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In the world of building construction, improvement, and analysis, we talk about R-value all the time. Generally we talk about it as if it's a constant number. Hey, R-19 is stamped right there on the product, so that's what it is, right? Well, maybe. Sometimes.
Hidden deep within the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Reauthorization Act, recently passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama, is a provision that outlaws insulation in all new buildings. Citing its potential as both a cause of pandemics and an all-hazard, the bill's authors concluded that insulation is a national security threat and must therefore be banned.
On my trip to Aspen, Colorado last week, when I learned to ski, I noticed an interesting snow pattern on a lot of the roofs of the houses near where we stayed. Not being from snow country, I didn't know what they were. In fact, when I posted the lower photo in this article to Facebook, my friend Nate Adams of Energy Smart Insulation wrote, "Heat cables? Are you going to make me come down there?"
If you install fiberglass batt insulation* with a kraft paper vapor retarder in a home, which way do you face the vapor retarder? To the inside of the home or the outside of the home? For many building science questions, the answer is, 'It depends.' For this one, the answer is clear.
Let's play a little game today. Take a look at that photo above. See anything that bothers you? No? Well, pretend that you're the heat in the house once everything is finished and people are living in it. Does that help? If your answer is still no, let me give you a little help. Here are the approximate R-values of wood and the standard insulation you might find in a wall (fiberglass, cellulose, open-cell spray foam):
Guest post from Nate Adams, founder of Energy Smart Insulation in Mantua, Ohio.
Spray foam insulation evokes some interesting conversation among building science professionals, those in construction, environmentalists, and homeowners who have it in their homes. Many think it solves all problems, no matter how poorly it's installed. Some think it's helping to warm the planet and compromise the health of people and pets. In the middle are those who work with it regularly and see both the warts and the beauty of the product.
You know how sometimes people ask, "Where were the adults?" In the field of building science, I've got a new question: Where were the control freaks? It's not nearly as well known as it should be, but buildings need to have well-defined control layers to control heat, air, liquid water, and water vapor. Often they don't. What I'm about to show you is graphic and may be shocking to you. If you're easily offended by building science crimes, you may want to click away now.
Habitat for Humanity is showing that affordable housing and high-performance homes isn't an either/or choice. They've been doing great work and going in this direction for a long time, but in the past 5 years, they've really stepped it up a notch. Their mission statement includes the following statement on sustainability:
One of the great things about writing this blog is that I don't have to depend only on material that I've personally seen. Because I'm "semi-famous" (Thanks, Dan!), people occasionally send me photos of building envelope and mechanical systems stuff that's, well, just abominable. Let's look at a few here.
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