Do You Always Need to Stick with a Manufacturer’s Family of Products?

For the most part, I’m a fan of using a manufacturer’s family of products throughout an assembly.  For instance, if I’m working with Huber’s Zip System sheathing, I prefer to use the Zip family of tapes throughout the assembly.

The Winnie Pretty Good House using Huber’s Zip System for both the walls and roof.

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Can Short Term Indoor Air Quality Testing be Effective?

This post first appeared on the Green Building Advisor Website.

I own a CPS IAQPRO Smart Air professional indoor air quality monitor that I use on nearly every energy audit and building investigation I perform.  The tool measures particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10), volatile organic compounds (VOC), carbon dioxide (CO2), temperature, relative humidity, pressure and dew point.  The question is, can short term air quality monitoring provide any useful feedback as to the indoor air quality of the home?  The answer, yes and no.

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What’s the Difference Between R-Value and U-Factor?

This post first appeared on the Andersen Windows and Door Website.

We were taught in junior high that hot air rises, the key to that phrase is air.  Heat itself moves from someplace warm to someplace cool.  A good example of this happens often in cold climates.  When standing in front of an old window on a cold night, you feel a chill.  This chill is the result of heat leaving your body and moving towards the colder surface of the window glass, heat moving from hot to cold.  To slow this movement of heat, we use insulation, by putting on another layer of clothes, we reduce or resist the movement of heat, we have added R-value.

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Building Codes and Building Science are Beginning to Better Align

This post first appeared on the Green Building Advisor website.

I’ve heard Mike Guertin mention that every home built is a building science experiment.  It can take some time for problems in buildings to be known.  For instance, a bad detail on a window installation, like shown in this photo, could take more than 20 years to present as a problem.  If the problem is being repeated, building science might identify the issue and propose a change.  Eventually, the change may end up in the building codes, but this whole process is slow.

That being said, there are many building science principles that we have figured out, with several already added to the codes.  Some have been known about for decades but are still slow to be adopted.  Let’s discuss a few of each.

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Why Knowing Your Climate Zone is Important

Figure N1101.7 (R301.1) Climate Zones-2021 International Residential Code (IRC)

This climate zone map is published by the American Society of Heating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) and is included in the International Residential Code, chapter 11, Energy Efficiency.  ASHRAE’s purpose is to create standards of how an engineer or HVAC professional calculates and designs heating, air conditioning and ventilations systems to match the insulation, air sealing, and moisture profile of a building.  When designing these often-complicated systems, where the structure is located becomes key, this is the reason the map was created.

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How Well Do You Know Building Science?

This post first appeared on the Green Building Advisor Website.

The International Builders Show took place from February 27th through the 29th, 2024 in Las Vegas, NV.  The past couple years, Huber Engineered Wood has held a building science trivia game in their booth.  The game is played using an app on a cell phone, questions are answered by contestants and their score is based both on how quickly the question is answered and whether the question was answered correctly.  The game is just for fun, though there are some bragging rights if you are able to beat the on-stage contestants.  This year, the on-stage players were Jake Bruton, Steven Baczek, Peter Yost, and Ben Bogie with Tate Hudson from Huber asking the questions.  (Jake has this year’s bragging rights.)

I thought it might be fun to have a version of building science trivia here on the Northern Built Blog.  Some of the questions being asked are from the game played in the Huber booth, others are questions that were asked during another building science trivia game played a recent BS and Beer-Northern Minnesota meeting.  The game is just for fun, you keep track of how many you get right.  The answers (along with a little more in-depth information about the answer) will follow the quiz.  Here we go.

  1. The climate zone map located in Chapter 11 (Energy Efficiency) of the 2021 International Residential Code Book contains how many different climate zones?
    1. 8
    2. 9
    3. 14
    4. 19

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Common Building Science Mistakes to Avoid

This blog post first appeared in two issues of Fine HomeBuilding Magazine: Issues 321 and 322.  Part of a series that included 17 short articles written by 7 different authors.  My first contribution appeared in the letters and reader feedback section of the February/March issue, titled “The biggest mistake of all?”  You can read that post here. 

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Upgrades that Effect Energy Loads

This post first appeared on the Green Building Advisor Website.

As homeowners, builders, and/or designers, how do we choose the right products or assemblies that provide the best energy performance?  How does a code minimum designed wall perform?  How about changes in ceiling insulation R-values?  What if we decide to increase the air tightness?  How about triple pane windows?  There are several ways in which product and assembly upgrades are chosen.

  1. First is experience. In having the opportunity to be in more than 100 homes a year performing energy assessments/audits and building investigations, I see both successes and failures.
  2. Being familiar with the different products on the market is important. As an example, selecting the right product for a given budget that can be installed over the board sheathing of an existing home to provide both bulk water management and air control.
  3. Using energy modeling software to quantify the decisions is helpful. The easiest way to decide which improvements to implement is by creating a baseline (code minimum) model of the project, then key in the proposed upgrades to see how the model changes.
Air leaks, thermal bridging, and low R-values all affect the operational costs and comfort for this home.

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Ice Dams-Why They Form and How to Reduce their Risk

There is a lot of confusion as to why ice dams form on roofs in cold climates.  This is understandable, some years we experience heavy ice dams, other years have little to no issues.  Changes in weather from year to year can have a major impact on their formation.  I’ve seen new homes with ice dams that are completely related to winter freeze/thaw cycles.  That being said, most ice dam issues are directly caused by certain characteristics of the home, namely insulation levels and air tightness.

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Construction Design-Problems with Attic Trusses

This post first appeared on the Green Building Advisor Website

Attic truss, also known as a room-in-attic truss are a way to create a living space without the need to add a full second story to a home.  These factory-built roof systems simplify a roof buildout and are engineered to meet the structural requirements of your local codes and conditions.  I commonly see them used for bonus rooms over garages and integrated into slab-on-grade homes to add living space without needing to add to the height of the building.

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