Building Envelope

Photo by Andreas Lechtape, courtesy NBK Architectural Terracotta

OVERVIEW

The building envelope protects us from the elements, enables comfort, and ultimately allows us to be at home in our houses, to be productive at the office, to learn in school, or to heal in the hospital.

A building envelope—also commonly called a "building enclosure," should:

  • support comfort

  • manage moisture

  • not poison us or the planet

  • allow us to breathe clean air

When possible, it should do all this while using resources effectively—durably, energy-efficiently, and with low embodied impacts.

Here you’ll find strategies for envelope design and material selection that help balance all these demands and more.

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  • Mind the Gaps: Making Existing Buildings More Airtight
    July 25, 2017

    Feature Article

    Leaky building enclosures create health hazards, comfort problems, and high energy bills. Fixing them isn’t rocket science; but you’d better know your building science.

  • Cladding: More Than Just a Pretty Façade
    September 2, 2014

    Feature Article

    Cladding materials should be chosen to minimize environmental impacts and help maximize a building’s energy performance.

  • Innovative Products and Technology from the Greenbuild Expo
    December 30, 2013

    Feature Article

    Our product editors pick some winners from the expo floor at Greenbuild 2013 while raising questions about some materials.

  • Designing for the Next Century's Weather
    September 30, 2013

    Feature Article

    How do you create a climate-responsive building in a changing climate? Brand new modeling techniques are helping us figure it out.

  • Better Choices in Low-Slope Roofing
    October 5, 2011

    Feature Article

    There are big differences in environmental impacts of commercial roofing materials, but the biggest variable may be service life.

  • Making Windows Work Better
    June 1, 2011

    Feature Article

    How to choose curtains, solar screens, awnings, and storm windows? The options are dizzying, but the right choice can cut energy bills.

  • Re-Framing Sustainability: Green Structural Engineering
    March 30, 2011

    Feature Article

    Want to design the greenest building possible? Get a handle on the best structural options available to you, and invite a creative structural engineer to join your team.

  • Choosing Windows: Looking Through the Options
    January 27, 2011

    Feature Article

    We ask a lot from windows: energy efficiency, aesthetics, durability, affordability, and more. Which window frame materials and low-e glazing options balance these choices best? This article explores all the options and decodes the performance labels we see when buying windows.

  • Rethinking the All-Glass Building
    June 29, 2010

    Feature Article

    Is it time to end our love affair with the all-glass building? A lot of proponents of high-performance, green design certainly think so-while other respected architects, including some leading green designers and energy experts, argue that all-glass can work well if done right.

  • Avoiding the Global Warming Impact of Insulation
    June 1, 2010

    Feature Article

    Insulation is key to reducing carbon emissions from buildings. But the blowing agent in extruded polystyrene and spray polyurethane foam offsets much of that benefit.