20 Jul 2015 10:00am - 6:30pm Room SG1, Alison Richard Building


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It is a well-known fact that most buildings do not perform as well as expected. The research on this performance gap suggests that the actual energy consumption in buildings can usually be twice as much as expected. Energy models rely on predictive indicators and assumptions that are usually done at design stage, without acknowledging behavioural patterns of actual users. On the other hand, in zero-carbon refurbishment projects improved energy performance and air-tightness standards may have implications for the indoor air quality. This one-day workshop is aimed at graduate students who are working on environmental performance of the built environment. The workshop addresses research issues related to energy, comfort and health, using examples from research projects and practical case studies in Universities in Cambridge and Turin (POLITO). Is it possible to balance energy, health and comfort needs in refurbishment projects, and if so, how is this achieved? What lessons can be learned from the University’s new building projects to inform future research and policies?

Attendees will work in teams to address the case study problems and feed their conclusions back to a panel of academics and GreenBRIDGE alumni for comment and discussion. For this exercise, attendees will be given some background reading in advance so that they can prepare. The workshop groups are facilitated by Professor Stefano Paolo Corgnati (Director of the Energy Centre, POLITO), Dr. Minna Sunikka-Blank (Department of Architecture, University of Cambridge), Dr Arman Hashemi (Centre for Sustainable Development, University of Cambridge) and Dr. Tatiana Vakhitova (Granta Design, Cambridge). The workshop will close with a panel discussion with GreenBRIDGE alumni on their careers in academia and the industry, followed by a dinner at Emmanuel  College that everyone is welcome to attend.

The aims of this workshop are to:

  • Bring together graduate students with expertise and interest in environmental performance of buildings;
  • Develop a common understanding of research problems in energy, comfort and health in buildings based on case study examples; 
  • Identify knowledge gaps;
  • Gain understanding from research projects that have addressed performance gap, comfort and health in buildings;
  • Give graduate students a possibility to present their own research in a poster session;
  • Meet the GreenBRIDGE alumni and hear their experiences of careers after completing a PhD.


The workshop  is open to all graduate students from the University of Cambridge and spaces will be allocated on first come first served basis. There will be limited places for graduate students from other universities.

For further information or questions regarding the workshop please contact: Dr Minna Sunikka-Blank, mms45@cam.ac.uk


Part of the GreenBRIDGE seminar series


For more information about the group and programme please visit their own page:
GreenBRIDGE external website.
(CRASSHis not responsible for the content of external internet sites)





Welcome and Introduction

Dr. Minna Sunikka-Blank (Senior Lecturer, Department of Architecture, University of Cambridge)


Participants' Introduction


Professor  Stefano Paolo Corgnati  (Associate Professor, Department of Energy/TEBE, Politecnico di Torino)
The Performance Gap’ POLITO case studies on comfort and energy use

Dr Arman Hashemi  (Research Associate, Centre for Sustainable Development, University of Cambridge
Energy efficiency vs. indoor air quality in domestic buildings

Mr Xiang Cheng (Building Energy Manager, Environment and Energy Office, University of Cambridge)
University’s new Environmental Sustainability Policy and the Sainsbury’s Lab as a case study


Lunch break


Case Study

  • Introduction (problem statement) / 20 min
  • Case study site visit / 60 min
  • Individual group discussions / 30 min


Dr Minna Sunikka-Blank
Professor Stefano Corgnati
Dr Tatiana Vakhitova
Dr Arman Hashemi


Tea/Coffee break


Actual Performance

  • Groups working on the specific case study problem / 90 min


Dr Minna Sunikka-Blank
Professor Stefano Paolo Corgnati
Dr Tatiana Vakhitova
Dr Arman Hashemi


Group Presentations and Discussion

  • GreenBRIDGE Alumni Introductions / 15 min
  • Group presentations of the results to the Alumni and individual feedback / 60 min
  • Concluding panel discussion + Q&A / 15 min

End of the Workshop


Formal Hall at Emmanuel College (optional).

The cost of the dinner is £35.00 (limited places).
If you would like to attend to the Formal Hall, please e-mail  workshop@greenbridge.org.uk  to reserve and for payment information.

Abstracts and Biographies

Dr Minna Sunikka-Blank (Senior Lecturer, Department of Architecture, University of Cambridge)
Performance Gap? Energy, Health and Comfort needs in Buildings

Dr Minna Sunikka-Blank is a registered architect and a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Architecture. Before coming to Cambridge, she worked on urban renewal projects and comparative policy analysis in Finland and in the Netherlands and published several books and research articles on the subject. Her research focuses on improving policies for energy efficiency in the European housing stock, user behaviour and the aesthetics of sustainable architecture. Dr Sunikka-Blank is a Director of Studies and Fellow in Architecture at Churchill College.

