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Sto Beyond Insulation

Beyond Insulation: 4 Tips to Save the Planet

When the former rock star Bob Geldof said the world could end by 2030 due to global warming, few people took him seriously. But for green building experts, the date certainly stood out: That’s the target year set for architect Edward Mazria’s well-publicized 2030 Challenge, to “achieve a dramatic reduction in climate-change-causing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG).”

Mazria’s plan inspired many architects and contractors to change “the way buildings and developments are constructed.” Many added more insulation to help cut energy use and create a carbon-neutral, low-GHG future.

The problem, say many, is that insulation alone is not enough. In fact, R-value is just one of a number of key issues.


Here are four more key envelope design issues that help reduce GHG emissions:

1. Dewpoint location. Where water vapor condenses at a given temperature is the dew point location. Too often, it’s situated at the stud insulation in a typical exterior wall. That means the insulation can get wet, sapping R-value and increasing the energy needed to heat or cool the building.

Here’s a solution: Use an insulated wall cladding, which can move the dew point outside of the wall. The result? According to Building Science Consulting from Westford, Mass. “With all of the insulation installed to the exterior of the structure, common problems of condensation within the structure are eliminated.” Instead, condensation occurs outside the wall’s drainage plane, so any moisture just drains away.


2. Thermal shock. Another key sustainable feature is preventing thermal shock, which is triggered by extreme temperature swings. The shock is sudden expansion or contraction of wall surfaces, which damages materials and reduces overall energy efficiency.

New products can protect against thermal shock. Thermally toughened glass is one example, as are rainscreens and double façades, which protect the insulating layer from excessive thermal change. Insulated claddings absorb sudden heating or cooling, protecting wall assemblies within. EIFS systems do the same, staying flexible and expanding or contracting as needed.


3. Thermal bridging. Any time a piece of metal extends through a building wall, it’s a short cut for heat loss or gain. That means squandered energy and a bigger carbon footprint. The worst offenders are steel columns or studs that are not protected by continuous insulation, or ci.

To deal with this, more buildings employ claddings with insulation installed outbound of the structure. “Continuous insulation not only provides its own insulating value, but also helps minimize thermal bridging across the studs,” says envelope specialist Sean M. O’Brien, P.E., of Simpson, Gumpertz & Heger. Eliminating thermal bridging can boost insulation effectiveness by 30 percent or more.


4. Weight matters. Using an insulated cladding system not only adds R-value – many are also lightweight systems, meaning less structural steel is needed to support them. This saves money and tons of steel, especially when the buildings are big. Smaller steel sections mean bigger floor-to-ceiling heights and interior spaces, too. Plus it takes less fuel – and less carbon – to transport the materials.

This kind of holistic thinking – less weight equals smaller carbon footprint – is central to meeting the 2030 Challenge. As Sara Hart wrote recently in Architectural Record, “Façades are no longer mere wrappers. They are another vital system that can improve or undermine the whole-building approach.”


Can you see the green in green building?

4 Invisible Ways to Green Buildings

Sustainable design features are often like a green badge of honor: We like them to be visible, like the solar panels, grassy rooftops and bike racks that decorate many green building projects.

But like a hybrid car, the true green – and the performance efficiencies that come with it – are often buried deep inside: Insulation and geothermal wells, for example. Or they are hidden in plain sight, like the colorful building-integrated photovoltaics from Onyx Solar, for example, or the see-through window insulation, In’Flector.

Let’s face it: Green is unseen.

When we look at two building wall systems, it’s impossible to tell which is the greenest. Yet the better building features a number of invisible advantages:

1. Energy savings. One thing that separates the LEED earner from the energy hog is the selection and detailing of wall assemblies. Air barriers are hidden from view, but one look at the property’s utility bills will show whether they are installed – properly. A report by NIST shows that continuous air-barrier systems reduce air leakage by up to 83 percent – and energy consumption by up to 40 percent.

