The Intricacies Behind Thermal Comfort

When you think about thermal comfort, what comes to mind? Insulation? Heating and cooling systems? The thermostat? Of course, these are all critical components to interior spaces that are conducive to happy, productive occupants. However, to truly master the science of thermal comfort, a more in-depth investigation can be beneficial.

While radiation, air speed, and humidity might be the most studied aspects of thermal performance, let’s shift our perspective to that of the end user. Specifically, how do activity, age and clothing affect comfort in interior environments?

Believe it or not, studies by ASHRAE indicate that clothing has very little impact on comfort. To reach this conclusion, ASHRAE used a unit of measure, clo, to determine the insulating capacity of clothing. Clo is based on the amount of insulation that allows a person at rest to maintain thermal equilibrium in an environment at 70 degrees Fahrenheit in a normally ventilated room. The difference in clo, which equates to 0.88 r-value, between summer and winter fashion selections is roughly 1.5 clos — a miniscule factor in terms of comfort.

However, when you consider the age of occupants it’s a different story. A 25-year-old employee bouncing off the walls and drinking a Red Bull experiences comfort much differently than a 50-year old manager who sits at a desk 8-plus hours a day.

Why? The rate of metabolism, which is influenced by age among other things, can create an awful lot of heat.  Since heat production varies from person to person, individual actions are taken to reach equilibrium that impact the entire space, such as opening a window, allowing more sunlight into the area or adjusting the thermostat.

The lesson here is that architectural professionals and building owners should be mindful of age in their designs to ensure long-lasting comfort for building occupants. For those of you that want to take a deep dive into the nuances of thermal comfort, check out ASHRAE 55-2013.

Ready for Action: AIA 2014

aia_chicagoOn the eve of the American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) annual conference, we’re rearing to go and carefully compiling our “must see” list for day one of the show. We have a full schedule of activities at the CertainTeed booth, so be sure to stop by and say hello. If you aren’t in the Windy City for the big event, we’ll do our best to share interesting insights from the exhibit hall. Drop us a line and we’ll report back to you. In the mean time, here’s what’s on our radar.

  1. Architect magazine is hosting Chicago Tribune architectural critic, Blair Kamin for a live interview session on Thursday at 11 a.m. A Pulitzer-prize winning journalist, Kamin offers a unique perspective on the challenges and opportunities of urban development, public spaces and historic preservation.
  1. Bust a move at the YKK booth. The company will debut its “Do the Architect” video, offering a much-needed respite from a long day of strenuous, CEU courses.
  1. Sign the “Down with Decibels” petition to tackle unwanted noise in interior spaces. The petition was designed to rally attendees around the idea that acoustics profoundly impact the way people work, learn and heal in the built environment.
  1. Experience a whole new dimension of upcycling with Rail Yard Studios. The company transforms old railroad ties into coffee tables, bed frames and bookshelves that are design savvy and sustainable.
  1. Get schooled on classroom acoustics. ASSA ABLOY and CertainTeed will host a panel discussion at Learning Lounge #4067 at 1:20 p.m. From concept to installation to real-world testing, this team of experts has a compelling story to share about their work at a Pennsylvania elementary school.
  1. Ready to put your pedometer to the test? Take a walk to one of the many Chicago-area buildings designed by Perkins + Will. Check out their online map to get the scoop on all of the sites to see.

Looking ahead, there’s still two more days of exploration at AIA. What should we see and do next?

 

 

 

Thermal Control in Building Envelopes

Like so many things we encounter in our lives when it comes to thermal comfort in a building, it is not a one-size-fits-all scenario.  That is why it is so important to understand the thermal performance of materials but also their water vapor and air resistance properties and how they will interact in the wall assembly.

Whether specifying materials for a new construction or for a renovation it is important to have a thorough understanding of how all the components in a wall assembly will play together to get the desired outcomes for the building.

Indoor comfort is critical for human health and performance and so starting with a space that has been designed for optimal thermal performance is crucial.

