We recently concluded Phase 1 of a four-phase research project aimed at assessing and improving the thermal performance of spandrel panels. This effort, funded by The Charles Pankow Foundation is in response to industry feedback and more stringent energy codes.

Thermal bridging within spandrel assemblies, such as the aluminum framing running continuously through vision glazing and opaque spandrels, represents a potential source of considerable heat loss and condensation risk.

Despite this, there is no consensus on how to perform thermal simulations of spandrels, and current codes and standards do not adequately address how to determine the thermal performance of spandrel panel systems. This has slowed the innovation required to improve spandrels to meet the increasingly stringent building energy code targets.

The purpose of this study is to formulate a standardized calculation procedure to allow manufacturers and designers to improve spandrel thermal performance and to promote research and technological innovation.

Phase 1 of the study can be found here. Key highlights include:

  • Since spandrel assemblies are commonly insulated, there is a general notion that their
    performance has less impact on whole-building energy performance compared to vision glazing.
  • Thermal performance calculations have been largely oversimplified. Building energy codes and industry standards do not fully address how to account for the presence of spandrel assemblies.
  • Designers often unknowingly overestimate the thermal performance of spandrel assemblies.
  • Similarly, the lack of an accurate and enforceable calculation methodology results in limited incentives for technological innovation.
  • As awareness of whole-building energy performance continues to grow and building energy codes and standards become more stringent, the industry will inevitably recognize the impact of spandrel assembly thermal performance on whole-building energy performance and will seek accurate values for their designs.
  • The overall goal of this program is to provide the industry with a repeatable and accurate procedure for estimating the thermal performance of spandrel panel systems.

Phase 1 was a collaboration between RDH Building Science (RDH), Simpson Gumpertz & Heger Inc. (SGH), and Morrison Hershfield (MH) with a larger team of industry champions including Glenn Bell and Tom Culp, and experts from the Department of Energy, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Written by: