October 15, 2006


With rising utility cost, concerns over availability of natural resources, and environmental impacts of our energy production and use, a push has been made to design buildings to minimize energy consumption in an attempt to work towards more sustainable communities. Creating more thermally efficient building enclosures is a necessary part of achieving this goal. The thermal resistance provided by insulating a stud cavity is limited by the standard framing sizes currently used in the United States and Canada. The options therefore are to either increase the depth of the studs used, add insulation to the interior of the wall assembly, or to add extra insulation to the exterior of the assembly. Providing rigid insulating sheathing to the exterior of a wall assembly is a technique that has been used in cold climates for more than 40 years. Recently it has begun to be integrated into enclosure designs in all climates. As with any newly adopted technology, there can be concerns for its proper application. This paper examines methods of incorporating insulating sheathing into the thermal and moisture management systems of the building enclosure in a variety of climate zones across North America. This is done through examining the material properties of the various products and how these properties can be used to achieve an energy efficient and durable building enclosure design, while avoiding problems relating moisture accumulation and degradation of materials.