Join me on Tuesday, June 3 at noon for a deep dive into Thermal Control in Building Envelopes.  After this 90 minute free webinar you will be able to:

  • Describe the three modes of heat transfer
  • Understand the thermal properties of building materials
  • Describe how to calculate the thermal performance of insulated wall assemblies
  • Describe how to insulate different types of wall assemblies
  • Describe ways to increase the thermal performance and moisture durability of roofing assemblies
  • Understand the thermal performance attributes of fenestration products – windows, curtain walls, and doors
  • Understand how thermal control in building envelopes can help earn points in the LEED rating systems

This course is GBCI approved and AIA approved for 1.5 LU.  Remember to bring your questions!

 

Managing the Biggest Building Challenge – Moisture

We have reached the dessert portion of The Art of Building Science webinar series and it is definitely apple pie a la mode because it is jammed packed with information. A large portion of this session is focused on Moisture Management because that is the number one cause of premature service life in our built environment today. It is the one thing that we never, ever find a way to live with.

Moisture management is critical to everywhere we build because we build with water and water surrounds us. I have taken part in mold remediation projects in East Los Angeles so even in drought-ridden California you can experience excessive moisture at times. The only place on the planet that does not have moisture issues ever (at least for a very long time now) is the Atacama Desert in Chile.

Even if you haven’t been able to participate in the earlier sessions, join us Tuesday, May 6 at 5:30 pm EST. Of all the topics we cover in building science, moisture management seems to generate the most questions and the most confusion so it’s always a good time to refresh our memory and augment our knowledge. You can register right here for The Art of Building Science Part III – Moisture Flow. This course is AIA approved for 2 CEUs.

As we continue to see devastating weather systems throughout the US, designing and building to manage moisture is becoming increasingly important. Don’t miss this opportunity to learn more about controlling moisture in the built environment.

Tips for Checking for Mold Following a Wet Winter

Mold-in-basement2

Following this incredibly wet winter, it is a good idea to check to make sure that mold growth is not beginning inside or on your home. You may have noticed that the media has been talking about this on news programs of late.

Mold needs four things to thrive and liquid water is perhaps the most critical as it is the only one we have a chance of controlling. Having liquid water coupled with available oxygen, food and the temperature sweet spot, 41° to 104° F, is the perfect storm for mold growth. Here is what you should do:

  • Inspect your basement for damp walls or cracks where moisture can come in and seal them.
  • Fix plumbing leaks and other water problems as soon as possible. Dry all items completely. 
  • Scrub mold off hard non-porous surfaces with detergent and water, and dry completely.
  • On porous surfaces, in addition to surface cleaning you need to completely dry the material in order to prevent its reappearance. If that can’t be done, you may need to remove the material.
  • Inspect the exterior of your home at ground level. If water is collecting there, divert it away from the foundation.
  • If you find mold, make sure to cover your face and hands to minimize exposure when cleaning the area. It is also important to put a fan in a window and blow air from the room out of the house when you are working around the mold or you may disturb it. If it is a significant area affected or if you begin to feel “allergy type” symptoms when working around mold, call an expert to clean it out.

What humans typically react to are the mold spores which become airborne when it is in its “happy place” with food, water, and a cozy temp or when the mold is physically disturbed.  

We’ve made a lot of changes to how we build in recent years in order to conserve energy and live more sustainably. Many of the things we’ve done to improve our habitat have unfortunately created an ideal environment for mold to thrive. The only chance we have to keep mold from becoming a full-time member of our households is to eliminate the presence of liquid water in or on the materials we use to construct the dwellings.

 

The Art of Building Science Part II Webinar

Building Science fans, it’s time for Part II of the three part series on The Art of Building Science.  I hope that if you participated in the discussion last month on Heat Flow that you will join me for the next part of the series which will concentrate on Air Flow. If were not able to attend the first session that is not a problem.  These topics work collectively and individually.

The webinar will take place on Tuesday, April 8 from 5:30 – 7:00 pm EST to accommodate attendees who cannot participate during regular business hours.

I like to think of this as the second course of a three course meal. The webinar will run for 90 minutes so that we can consume the entrée part of this three course meal which is packed with valuable information and insight. We can’t eat the dessert until we finish the entrée.

Part II features a more in depth discussion on Air Flow and will provide you a deeper understanding of building science.  This session is approved for 1.5 AIA CEUs.

