Energy Efficiency and Building Science News

DOE's 2019 National Energy Codes Conference

Wed, 2019-04-24 14:19
Energy Efficiency

"The National Energy Codes Conference is the only national event dedicated solely to building energy codes, providing attendees with a great opportunity to network with peers, engage with leading experts, and learn about the latest innovative technologies and solutions in the building sector." This year's event will be in Denver, Colorado May 28–30.


Video: U of Alabama Wood Panel Testing; Ductility Concerns

Wed, 2019-04-17 21:23
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

There is a wide array of promotional efforts taking place in the market every day, making discernment key for all of us as we consume information. As you read a promotion or view a video, consider asking yourself:

  1. Is there a goal, point of view or agenda being advocated?
  2. Is there any type of conflict of interest or bias?
  3. Is the data or article well referenced, and as such, credible?
  4. Are the facts presented fairly and are all points of view represented?

Shear wall performance tests by Clemson University and the University of Oklahoma have been promoted as authoritative sources of wood structural panel (WPS) performance testing.

Video 1: Small Scale Segmented WSP Seismic Testing in Rigid Test Frame

Presumably, testing performed by University of Alabama’s engineering department, in its Large Scale Structures Laboratory, is equivalently credible. The two WSP seismic performance videos provide an interesting perspective on wood structural panel ductility under very small amounts of observable deflection.

The videos provide a fascinating display regarding the:

  1. The rigidity of wood structural panels,
  2. Any stress this rigidity places on nailed connections,
  3. The importance of fastening systems to overall performance of any product,
  4. The instant destruction testing can cause depending on how a test is performed and its objective.

Video 2: 40 foot Perforated WSP Seismic Testing in Rigid Test Frame

Using photos and videos without a complete assessment of the underlying purpose and/or being allowed to evaluate the actual test data is an inadequate and restrictive method for determining actual product performance characteristics. For university, federal government and public non-governmental organizations, information transparency should be readily available. For protected intellectual property, the professional evaluation process exists via professional engineering and ANSI ISO/ISE 17065 accreditation.

As established by PhD thesis testing and accepted engineering practice, design values generated depend on the test method, gravity load applied and all load path connection systems. For more information on wall bracing design value variability, please review the following two articles: APA - IRC Allowable Design Values for OSB Wall Bracing = 175 PLF and Wood Structural Panel Lateral Capacity? APA - “Not Sure”.  

Testing based on the scientific method is the only accurate way to create a fair comparison. In other words, hold the test apparatus, personnel, applied load, and all other variables/boundary conditions constant. To assess a hypothesis of equivalency one needs to compare the control sheathing to the new sheathing, where all else is identical from one test to the next. This will answer the hypothesis (e.g. new straw sheathing is equivalent to OSB or not).

The moral of this story is to treat university testing with great discernment especially in light of these two videos. It is often difficult to understand critical product performance aspects, good or bad, from general reports, photos and videos. It may not be obvious that the goal of the test was to:

  1. Stimulate controversy and generate more university test funding, or
  2. Provide credibility for a given point of view for promotional purposes, if the right testing answer is generated.

Fundamental principles, which can be used, to discern the credibility of testing and analysis include, but are not limited to, the following questions:

  1. Is the testing performed by an ISO/IEC 17025 accredited testing facility?
  2. Who is funding the testing?
  3. Does the group that owns the test facility also perform a marketing function for the products they are testing?
  4. Does the testing agency also market the product being tested and would that be a conflict of interest?

Finally, if you desire performance truth, have a professional engineer stand behind the testing and analysis by sealing and signing their work. This carries code compliance benefits and typically professional liability insurance, where legal costs are not unknowingly being shifted onto you.

For additional information on the performance of wood structural panel, please visit the following webpage on OSB as a Raw Material.


DowDupont Begins Break Up with ‘New Dow’

Wed, 2019-04-17 21:13

DowDuPont Inc. today announced that it has completed the separation of its Materials Science Division through the spin-off of Dow Inc. Dow begins "regular way" trading tomorrow on the NYSE under the symbol "DOW." DowDuPont common stockholders received one share of common stock of Dow for every three shares of DowDuPont common stock they held as of the close of business on March 21, 2019. DowDuPont common stockholders will also receive cash in lieu of fractional

"Today's announcement completes our first step toward creating three strong, independent growth companies set to be industry leaders focused on driving innovation and delivering long-term value for shareholders," said Ed Breen, chief executive officer of DowDuPont. "Dow begins its next chapter as a more focused, disciplined and market-oriented company, and I am excited for the tremendous opportunities ahead for its employees, shareholders, and customers."

Dow and Dupont completed a $130 billion merger in 2017 to form DowDuPont and had outlined a plan to create three separately traded companies focusing on agriculture, plastics and specialty products.

DowDuPont remains on track to complete the previously announced separation of its Agriculture Division (Corteva Agriscience™) on June 1, 2019 through the intended distribution of all of the shares of common stock of its wholly owned subsidiary, Corteva, Inc., which holds the Company's Agriculture Division, to the holders of the Company's common stock on a pro rata basis (the "Corteva Distribution").  Subsequent to the Corteva Distribution, DowDuPont would hold the Specialty Products Division and be renamed "DuPont."

Chart: What Buyers Will Pay for Energy Efficiency

Wed, 2019-04-17 20:55
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

The latest study of recent and prospective home buyers (people who purchased a home in the last three years or are planning to do so in the next three years) suggests that the average buyer is willing to pay an additional $8,728 for a home in order to save $1,000 annually in utilities (click image for larger version):

This is a bit misleading in that some motivated buyers are willing to pay in excess of $50,000 for the same annual utility savings.  For those paying more than $500,000 for their home, they are willing to pay on average $10,560 to save $1,000 per year.

It’s probably more helpful to look at the median amount, which is right at $5,000.  Said another way, most buyers expect around a 20 percent annual return on their energy efficiency investments.  To learn more about cost-effective home insulating methods, check out

Exterior Insulation the Best Approach in Retrofit

Wed, 2019-04-17 17:18
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

Adding a layer of rigid foam on the outside of a building provides the single biggest boost in wall insulation for an existing home. Doing this before a residing job provides big benefits.

Q: What’s the best way to add insulation to the outside of my house? My friend is planning to apply vertical vinyl siding and wants to upgrade energy performance as part of the job. What’s the best plan of attack?

A: Assuming your friend is working from bare wall sheathing outwards, the best approach I know of is to apply extruded polystyrene foam to the outside walls, then the siding. This kind of foam is completely waterproof and retains insulation values quite well over time.

Normally, with wood siding, I recommend some kind of drainage space behind the siding, but that’s less important with vinyl than wood. Since the job involves vertical siding, some kind of horizontal strapping slightly thicker than the total thickness of foam will be needed to secure the siding. A one-and-a-half-inch thickness of foam would be a minimum. I’d probably go two inches.

The main challenge with this plan is the need to extend window and door sills and frames to accommodate the thickness of foam, waterproofing those extensions made to cover them. Custom-bent aluminum capping is the best approach I know of for this. Is there any chance of convincing your friend to use something other than vinyl? It’s economical, but weak. I often see broken vinyl siding.

