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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  • 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.

  • Installing Insulation With the X-Floc Ventilated Dry Injection System
    March 8, 2018

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  • Rethinking the All-Glass Building
    June 29, 2010

    Feature Article

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    June 1, 2010

    Feature Article

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  • Passive House Arrives in North America: Could It Revolutionize the Way We Build?
    March 31, 2010

    Feature Article

    The Passive House standard, imported from Germany, sets a high bar for energy performance in buildings. But some see it as inflexible and inappropriate for some U.S. climates.

  • Design for Adaptation: Living in a Climate-Changing World
    August 28, 2009

    Feature Article

    Even if we stopped emitting greenhouse gases tomorrow, rising global temperatures would still bring major changes to the climate system and our way of life. This article offers solutions for designing buildings that not only mitigate our impact on the global climate, but also adapt to the changes that are coming-and those that are already here.

  • Polystyrene Insulation: Does It Belong in a Green Building?
    July 30, 2009

    Feature Article

    Polystyrene is widely used as a rigid insulation in North America, offering high insulation values, moisture resistance, strength, and affordability. But a flame retardant in the material, as well as its life-cycle impacts, raise questions about whether it should be used at all.