Volume 6, Issue 4 (April 2009)
Sensitivity of Hygrothermal Analysis to Uncertainty in Rain Data
This paper describes a small study carried out using a hygrothermal simulation tool to investigate the sensitivity of wall performance results to uncertainty in the amount of rain impinging on the wall. Design standards for hygrothermal analysis of proposed designs include methods for selecting appropriate moisture reference years and specify the amount of water that is assumed to intrude into the wall. Weather data used as input for modeling purposes is generally assumed to be reliable, but recent work has shown that there may be considerable uncertainty in the rainfall data. A small study was carried out to investigate the effect of uncertainty of rainfall data on the hygrothermal performance of a typical residential building envelope. Most hygrothermal models require fully populated hourly datasets, which include rain data. Many locations, however, do not have this kind of data although many have qualitative rain data. Ten locations with rain gage data were chosen as typical of most regions of Canada, except for the far north. Different methods in estimating rainfall were considered as well as variations on the amount of rain data were subsequently made. Several performance criteria, including total moisture content and a mold index, were compared. Although the choice of which method for deriving quantities of water from qualitative codes does cause differences in the hygrothermal response and consequently the performance criteria, these differences appear to be manageable. It is suggested that practitioners should show their awareness of the probable level of uncertainty by stating error bands for their predictions of performance. It should be emphasized that the sources of uncertainty dealt with in this small study are not the only ones, but that they do focus on water entry through leakage paths. The natures of the leakage paths likely introduce greater uncertainty, and should also be borne in mind.