Attic frost and condensation

Click to enlarge. The condensation on the side of this attic opening indicates leakage of air into the attic from inside the house. Leaky attic hatches are the #1 cause of energy loss and condensation in attics. - Steve Maxwell

Q: Is the condensation in my attic a problem? Earlier this winter I heard a faint drip-drip sound coming from the attic of my 17-year- old bungalow. When I opened the attic hatch, I found the edges of the hole wet. There’s also lots of frost on the plumbing vent pipe as it goes through the attic. My handyman tells me there’s no need for action. What do you say?

A: If this were my attic, I’d do something. The source of the moisture you see is indoor air that’s leaking into the unheated attic space. As this air cools, it loses some of its ability to hold water. This water comes out as liquid or frost, depending on how cold the surface involved is. One reason that unheated attics like yours are ventilated is so moisture from wintertime condensation can leave harmlessly as the weather warms up and the summer gets hot. The thing is, air leaks and the resulting condensation is never a good thing. A little leakage is inevitable, but the less the better. The fact that you could hear some water dripping tells me that too much condensation is building up.

Generally speaking, the number one source of leaked air in attics is the attic hatch. I can see from the photos you sent that it’s insulated on top (that’s good), but it’s also probably leaking air around the edges. The fit looks tight, but the fact that there’s condensation around the edges proves that air leaks are happening. Indoor air could be making its way into your attic through electrical boxes for light fixtures, but attic hatches are typically the big culprit.

One simple way to ensure a 100 per cent seal around the hatch is by applying peelable caulking to the seam when the hatch is closed. The best stuff is clear and seals well, though it can be peeled off whenever you want.

One other way of tackling this issue is to increase the amount of ventilation area in your roof. Next time you have the roof shingled, have a ridge vent added. Also, it’s not clear in the photos you sent, but your attic insulation might be blocking the free flow of air through the vents at the eaves of your roof. While limiting the amount of leaked air entering your attic is one part of the fix, boosting air circulation through the attic is another. Ask your handyman to check that the soffit vents are clear, then have the hatch sealed up.


Spray Foam Insulation Helps in Humid Caribbean

Wed, 2019-04-17 17:09
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

Taking residence in the Cayman Islands has become increasingly popular in recent years for many expats—and what’s not to like? Tropical island charm, white sandy beaches, and crystal-clear water reminiscent of blissful scenes depicted in films like Into The Blue and The Firm—and yes, no income or corporation tax—surely brings a powerful allure seldom found elsewhere. Even for those who do not look to live in the Cayman Islands full-time, this British colony of the western region of the Caribbean Sea provides a less dense, less worrisome opportunity for those who actively pursue the dreamy island destination. Therefore, real estate in the Cayman Islands is highly coveted.

As such, builders have found themselves working at a constant pace to develop residences that fill the demand that such an allure creates. But the big idea behind development is to produce homes that are conducive to the pleasurable way of life that is inherent of the Cayman Islands and that means including top-of-the-line materials like spray polyurethane foam in their scope of work. Arlington Bennett, owner of Bay Islands Spray Foam, recognized the advantages of becoming a trusted name in the SPF game in the Cayman Islands and began installing foam back in 2004. Now, Bennett and his now established contracting company, is one of the go-to Icynene-Lapolla SPF applicators in the Cayman Islands and Honduras.

“It is no secret that people want to live comfortably with their A/C on way low to offset the year-round island heat without concern of their bills being too high and sound deadening to not disturb any of their neighbors,” notes Bennett. “Spray foam gives them that.”

Recently, Bennett and his team were tasked with the insulation project of TIDES South Sound, a newly constructed residential building comprised of 24 state-of-the-art units facing the Caribbean Sea in South Sound, Grand Cayman for which open-cell and closed-cell spray polyurethane foam was specified.

Left: The Bay Island installation team applied closed-cell SPF to the exterior wall of the building for structural rigidity; Right: For the interior application, open-cell foam was used in the ceilings and walls to seal the building envelope and provide sound deadening throughout the entire building.

“The builder [NCB Builders] is committed to providing energy efficiency and integrating renewable energy sources into their new construction; they wanted to utilize spray foam because it would provide structural strength and sound reduction,” says Bennett. “Spray foam’s air-sealing capability protects the home from salt and moisture damage derived from the building’s proximity to the beach. For the owner or resident, this is a huge plus.”

Another benefit of applying SPF in this building, Bennett explained, was the considerable heat reduction between units.

Prior to applying the SPF, the three-man Bay Islands crew on the job was careful to prep the are by masking off all the door and window openings with plastic sheeting prior to suiting up in Tyveks, Bullard full-face respirators and gloves to install the foam safely. Then, they fired up their Graco Reactor H4O proportioner and, equipped with a Graco GAP Pro air-purge spray gun, the installer did the rest.

For the exterior wall application, the Bay Islands installer applied two inches of Icynene-Lapolla’s ProSeal, a 2 lb. closed-cell SPF, which promoted structural rigidity. For the ceiling application between floors, the crew put down six inches of Icynene-Lapolla’s Classic Plus, a 0.5 lb. open-cell product, to seal the building envelope and provide sound deadening throughout the entire building. Now, with the foam in place, Bennett and his team agree that, although they can’t guarantee that, at some point, the residents of TIDES won’t be uncomfortable to some level, they can guarantee that the cause of said discomfort will not be indoor climate.

SPF was not the only green material used through the development of TIDES. Although the building has not yet been fully completed, NCB Builders outlined in the TIDES website that they are including energy-efficient light fixtures. They have also included Geothermal cooling in all the units and the common areas of the building will be powered through solar power.

Bennett noted that the installation went smoothly and that it was an honor to contribute to a project that involves modern design coupled with sustainable building.

“Living by a beautiful beach is a dream already,” says Bennett. “But if you incorporate the right materials in the home that you go back to when the sun sets, that lifestyle can be even better.” 


Survey: 77% of Buyers Want Insulation Above Code

Wed, 2019-04-17 16:43
Building CodesEnergy Efficiency

The latest study of recent and prospective home buyers (people who purchased a home in the last three years or are planning to do so in the next three years) provided insight into energy efficiency preferences (click image for larger version):

Of particular notes is that seventy-three percent indicate they either “desire” or “must have” their home’s insulation higher than what is required by the code. One of the most effective ways to determine whether an insulated wall system exceeds the code is to use the wood frame wall calculator and the Steel Frame Wall Calculator available on

Meritage Achieves Net-Zero Condos with Spray Foam

Wed, 2019-04-17 16:38
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

Meritage Homes, the seventh-largest public homebuilder in the U.S., is leading the charge in energy-efficient building by opening CitySquare, a first-of-its-kind condominium community in the heart of Irvine's Business Complex. A testament to the future of residential real estate, CitySquare offers homebuyers energy-efficient living without sacrificing on modern features and design. With California's latest solar mandate requiring all new homes to have solar by 2020, in addition to an array of federal regulations favoring green building, CitySquare's all-electric, zero-net energy community is setting the new homebuilding standard.

