An inverse modelling approach to estimate the hygric parameters of clay-based masonry during a Moisture Buffer Value test

Samuel Dubois, Fionn McGregor, Arnaud Evrard, Andrew Heath, Frédéric Lebeau

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This paper presents an inverse modelling approach for parameter estimation of a model dedicated to the description of moisture mass transfer in porous hygroscopic building materials. The hygric behaviour of unfired clay-based masonry samples is specifically studied here and the Moisture Buffer Value (MBV) protocol is proposed as a data source from which it is possible to estimate several parameters at once. Those include materials properties and experimental parameters. For this purpose, the mass of two clay samples with different compositions is continuously monitored during several consecutive humidity cycles in isothermal conditions. Independently of these dynamic experimental tests, their moisture storage and transport parameters are measured with standard steady-state methods.

A simple moisture transfer model developed in COMSOL Multiphysics is used to predict the moisture uptake/release behaviour during the MBV tests. The set of model parameters values that minimizes the difference between simulated and experimental results is then automatically estimated using an inverse modelling algorithm based on Bayesian techniques. For materials properties, the optimized parameters values are compared to values that were experimentally measured in steady state. And because a precise understanding of parameters is needed to assess the confidence in the inverse modelling results, a sensitivity analysis of the model is also provided.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)192-203
Number of pages12
JournalBuilding and Environment
Early online date28 Jun 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2014


  • moisture buffer value
  • clay
  • HAM modelling
  • parameter estimation
  • MCMC

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