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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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.

  • Installing Insulation With the X-Floc Ventilated Dry Injection System

    Blog Post

    X-Floc claims the blowing equipment they use delivers cellulose at a more consistent density, and they were willing to prove it with this demonstration.

  • How Six Affordable Housing Projects Got to Green

    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

    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

    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

    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