This topic delves straight into the science of a building envelope.
Not only does it divide the educated from the less so, but it truly defines those who care about what they are building and what impact it will have on our world.
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It is important to understand the typical building process before addressing one of a plethora of problems that have become prevalent in this ever-present race to the bottom.
For some, well most, the conversation as it pertains to building something is about money. Buyers make decisions based on cost which means that everything that precedes that sale is about how to affect a transaction while preserving a return on the effort. General contractors (GCs) win projects based on cost. That competitive process perpetuates the race to low quality. To win the job a GC must have the low bid. To keep the business running that same GC must now find a way to make money in the process.
What does the competitive process do for the integrity of building materials used?
Simple, it adds to the excess amounts of garbage in the ocean, with a 30-year detour to some building site that plays home to a family of four heating and cooling 5000 square feet when 2500 is more than ample. Is it the GCs fault? Of course there is culpability but the unwitting consumer who accepts the toxic environment, stuffed with low grade materials is arguably more to blame.
Is there a solution? In our minds, yes, an easy one. Do your homework, assume correctly that that the cheapest products fit that bill for a reason and for fuksake don’t build more house than you need.
Why there is nothing more important than the building envelope.
Ideally, we can all agree that there is nothing more important in a building than the exterior walls, which includes the roof. This is what protects us from the elements, and if done properly can last forever. Sure, it doesn’t stand out like marble countertops but it can prove to be exponentially more expensive if not done correctly from the start.
Buildings erected 50-100 years ago were ‘well built’ ie they have not been subject to rot or mold and are generally in good standing today. Truth be told, they probably have little or no insulation which is great for the wall’s ability to dry out across varying seasons and/or temperature fluctuations. Unfortunately, such construction does not say much for efficiency. In the last 10-20 years the conversation is about minimizing energy usage, and, in turn, building more efficiently. The direct result has been to create structures that are air tight.
Air tight structures require building practices to be amended but also paved the way for new forms of insulation, notably spray foam. We see no need to reiterate its inherent weaknesses so we’ll simply say it was a nice try when addressing the need for an air barrier. Unfortunately, there is a key component that is left out: vapor drive.
The building envelope needs to be air tight for modern day efficiency measures but it also needs to allow vapor drive to occur. There are options that exist in today’s market, which is to say this is easily done and the builders who are aware are finally finding ways to compete more on skill, knowledge and common sense, and less on nickels and dimes. Cheers to you lot!
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It is our goal to produce a truly superior building product with unrivaled integrity. We work exclusively with those who appreciate alternative building products and a healthier, more sustainable ecosystem. We are actively building consumer awareness concerning conventional toxic building materials.
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It’s helpful to me how you mentioned that the building envelope is important because of how it can last for a very long time if done correctly. I’m currently making a list of the professionals I have to work with in order to have my dream house built someday. A building envelope expert would surely be one I would prioritize.