When the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse opened at its present location in 1968, it was described as “a work of art for works of art.” Designed by internationally acclaimed architect I.M. Pei, the museum features works of American artists from the 18th century to the present. Everson’s noteworthy ceramic collection includes works from around the world, from ancient Chinese burial objects to challenging, new works by contemporary ceramists.

About four years ago, the building committee enlisted local architecture firm Bell & Spina, P.C. Architects - Planners to work on the museum’s roof and skylights. “Condensation would form on interior surfaces due to seasonal changes in indoor humidity and outside temperature, so we began to address these conditions,” said Facility Manager Bill Waelder.

After preliminary research, the firm concluded that a dynamic analysis of the thermal movement was needed. “Unfortunately, the limited resources of an organization like ours did not allow funding for a study of this nature,” said Waelder.

After hearing about the Space Alliance Technology Outreach Program (SATOP) from the Greater Syracuse Chamber of Commerce, Bell & Spina submitted a Request for Technical Assistance (RTA) for this analysis.

After determining the technical challenge the museum faced, SATOP-New York Director Beth Bornick partnered the organization with Dr. Peter Plumley, Director of the Outreach Center at Syracuse University’s College of Engineering and Computer Science, a Silver Alliance Partner. Plumley then recruited Associate Professor Jensen Zhang, Director of the Energy and Indoor Environmental Systems Program at the university.

According to Zhang, the complexity of the heat, air and moisture transport in the building shell, the variation of construction details, and variation of the outdoor weather presented a challenge in estimating when and where the moisture condensation might occur.

“We needed to find out what indoor humidity could be maintained without causing condensation on interior surfaces under various outdoor conditions,” said Zhang. “The next question was how the building shell assembly might be modified to gain better control of the indoor humidity to prevent condensation.”

According to Zhang, it was necessary to analyze the performance of the building shell under various outdoor and indoor environmental conditions, as well as the inter-zonal air and water vapor transport in the building. The main objective was to determine the maximum allowable relative humidity below which no condensation would occur on the interior surface and within the shell.

Using a complex hydrothermal performance simulation model, Zhang created a report explaining how to set the indoor humidity according to the outdoor temperature. Additionally, he suggested that a vapor barrier be added to avoid the condensation in cold winter conditions.

“SATOP was highly efficient in terms of coordination and facilitation,” said Waelder. “The study produced several significant conclusions that Bell & Spina can now use as criteria for new designs. Additionally, it will be a valuable reference during any future repairs or modifications. From a financial standpoint, this form of assistance is extremely helpful to a nonprofit.”

Plumley feels that projects like this are very beneficial. “Students need to interact with businesses, consulting firms and the service industry, which is achieved by working with SATOP,” he said. “Sometimes our students become too involved in the world of simulations. Aside from strengthening community connections, these projects provide real world experience.”

SATOP’s Bornick noted, “The Energy and Indoor Environmental Systems Program at SU was a perfect match for the Everson Museum of Art. Often, small businesses and non-profits are not aware of how accessible these resources can be, and SATOP helps make the connection.”