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A Period Examination Through Contemporary Energy Analysis of Kevin Roche’s Fine Arts Center at University of Massachusetts-Amherst

Studies of buildings belonging to a subset of Modernist architecture, Brutalism, have included discussions pertaining to social and architectural history, critical reception, tectonic form and geometry inspirations, material property selections, period technology limitations, and migration of public perceptions. Evaluations of Brutalist buildings’ energy related performances have been restricted to anecdotal observations with particular focus on the building type’s poor thermal performance, a result of the preferred construction method, i.e. monolithic reinforced concrete used as structure, interior finish and exterior finish. A valid criticism, but one that served to dismiss discussion that the possibility of other positive design strategies limiting energy consumption, while simultaneously maintaining occupant comfort, existed in these buildings. The University of Massachusetts-Amherst Fine Arts Center (FAC) designed by Pritzker Prize winning architect Kevin Roche, was the Brutalist building used to develop an evaluation protocol that will serve as a template for energy and/or occupant comfort dissections and evaluations of other Brutalist buildings. A calibrated (ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 140) and validated energy model (DesignBuilder) was programed with all requisites, i.e. geo-position, ordinal orientation, building geometry, envelope materiality, construction details, local weather and climate, program activities, mechanical systems, occupancy schedules, etc. All inputted data was synchronized and consistent with the first year of the building’s occupancy, 1976. Analyses using the DesignBuilder model and an Autodesk Ecotect Analysis model were performed with results relating to thermal performance of the envelope, daylight harvesting, glare control, siting advantage, solar defense via self-shading, material solar absorptance impacts, thermal mass, and wind related strategies documented. Results demonstrated and quantified the inadequacy of the thermal envelope and the positive presence of daylight harvesting, glare control, and solar defense via self-shading. Results also suggest the possibility of material solar absorptance strategies, thermal mass strategies, and wind harvesting strategies. The FAC’s EUI, as determined from the models above and a potential EUI determined from a FAC model inputted with a single energy efficiency measure (improvement of thermal envelope) was compared with EUI data from “CBECS, 2012 Table C5”. This perspective and insight into the building’s reality, within the context of energy performance and occupant comfort, cleared the haze of anecdotal evidence.
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