What’s this Building Science stuff about?
Without being too cute about it, it’s just applying science to buildings and using it to make choices. We’ve been using science for structural decisions for years. We’ve even been able to reduce a lot of these decisions to simple design tables. We know enough about how structure works that we can make good rules to cover most of the common situations. It’s been quite successful, modern buildings are structurally great. Assuming that the contractors did their part right.
Now science is being used to inform some of the trickier aspects of building performance, energy and water actions within the building. We also have to include air movement in this because both energy and water can move on air.
Why are energy and water so important? Energy because we don’t want to use too much. Insulation in new homes is mandatory. People are more aware of comfort issues (Oh, comfort! that’s several blog posts on it’s own.) and expect that their houses will provide a certain level of comfort and efficiency.
Water because it can feed the things that will destroy our homes and make us unhealthy. Those are molds of various types and also deserve more coverage than they will get in this one post. What we call rot is mold feeding on wood. Mold growing on other surfaces can lead to allergies in certain individuals. For some people this can be quite severe.
What’s the connection between energy and water? Simply, water dries (evaporates) through the use of energy. The less energy a house uses the less potential it has to dry. So water management practices become more critical the more efficient a building becomes. What makes it even trickier is that the materials we use to build houses react in very different ways to water. Old buildings use materials much different from those we use now. Remodeling can introduce modern materials that will change the way a building handles water. It’s good to know what those changes are likely to be and what needs to happen to compensate for them. Building science.
Oh, see that last sentence in the second paragraph? The details for water and air management need to be executed properly too. Uncontrolled water in an energy efficient house can do a major amount of damage and repairs can get expensive really quickly. Call me and let’s get it right the first time.