In addition to its energy-efficient capabilities, CitySquare provides spacious, open four-bedroom floorplans perfect for entertaining. Plus, the community offers ample amenities including homes pre-plumbed for electric vehicles, two large parks and sports courts for active residents, along with barbecue grills and firepits to encourage an outdoor lifestyle. Homes are available for sale starting April 13. Community highlights include:

  • Proximity: Easy access to the 55, 405 and 73 freeways & less than two miles from the John Wayne Airport; perfect for a lock-and-leave lifestyle and located by a bustling business district for added convenience
  • Nearby Entertainment: Nestled between South Coast Plaza & Irvine Spectrum, there's no shortage of things to do. Check out what's around the neighborhood here
  • Sustainable Living: As one of most walkable neighborhoods in Irvine, eco-friendly, sustainable living goes beyond the four walls of the home. Walk or bike to nearby businesses, restaurants, shops, and the University of California, Irvine with ease

"The ability to build an industry-leading community in the heart of Irvine is an exceptional opportunity. As a leading builder in innovation, it is rewarding to see zero energy, healthier homes, and integrated home automation in one breakthrough project," said C.R. Herro, Vice President of Innovation at Meritage Homes. "We're thrilled to partner with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), California Energy Commission, Southern California Edison (SCE), Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and the City of Irvine to develop these innovative homes."

Community Quick Facts •   Name: CitySquare •   Address: 17811 Gillette Ave, Irvine CA 92614 •   Price: Starting in the low $800,000s •   Home Sizes: 1,868 square feet to 2,171 square feet •   Models Available to Tour: 3 •   Home Designs: 3 •   Sales Center Hours:   º Monday, Tuesday, Thursday-Sunday:10 a.m.- 6 p.m.   º Wednesdays from 2-6 p.m. •   Sales Center Phone: 877-275-6734

Meritage Homes is a leader in energy-efficient homebuilding and has received the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's ENERGY STAR® Partner of the Year for Sustained Excellence Award every year since 2013 for innovation and industry leadership in energy-efficient homebuilding and has again been awarded the honor for 2019. Here's what CitySquare is doing different to set the new standard:

  • ENERGY STAR 3.2 Certified: Homes are voluntarily built to exceed California Title 24 building codes, ensuring the community performs and surpasses the promises of a better built home, with energy efficiency at the crux of the build
  • Cleaner Air: EPA Indoor airPLUS Qualified Homes -providing unparalleled energy efficiency, comfort, durability, indoor air quality and peace of mind
  • Noise Reduction: Spray foam insulation included in the exterior walls and attics.
  • Energy-Efficient: An array of energy-efficient features including solar panels, compact heat pumps with HVAC systems and condensing hybrid electric water heaters, and electric heat pump dryers and energy conserving washers

"Efforts like the CitySquare project are critical to the continued advancement of Advanced Energy Communities around the world," said Mark McGranaghan, Vice President of Integrated Grid R&D at the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI). "EPRI will continue to gather performance information on the technologies and designs here, and from other community initiatives around the world, to help improve the technologies in play, move the needle toward decarbonization, advance the customer experience, and inform zero net energy building procedures. We are excited to be working with such innovative collaborators on this project."

Unique Pre-fab House Relies on Exterior Polyiso Foam

Wed, 2019-04-17 16:28
Energy Efficiency

When I first reached out to Lars Chose and Rachel Ross, owners of Mandala Custom Homes, they were in Hawaii conducting a site visit for a new project on Kauai. They had a full itinerary with plans to attend a trade show in Kona and to host an open house at an oceanfront Mandala Home before heading to B.C., Canada, their home and headquarters. Business is booming.

Click to enlarge

Since 2000, the two have been designing, prefabricating, and shipping building packages all over the U.S. and Canada—90% are for single-family homes, the rest are for public and commercial spaces, such as retreat centers, yoga studios, and interpretive centers. Their offerings are unique.

Having built their first ENERGY STAR-certified home in Minnesota in 2003, the pair and their team are well-versed in energy efficiency and building science. “Because we ship homes all over North America, we really had to understand climatic zones and their effects on building envelopes,” says Lars, whose team has become experts in climate-specific wall and roof assemblies. He recalls working with an engineer involved in developing B.C.’s new energy code. Together they created the principles for creating energy efficient, sustainable building envelopes for multiple climatic zones, which meant moving the air and thermal barriers to the outside of the wall—a unique approach in early 2010.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Fast forward nearly 20 years, and Lars, Rachel, and their team have perfected their Mandala Custom Homes package, which includes: a customized design, an energy consultation and audit (HERS, EneryGuide, BEES, Net Zero, etc.), permit sets, construction drawings, engineering documents, a climate-specific building envelope, and print as well as digital assembly instructions. Additionally, in the U.S., they have a preferred lender for construction loans and mortgage services.

Mandala homes are freestanding faceted structures without internal load-bearing support that are engineered for seismic activity, wind, and snow load. The prebuilt components—assembled and finished by local contractors—include the floor system, the roof system (engineered scissor trusses and precut sheathing), and pre-sided wall panels with the windows installed. The wall assembly includes a rainscreen system, exterior rigid-foam insulation, and siding. Foundations—typically stem wall or full basement—are fully engineered based on a soil engineer’s report, with ICFs  being preferable for energy efficiency.

Home packages are typically built using kiln-dried SPF 2 or better, Douglas fir for timber frame elements, and western red cedar soffits, ceilings, trim, and siding—all sourced from high-quality B.C. wood. Climate and customization may influence material choices—for example, wall panels heading to hot, arid climates are ready to receive stucco or Hardie cement fiber board.

According to Rachel, the building package comprises an average of 50% of the total building, depending on customization factors. And the price per square foot is roughly $120 CAD. The prefabrication process is based on the Lean Manufacturing model; their design studio focuses on making houses that are easy to transport and to assemble.

Click to enlarge

Why round? Lars notes the inherent strength of the shape. It is also easily engineered because of the connectivity of all components. Additionally, it supports green building principles: A round structure uses 20% less materials for a building envelope of the same square footage as a conventional home. As a musician, Lars also appreciates the exceptional acoustics a round form provides.

Rachel stresses the customization aspect of their offerings as paramount, noting that it is “a dance between the clients’ preferences, the needs of the site, and the budget.” Of the different models they offer, she says the Magnolia and Elmwood are most popular, though in Hawaii, clients gravitate toward the Juniper, which is two connected Mandalas—the larger models are ideal for multigenerational family compounds.

As an endnote, Lars muses: “My building career started and was inspired by Fine Homebuildingmagazine. Talking to you now, I realize it has come full circle—so to speak.”


Better Energy Efficiency With Transparent Wood

Tue, 2019-04-09 18:03
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

New developments have been made in the study of transparent wood, which first made waves in March 2016 when Swedish researchers at KTH Royal Institute of Technology discovered that they were able to remove the lignin in wood, the molecule that makes it rigid and dark in color, and replace it with epoxy.

Engineers at the University of Maryland demonstrated later that year that windows made of transparent wood could provide more even and consistent natural lighting and better energy efficiency than glass. This study was published in the Journal of Advanced Materials.

