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La Vereda passive solar condominiums, Santa Fe NM ca 1983 (C) Daniel Friedman, Steven Bliss, Solar Age Thermal Mass Design for Upper Building Floors

  • THERMAL MASS in UPSTAIRS - CONTENTS: What is the most cost effective way to place thermal mass on the second floor of a new building? How does placing thermal mass on upper floors in buildings affect energy efficiency and heating or cooling costs? Use of thermal mass on upper floors in passive solar homes and other energy efficient buildings. Solar Age Magazine Articles on Renewable Energy, Energy Savings, Construction Practices
  • POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about thermal mass on the upper floor of a building
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Thermal mass placement on upper building floors:

Tthis article discusses placement of thermal mass in the upper floors buildings for both heating and cooling as well as for insulation.



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Photo at page top (the La Vereda passive solar condominiums, Santa Fe NM) and accompanying text are reprinted/adapted/excerpted with permission from Solar Age Magazine - editor Steven Bliss.

Readers should also see THERMAL MASS in BUILDINGS. Contact us to suggest text changes and additions and, if you wish, to receive online listing and credit for that contribution.

How to Place Thermal Mass on Upper Floors in buildings

The link to the original Q&A article in PDF form immediately below is followed by an expanded/updated online version of this article.

The question-and-answer article about Thermal Mass Upstairs , quotes-from, updates, and comments an original article from Solar Age Magazine and written by Steven Bliss.

What is the Most Cost Effective Way to Place Thermal Mass in Second Story New Construction?

Question:

What is the most cost-effective way of placing thermal mass in second story new home construction? The McAdams article (Solar Age, 9/93) reported that an upper-story concrete slab with tile costs only $1.50 per square foot more than plywood and carpeting (1980's prices).

Do these floor construction costs include the structural supporting members, concrete forms, concrete delivery, slab preparation, etc?

Also, how does the cost of thermal mass walls compare to the cost of thermal mass floors for upper story construction? -- J.A. Horton, Oak Ridge, TN

Answer:

Wootie McAdams reported in the original Solar Age Q&A on thermal mass for upper building floors that the $1.50 per square foot cost compared the concrete floor slab and locally made concrete tiles to the commercial carpeting and plywood underlayment that would have been used otherwise. Relatively cheap tiles at $2.50 per square foot (1980's prices) versus commercial carpeting at $3.33 per square foot made those economics work.

The minor changes needed in the deck and beam floor due to the added load of the concrete were also considered in the calculation.

Comparison of Thermal Mass Walls to Thermal Mass Floors

As for thermal mass building walls compared with thermal mass floors on upper building levels, the economics depend on what finishes are chosen, and on whether the thermal mass wall is on the building exterior where it needs to be insulated.

Design and marketing considerations may override simple economics. For example, direct gain mass floors should not be carpeted or covered with furniture as the clients may intend.

The page top photograph shows the La Vereda passive solar condominiums developed in the 1980's by Wayne and Susan Nichols in Santa Fe, New Mexico. These passive solar condos use upper-story concrete slabs and tile for thermal mass and consumer appeal.

Diminishing Returns of Thermal Mass

Beyond some point, though, adding more thermal mass won't help performance. Once you put in enough thermal mass to prevent solar overheating, piling a few tons of brick in the living room won't reduce heating bills any further. It can even be a liability if night time thermostat temperature setbacks are planned.

So it becomes the designer's job to decide on the right amount of thermal mass for a building.

Here we include solar energy, solar heating, solar hot water, and related building energy efficiency improvement articles reprinted/adapted/excerpted with permission from Solar Age Magazine - editor Steven Bliss.

Readers should also see the passive solar design articles organized at SOLAR ENERGY SYSTEMS.

Thermal Properties & Thermal Mass Articles

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