Building Engineering Design is often looked upon as a form of Applied Engineering whereby a design is developed based on the application of industry established codes, standards and systems to suit the particular requirements of a building,” explains Simon Marsden, Umow Lai Senior Associate and Building Physics Leader, “but when a design needs to push outside such established techniques, more detailed analytics are required, and this is where Building Physics shines”.

“Umow Lai continues to develop evidence based design techniques; hence our Building Physics goes beyond the norms of Applied Building Engineering, focusing on Advanced Building Dynamics and Analysis Techniques. It is used to assess and refine the dynamics or interaction of people, air, light, sound, structure and thermal aspects within and around buildings.”

For these areas of dynamics, typical analysis examples include:

  • People: Agent based modelling for evacuation, throughput, comfort and safety;
  • Light: Artificial light rendering, day lighting and glare studies for visual comfort or safety;
  • Air: Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) for micro climate analysis, air quality and composition assessment, wind analysis and thermal interactions;
  • Thermal: Solar, facade and envelope analysis in conjunction with passive and active solutions; used for energy analysis or occupant comfort and safety;
  • Sound: Aeroacoustics and vibration modelling; and
  • Structural: Fluid/Structure interaction and wind engineering.


Some of the current projects where we are utilising Building Physics are:

  • Glare study and impact assessment for life savers in an aquatics centre with internal glazing;
  • Facade analysis to consider reflectivity studies and thermal performance impacts for a new office building with a large east-facing facade that overlooks a significant public plaza area;
  • Air recirculation impacts for a vertically stacked condenser plant to the core of a new large residential high-rise building;
  • Value engineering and performance-based design for car park ventilation systems is being applied to several projects;
  • Wind impact study for people comfort and safety to the public realm as part of an urban renewal project; and
  • Passive and active cooling options analysis for a large warehouse facility to enhance the internal environment for employees without having to use air conditioning.

Building Physics expands and enhances our already strong analysis capabilities in Sustainability and Fire Engineering studies. We find there is much interest in Building Physics analysis where our clients are looking to improve building economies, improve safety to occupants and reduce risk.

Simon and his colleagues, including Associate and Sustainability Consultant Adriaan Window, have recently utilised Building Physics solutions on projects ranging from the soon-to-be constructed Waltzing Matilda Centre in Winton, University of Southern Queensland’s Edgy Building, Virgin Baggage Handling Upgrade at Brisbane Airport and the Jewel Car Park on the Gold Coast. Aspects of Building Physics have also been integral to numerous projects designed across Umow Lai’s Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne offices.

“We recognise that the building industry is an ever-evolving one, and more and more often we are facing engineering challenges that can be best solved through Building Physics analysis,” Simon notes. “What has been interesting in recent years throughout the BIM evolution is our continued desire to incorporate building physics analysis into our common data digital engineering environment. There has been much progress in this regard and we continue to investigate new services and programs that can enhance our building physics analysis offer to our clients”

Note: Industry organisation AIRAH, who recently formed a Building Physics Special Technical Group, is presenting a Building Physics Workshop in Brisbane on Thursday 15 June 2017. Simon Marsden and his colleagues will be in attendance.