Testing
The thermal performance of two innovative pre-fabricated wood-frame wall systems was evaluated in comparison with a conventional 2x6 wood frame wall through one year’s field monitoring on BCIT’s Building Envelope Test Facility. Prefabricated wall system I has 4” Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) infill in the stud cavity with 1” additional EPS added on the interior side of 2x4 wood stud. Prefabricated wall system II has 4” EPS infill in the stud cavity only. The conventional 2x6 wood frame wall has 5-1/2” fiberglass insulation infill in the stud cavity. The effective thermal efficiency of these test walls is evaluated in terms of heat flux, effective in-situ R-values, and temperature distribution.
The heat flux measurements show that, in comparison with the conventional 2x6 wood frame wall, prefabricated wall system I with 4” EPS infill in the stud cavity has 5.1% less heat loss and 16% less heat gain and the prefabricated wall system II with 1" extra EPS has 22.9% less heat loss and 37.5% less heat gain. The improvement of thermal efficiency in the prefabricated wall systems is mainly attributed to the significant improvement over the stud areas. Estimated effective R-values over the winter months from December 2008 to March 2009 show that the R-value over the stud area in prefabricated wall system I is improved by 32.7% while the R-value over the cavity area is reduced by 8.7%, resulting in a net improvement of effective wall R-value by 2.9%; and the R-value over the stud area in prefabricated wall system II is improved by 112.3% with only a 2.6% improvement in the R-value over the cavity area, resulting in a net improvement of effective wall R-value by 26.5%.
Temperature measurements show that the interior surface temperatures over the stud area in the conventional wall fluctuate much more and are higher during the summer months and lower during the winter months compared to the prefabricated systems, due to the thermal bridging effect of the stud.