MD researchers patented their process, which, similar to the Swedish study, begins with bleaching the lignin from the wood, then soaking the wood in epoxy, adding strength back in and making the wood clearer. While the Swedish study used Balsa wood in 10- by 10-centimeter pieces, the UMD team initially used tiny squares of linden wood about two by two centimeters. Researchers from both studies say there is potential for the process to be used on larger pieces of wood.

Transparent wood is also sturdier than traditional wood, researchers say, and can be used in place of less environmentally friendly materials, such as plastics. It could potentially transform architecture by enabling novel structures such as load-bearing windows. Such elements could also yield improvements in energy efficiency over glass or other traditional materials.

In Feb. 2019, a study published in the Journal of Materials Research revealed that a research team in China developed a new process for removing the wood’s lignin on larger panels. The goal of their study was to leave less lignin in the wood to leave more room for the epoxy, which would result in samples that are more optically transparent and stronger.

Click to enlarge

To achieve this, researchers steamed pieces of natural pine and basswood by placing them on a grid above a boiling aqueous solution of hydrogen peroxide. When the yellow color of the samples disappeared, which occurred anywhere from two to 12 hours, researchers rinsed the samples with cold water and ethanol.

Researchers say the steam penetrates wood samples better than bleaching solutions and leaves transparent wood composites with half the lignin content of previously made transparent wood. Succeeding with 21- by 19-centimeter samples, the study revealed that this technique retains the structural integrity of the wood by keeping the cellulose in the cell walls intact.

The success of this steam-modification technique is believed to be attributed to how the wood is cut. While researchers in the 2016 studies cut against the grain to ensure that the channels that drew water and nutrients up from the roots lie along the shortest dimension of the window, the China team cut across the fibers.

Lars Berglund of the Wallenberg Wood Science Center at KTH Royal Institute of Technology notes that when the wood is cut across the fibers, the mechanical properties are not very good, so this study may be less interesting from an application point of view. The steam-modification technique would need to be further studied using various cuts of wood to further explore the mechanical properties and scalability of the technique.

This advancement in the study of transparent wood brings us closer to the possibility of more environmentally-friendly and energy-efficient windows and greenhouses, which has been the goal of prior research.

For instance, the 2016 UMD study, led by Liangbing Hu of UMD’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering and the Energy Research Center, showed that transparent wood provides better thermal insulation and lets in nearly as much light as glass, while eliminating glare and providing uniform and consistent indoor lighting.

The channels in the wood direct visible light straight through the material, but transparent wood still has all the cell structures that comprised the original piece of wood. Through a property called haze, the cell structures bounce around the light that hits the surface, which means light won’t shine directly into someone’s eyes when looking at a window made of this material.

The team’s findings were derived, in part, from tests on tiny model houses with a transparent wood panel in the ceiling that the team built. The tests showed that the light was more evenly distributed around a space with a transparent wood roof than a glass roof. According to Tian Li, the lead author of the Aug. 2016 study, the transparent wood lets through just a little bit less light than glass, but a lot less heat.

Click to enlarge

“It is very transparent, but still allows for a little bit of privacy because it is not completely see-through,” said Li. “We learned that the channels in the wood transmit light with wavelengths around the range of the wavelengths of visible light, but that it blocks the wavelengths that carry mostly heat.”

Additionally, during the Department of Energy’s 2017 ARPA-E Innovation Summit, Shell GameChanger hosted a pitching competition entitled “Energy Ideas to Change the World,” where Hu pitched to a panel of judges his idea for energy-efficient homes through the use of transparent wood windows as thermal insulators.

During his pitch, Hu noted that when the transparent wood is installed as a daylight-harvesting roof, the natural aligned wood channels inside help guide the sunlight into the house without relying on the sun’s angle. This is good news for all those indolent kitties out there who are frustrated with having to interrupt their daytime naps by constantly following the ray of sun coming through the window.  

"[Not relying on the sun's angle] means your cat would not have to get up out of its nice patch of sunlight every few minutes and move over," says Li. "The sunlight would stay in the same place. Also, the room would be more equally lighted at all times."


Register: Insulation Industry National Policy Conference

Tue, 2019-04-09 17:45
Building Science

If you missed this week’s Roofing Day, the 2019 Insulation Industry National Policy Conference on May 21-22, 2019 offers a second opportunity to network with members from the insulation industry, meet with legislators to discuss our industry’s policy priorities, and learn from experts on a variety of topics. Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY), the Chair of the House Subcommittee on the Environment and Climate Change, is a keynote speaker for the policy conference. Rep. Tonko recently published nine principles for climate legislation that includes solutions to job creation, technological advancements and policies that create certainty for industry and families.


Canadian Industry Promotes Wood Fiber Insulation

Tue, 2019-04-09 17:35
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

The last nail driven into wood-fibre panel insulation in a home in British Columbia could mark a new standard in building construction for the Canadian homebuilding industry, while ushering in a new era of green, sustainable, and high-performance building insulation for residential and commercial structures.

The exterior walls of the Gibsons, B.C. home are insulated with 100-millimetre-thick wood-fibre panel insulation fastened to the outside of 3-ply 100-millimetre-thick CLT load-bearing walls.

The non-profit forestry R&D company FPInnovations, 475 High Performance Building Supply, and the Canadian Wood Council have partnered to build three high-profile residential projects located in Ontario, Saskatchewan, and B.C., to demonstrate the suitability of wood-fibre insulation panels for use in residential buildings. The panels are environmentally friendly and are expected to perform better than traditional rigid foam insulation.

The B.C. home, completed in the spring, is the last of the high-performance projects built to Passive House standards in the trial. Contractors used wood-fibre insulation panels imported from Europe, where they’re a mainstay in home construction, instead of rigid foam, to insulate exterior walls. The trio behind the initiative are certain the panels can be manufactured in Canada far less expensively than in Europe, with an R-factor rating equivalent to rigid foam panels.

“Dry-process wood-fibre insulation panels are the future of building insulation in Canada because we have the natural resources and industry to produce them economically,” says FPInnovations lead scientist, Bob Knudson. “We have excess fibre from sawmills for their production, and they offer superior performance and insulation, in addition to being environmentally safer than rigid foam insulation.”

Superior performance

Wood-fibre insulation panels were attached to the exterior of two-by-six insulated load-bearing stud walls in the Radiance co-housing project in Saskatoon, Sask.

FPInnovations designed tests to determine the fire safety, stability, durability, and insulation rating of the panels. Wood-fibre insulation demonstrates superior fire performance compared to polymer foam insulation types that are currently used in North America. The panels also show superior moisture management in wall and roof systems compared to polymer foam insulation. Additionally, the panels have greater thermal mass, reducing the temperature rise and fall in an interior space.

Wood-fibre insulation panels were attached to the exterior of two-by-six insulated load-bearing stud walls in the Radiance co-housing project in Saskatoon, Sask.

The panels are made using a dry-processing method of refining wood chips and shavings. The resulting fibre is dried, mixed with polyurethane adhesive and paraffin, formed into a continuous fibre mat, sized to desired thickness, and cured. The resulting panels are then milled to different sizes and edge configurations. The manufacturing process allows for a homogeneous board from 20 to 300 millimetres thick. The panels offer R-values in the 3.5 to 3.9-per-inch-range, while polymer foams have R-values in the 4.5 to 6-per-inch-range. Therefore, wood-fibre panels need to be a little thicker to reach the same R-values as polymer foams.

