Thermal Lab

UTSOA Thermal Lab

how it works


The Thermal Lab is the University of Texas at Austin's new experimental laboratory for conducting research on innovative façade design, glazing, shading, window treatments, and other energy-efficient building technologies.  It is located on the south side of the West Mall Building within the UT School of Architecture complex. 

Building energy demands are closely related to façade design, and with innovative combinations of technology and design, buildings can actually become energy-positive, generating more energy than they consume.  Developing these sustainable design concepts will have a tremendous impact on reducing the use of fossil fuels and the subsequent emission of greenhouse gases.

Architecture is about more than just structural support and comfort; it is also about aspects such as scale, proportion, material, texture, and color.  The most "efficient" building, in terms of energy use, might be the one with no openings, however, without any daylight or views outside, most users would consider such a building as far from "optimal."  Although transparent elements of the building envelope are primary conduits for thermal exchange, the envelope as a whole, provides opportunity enhance the relationship between building occupants and nature through views, air, and light.

The Thermal Lab was designed to conduct performance experiments on various materials and designs in an effort to test the efficiency of many of the modern technologies that can contribute to energy-producing systems for the building envelope.  For a detailed student report on the Thermal Lab and examples of research that may be conducted there, see the following reports:

Students and faculty interested in using the Thermal Lab to conduct research can download the Usage Protocol Guidelines, as well as view the research reservation schedule.


Technical Information


University of Texas at Austin

4th Floor, South Side of West Mall Building

Geographic Coordinates:

Long: 97° 44' 28"

Lat: 30° 17' 7"

Elevation: Approx. 183 m (final elevation includes lab located 6 m above street level)

Interior Dimensions:

Width 3.62 m (east/west dimension)

Depth 3.98 m (north/south dimension)

Height 2.82 m (top/bottom dimension)

South Wall Façade Insert Dimensions:

Width 3.58 m

Height 2.64 m

Solar Orientation:

11° East of Solar South

Insulated Wall and Floor Construction:

Tested Average Wall Conduction U-value: 0.173 W/m2 K

Walls (Interior to Exterior)

3.18 cm drywall

11.0 cm Fiberglass Reinforced Polyisocyanurate

10.2 cm Structurally Insulated Panel

1.27 cm Raised architectural Hardiboard cement panels

Floor(Interior to Exterior)

0.32 cm Carpet

3.81 cm Plywood

11.0 cm Fiberglass Reinforced Polyisocyanurate

10.2 cm Structurally Insulated Panel

Current Façade Type:

Glazing: Viracon, Low-E (VE 1-2M) Insulating Glass with Argon Gas

Mullion: Walters and Wolf, Aluminum Curtain wall with thermal break

Mechanical System:

Single phase chilled water-glycol mix loop

1.5 ton exterior chiller

Interior 1000 CFM fan coil unit

Supply plenum or ducted system

North wall return plenum

Data Acquisition:

Located on interior North wall

Instrunet data acquisition interface

Davis Weather Station

Eppley Lab PSP Solar Sensor with Shade Ring: Horizontal Diffuse Solar Radiation

Eppley Lab PSP Solar Sensor: Total Global Horizontal Solar radiation

Thermistor Temperature Sensors

Fluid flow sensor for chilled water-glycol mix loop

Two channel power monitor





We appreciate the support of the following companies who have contributed to the Thermal Lab's construction:

Facade System:

Walters & Wolf

Walter & Wolf Logo




Facade System Installation:

Floyd's Glass Co. and Body Works

Floyds Logo





Wade Architectural Systems

Floyds Logo





Media Coverage




Team Members


Atila Novoselac

Uli Dangel

Matt Fajkus

Steve Bourne

Jeffrey McCord

James Lo

For more information, please email