Vision, mission, and objectives of the program

Buildings consume almost 40% of all our energy and materials and therefore contribute to a large extent to the energy problem, to air pollution and to climate change. In addition, people spend 80 to 90% of their time indoors, and the rest of the time often in human-shaped outdoor (built) environments. Preservation of energy and limitation of the environmental impact while providing a healthy and comfortable indoor and outdoor environment are essential requirements for the built environment. The EU has formulated strict targets and wants to achieve an energy-neutral built environment in 2050. Research in the domain of building physics and building services is essential to achieve the necessary innovation for sustainability. Energy-neutral and climate-neutral buildings are only the beginning. A truly sustainable habitat has energy generation near the end user, combined with energy storage and smart control technologies. Designing and operating buildings and built environments that are sustainable, healthy and comfortable is an unprecedented challenge.

It is this quest that is at the basis of the research program Building Physics & Services (BPS). This can only be achieved by a holistic approach to be able to tackle the complexity of the problems at hand. To more clearly express this holistic research perspective, the name of the research program was changed from Physical Aspects of the Built Environment (PhBE), into Building Physics & Systems (BPS), and later to Building Physics & Services (BPS).

The common long-term vision within the BPS research program is articulated as follows:

“World-class excellent research in the different disciplines in Building Physics & Services to strongly contribute to a healthy, comfortable and sustainable indoor and outdoor built environment, taking into account economical, ecological and energetic constraints”.

In the academic research environment, focus is not only placed on building physics (experimental, theoretical and numerical modeling of physical aspects in the indoor and outdoor environment and the building envelope, such as heat, air and moisture transfer, wind, light and acoustics, simulation of behavior of buildings, systems, components and materials), but also on the design process related to sustainable buildings.  The combination of such expertise in the built environment with focus on energy, comfort and health aspects of the indoor and outdoor environment is unique.

The mission of the research program is to contribute to research in the built environment in the field of Building Physics & Building Services:

  • scientific: fundamental and applied research; design and testing of solutions in prototypes, models, simulation and systems in practice;
  • societal: focus on sustainability and comfort in a broad sense;
  • knowledge dissemination to building designers and practitioners;
  • information and communication technology: development of modern design tools;
  • synergy and interaction between education, research and practice.

A good example of the interaction and synergy between education, research and practice is the first year course Building Physics design, in which all chairs participate and present their discipline.  Another example is the master project Integral Design in which students of architecture, structural engineering, building physics and building services work together on a design task during  a semester and which is coordinated by BPS. Finally, the building acoustics chair of the unit BPS shares the acoustics laboratory with the spin-off company Level Acoustics. The collaboration of both groups leads to a cross-fertilization of academic research and education at one side and with the consultancy practice at the other side.

The group’s objective emerges from the vision and mission. The research within the program yields scientific results that contribute to the understanding and knowledge of physical behavior of buildings and environments and of Integral Building Design (processes). The research program also provides knowledge to the building industry and engineering consultancy firms.

During the last years, BPS has increasingly taken a leading role in energy, health and sustainability related programs, not only in the department of the Built Environment but also nationally and internationally. Examples are its role in the Eindhoven Energy Institute, where Jan Hensen is theme leader Built Environment, its role in the 4TU (4l Universities of Technology) Focus point ‘Bouw’ (Built Environment), where Wim Zeiler is theme leader Energy, and its role in the International Urban Physics Research Schools, where Bert Blocken is a main organizer.

Research areas within the program

BPS has explicitly chosen a holistic research approach, by establishing and maintaining research (and education) in six important research areas of BPS:

  1. Building Acoustics;
  2. Building Lighting;
  3. Building Materials;
  4. Building Performance;
  5. Building Physics (including Urban Physics and Building Physics of Monuments);
  6. Building Services (including Integral Design);

This holistic approach entails disciplinary research, within each research area, as well as interdisciplinary collaboration between each of these research areas. By means of these research areas, research achievements are also implemented in the BPS education, and hence in the training of future PhD students and other researchers.
The BPS research is concerned with the development of tools for the analysis, design and conservation of a high-quality indoor and outdoor environment, in which energy efficiency, health, comfort and sustainability are key research topics. The aim is to generate new knowledge and to integrate and develop design methods that lead to a sustainable, healthy, comfortable and productive indoor and outdoor environment.

An essential ingredient of the mission and vision of the BPS research program is to systematically strengthen each of the six research areas and increasing inter-research area collaboration. To this extent, excellent researchers have been attracted in recent years: Jos Brouwers as new Chair of Building Materials in 2009 and Maarten Hornikx as new Assistant Professor in Building Acoustics in 2012. In addition, Bert Blocken was promoted to full professor and Chair of Building Physics in 2011, the Chair of Building Performance was strengthened by attracting part-time full professor Helianthe Kort in 2011 and the Chair of Building Lighting by attracting part-time full professor Evert van Loenen in 2010.

The synergy between the chairs is essential to cover the interdisciplinary challenges that arise from the complexity of the built environment. It is a good strategy to strengthen the internal collaboration between the chairs, each with their own strong relation to industry and applied organizations and with other (inter)national universities as well. To clearly structure the research areas of the program, it was decided to refocus on the research areas. In 2008 a new mission/vision and strategy for the unit was defined. This new broad vision for collaboration between the chairs is presented in Fig. 1 and forms the basis for further strengthening of the unique character of the BPS research program. Important are the research in measuring and modeling complex physical processes, the developed tools for numerical simulation of the physical behavior of buildings, systems and components as well as the modeling of the conceptual design process and the developed Integral Design method. The modeling of (physical or design) processes, simulation tools and Integral Design method act as connectors and integrators for the BPS research program.

The research is organized as a network of collaborators within a common  BPS research program with the same strategic mission: Energy-efficient and sustainable achievement of a healthy and comfortable indoor and outdoor built environment. The interdisciplinary approach offers the best way to approach the complexity of sustainability within the built environment. Many roads lead to the energy efficient future; therefore the Eindhoven Energy Institute (EEI) is exploring a broad spectrum of technologies and brings together 27 research groups.  The BPS research program is one of these groups and it is leading in the field of the built environment. The analogy between the strategy of EEI and the strategy of BPS strengthens us in our vision: a holistic approach in research in building physics & services.

Scientific relevance and quality

Indications of the scientific relevance and quality of the BPS research program are the national and international awards granted to its members, the research projects and research funding acquired, the activities of these members in editorial boards and scientific and conference organization committees, the many activities as scientific experts and reviewers and the many projects that are executed for industry, local, regional and national governments. Examples of the latter type include projects for harbor authorities such as the port of Rotterdam, city governments such as those of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Arnhem, Nijmegen, Eindhoven, Utrecht, The Hague, etc, industrial partners such as large contractors (Heijmans), housing agencies (SPF beheer), etc.

At the moment, some highlights of the BPS research output are the strongly increased number of PhD students and successfully defended PhD theses, as well as the strongly increased number of peer-reviewed journal publications in leading journals in the fields, and the related citation scores. As a result the constituent groups are internationally known in different disciplines for a variety of subjects. As a result BPS members serve on the board of a growing number of international journals and are increasingly invited as ad hoc reviewers of papers and proposals and as member of international scientific committees.