“We believe that wood-fibre insulation is a high-performance board that is not only breathable and highly insulating, it’s ecologically sound, renewable, recyclable, and lasts the lifetime of the building,” says municipal affairs and technical manager of Wood WORKS! B.C. and the Canadian Wood Council, Peter Moonen. “Wood-fibre insulation is not a structural panel plywood, OSB, or other structural sheathing. It’s a superb insulation panel that offers exceptional thermal and acoustic insulation in both partition and structural walls.”

The three residential building projects were selected in part for their locations in different Canadian climate regions. The Ontario building is a single-family residence near Collingwood in cold-humid climate zone 6A. The Saskatoon, Sask. project is a nine-unit co-housing development in very cold climate zone 7, while the B.C. house located in Gibsons is in mixed-marine climate zone 4C.

“These panels have the potential to lead a transformation of the North American construction industry towards making durable, high-performance Passive House and zero-energy buildings more common,” says western regional manager of 475 High Performance Building Supply, Lucas Johnson. “We built three unique projects, each with distinct features, to demonstrate the versatility of wood-fibre insulation panels.”

Customized uses

The Collingwood renovation project adds a two-storey contemporary addition to a 150-year-old pioneer cedar log house. Eighty-millimetre dry-process wood-fibre insulation panels are attached to the outside of two-by-eight load-bearing stud walls sheathed with half-inch plywood.

The Saskatoon co-housing project showcases low cost of living through low energy use. It has both 40-millimetre and 240-millimetre panels attached to the outside of two-by-six insulated load-bearing stud walls sheathed with 3/4-inch plywood.

The B.C. single-storey prefabricated house is built to meet LEED Platinum standards. Its exterior walls are insulated with 100-millimetre-thick wood-fibre panel insulation fastened to the outside of 3-ply 100-millimetre-thick CLT load-bearing walls. The green roof has 240-millimetre wood-fibre panel insulation. Performance monitoring instrumentation is installed onto the prefabricated wall and roof modules.

“Our low-cost construction methods required a thick rigid exterior insulation product and wood-fibre insulation is one of the few products we found with negative embodied carbon,” says Knudson. “The pressed-wood fibres trap carbon and sequester it for the life of the building.”

The instrumentation installed in each building consists of point moisture measurement, relative humidity and temperature sensors, data logger units, and a tactical intelligence gateway. Each home’s performance is being monitored by FPInnovations for at least one year and meaningful results are expected by July of 2019.

Wood-fibre insulation panels were used to insulate the exterior walls of the two-storey addition to a 150-year-old Collingwood, Ont. pioneer log home.

“We have the natural resources for the raw materials and the industry know-how to make these panels in Canada,” says Johnson. Currently, wood-insulation panels are an imported construction material. “They can truly transform the industry because they’re environmentally friendly to make, reduce onsite labour and waste, and they’re recyclable as well.”

Knudson envisions Quebec and Ontario manufacturing plants, which would be close to raw materials, sawmills, large Canadian cities such as Montreal and Toronto, and densely populated American cities such as New York, Boston, and Chicago. The western provinces offer excellent opportunities for manufacturing wood-fibre insulation for western North American markets.

The future of wood-fibre panel insulation faces many challenges. Wood is thought of as a combustible product, yet the panels exceed fire-safety standards. In Canada, they’re seen as a hard-to-believe-it’s-true new product, but they’ve been used for over 25 years across Europe and their popularity there is growing. Knudson is convinced education is the key to building a Canadian market. “We first had to build homes to show the industry that these panels are as good as rigid foam insulation,” he says. “When the data are analyzed, the results will demonstrate their effectiveness and reliability, and then I’m sure manufacturers will come forward.”

Comparing Various Water Resistant Barrier Methods

Tue, 2019-04-09 17:04
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

No matter how carefully it is applied, siding is probably going to leak at some point in its service life. The layer beneath the siding—the water-resistive barrier, or WRB—is what will protect the plywood or oriented strand board (OSB) sheathing from any water that sneaks in.

Many builders have turned to Huber’s Zip System sheathing, a type of OSB with a coating of resin-impregnated kraft paper. It’s designed to be water resistant but vapor permeable. With the seams taped, Zip System sheathing requires no further protection before the siding is installed. Those labor and materials savings are a big part of Huber’s marketing pitch, and why so many builders have adopted it.

Builders who haven’t jumped on the Zip System bandwagon have a number of other choices, including asphalt felt, plastic housewrap, rigid-foam insulation, liquid-applied compounds, and Grade D building paper.

Asphalt felt: An old standby

The oldest of the lot is asphalt felt, once an actual felt made from cotton rags but now a much lighter material made from corrugated paper and sawdust. Although the International Residential Code specifically requires asphalt felt (or an approved substitute) over wall sheathing or studs, as GBA editor Martin Holladay writes, manufacturers actually intend it for use on the roof.

Nevertheless, builders can find two modern versions of this old standby at many lumberyards: number 15 felt, which weighs between 7 and 14 lb. per 100 sq. ft., and at least one grade of number 30 felt, which is heavier.

Felt has low permeance when dry, but much higher permeance when it gets wet. That allows it to soak up water and let it dry gradually to the exterior. Some builders consider this to be an advantage.

A similar product widely used in the West, but not seen so much in the East, is Grade D building paper. This is an asphalt-impregnated kraft paper. It’s often used under stucco, but it can be used on any type of siding. It’s less expensive than asphalt felt and because it’s lighter, it’s easier to fold into inside corners. One disadvantage is that it can rot if it gets wet and stays wet.

Plastic housewrap

Plastic housewrap is typically made from polyolefin fabric and comes in perforated and nonperforated varieties. Two well-known brands are Tyvek and Typar (there also are a number of others). Both are designed to allow the passage of water vapor but not liquid water, the idea being that bulk water won’t get to the sheathing but water vapor will be able to escape.

Housewrap is light, easy to work with, and has good tear resistance. One disadvantage is that they can be damaged by the extractives that leach out of wet cedar and redwood siding (a problem shared to a lesser extent with asphalt felt). Plastic housewrap is not advised for use under stucco because it reacts to the surfactants in cement plaster.

The high vapor permeance of housewrap allows water trapped in a wall cavity to escape. But when the sun is shining on a wet wall, some moisture may be allowed to pass through it toward the interior—what’s called solar-driven moisture.

Wrinkled housewraps are manufactured with small corrugations in the surface, a feature that is designed to turn the material into a drainage plane behind the siding. There’s no universal agreement on how effective these very shallow undulations are in allowing water to drain away. There are many brands to choose from.

Liquid-applied and fully adhered WRBs

Unlike asphalt felt or housewrap, liquid-applied barriers are rolled or sprayed on to form a continuous, seam-free coating that is waterproof but vapor permeable. The process also helps form an effective air barrier.

The process is a little more involved than buying a roll of housewrap at the lumberyard and stapling it in place over the sheathing. New Hampshire–based specialist Andrew Hall, for example, uses a product called Enviro-Dri from Tremco Barrier Solutions that can only be applied by a trained contractor.

