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Continuous Insulation – Part 2

April 11, 2011

For Part 1 of the series, click here.

When we left of our last post, I was explaining that the 1.5″ or more of Continuous Insulation (CI) required by most current energy codes is causing problems with approved cladding attachment systems.  In this post, we will outline some solutions.

Solution 1: The U-Factor Compliance Method via The Energy Code

The IECC 2009 and most similar energy codes provide two methods to meet the insulation requirements.  The first [Table 502.2(1)] is the “Prescriptive Method,” which simply gives R-values for various construction types and elements. For instance, a metal-framed wall in Zone 4 would require “R-13+R7.5ci.” This essentially means R-13 batts or other insulation between the studs, and R-7.5 of continuous insulation. As long as everything is installed correctly, it’s quick and easy and you can move on. But as we have seen in the previous post, getting everything installed easily is not that easy.  The second method is called the “U-factor compliance method” (Table 502.1.2).  The basis for this method is calculating the entire wall assembly for compliance with an overall “U-value.”  (FYI – U-value is inverse of R-value — U=1/R). The actual construction method is not as important, as long as you have the data you need to calculate the overall value on the assembly — which is not always easy.  For the same Zone 4 Metal Framed wall, the requirement is U=0.064 (R=15.625). (Which is roughly equivalent to R-13+R7.5ci, so you suddenly see how weak R-13 batts in metal studs really is => R~8.125.)

The positive of this method is that all you have to do is add more insulation until you overcome the weak points created by thermal bridges such as metal framing. The biggest problem is that you have to be careful as to where the dew-point is going to fall at all points in the assembly, and provide necessary vapor and air barriers to prevent condensation, mold, and other similar issues.

The one time I suggest this method is when you choose to forgo the “R-13” batts in the studs and go entirely with Continuous Insulation . . . provided you can get it to work structurally and get it sealed properly, it is likely to be the most-efficient, most air-tight, and least vapor-problem-creating system you could choose. Many insulated metal panel systems work this way, as can EIFS. Some of the rigid foam board manufacturers are developing systems as well.

Solution 2: Secondary Cladding Support System

The second solution is likely to be used in a larger variety of projects with a larger variety of cladding systems.  The basic idea is to create some sort of secondary structural attachment system outside the CI to attach the cladding.  The problem is, there needs to be a way to support this secondary system without creating thermal bridges through the CI back to the primary structural system or studs.  There’s really only two obvious ways to do this:

  1. A self-supporting system. On a low-rise building, this may be tenable, but probably not suggested. It is also probably not very cost-effective. The idea is to mimic the advantages of a masonry veneer.  Masonry veneer works with continuous insulation, because it only needs lateral ties through the CI. The weight of the material is carried by itself down to the foundation or other supporting structure. With this in mind, it would seem possible to create a secondary structural wall, such as a second layer of metal studs, outside the CI, supported directly on the slab, foundation, or other member below, with minimal ties back through the CI for lateral support. For extremely heavy veneers or extremely thick layers of CI (over 4″), this method may actually be necessary.
  2. A non-bridging wall-supported system. The idea with this method is to create a lightweight attachment system outside the CI that is supported through the CI to the primary structural system with some combination of connections that meet the definition of “fasteners” described in the previous post. I believe this method has the most merit for the widest variety of projects, cladding, sheathing, amount of CI, contractor preferences, etc. The problem is, finding a way to make it work. Before I even began my research, my first thought was, “There HAS to be a way to use furring outside the CI to get this to work. But currently, the code doesn’t have provisions, nor do most cladding manufacturers. But, as it turns out, others have thought the same way, and solutions are starting to show up . . . In the interest of long reads, we’ll pick up there in our next post . . .

Please contact me at Curry Architects for all of your design needs.

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Continuous Insulation – Part 1

April 7, 2011

This series of posts is definitely for my architecture/construction readers, unless you’re so inclined . . .

As most design professionals know, everything in the field of construction is moving to create more energy efficient buildings. At first, this was a fringe movement that led to standards such as the LEED program developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). As the movement has gained momentum, more and more of the standards are becoming a part of local building codes. Certain jurisdictions are requiring some level of LEED certification for buildings. Locally, the City of Baltimore has developed their own Green Buildings Standards as a requirement or alternative to LEED.

Additionally, the International Code Council has begun implementing more “Green” building practices into their family of codes. First, they introduced the “International Energy Conservation Code.” Now, they are working on an “International Green Building Code.”