Research Interests:

  • sustainable building policies
  • thermal retrofit
  • energy use behaviour
  • aesthetics of sustainable architecture

Professor Stefano Paolo Corgnati  (Associate Professor, Department of Energy/TEBE, Politecnico di Torino)
The Performance Gap’ POLITO case studies on comfort and energy use

In many cases, real energy use of a building significantly differs from predicted performance. There are several reasons that may cause such a huge difference such as uncaptured impact of occupant behaviour, real weather profile differs from normal weather profiles used in simulations or wrong configuration of HVAC system control algorithms or interaction between HVAC subsystems. For some of these reasons it is possible to compensate for (e.g. heating/cooling degree days can be used for comparison of two seasons with different weather profile), while for the others, advanced modelling, monitoring and control methods are required in order to discover discrepancies between predicted and real energy consumption. Control methods may play a major role in building energy performance. Improvements of the control algorithms often represent one of the most cost-effective measures to reduce the energy consumption of a building, since it doesn’t involve civil construction works, the installation of new equipment or the disturbance of the working routines of occupants. The Model-based Predictive Control (MPC), originally developed for chemical industry, uses both Building Energy Performance Simulation (BEPS) and measured data to develop simplified models suitable for real-time computing, and optimizes the energy consumption by means of constrained optimization techniques. Interaction between building and district level can also contribute to better usage of energy. Inter building communication with a district level controller may be used to optimally allocate the power in the grid. If the particular building is equipped with a controller that has a functionality to estimate energy load profiles, then this information can be transferred to a block level controller via an inter building communication protocol in order to optimize the operation of the grid on the district level. The presentation will regard development stochastic models of the boundary conditions in the BEPS tool, implementation of models of boundary conditions into existing BEPS tools to provide possibility of stochastic modelling of building performance and development of methodologies for influencing occupants’ behaviour in relation to control of energy consumption and indoor environment.

Professor Stefano Paolo Corgnati graduated with honors in Mechanical Engineering and Ph.D in Energetics, is Associate Professor at the Energy Department of the Politecnico di Torino, where he teaches building physics, building energy systems and sustainable building design. He works in the TEBE research group (www.polito.it/tebe) focusing on energy&buildings and indoor environmental control. He is the author of more than 270 scientific, technical and didactic publications, mainly concerning: radiant panels technologies, objective and subjective assessment of indoor environmental comfort, thermal mass activation techniques, energy certification and demand of existing buildings.

Dr Arman Hashemi  (Research Associate, Centre for Sustainable Development, University of Cambridge)
Energy efficiency vs. indoor air quality in domestic buildings

Domestic buildings account for almost one third of the UK’s carbon emissions. With around 8.5 million over 60 years old properties, Britain has one of the oldest and most energy inefficient housing stocks in the developed world. Considering the current replacement rates, it would take around 1000 years to replace the entire housing stock in the UK. Improving the quality and energy performance of new and existing properties is therefore key to achieving the UK’s carbon emissions targets aiming to reduce CO2 emissions by 80% by 2050. Increasing airtightness is an effective strategy to improve the energy performance of buildings. High ventilation rates through air infiltration may result in excessive heat-losses while insufficient ventilation may lead to unacceptable Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) which may affect the health and wellbeing of the occupants. This talk evaluates the effects of building airtightness, whole building ventilation and occupancy conditions on the energy performance and risks of condensation and poor IAQ in domestic buildings. Both physical measurements and computer simulations are used to evaluate the conditions.

Dr Arman Hashemi is a research associate working at the Centre for Sustainable Development in the University of Cambridge. He is an architect with 14 years of experience in research, teaching and practice. He has been working on a range of award winning architectural projects with contract values of up to £18.5m. Dr Hashemi is currently a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy of the UK, a member of the Chartered Management Institute, and a member of the editorial boards and scientific committees of several journals and international conferences. His research interests include: Sustainable Housing; Building Performance Evaluation; Natural Lighting/Ventilation; and Offsite/Modern Methods of Construction.



Mr Xiang Cheng (Building Energy Manager, Environment and Energy Office, University of Cambridge) 
University’s new Environmental Sustainability Policy and the Sainsbury’s Lab as a case study.

Mr Xiang Cheng’s role in the Environment and Energy Office of the University of Cambridge is to identify potential energy saving projects at a number of University buildings to improve their energy performance. Currently, his focus is on the pilot departments of the ECRP (Energy and Carbon Reduction Project), and how lessons learnt from these projects could be of benefit elsewhere on the University estate.

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