This exhibit was on display in the UMass Design Building Gallery from 10/8/2017 to 10/28/2017.


As engineers, scientists and designers we are often faced with data that is not immediately comprehensible in its raw form, consisting solely of numeric values and ranges. Either the volume of such data is too large to lend itself to easy evaluation or it is too limited to understand it in its context.

As a remedy, we can use color to visualize such data. Using False Color images that map entire color palettes relative to the spread of given data points, we are able to see through walls, evaluate temperatures and examine gradations of stress and strain deep inside a structural member. This mapping of quantifiable characteristics onto the surfaces and structures that make up the built environment then leads to the visual symphony of color presented here.

False Color showcases various research and teaching projects from faculty and students in Building and Construction Technology as well as the Building Systems graduate concentration in Environmental Conservation.

All of the exhibit pieces are shown below with their descriptions. Click on the images to view them full-screen or as a gallery.

The BCT program thanks Trimble Inc. for supporting this exhibit through the Trimble Technology Lab partnership, as well as Autodesk for their educational software. In-house, we are very grateful to Peter Chrzanowski and Sharon Mehrman for their help in fabricating and hanging many of the exhibition pieces.

Modeling of the Design Building

by L. Carl Fiocchi, Alexander Okscin

Poster, 2017

Creating a dimensionally accurate and detailed 3D Model of a large building in digital software is an enormous amount of work, but the time frame is being reduced thanks to hardware and software that has been made available to us at UMass Amherst thanks to the generosity of Trimble.

The False Color image on the board is the result of a 3D made with Trimble’s TX9, a 3D Laser Scanner. The data recorded by the scanner is imported and manipulated by Trimble’s Realworks software. Millions of datapoints are stitched together with accuracies to the millimeter. The modeling of the Design Building is just beginning, and although far superior to past technologies still requires time. The image on the right is a view of the Design Building Atrium, but far from a digital photograph the information encoded in each data point is not a pixel, but rather a collection of distances, dimensions, arcs, and volumes that when parsed by the software results in the 3D construct.

The colors in the False Color image are a result of the reflectivity of the materials enabling the operator to better discern geometry as images are stitched together.

UMass Amherst Fine Arts Center Daylighting & Insolation Study

by L. Carl Fiocchi

Poster, 2017

Evaluations of Brutalist buildings’ energy related performances have been restricted to anecdotal observations with particular focus on the building type’s poor thermal performance, a result of the preferred construction method, i.e. monolithic reinforced concrete used as structure, interior finish and exterior finish. A valid criticism, but one that served to dismiss discussion that the possibility of other positive design strategies limiting energy consumption, while simultaneously maintaining occupant comfort, existed in these buildings.

The False Color images on the board expose three of Kevin Roche’s strategies for decreasing building loads (perhaps a subject of limited interest in the 1960s, but no longer the case) and improving occupant comfort.

The upper two False Color images depict the effectiveness of his daylighting strategies evidenced by the display of more than adequate Daylight Factor levels in the Bridge’s Studio Spaces as afforded by the north facing light monitors and in the offices (all elevations) as afforded by a combination of sawtooth facade geometry, reflective quality of the cement dictated in the concrete mix, and glazing aperture sizes.

The lower two False Color images indicate the degree of shading, which translates into cooling load reductions as performed on the 3200 seat Auditorium Space by the 646 foot long Bridge elevated and supported 40 feet above grade by the twelve massive dihedral pilotis. The emphasis of the False Color serves the Energy Models versatility to remove or add geometry at will very well.

Reference: Fiocchi, L.C. “A Period Examination through Contemporary Energy Analysis of Kevin Roche’s Fine Arts Center at University of  Massachusetts-Amherst”

Gropius House and Shading

by L. Carl Fiocchi

Poster, 2017

Walter Gropius’ personal residence in Lincoln, Massachusetts constructed in 1936 is a symphony of passive shading strategies, e.g. definitively specified conifer and deciduous trees, operable shading devices on the west, and brise soleils.

The two False Color images at the top left illustrates in gridded color and metrics (Btu/sf) the degree of energy that is imparted to the two principle public spaces in the residence, the Living Room and Dining Room. The study indicates the heating load protection and improved occupant comfort afforded by Gropius’ landscape plantings and the southern brise soleil during summer months – so necessary in this pre air conditioned time. It is especially powerful when contrasted with the False Color image at the top right where the converse is true that solar gains are welcomed in these spaces during the winter months reducing the requirement of mechanical heating , of special interest to the frugal Gropius having endured the hardships of World War I.