Applying this product is a two-step process, beginning with a base coat sprayed on the wall, starting at the bottom and going up. Seams and corners are reinforced with polyester joint fabric before a second coat is applied. The coating is compatible with any type of siding, but it may take up to two days to complete the application on a two-story house of average size. Spray-applied WRBs are among the more expensive options—up to about $1 per sq. ft., compared with the 17 cents per sq. ft. for housewrap.

One advantage of a liquid-applied WRB is that it’s not compromised by fastener penetrations. Fully adhered WRBs, such as Henry Blueskin VP100, offer the same advantage. These peel-and-stick membranes range in cost from 64 cents to $1.08 per sq. ft., and they may require a primer. Installing Blueskin is probably going to be a two-person job (do not let the membrane stick to itself), but it offers excellent air-sealing potential, as Nick Schiffer discovered while renovating a leaky, 150-year-old house.

Rigid foam

A continuous layer of exterior insulation is an excellent way of minimizing thermal bridging that bleeds heat out of a building through the framing. Can this layer of rigid foam become a WRB? It can, but make sure the foam has been approved for use as a WRB, and pay strict attention to installation details. Also, know that some building experts doubt the foam will be as durable as other WRBs.


A more recent addition to the list of WRBs is Delta-Dry, a molded polyethylene product about 1/2 in. thick with an egg-carton-like surface. Unlike other WRBs, Delta-Dry is not vapor permeable—it’s as impermeable as 6-mil poly sheeting. The idea is that because of its profile, Delta-Dry forms air channels on both the front and the back, allowing moisture to escape (top and bottom edges must be vented).

Delta-Dry is especially well suited to wall assemblies that may be damaged by solar-driven moisture. Because it’s vapor impermeable, moisture can’t get through. However, Delta-Dry is sold as a rainscreen product and is to be applied over a separate WRB. Check that detail with your local building office.

Learn more about water resistant barriers on the Continuous Insulation website's topical library.


JM’s Babineau Looks at Hybrid Insulation Approaches

Tue, 2019-04-09 16:45
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

When building or renovating a structure, selecting insulation is a key step in achieving goals for energy efficiency and occupant comfort. During this process, it’s important to consider the building’s age, size, location, climate and current building codes.

Hybrid solutions can help meet these specific goals and considerations, working to the advantage of building owners and facility managers.

Two or more products create hybrid solutions aimed at creating a stronger building envelope and offering significant benefits, including thermal and moisture protection, maximized air-sealing and increased privacy throughout the space. The most common hybrid insulation solutions combine spray polyurethane foam and fiberglass, or mineral wool within a framing cavity.

Examples of hybrid solutions

Hybrid solution


Spray foam + fiberglass or mineral wool batts or rolls

+ Cost savings

+ Air sealing

+ Fire-Resistant

+ Sound control

Spray foam + blow-in insulation

+ Air sealing

+ Reduces sounds

+ Thermal efficiency

+ Complete coverage

For example, a recent project pursued a hybrid solution to meet the defined project goals of delivering energy efficient results, maximizing budgets and reducing install time. A solution of combining spray foam as an air sealant with fiberglass batts installed in the interior wall cavities proved cost-effective and enabled a faster installation while helping the building owner reach energy efficiency goals within budget.

Hybrid solutions are beneficial because they allow each material to do what it does best, while avoiding or minimizing potential pitfalls and excessive costs.

Click to enlarge

In a hybrid solution, spray foam is usually installed to the minimum thickness needed to minimize cost. Spray foam thickness is best determined based on what’s needed to achieve an air-barrier, any required water vapor or condensation control, and thermal performance targets. 

Typically, this is between one and two inches for all but the coldest climates. Then, the rest of the framing cavity is insulated with blow-in insulation or fiberglass or mineral wool batts. The spray foam effectively air-seals the cavity, eliminating air leakage that might degrade the performance of the system. Fiberglass or mineral wool are easily installed as a more cost-effective way to finish-out insulating the wall cavity and add excellent sound control.

Benefits and Challenges of Hybrid Solutions

Hybrid solution components



Closed-cell spray foam

+ High R-value

+ Air sealing

+ Vapor barrier

+ Install quality

+ Can be more expensive

+ Sound control

Fiberglass or Mineral wool batts, or Fiberglass blow-in

+ Cost-effective R-value

+ Excellent sound control

+ Quality install of batts takes skill

+ Air-permeable

Hybrid insulation solutions often deliver superior thermal performance versus a system with only fiberglass or mineral wool.

The R-value provided by closed-cell spray foam elevates the value of the system, even if batts must be slightly compressed to fit in the framing cavity. Additionally, the high thermal performance of a hybrid solution is often greater than what is required by code, and can reduce the amount of foam sheathing required in cold climates or on steel-framed walls.

Hybrid solution examples

Cavity R-value

2015 IECC Prescriptive Cavity R-value

2x4 framing + 1” Johns Manville Corbond III® + R-13 fiberglass batt (compressed to R-10.2)



2x6 framing + 1” JM Corbond III® + R-19 fiberglass batt (compressed to R-15.2)



2x6 framing + 2” JM Corbond III® + R-13 fiberglass batt



Hybrid solution examples *Most steel or wood-framed walls also require continuous insulation in most climates

Hybrid solutions also deliver excellent sound control. A wall only insulated with closed-cell spray foam doesn’t perform well acoustically, even though the wall may be thoroughly air-sealed. Reason being, closed-cell spray foam is quite rigid, and the closed-cell structure doesn’t allow sound to penetrate and be absorbed.

However, when paired with fiberglass or mineral wool in a hybrid system, testing at the Johns Manville Technical Center in Colorado has shown that the acoustical performance is equivalent to the same wall design with all fiberglass or mineral wool in the cavity.

The success of hybrid solutions also depends on system design. To control costs, the spray foam component of a hybrid solution should be the minimum thickness required to achieve the needs of the system. Sometimes, this is just air sealing, which only necessitates 1-inch or greater thickness. However, in colder climates (climate zones 4 and higher), there is also a requirement for condensation control.

Both the International Building Code (IBC) and International Residential Code (IRC) have sections describing the minimum R-value of spray foam needed to effectively manage condensation risk in walls and ceilings, as part of a hybrid system.

Code Climate Zones

Minimum Spray Foam R-value







R-2.5 (4-in. cavity)

R-3.75 (6-in. cavity)


4A, 4B




R-5 (4-in. cavity)

R-7.5 (6-in. cavity)



R-7.5 (4-in. cavity)

R-11.25 (6-in. cavity)



R-10 (4-in. cavity)

R-15 (6-in. cavity)


R-value requirements by climate zone

Building managers and their construction contractors shouldn’t feel tied to a single insulation product in conquering challenges like thermal insulation, air-leakage, moisture management and sound control. By nature, using a hybrid solution is both an economical and effective method of ensuring a space is properly insulated and air sealed.

Hybrid solutions offer budget flexibility in allowing building owners to combine a product at a higher price point with a more economical product.

Lastly, remember the importance of proper installation. Consider consulting an insulation contractor for the job to ensure the install job is done right the first time, eliminating the need for future repairs.

