Sustainable earth-based vs. conventional construction systems in the Mediterranean climate: Experimental analysis of thermal performance
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The building envelope has high potential to reduce the energy consumption of buildings according to the International Energy Agency (IEA) because it is involved along all the building process: design, construction, use, and end-of-life. The present study compares the thermal behavior of seven different
building prototypes tested under Mediterranean climate: two of them were built with sustainable earth-based construction systems and the other five, with conventional brick construction systems. The tested earth-based construction systems consist of rammed earth walls and wooden green roofs, which have been adapted to contemporary requirements by reducing their thickness. In order to balance the thermal response, wooden insulation panels were placed in one of the earth prototypes. All building prototypes have the same inner dimensions and orientation, and they are fully monitored to register inner temperature and humidity, surface walls temperatures and temperatures inside walls. Furthermore, all building prototypes are equipped with a heat pump and an electricity meter to measure the electrical energy consumed to maintain a certain level of comfort. The experimentation was performed along a whole year by carrying out several experiments in free floating and controlled temperature conditions. This study aims at demonstrating that sustainable construction systems can behave similarly or even better than conventional ones under summer and winter conditions. Results show that thermal behavior is strongly penalized when rammed earth wall thickness is reduced. However, the addition of 6 cm of wooden insulation panels in the outer surface of the building prototype successfully improves the thermal response.