Side-By-Side Thermal Tests of Modular Offices: A Validation Study of the STEM Method

R. Judkoff, J. Balcomb, C. Hancock, G. Barker, K. Subbarao

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


Two modular office units were tested at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to establish each unit's thermal performance. The two units were nearly identical in appearance, but one was built with structural insulating panels (SIP), and the other was built using standard frame construction. The primary objective of these tests was to compare the thermal performance of buildings usingSIP and standard frame construction. Both units were tested under carefully controlled steady-state conditions in the NREL large-scale environmental enclosure. They were then moved outdoors where Short-Term Energy Monitoring (STEM) tests were performed, and long-term heating and cooling energy use was measured. A secondary objective was to evaluate the accuracy of the NREL STEM method bycomparing the results of outdoor STEM tests to steady-state indoor test results. STEM is a method developed by NREL to determine key thermal parameters of a building in-situ, based on a 3-day test sequence. The indoor test facility also provided the opportunity to investigate the phenomenon of infiltration heat recovery in a real building, under carefully controlled conditions, to evaluate thestability of the 'concentration decay' method of tracer gas-based infiltration monitoring, and to compare the blower-door method with the tracer-gas technique in determining infiltration.This project was a cooperative effort with the Structural Insulated Panel Association, the Modular Building Institute, All-American Modular (AAM, the manufacturer of the units), and GE Capitol (the owner of theunits). Richard Harmon, the president of AAM, requested NREL's assistance in exploring the feasibility of converting his manufacturing process to SIP construction. His engineering staff needed to assess which comfort and energy benefits might be associated with this new technology. AAM manufactured the two units, and NREL tested the modules for 8 months.;
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages39
StatePublished - 2000

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-550-23940


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