Campus Units

Mechanical Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering

Document Type


Publication Version

Submitted Manuscript

Publication Date


Journal or Book Title

Energy and Buildings





First Page


Last Page





Continuously increasing energy standards have driven the need for increasing the efficiency of buildings. Most enhancements to building efficiency have been a result of changes to the heating/cooling systems, improvements in construction materials, or building design code improvements. These approaches neglect the way in which air is dispersed into individual rooms or in a building – i.e., the ducting system. This opens up the possibility of significant energy savings by making ductwork systems lighter and better insulating while ensuring cost effectiveness.

The current study explores this idea by comparing the performance of conventional ductwork with recent advancements in fabric-based ductwork. We focus on the transient behavior of an on/off control system, as well as the steady state behavior of the two ductwork systems. Transient, fully three dimensional validated computational (CFD) simulations are performed to determine flow patterns and thermal evolution in rooms containing either conventional or fabric ductwork. This analysis is used to construct metrics on efficiency. A number of different flow rates are examined to determine the performance over a range of operating conditions. Transient finite volume simulations consisted of over 13 million degrees of freedom for over 10,000 time steps. The simulations utilized HPC (High Performance Computing) for the large scale analysis.

The results conclusively show that fabric ducting systems are superior to the conventional systems in terms of efficiency. Observations from the data show that fabric ducting systems heat the room faster, more uniformly, and more efficiently. The increase in performance demonstrates the potential benefits of moving away from conventional systems to fabric systems for the construction of green buildings: particularly in conjunction with adaptive control systems.


This is a manuscript of an article published as Fontanini, Anthony, Michael G. Olsen, and Baskar Ganapathysubramanian. "Thermal comparison between ceiling diffusers and fabric ductwork diffusers for green buildings." Energy and Buildings 43, no. 11 (2011): 2973-2987. DOI:10.1016/j.enbuild.2011.07.005. Posted with permission.

Copyright Owner

Elsevier B.V.



File Format


Published Version