With the 2009 editions of the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), one particular requirement has raised significant questions and problems within the building envelope. This term called “Continuous Insulation,” often just a little “ci” in the codes is beginning to make a stir and, if implemented properly, will change the way we build . . . but it is RARELY implemented properly at this point in time . . . and thus this series of posts.

First – what is Continuous Insulation, and why is it such a big deal?

Let’s begin with the second half of the question . . . While CI is used in a variety of wall assemblies, it is most important where materials of high-conductivity are used . . . especially metal.  For instance, historically, we would install batt insulation between metal studs and move on.  However, in a metal stud wall, the studs conduct so much heat, they reduce the total R-Value by about 50% (depending on specific factors). So your average stud wall (4″-6″ studs) results in a maximum R-value in the R-7 to R-9 range. If CI is used and installed properly, you get approximately the true R-Value of the material.  So what is it?

The IECC 2009 actually does not define the term, but they pulled it from ASHRAE 90.1. ASHRAE 90.1 defines Continuous Insulation as insulation that is continuous across all structural members without thermal bridges other than fasteners and service openings. It is installed on the interior, exterior, or is integral to any opaque surface of the building.

With further research, you discover that “fasteners” is meant to include screws, bolts, nails, and the like, but not much else.  This means furring strips, clip angles, and other large connectors are generally excluded . . . which is where the big problem lies, and why I spent time doing the research.

If you are using a self-supporting cladding such as brick or other masonry, you can use a system of ties that meets the “fastener” requirement and move on.  If you are using a continuously insulating system, such as Insulated Metal Panels or EIFS, you also don’t have a problem (provided they truly are continuous and without thermal bridges). But for any cladding material supported by the building structure, significant problems occur.

For most regions of the country, the IECC 2009 is now requiring R-7.5 or more of CI on metal-framed buildings. In general, this will be 1.5″ or more of insulating  material (depending on the specific material used). However, most Cladding Systems, such as Metal Panels, Cementious Siding, etc are only approved for attachment through 1″ of non-supporting material.

If you go to most of these cladding companies’ web sites to find out how to install their product over a thicker insulating layer . . . you will almost universally find a detail similar to the one shown here, which has a metal Z-purlin passing through the supposedly Continuous Insulation to get to the structure.  Some suggest using a “Thermal Break” at the connection to the structure.  From the research I’ve found, you have still reduced the effectiveness of the CI from between 25%-50%.

As a result, I spent 3 days calling various cladding manufacturers, rigid insulation board manufacturers, and several other industry-related people, while doing online research, code analysis, and more . . . And I finally have some true and good solutions . . . so we’ll pick up there in the next post.

Feel free to contact me at Curry Architects if you need design help in any way.

White as Snow

December 27, 2010

My parents got Emily and me a Bissell Little Green Proheat upholstery cleaner for Christmas. Believe it or not, it is exactly what we asked for …

As a result, I spent most of December 26 cleaning up stains on the furniture and floor. I cleaned the entire sofa, but only cleaned up the bad stains on the carpet. While the sofa looks great (once everything dries and can go back together), the floor is a different story.

You see, we’ve only lived in this apartment since March, and the carpet was brand new at the time… So you wouldn’t think it was all THAT dirty, right? Other than the obvious spots where coffee or Dr Pepper were spilled, how bad could it be?

But, we need to remember that we have a dog that sheds, a two year old with a strong gag reflex, and a newborn with reflux …

When I got done spot cleaning the stains, I stepped back and realized the rest of the room suddenly looks really bad. A little dirt next to a stain was hardly noticeable. The same dirt next to a freshly cleaned spot suddenly looks really bad.

It’s kind of like sheep’s wool. Sheep on a grassy hillside look pretty and white. The same sheep standing in snow look filthy and drab. Heck, even the pure white of snow can easily be corrupted (as I look out the window to see Baltimore County crews spray melting compound on our street.)

How we view our sin is often the same way.

It is easy for us to look at our own lives and compare them to someone else. It is easy to say, “At least I haven’t done ____.” or “I would never act like that person does.”

Next to the apparent dirtiness of someone else, it’s easy to feel pretty “clean” and good about yourself.

But what happens when we take our own “cleanness” and put it up against the pureness and holiness of God?

Ouch!

What a stark reminder of a familiar verse: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus…” http://esv.to/Rom3.23-24

No wonder the psalmist, in a confession of sin, spoke of the whiteness of snow as part of his desire to be cleansed: http://esv.to/Ps51.7

May God’s grace be a catalyst to greater holiness in all of our lives in 2011!

