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Designs That Work House Plans are developed by BSC to be appropriate for residential projects in specific climate zones. They are fully integrated construction drawing sets that include floor plans, framing plans and wall framing elevations, exterior elevations, building and wall sections, and mechanical and electrical plans. Please note that house plans are posted as examples of high performance housing designs and are not to be used for construction. For more information, see the note on the title page of the plans.
Enclosures That Work are Building Profiles and High R-Value Assemblies developed by BSC to be appropriate for residential construction in specific climate zones.
Building Profiles are residential building cross sections that include enclosure and mechanical design recommendations. Most profiles also include field expertise notes, material compatibility analysis, and climate challenges.
High R-Value Assemblies are summaries of the results of BSC's ongoing High R-Value Enclosure research — a study that BSC has undertaken for the US DOE's Building America research program to identify and evaluate residential assemblies that cost-effectively provide 50 percent improvement in thermal resistance.
Guides and Manuals are "how-to" documents, giving advice and instructions on specific building techniques and methods. Some, such as the Review of Residential Ventilation Technologies, cover multiple examples within a general topic area. Others, such as the Guide to Insulating Sheathing, are focused on a particular concept and its applications. Longer guides and manuals include background information to help facilitate a strong understanding of the building science behind the hands-on advice.
In addition to these longer standalone guides, this section also contains two quick, easy-to-read series. The IRC FAQ series answers common questions about the building science approach to specific building tasks (for example, insulating a basement). The READ THIS: Before... series offers guidelines and recommendations for everyday situations such as moving into a new home or deciding to renovate.
Information Sheets are short, descriptive overviews of basic building science topics, from duct sealing to reservoir claddings. Through illustrations, photographs, and straightforward explanations, each Information Sheet covers the essential aspects of a single topic. Common, avoidable mistakes are also examined in the What's Wrong with this Project? and What's Wrong with this Practice? mini-series.
Information Sheets are useful both as an introduction to building science and as a handy reference that can be easily printed for use in the field, in a design meeting, or at the building permit counter.
Published Articles are a selected set of articles written by BSC personnel and published in professional and trade magazines that address building science topics. For example, our work has appeared in Fine Homebuilding, Home Energy, ASHRAE's High Performance Buildings, The Journal of Building Enclosure Design and The Journal of Building Physics. We thank these publications for their gracious permission to republish.
We are passionate about building science and welcome new opportunities to share information. If your publication needs content about energy efficiency, durability, or other aspects of high-performance building, please contact us at email@example.com.
Research Reports are technical reports written for researchers but accessible to design professionals and builders. These reports typically provide an in-depth study of a particular topic or describe the results of a research project. They are often peer reviewed and also provide support for advice given in our Building Science Digests. The most recent documents posted are at the top of the list below.
Conference Papers are peer-reviewed papers published in conference proceedings.
Building America Reports are sponsored by Building America, part of the U.S. Department of Energy.
Recommended Freeze-Thaw Risk Assessment StepsBuilding Science Corporation has worked with project teams on a wide variety of masonry retrofits, from houses to large buildings, including historical...
Freeze-Thaw Risk: Material Testing Back to Recommended Freeze-Thaw Risk Assessment Steps In many projects, the risk is not clear from inspection alone. Material testing is the next step in...
Freeze-Thaw Risk: Hygrothermal Modeling Back to Recommended Freeze-Thaw Risk Assessment Steps There are cases where hygrothermal modeling is simply unnecessary. For example, materials testing may...
Freeze-Thaw Risk: Repair/Retrofit, Maintain and Monitor Back to Recommended Freeze-Thaw Risk Assessment Steps Each retrofit project is unique: the building’s features and historical...
Freeze-Thaw Risk: Site Visit Back to Recommended Freeze-Thaw Risk Assessment Steps Inspection by a building scientist can often identify existing moisture problems (due to rainwater, rising damp...
Freeze-Thaw Risk: Prototype Monitoring Back to Recommended Freeze-Thaw Risk Assessment Steps In some cases, the risk of adding interior insulation is still not clear enough even after materials...
Freeze-Thaw Risk: Site Load AssessmentBack to Recommended Freeze-Thaw Risk Assessment StepsMost of the moisture that masonry walls must deal with comes from wind-driven rain. Unfortunately, the...
CP-1013: Assessing the Freeze-Thaw Resistance of Clay Brick for Interior Insulation Retrofit Projects
This paper is from the proceedings of the Thermal Performance of the Exterior Envelopes of Whole Buildings XI International Conference, December 5-9, 2010 in Clearwater, Florida. This paper summarizes some of the limitations of the various approaches to assessing the freeze-thaw resistance of brick masonry units and presents a detailed methodology for using frost dilatometry to determine the critical degree of saturation of brick material. Test results are presented for bricks from several historical load-bearing masonry. Recommendations are made for applying this approach together with hygrothermal model in the design of retrofit insulation projects.
