Building Envelope

Photo by Andreas Lechtape, courtesy NBK Architectural Terracotta


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.

  • Poor Insulation Work Adds to Home Retrofit Challenges
    September 28, 2007


    Reader Paul Eldrenkamp encourages more widespread use of HERS ratings to measure the effectiveness of insulation retrofit work.

  • Alpen Fiberglass Windows-Leading the High-Performance Race
    September 28, 2007

    Product Review

    Alpen Energy Group manufacturers some of the highest-performing windows in the world, with center-of-glass R-values reaching R-20 in some cases.

  • SIPs Accepted into Residential Code
    August 2, 2007

    News Brief

  • Enertia Double-Envelope Home Still Has Problems
    July 10, 2007

    Product Review

    Although its passive solar design is sound, the Enertia double-envelope home's energy performance claims may be overstated and its design presents fire risks.

  • Insulated Concrete Forms
    May 1, 2007


    Insulated concrete forms (ICFs) are permanent forms for poured-concrete walls.

  • Cardinal Introduces New LoE3 Glass
    January 2, 2007

    Product Review

    The nation's largest manufacturer of low-emissivity glass for residential windows has introduced an improved triple-coated glass, now being used by several window makers.

  • IRS Issues Guidance on Energy Efficiency Deduction for Commercial Building Owners
    August 29, 2006

    News Brief

    Building owners or leaseholders can deduct the cost of energy-efficient property installed in commercial buildings, and recent guidance issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) describes what taxpayers need to do to qualify.

  • Low-E Glass Gains Ground
    July 31, 2006

    News Brief

    Since producing its one-billionth square foot in 1996, the low-e glazing industry has steadily gained ground over the last ten years, with sales now approaching one billion square feet each year.

  • Tinting on Demand with SageGlass
    June 7, 2006

    Product Review

    Glazing from Sage Electrochromics, Inc., allows users to change its visible light and total solar transmittance properties with the push of a button.

  • Little to Show for Ten Years
    March 1, 2006

    News Brief

    We found little progress, and even some backsliding, in the ten years since we wrote about windows, The Natural Step, autoclaved aerated concrete, and AIA's Environmental Resource Guide.