Heat Transfer in Architecture: Radiation

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SWBAT test a model of a house to record how radiation energy helps architects build eco-friendly buildings.

Big Idea

How do architects design eco-friendly buildings that take advantage of the heat transfer from the sun's radiation? Students create an investigation as they explore radiation and its heat transferring potential.


5 minutes

This investigation is intended to be a part of my lesson Designing an Eco Friendly Building. My students research passive solar heat so they have important background information.

If you would like to use this as a stand alone investigation, I would suggest teaching the lesson Heat Transfer in Architecture, which introduces the concepts of convection, conduction, and radiation as they apply to architecture. 

Furthermore, this investigation can be conducted simultaneously with my two other heat transfer investigation lessons:Heat Transfer in Architecture: Conduction, and Heat Transfer in Architecture: Convection. The advantage of doing all three investigations together is there is no need to have multiple testing models. The disadvantage is the safety issue in the Heat Transfer: Convection Investigation, in which there is a hot plate or a Bunsen Burner. When I run all three at the same time, I devote my energy to the investigation with the largest safety risk. 

Create the Investigation

10 minutes

My instructional strategy is Designing an Investigation.  I begin by showing all the equipment to the students and begin my questions. "What do you think we should investigate?" Students begin to respond and I continue questioning them, easing them into the problem, "I want to find out if time has an effect on the temperature." I then ask, "What should we measure and how should we record it?" The class begins to understand that we will measure the temperature and the time. I ask, "Which is the dependent/independent variables? What are some constants or controls we should consider?"



I use the information the students determine to create the investigation. The first part looks like this: 

1. Problem:  I want to find out if time has an effect on the temperature.

2. Hypothesis: What do you think?       

3. Procedure: Steps to creating perfection --

  • Measure the temperature at 0 seconds.
  • Start the heat source.
  • Time every 15 seconds for 1 minute.

4. Variables

Independent variable: time

Dependent variable: temperature

Controls/Constants: time is the same for all investigations

I type the results of our conversations and hand each student a copy of the Heat Transfer Lab- Radiation.

Conduct The Investigation

10 minutes

Before we begin the test I ask the students, "Why is this model not a good example of what will happen in real life?" Groups of students talk together to form an answer. I number each person in the group and ask a random number to stand up and share an answer.  Student answers include, "It's not full size. You are using a lamp and not the sun. The windows are not glass." I ask, "How do you think this will impact the investigation? How can I use the data I collect?" Students respond with, "You can look for patterns or things that are the same." 

Students go to the model and begin the tests. They record the temperature and the time. I use a Team Responsibility strategy for collecting data. Groups of students assign each person a task. The tasks are Data Recorders, Timers, and Temperature Recorders. The Timer is responsible for calling out the time. The Temperature Recorder calls out the temperature. The others in the group, Data Recorders, are all responsible for writing down the data. When the experiment is over, the Data Recorders share the data with the Timer, and Temperature Recorder. 

Write a Conclusion

10 minutes

The conclusion question applies to the design of an eco-friendly home. The question I ask students to answer in the conclusion is, "How does radiation have an impact on the design of a house?" Before students write the conclusion, I ask, "Does anyone have  a sunny room in their house? How is the temperature different in that room that other rooms? Why?"   Students answer, "The sun gives it heat." I ask, "How did the architect design the house to take advantage of radiation?"  

Students then write their conclusions. I ask students to write a three to five sentence summary. They must use data from the investigation to support their conclusion.

I use a Write to Learn strategy as the students write their conclusions. My strategy includes asking a series of questions to groups. "Which science words should you use?  Why do you not want to record every temperature in your conclusion? How can we find a way to write the conclusion without recording everything?"  Students are required to complete an conclusion answering the question, "Why do architects take advantage of radiation as they design homes?" They must use data from the experiment in their answer of the conclusion question.