The central False Color image is a Cumulative Shading Study indicating the varying intensity of shading the building receives over a period of time (in this case a summer). Somewhat counterintuitive the more intense the red the more intense the shading in that location. Nevertheless, it is very informative when a building’s shading strategies are investigated.

Reference: Fiocchi, L.C. “Sustaining Modernity: An Analysis of a Modern Masterpiece, the Gropius House”

Award: Autodesk Excellence in Analysis Award (2013)

Geometry Investigation of Paul Rudolf’s Milam House

by L. Carl Fiocchi

Poster, 2017

The Milam Residence, located in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, was designed by Paul Rudolph in 1962. The last of a series of Florida residences built by Rudolph, this modernist structure contains stylistic elements of the Sarasota School while also hinting at the more monolithic, monumentalist or brutalist style later developed by Rudolph.

The unusual geometric constructs framing extensive glass on the eastern façade have been frequently referenced and discussed in the literature as to their probable design intent of aesthetics and possible shading strategies.

Contemporary investigations using state of the art energy analysis software provided a much deeper understanding of Rudolf’s design and intent. These studies, accompanied with appropriate metrics remove the decades of conjecture and reinvigorate the incorporation of similar strategies into today’s buildings.

The False Color images on the board contrast the degree of solar protection during Summer Solstice versus the degree of solar exposure during Winter Solstice with the geometry in place, as Rudolf designed, and then with the geometry removed. Metrics (W/m2) accompany the images quantifying the reduced cooling and heating loads and offer definitive proof, but the False Color images provide a powerful underscore.

Reference: Shahadat, M., Fiocchi, L.C., Hoque, S. “Climate Responsive Design and the Milam Residence”

Stress Contours

by Peggi L. Clouston

LVL and paper, 2017

Holes that are drilled to allow for passage of wires, conduits, cables or pipes are an inevitable part of wood beam construction. Building codes provide guidelines for safe placement and size of these holes but they offer little guidance on how to engineer holes that have already been drilled in critically stressed areas. Often these holes are drilled near supports in regions of high shear stress and small bending moment. Holes are known to disturb the flow of stress in beams and can lead to high stress concentrations and premature beam failure, particularly in highly orthotropic materials such as laminated veneer lumber.

A finite element analysis, coupled with the tensor polynomial (Tsai-Wu) strength theory, provides insight into the complex stress distribution and predicts failure load and mechanism around the holes. The False Color stress contours indicate that holes disturb the flow of normal and shear stresses in such a way as to develop significant tensile stresses perpendicular to the grain at specific locations around the hole periphery. The transverse tensile stresses lead to relatively consistent failure loads for the LVL due to the lack of cross plies.

Reference: Clouston PL, Meidani M. 2014. “Experimental and numerical evaluation of circular holes on shear strength of structural composite lumber,” World Conference on Timber Engineering. Quebec City, August 10-14 pp. 1-7. (paper and presentation)

Design Building and House Infrared Models

by Alexander C. Schreyer, Ben Weil

Laminated paper, 2008 and 2017

We interact with buildings in three dimensions, but in the past we have always had to reduce them to two dimensions to design and plan. Heat flow is also a three-dimensional phenomenon, but even thermography using False Color, can only “see” the heat radiating from two-dimensional surfaces. Now, with 3D modeling software we can align any surface with its 3D representation. The model truly comes alive, when the digital world becomes three-dimensional in the physical world.

The house represented is a typical single-family residence. Note the hot spots around the foundation and chimney. Also note the warm triangle vents in the gable end walls near the roof peak. Warm air from the house is leaking into the small attic space and is vented to the outdoors.

The Design Building’s heat loss characteristic is represented in this image, but False Color fools the eye. We know that windows are much more conductive than the well-insulated walls of the Design Building. The glass with special low-e coatings and the aluminum panels of the facade both have very low emissivity, so rather than showing the heat leaking from the building, the thermograph shows the reflected heat of nearby objects or the cold dark emptiness of the night sky. Can you find the real heat loss sites?

