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Lesson 2: The Envelope Solution: A Partial Solution


National Science Standards
Learning Objectives
Background Information, Vocabulary and Materials
Lesson Procedures
Handouts and Worksheets
Testing Concept and Test Items

1x, 50 minute periods

National Science Standards

Science as Inquiry: Content Standard A:
All students should develop:

  • Abilities to do scientific inquiry
  • Formulate and revise scientific explanations and models using logic and evidence
  • Recognize and analyze alternative explanations and models

Physical Science: Content Standard B:
All students should develop an understanding of:

  • Conservation of energy and increase in disorder
  • Interactions of energy and matter

Life Science: Content Strand C:
All students should develop an understanding of:

  • Matter, energy, and organization in living systems

Earth and Space Science: Content Strand D:
All students should develop an understanding of:

  • Energy in the earth system

Learning Objectives

Each student will:

  1. Identify and provide examples of conduction, convection, and radiation.
  2. Give a novel example of a building envelope.
  3. Explain how heat transfer mechanisms influence annual home energy costs.

Background Information, Vocabulary and Materials

Background Information

In Lesson 1, we used a survivor situation to construct a primitive shelter. What we were trying to deal with (beyond protection from storms and animals) was "the problem” of heat and moisture transfer into and out of our structure. In Lesson 2 we define a partial solution to the problem- the structure itself. We will call this the building envelope. The building envelope includes a building’s floor, walls, doors, windows, ceiling and roof.

Heat is either lost or gained through the building envelope via three heat transfer mechanisms: Conduction, Convection and Radiation. Also, since there are holes, or air passageways in our buildings (cracks around windows, doors, outlets etc.), we also lose inside air and gain outside air. This unplanned or undesired air movement is known as infiltration. Air movement that is planned (e.g. to bring in outside air to replace “stale” air) is called ventilation.

Later, in Lesson 4, we'll look at the HVAC system which will further improve the comfort and productivity of our building.

See the Box Demonstration note below as optional/additional means of discussing these concepts.

In this lesson we will start to use the EnergyGauge USA® Student Edition software to help show base and improved efficiency homes. Load the software on your computer and open the Base Home for your climate. Click on the tabs at the bottom of the screen to see the individual component entries. Note that for the base home, the insulation levels for the ceiling, walls, windows and floor are very low. Select Calculate|Annual Simulation from the main menu options at the top of the screen to “run” a simulation and see calculated estimates of heating, cooling, hot water and total annual energy use for the house. For more information on using the software, review the cover booklet of the software’s CD case.



  • EnergyGauge USA® Student Edition software
  • [Optional: Box, doll, heat lamp, spray bottle with water, ice and small fan for Box Demonstration]

Lesson Procedures

Presenting the Information

This lesson corresponds to Advance Organizer slide number two.

[Optional Box Demonstration: hold up a doll and show how he or she is affected by the sun (hold up heat lamp to doll), rain and hail (spray doll with water and then throw ice at it from above) and cold (use the fan to blow air over a bowl of ice toward the doll etc…). Then put doll in box and expose box to same elements. Correlate back to shipwreck huts and following building envelope discussion.]

Explain the relationship between the box example above if you used it, the “shipwreck shelters” and buildings in general to explain the concept of the building envelope. Start by asking students what might be included in a building envelope, eventually creating a list that includes floors, walls, doors, windows, ceilings and roofs.

Then note that a lot of what you were trying to do in constructing the shelters was to deal with heat gain or loss through the building envelope by heat transfer (conduction, radiation, and convection) and infiltration.

Ask students what their understanding of conduction, radiation, convection and infiltration is, one at a time, using real world examples. How does the shelter or a building in general reduce heat transfer?

Now briefly introduce heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, that they can be thought of as dealing with “what’s left” to make an envelope comfortable and productive by removing excess heat from or adding heat to our buildings as required, and also adding or removing excess moisture (we’ll look at HVAC systems in more depth later).

Student Practice/Activity

Introduce students to the EnergyGauge USA software, explaining that it will be used again as we learn about efficiency improvements to help give an idea of real energy costs and savings. Run EnergyGauge using the no insulation base house (use the appropriate home for your region).

After calculating the estimated annual energy costs with the software, compare the costs with typical use in your area (e.g. use your power bills to get an annual estimate). Discuss that the calculated costs are very high because there is very little in the building to reduce heat transfer (via conduction, convection and radiation).


As a homework assignment, have each student write down an example of each of the three heat transfer mechanisms (e.g. from around their home, a car, etc.). Discuss in class the beginning of next day and then [optional] hand in to be graded.

Handouts and Worksheets

There are no handouts or worksheets needed for this lesson.

Criterion-Referenced Test

This material is part of the final test. See Testing Blueprint in Teacher's Guide for details.


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