"linings and warmth . . . "1How do you insulate uninsulated masonry buildings on the inside? Carefully. There I go again with the obvious. It is trickier to do it on the inside. But it is often less...
One of the more difficult questions regarding enclosures is can we insulate the interior of a mass wall in a cold climate without causing damage from freeze/thaw cycles? The answer is usually yes, we can insulate. But, and there is almost always a “but,” it depends.
Masonry walls are generally highly durable. However, when masonry walls are too wet during freezing spells, freeze-thaw damage can occur. This issue has particular relevance for energy efficiency...
A concise history of the improvements to traditional buildings through design and materials.
Moisture is involved in most building problems. The most serious tend to be structural damage due to wood decay, unhealthy fungal growth, corrosion, freeze-thaw, and damage to moisture sensitive interior finishes. Avoiding these problems requires an understanding of moisture, the nature of materials, and how it interacts with materials. This digest deals with these fundamentals.
BA-1307: Interior Insulation of Mass Masonry Walls: Joist Monitoring, Material Test Optimization, Salt Effects
There are many existing buildings with load-bearing mass masonry walls, whose energy performance could be improved with the retrofit of insulation. However, adding insulation to the interior side of...
This paper describes a fully instrumented large-scale mock-up completed in a southern Ontario private school to allow direct comparisons between insulated and non-insulated walls with a focus on the evaluation of freeze-thaw and corrosion risks. Climate conditions and wall temperature, relative humidity and moisture content are compared and discussed. Climate conditions (wetting and temperature) over the monitoring period were less severe than average. As a result, measured values were used to refine computer models to simulate wall performance under more severe climate conditions.
CP-1301: Field Monitoring and Simulation of a Historic Mass Masonry Building Retrofitted with Interior Insulation
Load-bearing masonry buildings are a significant portion of the existing building stock; however, adding insulation to the interior side of walls of such masonry buildings in cold, and particularly cold and wet, climates may cause performance and durability problems in some cases. Exterior insulation provides the ideal conditions for building durability; however, many buildings cannot be retrofitted with insulation on the exterior for reasons such as historic preservation, aesthetics, zoning, or space restrictions.
A circa 1917 construction mass masonry building located on a Boston-area university campus was retrofitted with interior polyurethane spray foam insulation; the building is on the National Historic Register. Sensors were installed in the retrofitted walls to measure temperature and moisture conditions within the assembly; interior and exterior boundary conditions were also monitored. Experimental variables included orientation (north and south), spatial location of monitoring, and assembly type (insulated experimental vs. uninsulated control). Hygrothermal simulations were run on the original and retrofitted assemblies using measured site environmental data, both to assess durability risks, and for comparison with the measured data. Durability risks examined included potential for freeze-thaw damage and interstitial condensation. The effect of thermal bridging through structural elements was examined with both cold weather infrared thermography and two-dimensional thermal simulations.
There is a large existing stock of uninsulated mass masonry buildings: their uninsulated walls result in poor energy performance, which is commonly addressed with the retrofit of interior insulation. Some durability issues associated with interior insulation have been or are being addressed, such as interstitial condensation and freeze-thaw damage issues.
However, another durability risk is the hygrothermal behavior of moisture-sensitive wood beams embedded in the load-bearing masonry. Interior insulation reduces the beam end temperatures, reduces available drying potential, and results in higher relative humidity conditions in the beam pocket: all of these factors pose a greater risk to durability.
BA-1505: Measure Guideline—Deep Energy Enclosure Retrofit (DEER) for Interior Insulation of Masonry Walls
This Measure Guideline describes a deep energy enclosure retrofit (DEER) solution for insulating mass masonry buildings from the interior. It describes the retrofit assembly, technical details, and...
CP-0605: Assessing the Durability Impacts of Energy Efficient Enclosure Upgrades Using Hygrothermal Modeling
This paper examines methods of using hygrothermal models, primarily WUFI, to assess the impact of energy efficient enclosure upgrades on the durability of historical buildings. Means of producing and choosing input data for the hygrothermal simulation are discussed. Methods for using the hourly results from the simulations to generate a corrosion index and a freeze-thaw count are developed. An example wall is used to demonstrate the type of output that can be expected and how this can be used in making retrofit design decisions.
This digest reviews the moisture control principles that must be followed for a successful insulated retrofit of a solid load-bearing masonry wall. Two possible approaches to retrofitting such walls are presented and compared.