Reference: Schreyer, AC, Hoque, S. 2008. “Interactive Three-Dimensional Visualization of Building Envelope Systems Using Infrared Thermography and SketchUp”, Inframation, Las Vegas, NV

WYSIWYH (What You See is Where You’re Hot)

by Ben Weil, Alexander C. Schreyer, Ho-Sung Kim

Raspberry Pi and FLIR module, 2017

An interactive exploration of thermography.

Thermogrpahic cameras have sensors that respond to wavelengths in the infrared portion of the spectrum. The images your see are False Color representations of radiated heat energy from the surfaces in the image. The earliest thermographic cameras could only make black and white projections onto photographic paper. They cost tens of thousands of dollars and required a small box truck to move them. Due to the large expense, bulky equipment, and technical expertise required, thermography was not a practical diagnostic technique for understanding building heat loss, gain, and building faults. Starting in the late 1990s, infrared spectrum cameras came down in price and size, delivered images through small on-board screens and were able to record data to on-board microchips. Instead of black and white, IR images gained a broad palette of False Colors to help thermographers better identify the differences in heat signatures of various phenomena from missing insulation, to overloaded electrical circuits, to refrigerant leaks. Thermography is now used in law enforcement, fire fighting, and in the early detection of breast cancer. Only in the past few years have thermographic cameras become affordable for the the general public.

As you observe your own thermographic image, see where you emit the most heat. Breathe in and out through your nose. Observe where your nose heats up. If you are wearing glasses, are they cold? What about your hair? Place your hand on your heart and keep it there for half a minute. Now remove it. Can you see the ghost image of your hand on your shirt?


by Niloufar Khoshbakht

Wood, acrylic, polarized foil, 2017

Photoelasticity is an experimental technique whereby stress distribution in a material is depicted by colorful light fringes when placed under polarized light. This False Color enables engineers to visualize and predict where high concentrations of stress might lead to failure in a structure, especially useful in cases when mathematical methods are challenging.

This interactive installation demonstrates how complex stresses develop when a dowel connection is progressively loaded in compression. The setup relates to a BCT research project that employs both experimental and numerical methods to investigate how and where failure occurs in Laminated veneer bamboo (LVB) dowel connections. The False Color in the polymer support indicates that high stress occurs at the precise location off-center of the bolt contact region where the shear and tensile stresses are highest. This result agrees with the Finite Element model results shown below.

Reference: Khoshbakht N, Clouston PL, Schreyer AC, Arwade SR. 2017. “Computational Modeling of Laminated Veneer Bamboo Dowel Connections.” ASCE – Journal of Materials in Civil Engineering. In press.

Gridshell Stress

by Peggi Clouston and Sharon Mehrman

Wood, 2017

In the Spring and Summer of 2016, a massive (30ft x 30ft) timber grid shell adorned the Plaza of the UMass Fine Arts Center. The grid shell was a public art exhibit intended to demonstrate the creative use of the local wood species White Ash. Constructed by an interdisciplinary mix of students and faculty, the shell also demonstrated UMass ingenuity and collaborative spirit. This smaller shell is the third prototype of that larger envisioned structure. The LED lights provide False Color to represent the intensity of the internal stresses that occur in the shell as a result of bending the laths into place.

The highest bending stress is colored in deep pink. It occurs over only a short length of the laths located above the entrances. Otherwise, the shell experiences surprisingly low stress.


Painted Data

by Alexander C. Schreyer

Acrylic on canvas, 2017

The visual element in data presentation and its ready digestion by the observer can lead to unquestioning acceptance of data that may be perceived as fact. Aesthetically clear visualizations can easily lead to negligence in questioning parameters and assumptions on which the visualizations were based. Because much of such imagery is used to form public opinion, the possibility exists that what should be considered a good tendency—the public and broad understandability of data—can lead to misinformation and lack of depth in understanding the issues at hand.

The paintings shown here were created based on scientific data visualizations. They all employ a False Color display methodology. However, the artistic process of painting removed the direct association (pixel by pixel) between color and data. What at first looks like a clear presentation of data ultimately highlights the fact that the process of creating a visualization consists of limitation, interpretation, and the setting of reference scales.

1: Stress field around a hole
2: Thermal imaging of a house at night (with temperature target)
3: Temperature gradient of a laptop keyboard
4: Census data