While deciding on the right insulation type can be difficult, quality insulation is critical for the long-lasting comfort and cost incurred on a building. Hybrid solutions maintain quality and provide occupant comfort in all climate zones, making them an effective and economical way to air seal and insulate any building.  

Alternate thermal performance tables

Hybrid solution examples

Cavity R-value

2015 IECC Prescriptive R-value for same wall framing

2x4 framing + 1” Johns Manville Corbond III® + R-13 fiberglass batt (compressed to R-10.2)



2x6 framing + 1” JM Corbond III® + R-19 fiberglass batt (compressed to R-15.2)



6” framing + 2.5” JM Corbond III® + R-13 fiberglass batt


R-20 + CI

6” framing + 2.5” JM Corbond III® + R-15 mineral wool batt


R-20 + CI

6” framing + 2” JM Corbond III® + JM Spider® PLUS (R-16)


R-20 + CI


Hybrid solution examples

Hybrid Cavity R-value Range

Cavity R-value, fiberglass or mineral wool only

Cavity R-value, Closed-cell Spray Foam only

2x4 wood or steel framing


R-13 – R-16

R-13 – R-25

2x6 wood framing

R-22 – R-29

R-18 – R-24

R-20 – R-35

2x6 steel framing

R-22 – R-33

R-18 – R-25

R-20 – R-35


A Look at the Newest Sheathing & Housewraps

Tue, 2019-04-09 16:34
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

Creating a functional living space for homeowners is an essential job of professional builders. That’s only half the responsibility, though, as they must also build homes that are structurally sound and provide protection from the elements. New housewrap and sheathing products aim to meet both needs while reducing labor burdens and ensuring the safety of the house.

Envelope Envy
LP Building Solutions introduced WeatherLogic alongside LP’s new SmartSide Smooth Trim & Siding. The WeatherLogic system incorporates two products—a 4 x 8 structural oriented-strand board with a weather-resistant overlay and LP’s WeatherLogic Seam & Flashing Tape. Together, the products serve as structural paneling and exterior sheathing, forming a tight, vapor-permeable envelope. The system, which comes with a 30-year warranty, protects the home during construction, improves energy efficiency, and promotes a clean jobsite, the company notes.

Sticking to Metal
Boral Roofing’s self-adhering MetalSeal underlayment is designed especially for metal roofing but can be used with any roofing type and installed in any climate or temperature, its maker says. The underlayment sheet is designed to bond directly to the roof deck or base sheet upon installation, self-sealing around fastener penetrations to protect against rain, snow, and ice. During construction, MetalSeal is designed to remain intact under high foot traffic and provide traction for safe installation.

Moisture Protection
The DuPont Tyvek DrainVent Rainscreen creates a 6 millimeter/0.25-inch space behind a home’s exterior cladding for water drainage and air movement. This allows for drying behind cladding and protects against moisture damage to exterior walls, including rot, cracking, and peeling. DrainVent can be installed behind stucco, stone veneer, brick, wood, fiber cement, and metal panel cladding. The roll cuts easily, rolls tightly against corners, and lays flat. The material carries both a high perm rating for breathability and a Class A fire rating as per ASTM E84.

Bulk Water Removal
Benjamin Obdyke’s drainable HydroGap housewrap is engineered to remove bulk water up to 100 times more quickly than a typical housewrap, according to the manufacturer. The product, available in 9- and 10-foot widths for large volumes, creates a drainage space between the sheathing and cladding material during construction, enabling water to quickly escape the building envelope, a feature that’s especially helpful in harsh climates.

Moisture Manager
TYPAR’s Drainable Wrap addresses the need for added moisture management through an integrated drainage plane that diverts bulk water from exterior wall cavities and drains it away from the assembly, preventing potential damage caused by mold and rot.

A Little Peace and Quiet
CertainTeed’s SilentFX QuickCut noise-reducing drywall features a viscoelastic polymer between two specially formulated dense gypsum cores. This composition is intended to significantly improve sound attenuation and be well suited for systems requiring high STC performance. Designed with ease of installation in mind, QuickCut can be quickly scored and snapped to help reduce labor costs. The boards also incorporate CertainTeed’s M2Tech technology, which enables them to resist moisture penetration and mold growth, preventing future air-quality issues in the home.

IMPs Give Building Designers Aesthetic Flexibility

Tue, 2019-04-09 16:17
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

Equipped with the latest tools and technology available, the innovative medical practice known as Urology of Virginia has a long history of diagnosing and treating all urological conditions with the highest quality of care. Over the years, this commitment has resulted in a larger number of patients, requiring the practice to expand their Virginia Beach facilities to service a growing community. The expansion includes a three-story, 44,000 square foot medical office building that features an imaging center with an MRI and CT scanner on the first floor, an ambulatory surgery center on the second floor and space for a cancer clinic with twelve exam rooms on the third floor. The new facility is expected to increase the number of jobs within the community, including 32 physicians and more than 200 other staff members who can work together to provide patients the most effective treatments and therapies.


When designing the new building, the architect, PF&A Design, was challenged to create a high-tech aesthetic concept rather than continuing the traditional use of brick façades found on the existing structure. At the same time, the architects needed to maximize the land available to accommodate the addition of the new building. To avoid wasting space and maximize the footprint of the facility, the new building is placed only about 2 inches from the existing one. This required PF&A to work closely with the local code officials to ensure all codes and regulations related to fire separation and area requirements were satisfied so as to avoid any construction delays.


After reviewing the options, the architects selected metal as the primary exterior building material since they were able to readily provide a more modern and sleek façade appearance. And since fire safety was of great importance, the architect decided to utilize insulated metal panels (IMPs) as they more effectively help slow the spread of flame and smoke when compared to non-insulated metal panels. In addition, they found that IMPs offered many advantages over traditional building envelope materials. In particular, the IMPs provided the highest standard of quality and energy efficiency for the new structure which improved the overall building performance. They also include sustainability features which satisfy LEED requirements.


In the final façade design, PF&A Design incorporated 12,5000 square feet of a combination of MBCI’s deeply corrugated 7.2 Insul-Rib™ Insulated Metal Panels with smooth CF Architectural Horizontal insulated metal panels, all in 22-gauge Signature® 300 Silver Metallic. The 7.2 Insul-Rib™ insulated panel combines a rib panel design with a premier polyurethane foam core that delivers superior insulation. The CF Architectural Horizontal feature stucco-embossed interiors and exteriors that contrast and complement the ribbed panels very nicely. The supremely flexible CF Architectural Horizontal insulated metal panels were also positioned with patterns aligned with the windows on the two floors below to provide enhanced symmetry and cohesion. The flat appearance of this panel provided flexibility that enabled the corners to continuously wrap around the building.


Without the versatility and high performance of the IMPs used on this project, an alternative might have been selected that would have proven to be less functional and less aesthetically pleasing. To find out more about how to successfully incorporate IMPs into a building design that you are engaged in, contact your local MBCI representative to get more information. Learn more about this project here and sign up for our newsletter to subscribe to our blog.