Merry Christmas 2010

December 24, 2010

Ok. This blog is pretty much dead now. This is only my 2nd post in 5 months…but this time of year always brings about reflection and looking to the future … A lot can change in a short amount of time. Especially when kids are involved.

Since my last post, our car was deemed totaled and we received a check that allowed us to pay off ALL our debt, although we are now a 1-car family.

Second, our second daughter, Holly Grace, was born about a month early, spent two weeks in the NICU, and continues to *bless* us with some of the joys of parenting a preemie. (SARCASM!) Overall, she’s a beautiful and healthy baby … But she sure has some significant eating and sleeping issues! Please pray for her body to mature enough to at least get to “normal” baby wake-up issues!

At the same time, at work, I’ve seen a stadium go from concept drawings to seeing concrete flying in the air … Aiming for a September 2011 opening date! I’m glad to have ANY job in a career with 25% unemployment nationwide … And I am glad to see our office workload starting to increase as 2011 approaches.

Additionally, we’ve helped a local church, Valley Baptist Church experiment with a Sunday evening “lab” to focus on “loving like Jesus” as a lifestyle. Although it looks like the lab is going away in its current format, we saw several lives move from church attendees to thinking seriously about their spiritual impact in people’s lives throughout the week. 2011’s new format will aim at expanding this perspective to the rest of the church.

I have also had the opportunity to preach both at Valley and a couple other locations. I’m looking forward to more opportunities in the new year. This is going to be our second Holiday Season in a row that we do not travel to visit family. Emily’s mom is coming for a visit this week, but the entire family on either side hasn’t gotten together for any length of time in way too long. Unfortunately, we’re still feeling some effects of being unemployed for 9 months of 2009, and making less than we did before. We’re praying that 2011 allows us to buy a house and settle into our community even more. We really love living here in Towson.

Finally, it IS Christmas Eve, so I can’t help but reflect on God the Son taking on flesh as a newborn baby and dwelling among us lowly and corrupt humans for over 30 years … So that he might deliver to us the remedy for our corruption … The payment for our mess … The result being his death on a cruel cross, his burial, and his glorious resurrection that offers to us eternal life with God in heaven.

Last Sunday, I sat through Valley’s Christmas musical, holding Holly the entire time. As a dad holding my newborn child, hearing the songs about the baby Jesus, I got a little perspective check. How did God the Father feel, knowing what that bundle of joy (Jesus) was going to take on himself on behalf of all humanity? As a daddy, I just can’t grasp it. Such amazing love! How can it be?!?

Anyway … Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year!

Life Lessons

September 5, 2010

Well, this Labor Day weekend has been a LABORIOUS one!

But, we’ve had some interesting Life Lessons to learn in the process . . .

It all began Friday evening. Emily and Katie picked me up from work to go out to eat at our local Mexican place, El Salto (Parkville, Maryland — highly recommended).

On our way home, as we approached a stop light, a silver dart (another car) came passing through the adjacent line of traffic and hit the side of our car. Until the whole process is complete, I won’t share further details of the actual wreck . . . but thus began our weekend . . . and thus began some great life-lessons. Here’s the current top ten:Mazda 5 Wreck

  1. When a crisis happens, our God-given gifts, talents, and personalities come shining through. I immediately began assessing damage, checking to make sure everyone was OK, calling 911, etc. Emily was concerned about Katie, herself, and en-utero Holly.  We both were frustrated that the car we had paid off just a few months ago was now all messed up.
  2. Katie LOVES fire trucks and firemen. She’s going to be a flirt and she got plenty of practice while all the mess was going on. She also loves music, singing, and especially Lady Gaga. None of that is news to us, but was definitely apparent on Friday night. Mommy: “Katie, are you OK?” Katie: “Yes mommy, sing.”
  3. We got a pretty good tour of our hospital. After the wreck, Emily’s OB strongly suggested coming in to get checked out (we were planning on it, as Emily had significant concerns.) We spent some time in the ER getting Emily taken care of, and then got transported to Labor and Delivery to monitor and check on Holly.
  4. Holly is going to be amazing. With over 3 months left until she is scheduled to be introduced to the world, Holly is impressing the doctors with her skills — dancing, kicking, reacting to outside stimuli, and even fluctuating her heartbeat in accordance with her movement (which is apparently not normal until later in pregnancy.)
  5. We got a HUGE lesson in how a church should take care of their own. Over the course of our lives, Emily and I have been a part of many churches. No matter what crisis we’ve encountered in life, NO CHURCH has EVER taken care of us like Valley Baptist Church has taken care of us over the past couple of days. — Someone from the church has checked on us every few hours all weekend. One person came to the scene to help me unload all the stuff from our car, get us home, and load it all back into our other car.  Another person came to sit at our apartment while Katie was sleeping, while Emily and I went to the ER. Several other families gave us insurance and accident related advice, since we’re new to the rules in Maryland. Yet another family brought us dinner on Saturday, just to ease our burden at the end of a crazy day. I’ve heard of churches doing this before, but never experienced it like this . . . and while this is a crisis, we’ve had much more significant life change incidents than this in the past.
  6. Several of our friends who are not involved in church have also been helpful and supportive–moreso than some of our “church friends” in the past.
  7. Experiencing true friendship on all sides definitely reinforces our confidence in being where God has called us to be and doing what God has called us to do.
  8. If you’re in a moderate-to-severe car wreck, REPLACE YOUR CHILD’S CAR SEAT. For more information, read here: http://www.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/childps/ChildRestraints/reuse/restraintreuse.htm — FYI, the property damage portion of insurance ought to pay for the new car seat if it meets the requirements — no guarantees, but you ought to try.
  9. I’m wondering how hard of a hit it takes to engage the side curtain air bags. Should I be concerned that they didn’t in this wreck?
  10. Dealing with insurance, phone calls, legal junk, paperwork, and all that stuff can be the most tiring and distressing part of the whole experience.