Register now, right here for The Art of Building Science Part II – Air Flow.

I look forward to continuing the dialogue on The Art of Building Science.

Understanding and Improving Indoor Air Quality Webinar

We, as a society, spend 90 percent of our time indoors. It is extremely important that the air inside our buildings, both residential and commercial, is providing the healthiest environment possible.

I will be hosting a webinar on Tuesday, April 8 from 3:00 – 4:00 pm EST on the topic of Understanding and Improving Air Quality.

This is a newly accredited program for us taking a deeper dive into the topic which is touched upon in other webinars that we have offer.  It is a more focused discussion on how to improve indoor air quality. 

We have talked about this topic and provided education on what indoor air quality is but this program will identify actual steps that can be taken to improve the quality of indoor air.

Let’s get together – inside – and explore the ways to improve our indoor air.  You can sign up right here for the webinar Understanding and Improving Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) – (GBCI Approved).

Come with questions and try to stump the presenter!

The Art of Building Science – Soup to Nuts Webinar Series

We are trying something new that we hope is helpful for those of you who would like to take a deeper dive into Building Science but can’t take time out of a nutty work day to do so.

Because I live Building Science every day, I occasionally lose sight of the fact that not everyone sees how all of this information works and fits together.  Sadly we live in a bullet point world so let’s give the big picture the opportunity to talk. Let’s give the silent masses the opportunity to ask questions and engage with folks who work with this knowledge on a daily basis in real world scenarios.

The early evening timeframe for this series may have particular value for younger architects and building professionals who do not get to take time out of billable hours but could jump online at the end of the day.

We are offering the opportunity to see the Big Picture of Building Science through a series of three webinars starting at 5:30 pm EST over the next three months that will take you through topics such as Heat Flow, Moisture Flow, Air Flow, Indoor Air Quality, Evaluating HVAC or Mechanical Systems in the Building Envelop and Sound Control Problems.

Be forewarned, each webinar is a half hour longer than the last.  It is like a three course meal that will leave you both full and wanting more.

The first session will be held on Wednesday, March 12 from 5:30 – 6:30 pm EST.  If you are looking to expand your knowledge of Building Science, this accredited course is for you!

Register and join me for The Art of Building Science Part I.

Transparency and Green Labels for The Home

Product Life CycleWhile I was waiting for my coffee to brew this morning in the office, I started reading the ingredients on the back of the sweetener I planned to use. There was one ingredient that I didn’t recognize. Being a scientist, I am naturally curious so I looked it up. I was shocked to find out that the sweetener contained an ingredient that emits formaldehyde above 92 degrees Fahrenheit. So I chose a different sweetener.

How fortunate am I that I caught that and had the resources to understand what it was telling me. But how many people have no idea what some of this means? It made me think about the benefit and value of the emerging forms of transparency about the products that we buy and use in our homes. This information is very insightful and when we make it available in a form that people can digest and employ it has real value to customers and consumers.  An informed consumer is a better consumer and manufacturers are beginning to embrace the concept of transparency through Life Cycle Assessments, Environmental Product Declarations and Health Product Declarations. If you are interested in learning more about transparency in the building materials industry, I addressed this issue in a blog post.

For a more in depth and current discussion of the topic, please consider attending the webinar I am conducting on Tuesday, February 18 from 12:00 – 1:00 pm EST titled Publications for Product Life Cycle Assessment.  This course is accredited with the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI).

 

IBS Insights: Water Damage Woes

NormAbramNorm Abram from This Old House made a special visit to the CertainTeed booth today and answered questions from IBS attendees, which included the question:

What is the number one downfall that destroys homes?

Water. And it’s not just homes that are built with wood. There are buildings that I have seen over the years that were made out of metal and because of moisture they are destroyed. In some ways, you really need to treat a house like a human being. It’s similar to the clothes we wear that keep us warm or the athletic wear that wicks water away. Why not learn from that?

We agree wholeheartedly with Norm, which is why CertainTeed had a dedicated building science team to tackle moisture management issues. And, there’s a host of resources at www.certainteed.com/buildingscience to help builders address the mayhem caused by unwanted moisture.