The Monetary Benefits of Energy Efficiency Investment

Tue, 2019-04-09 16:10
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

There are tons of attractive elements investors can add to a commercial property. Technology, connectivity and modern appeal are often at the top of the list, and not without good reason. But before spending money to optimize the inner workings of a building, make sure you’re taking proper care of the exterior.

In simple terms, the building envelope is the physical barrier between your indoor and outdoor environments. It typically consists of walls, insulation, windows, roofs, and doors. Think of the outer edges of an envelope as that barrier between the inside and outside spaces.

If your building’s envelope is lacking, you’re likely to see higher energy costs and more dramatic repairs. When your envelope leaks air or conducts too much heat, it can cause your equipment to use more energy to maintain a comfortable indoor environment. And if you run into major leakages, you might threaten your tenants’ property within.

Aside from avoiding the energy and repair costs that can come from a weak building envelope, there are many benefits to making sure yours is strong and maintaining a healthy and habitable indoor environment. Here are just a few.

1. Increase property value

Nobody wants to live or work in a building that has leaks or unsafe conditions. These issues will ultimately drive down the value of your building. By maintaining your building’s envelope, you can ensure that your indoor environment will be up to an acceptable standard, making sure any tenants or employees are happy in the process.

One way help maintain your building’s ability to provide comfort is by having an inspection of your building’s roof so that you can be sure it isn’t leaking any air and consequently causing rising energy costs.

2. Avoid extra costs by repairing issues early

If you decide that a minor leak in your building isn’t a major concern, you might want to reconsider. Many external factors — like weather and oxidation — can deteriorate any building over time.

This deterioration process can lead to unsafe living or working conditions and cause you to end up paying more for the repair in the long run. Any problem with the building envelope will only get worse over time if it’s left unaddressed, and bigger issues lead to bigger costs. Make sure you stay proactive with your repairs, and you can easily avoid any unforeseen problems or headaches in the future.

3. Prevent major problems in the winter

The winter months can be costly if your structure has a weak envelope. Your building loses a lot of its heat in the winter through the windows. By making sure they’re sealed tight, you can prevent some of that excess heat from escaping.

Ensure that your structure can withstand the winter months as weak envelopes mean costs on repairs. (Photo by Ruud Morijn Photographer via Shutterstock)

Property owners in snowy climates will also need to take a second look at their commercial roof. The weight of ice and snow can penetrate the roof’s membrane and create leaks that jeopardize the building interior. You’ll want to be proactive and get any fixes in before winter hits — it’ll only get more costly if you wait until the last minute. An emergency repair is going to cost you more than one you planned.

How to maintain your property’s building envelope:

At this point, you may be wondering what some common building envelope improvements are. Taking care of multiple elements will increase the amount of energy you save over time. Here are some ideas.

1. Seal and insulate

Making sure your walls, doors, windows and other openings are sealed is vital to lowering energy costs. Having the right insulation in your home or office will increase the overall comfort of your indoor environment, and most buildings will improve as a result. There are even numerous sealing techniques you can use to make sure you’re doing it right.

2. Use energy-efficient window attachments

Much of your indoor air can escape from your windows if you’re not using effective window attachments. In the summer months, you can use energy efficient blinds to ensure that your building has less heat coming in, making it easier on all your cooling systems.

Even other window attachments like shutters and awnings have been proven to effectively reduce incoming heat during the hotter months of the year. Make sure you evaluate all your options when you’re choosing what attachments to add to your windows.

3. Clean the exterior of your building

Making sure you have a clean exterior to your building can greatly aid its appearance. While this step doesn’t directly correlate to energy savings inside, it can increase the overall value and perception of the building as a whole. Adding aesthetic appeal to the location is important for both business and residential buildings, and a clean exterior can help prevent repair issues over time.

4. Proper maintenance is key

The key takeaway from this list is that you should always be proactive with any maintenance of your building envelope. If you wait too long, you’ll undoubtedly have increased costs and headaches on your horizon. You can also make sure you have a proper inspection done so that you know exactly what actions to take to correct the leaks or other flaws your building might have.


Novotel Project Shows Benefits of Kingspan Panels

Tue, 2019-04-09 16:04
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

Noel Robinson Architects specified architectural wall panels from Kingspan Insulated Panels for the Novotel project in Brisbane to meet thermal performance and fire safety objectives.

Due to Australia’s hot and humid climate, the architects sought superior performance insulated panels that would restrict the entry of heat in the hotel building. They also wanted to maximise the flow of natural light into the building. Both of these design objectives were efficiently met by Kingspan’s Mini Micro, a secret-fix wall panel system that combines aesthetics with high performance insulation, making it the perfect choice for this project located in Brisbane.

Novotel Brisbane is situated amongst landscaped gardens with the building truly transcending into its surroundings. The colour of the panels responds to the natural environment, with the installed panels creating crisp, clean lines to give the building a modern and contemporary feel.

Ensuring the ongoing safety of all hotel guests and visitors was a major concern during the construction of this project. Comprising of 156 suites designed to accommodate up to 300 people, the hotel needed to install superior FireSafe panels with the ability to provide maximum protection to all hotel guests in the event of a fire. The Mini Micro panels installed are LPCB and FM approved, offering total peace of mind for hotel guests and building owners.

Reducing the hotel’s operational costs was also a key consideration during the design of this project. Given the continuously rising energy prices, it was important to futureproof the building by installing energy efficient panels that could offset these soaring costs.

The Mini Micro panels can achieve an energy rating of A+ and significantly reduce operational costs for any business. As an investment for the Novotel hotel’s future, the panels will enable it to operate much more efficiently.


Public Comment Sought on ICC Code Changes

Thu, 2019-04-04 09:22
Building Codes

The International Code Council is hosting its 2019 Committee Action Hearings from April 28 to May 8, 2019, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Hearing participants will address potential changes to the International Codes (I-Codes) based on proposals from the building safety community, including code officials, architects, builders, engineers, and fire and energy conservation professionals, among others.

The I-Codes are the most widely used and adopted set of modern building safety codes; they protect against fires, weather-related events, structural collapse and other disasters. The Code Council code development process is transparent, accessible and inclusive, and all interested parties are encouraged to participate in the development of the 2021 I-Codes.

The April hearings cover the Group B I-Codes. Group B includes administrative chapters for the I-Codes as well as updates to currently referenced standards; structural provisions in the International Building Code; the International Existing Building Code; the International Energy Conservation Code (commercial and residential); the building and energy provisions in the International Residential Code; and Chapter 1 of the International Green Construction Code.

Editor’s Note: Read this article to learn more about how you can directly affect the next ICC energy code.

“Our code development process is based on consensus building, and we rely on input from a wide range of stakeholders to ensure that our codes reflect the evolving needs of our communities,” said Code Council Board President William R. Bryant, MCP, CBO. “Our process is designed to continuously improve the I-Codes so they incorporate the latest technology and keep the millions of people they impact safer.”

The 2019 Group B proposed code changes are now available along with the hearing schedule. Proponents of code changes are strongly encouraged to view their proposals for accuracy and bring any discrepancies to the attention of Code Council staff by Wednesday, March 27, for inclusion in the 2019 update document scheduled to post in early April.

To register for the April Committee Action Hearings, visit A live video feed will be available online for those who cannot attend the hearings in person.