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Building physics

Arup's creative use of advanced analytical tools, skills and techniques allow it to work with clients to design buildings that are comfortable to occupy, easy to use and light in their environmental impact.

Building physics is the application of the principles of physics to the built environment. Building physicists bring a fundamental understanding of physics to improving the design of building fabrics and surrounding spaces.

Less energy-hungry buildings

Building physics is a design discipline. In striving to make design for the built environment more sustainable Arup's teams start with assessment of the site itself, its climatic conditions and the optimum orientation for buildings to reduce or take advantage of solar gain.

In the case of the San Francisco Federal Building, climate research highlighted strong north-west winds, particularly during the hottest times of the day. As a result, wind-driven natural ventilation was integrated from the start and plays a great part in reducing more energy-hungry mechanisms for keeping building occupants comfortable. 

Jake Hacker presents the fundamental elements of building physics in an accessible way.

Occupant comfort is key

On a whole range of building projects, whether new build, adaptation or retrofit, Arup deploys specialists in environmental or building physics to look at occupant comfort issues, energy use, carbon emissions, and operational performance. The user of a building is at the centre of this process, their perception and experience is key to quantifying building performance.

In the case of The Eden Project in the UK, unusually, the intended occupants of the buildings were plants, which have a restricted band of tolerance for heat or cold, light and humidity. Using a range of analytical tools including modelling of moisture, airflow and temperature helped Arup to design unique artificial environments that keep the plants happy and thriving. 

Reduced risk solutions

Arup maintains close links with academics and leading research centres in order to remain at the cutting edge of building physics and develop services to benefit the design process. Most clients do not even realise that building physicists are part of their project. This added-value offering ensures that clients can have confidence in the solutions proposed for both new and existing buildings.

In practice, as in the innovative solutions for the Chinese National Aquatics Center (Water Cube), building physics allows Arup to deliver great building design with sustainable improvements in comfort and usability.

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Global contact

  • Peter Alspach
  • Global Building Physics Leader

Explore our work

The San Francisco Federal Building

Project: San Francisco Federal building

The design concept strove for reduced energy consumption, maximum use of natural daylight and ventilation.

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Time Equities building from the street, yellow taxi passing. Credit Roger Larson.

Project: Time Equities Inc. energy audit

Energy audit for a 1940s office building in New York.

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