Date of Award

Spring 4-13-2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Moncef Krarti

Second Advisor

Michael Brandemuehl

Third Advisor

Harihar Rajaram

Fourth Advisor

Marcus Bianchi

Fifth Advisor

Michael Deru


Heat transfer from building foundations varies significantly in all three spatial dimensions and has important dynamic effects at all timescales, from one hour to several years. With the additional consideration of moisture transport, ground freezing, evapotranspiration, and other physical phenomena, the estimation of foundation heat transfer becomes increasingly sophisticated and computationally intensive to the point where accuracy must be compromised for reasonable computation time. The tools currently available to calculate foundation heat transfer are often either too limited in their capabilities to draw meaningful conclusions or too sophisticated to use in common practices.

This work presents Kiva, a new foundation heat transfer computational framework. Kiva provides a flexible environment for testing different numerical schemes, initialization methods, spatial and temporal discretizations, and geometric approximations. Comparisons within this framework provide insight into the balance of computation speed and accuracy relative to highly detailed reference solutions.

The accuracy and computational performance of six finite difference numerical schemes are verified against established IEA BESTEST test cases for slab-on-grade heat conduction. Of the schemes tested, the Alternating Direction Implicit (ADI) scheme demonstrates the best balance between accuracy, performance, and numerical stability.

Kiva features four approaches of initializing soil temperatures for an annual simulation. A new accelerated initialization approach is shown to significantly reduce the required years of presimulation.

Methods of approximating three-dimensional heat transfer within a representative two-dimensional context further improve computational performance. A new approximation called the boundary layer adjustment method is shown to improve accuracy over other established methods with a negligible increase in computation time. This method accounts for the reduced heat transfer from concave foundation shapes, which has not been adequately addressed to date. Within the Kiva framework, three-dimensional heat transfer that can require several days to simulate is approximated in two-dimensions in a matter of seconds while maintaining a mean absolute deviation within 3%.