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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  • Cost-Effective Green Retrofits: Opportunities for Savings in Existing Buildings
    March 26, 2009

    Feature Article

    Between lighting, water use, mechanical systems, the building envelope, and occupant health, existing buildings are rife with cost-effective retrofits and operational opportunities that also offer environmental benefits. Improvements range from the painfully obvious to the more complex and involved.

  • Making Air Barriers that Work: Why and How to Tighten Up Buildings
    May 29, 2008

    Feature Article

    Incorporating a continuous air barrier into a building's design and construction can save energy and improve the indoor environment, among other benefits. The right materials and assemblies can help accomplish that goal, but careful attention during design and close oversight during construction are essential.

  • Prefabricating Green: Building Environmentally Friendly Houses Off Site
    September 28, 2007

    Feature Article

    Prefabricated housing offers several potential environmental benefits, including reduced transportation impacts, reduced waste, and quality control for better durability and performance. Aside from a few industry leaders, however, most manufacturers do not take full advantage of those efficiencies to create affordable high-performance houses.

  • The Challenge of Existing Homes: Retrofitting for Dramatic Energy Savings
    July 10, 2007

    Feature Article

    Greenhouse gas emissions associated with residential energy use account for a fifth of all emissions in the U.S. Retrofitting existing houses to achieve a two- to three-fold reduction in energy use is necessary if we are to achieve the emissions reductions scientists say are required for avoiding catastrophic climate change. Here's a look at how it can be done.

  • Passive Survivability: A New Design Criterion for Buildings
    May 3, 2006

    Feature Article

    Buildings and their occupants are vulnerable to threats ranging from storms and rising sea levels to accidents and terrorism. In this feature article, EBN describes how to design and construct buildings to maintain livable conditions in the event of extended power outages or loss of heating fuel or water.

  • How Six Affordable Housing Projects Got to Green
    October 6, 2017

    Feature Short

    Stories of designers and developers who overcame the challenges of building affordable housing that is also green, sustainable, and healthy.

  • Glass Façade with Vacuum Insulation
    October 6, 2017

    Product Review

    Sedak’s Isomax system incorporates vacuum insulated panels into insulated glazing units to create thin glass façades with improved thermal performance.

  • SonicLQ: Reconnecting Acoustics and Airtightness
    September 7, 2017

    Blog Post

    Early on in our work on energy-efficient homes, the connection between airtightness and sound centered on airport noise; now a new technology reconnects acoustics and air leakage

  • Pete’s Puzzle: Mold on Painted Clapboards is Food for Thought
    August 29, 2017

    Blog Post

    There is mold on the factory-primed, latex top-coated wood clapboards on the south but not the north side of our house

  • A New Halogen-Free Polyiso Insulation from GAF
    August 2, 2017

    Product Review

    GAF now offers a full line of polyisocyanurate foam insulation that is free of toxic halogenated flame retardants.