I’m sure there’s more lessons to be learned . . . especially as the situation continues to unfold. But for now, we continue to appreciate your prayers and support!

Home

July 24, 2010

Writing another blog post from my iPhone app …

As I write, our family has now lived in Towson for over a year. We’ve been married for five years now, and Katie is fast approaching two years old.

We love living here. There is still not a doubt in our minds that God called us to this place. We are both living lives of increasing influence. Everything just seems to be taking longer than we originally planned. We’ve been pretty bad about keeping up our monthly newsletters. We just got tired of writing the same things over and over.

When we moved here, we got a great deal on a short-term lease on an apartment. Figuring life would normalize as soon as we got here, we hoped to move into a more permanent family home. We wound up moving to another apartment in our building. We’re making the most of it by using the closeness of apartment living to build relationships and influence.

But as home as we feel in Towson, sometimes it’s hard to feel at home in our apartment. Both storage rooms are full, which leaves our bedroom feeling less than relaxing, with “stuff” everywhere.

Our current apartment is fully remodeled with excellent and contemporary finishes, but seems to lack something to give it warmth and comfort.

I recently read an article about how old loved buildings are actually more efficient in the long-term than new efficient ones that aren’t as inviting, because the ongoing cost to remodel to keep them usable outweighs their efficiencies … But I digress …

Today, I pulled out a gift card someone got us before moving … Given to us thinking it would be used in fixing up a home we buy … We used the Home Depot card to buy a few flowers for our balcony.

There’s something about adding a little life to your home that makes it feel more like home.

I think the truth that applies to flowers can be extended to spiritual life, as well.

When we fail to bring ongoing spiritual life into our personal and family lives, there grows an increasing lack of “family” in your home. We may be living in the same place. We may be close and interacting on a daily basis, but without a growing spiritual connection, it is easy to get on each others’ nerves, to nit-pick, or to just feel alone among the people you love the most.

I personally believe that growing spiritual life in the home is much more than reading the Bible and praying together (although those things are important and good.) Spiritual life in the home needs to be centered around loving each other the way Jesus loved the people around him. If we can’t learn to do that in our own homes, how can we expect to have that kind of influence with others around us?

We’re working on it. We’re working out some ideas. We’re looking for more ideas.

How do you show and live the love of Jesus in your home?

How does that help you show the love of Jesus to others?

I’m looking for your comments, then maybe I’ll share some of our thoughts in the comments …

A new app

July 7, 2010

I know it’s been a while since my last blog post . . . Again.

Well, here’s another good intention. I just downloaded the wordpress app on my new iPhone 4. I’m writing this post from my phone. How cool is that?

I am a technology kind of guy, but I’ve been fighting the urge to get a smartphone for several years. I just didn’t want to be THAT accessible.

In the past, I’ve had a notebook computer that held most of my personal and work stuff. Having it with me, but not instantaneously, worked well for a long time. However, I don’t have a notebook to myself anymore. I didn’t really have a good way to access personal data when I am at work. And while I generally leave work at work, there are occasions I need to make a quick email or other contact.

All in all, keeping up with my 3-pronged life was getting harder and harder . . .

So, here I am – blogging from my phone. Crazy stuff.