“Infiltration in commercial buildings can have many negative consequences, including reduced thermal comfort, interference with the proper operation of mechanical ventilation systems, degraded indoor air quality, moisture damage of building envelope components and increased energy consumption,” said the report authors, led by Wagdy A.Y. Anis, FAIA, now with Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Boston, and by Steven J. Emmerich of the Building and Fire Research Laboratory

2. Toxins. Wall components in green buildings contain little or no hazardous ingredients. But you can’t see VOCs, lead, mercury or PCBs anyway, so it’s hard to know when your building is really green or not.

For a shortcut, start with a cheat sheet listing materials and products that contain “worst-in-class chemicals,” says the advocacy group Healthy Building Network in Washington, D.C. These are persistent bioaccumulative toxins, or PBTs, which include chlorinated materials like PVC, brominated flame retardants, and all heavy metals.

3. True waterproofing. Moisture problems may be visible on some buildings as wetted materials, efflorescence on brick, rusty streaks, and even mold patches. But in many cases, envelopes with water problems may look no different than those that are truly watertight.

Yet green buildings are detailed to prevent unintended water ingress. According to the Building Science Corporation’s Dr. Joseph Lstiburek, “Rain is the single most important factor to control in order to construct a durable structure.” Effective management of liquid water depends on continuity of the water barrier and its connections to windows, louvers, curtain walls and even minor penetrations. Green walls have well-designed drainage planes, flashings, weeps, and weep baffles, and cleverly incorporate high-performance waterproofing.

4. Structural and durable. Moisture is only one step in the direction of durability. All the building products must be durable, especially those exposed to the elements.

Green buildings are made of products and materials that retain their green properties under the variable conditions of the jobsite and the building life. A structural air barrier, for example, made with a fluid spray-applied to a durable substrate, will last as long as the waterproofing, helping to equalize pressures and preventing rainwater penetration, as Anis writes in the Whole Building Design Guide.



Building Restoration

Something Old Good as New

You can see the influence of the thrifty shopper in today’s world with the influx of consignment and thrift stores all around.  Even with the economy leveling out, there are people who still prefer to shop at their local thrift store to find that steal of a deal.

Not only are people saving money, but they are also shopping green. 

Living Green Magazine says, “consignment and thrift shopping reduces the carbon footprint while reusing items and saving shoppers money.” For sure snatching a bargain second-hand sweater from a local thrift store rather than buying a new one most likely manufactured overseas and wrapped in non-recyclable packaging produces a significantly smaller carbon footprint, makes your wallet happy and keeps your vintage find out of the landfill for a little longer.

This recycling of clothing we are seeing, translates into the growing industry of retrofitting.  In this time where everyone is more budget conscious, and concerned with maintaining a better balance between ecological and economic considerations, it’s no wonder that retrofitting existing buildings has become a top industry.  Not only is restoration a way for building owners to save money, but just like thrift store shopping, it is a way to practice the act of being green in the building industry.  Instead of tearing down and building anew, you can seek out where the defects are, strip the building down, and restore it better than its former glory.  A great example of this restoration process can be seen in this video about the restoration of Lido Beach.


Green Building

Green is the New Black

Everywhere you turn in the building industry, the word Green comes up.  Now you could look at being green as the latest ‘trend’ to pop up in this industry, but should you really do that?  I think not, because

Green is not just a trend it’s a movement.

All across the world, companies are pushing to find the latest and greatest in green technology. Each one trying to out green the other.

From green hard hats launched by MSA, to an Alaskan couple who built the world’s tightest residential building to Hollywood star of Breaking Bad, Bryan Cranston and his 3 Palms Project passive home, green is spanning its reach.

In this world of maximizing your purchases, every customer is looking for the biggest bang they can get for their buck.  The bucks may add up initially when purchasing more green products, but in the long term they pay for themselves, and then some.

For years people have become more conscious of what they are eating switching to buying organic, or even planting their own gardens.  In their homes, they have switched to products that are less harmful to them and the environment.  It is no big leap to see that people are going to start looking to the exteriors of their homes to be more green.  The outside needs to match the inside.  The green movement will continue, and companies are going to have to step up their game to meet the needs and desires of their customers in this new green world.

Have you gone Green?  Share how in the comments below!