Distinguished Lecturer Series: Building Science – Adventures in Building Science

it's my great pleasure to welcome you all to the distinguished talk by dr. Joe Stevie Rhett is an adjunct professor at University of Toronto for many years he led the Housing and Urban Development Association he was the director of research there and now we are the concerning forum in Boston and water long distinguished career is well recognized internationally and nationally for its expertise in fixing problems in buildings which means the title plaintiff in building science but the unofficial tide is go to stupid things without further ado thank you very much thank you very much well good afternoon everybody it's a it's a pleasure to be here I must have driven by this place a gazillion times over the years and and and I guess you finally ran out of distinguished people to invite and you got to me so I appreciate I appreciate it life is tough enough as it is it's harder when you're stupid so don't do stupid things I thought I'd go through a thousand years of building evolution a thousand years ago we built our enclosures completely out of stone this is a stone church in Ireland the average thermal resistance of the entire building enclosure it is our – about five hundred years ago we added thatched roofs mostly for rainwater control the oriented nature of the fibers surface tension gravity made for quite an elegant water management technology in fact we use that technology today above grade and curtain wall assemblies and below grade with drainage mats it increased the overall average thermal resistance of the enclosure to our for three hundred and fifty years ago in middle of Europe we saw the introduction of post and beam construction and and wattle and daub wattle and daub is the precursor to a modern stucco the wattle is the woven branches that evolved to expanded metal lath and now to eco did glass as a matrix the Dobb well it became a polymer modified polymer based stucco we began to see cavities for the first time the cavities provided an improvement in thermal resistance the overall average thermal resistance for the entire enclosure improved to our six 250 years ago in North America heavy heavy timber construction log homes the overall thermal resistance improved to r8 one hundred years ago my alma mater the University of Toronto the Hall tane building single pane glass are one but less than 10% of the enclosure was glass so the glazing ratio is less than 10 percent 34 inches of masonry mass wall the overall average thermal resistance for the enclosure was our eighth 1972 will glaze naan thermally broken aluminum curtain walls apparently you know where this is going it's hard not to laugh are 1.5 and 2005 a lead award-winning building double glazed thermally broken aluminum curtain walls are two so in a thousand years we've gone from r2 to r2 this is a plot of 150 lead buildings how many people have heard of lead I view it as a cruel pathetic joke not that there's anything wrong with that I plotted 150 lead building's versus 350 typical buildings built over the same time scale and they're statistically identical if there are any Architects present that means that there's no difference Rick I knew you're going to be in the audience so I'll speak slowly in small words in small words and you can explain it to selca which later so why are these buildings so pathetic because they are pathetic that's an extraordinary an extraordinary statement LEED buildings don't save energy and they don't cost less they cost more they don't save energy how could that possibly be green well it's pretty obvious too much glass to leaky too much air too many thermal bridges too many gimmicks this is stupid think about this for a minute what is the single most thermally inefficient part of a building enclosure the glass what is singularly the most expensive part of the building enclosure the glass so if you really want an expensive building that doesn't work use lots of glass I mean anybody not-not-not get this I mean let's compare that lead glass building and the church in front of it per square meter per square foot the church wins I mean anything more than 30 percent glass in a commercial building today waste energy the maximum blazing ratio for double glazed thermally broken glass is about 30 percent if you have better glass you could use more glass and wouldn't it be neat if you had a externally shaded glazing system with say r5 maybe go to 60% if you pushed it up to our 10 which is possible you could have a hundred percent glass but if you use stupid glass you're going to get a stupid result and so it's stupid I don't need to do a computer simulation I can stand on the street and say rule that's stupid to Leakey this is flabbergasting to me there's no requirement in lead for airtightness how many of you folks think that maybe air change might have something to do with energy I mean you could like look it up even I think this bald-headed guy did some work early on that sorry I was supposed to say red wine drinker I didn't mean to say that you were you know that's incredible I mean and and it's worse I mean I don't fall bleed because they're dominated by architect Treehugger greeny weenies that you know want to make social statements but don't know how to count the engineers are a bit more of a problem ASHRAE 90.1 has no requirement for air tightness I mean for the engineers to not have a requirement for air tightness in their premier energy conservation standard to me is in the correct incredible statement means tells me that they're not serious and how could you be how could you be serious about energy conservation and not have a requirement for tightness why it's this is my pissed-off voice this is you can recognize dr. I'm having the time of my life are you kidding me because why well too much glass leaky buildings are you kidding they have to be fixed there's money and fixin so too leaky too much air they're way over ventilated you get a lead point to ventilate it 30% more than ASHRAE standard 62 so my question is does that mean that if you ventilate according to a standard 62 the building is unhealthy that would be news to ASHRAE you know the premier group in charge of determining ventilation rates for acceptable indoor air quality and a bunch of folks that don't know anything come up and say well yeah 30% more is better do you have any idea what at increasing the ventilation rate in a commercial building by 30% to get a lead point does to your energy budget if any freaking idea the fact that these two curves are so close tells me that the mechanical engineers in the is have been extraordinary what we're doing as Mechanical Engineers is throwing every bit of technology at the building to crawl out of the hole that we were given because the building is over ventilated and leaky we spend our careers polishing turds it's unbelievable the good news is you get the same lead point for the bicycle rack so don't go for the point with the over ventilation but take the bicycle rack you could like put it on the roof to make the roof green too many thermal bridges the single most effective way to suck energy across the building is to use a steel stud if I have two buildings built side-by-side and one has insulation in the cavities and the other doesn't and I measured the energy consumption I wouldn't be able to tell the difference within the range of experimental error of the experiment if I take a five and a half inch steel stud and I insulated with an hour 19 batt the effective thermal resistance is about our four I lose 85% of the thermal resistance because of the conductivity of the steel steel is 400 times more conductive than wood the reason I know this is that I've never seen wood wiring how many people have ever seen a wood frying pan there's a reason I mean this is this is pathetic what's the only way to insulate the steel building we all know it we have to do it with it we have to insulate it on the outside we have to wrap it on the outside you know putting an inch and a half now foil faced Isis an array we'll give you our 10 continuous which is double what the effective thermal resistivity is so this is crazy now what's shocking to me is that not too many people are aware of it I mean Canadians are aware of it because as young children in Canada when we're growing up and it gets cold we learn when it's cold to pull the sweaters over the outside of us we don't eat them and shove them into our ribs so you shouldn't eat your sweater way too much glass their way leaky way too much air too many thermal bridges and a now to begin exceeding and make a green by throwing a PV panel on it photovoltaics the green technology to compensate for stupid architecture oh it's you better double facades I call those folks facade escs there is a really smart thing let's build a building inside of a green house there is a smart thing to do now don't get me wrong I don't I love a single facade with external shading that's not a double facade that is smart especially if you have if you have too much glass alright but double facades and then geothermal what a colossal joke geothermal there's nothing geothermal about it it's just a sexy name to mean ground source heat pump what do we know about ground source heat pumps every dollar you spend on conservation saves two dollars in the ground source system so why the hell would you ever spend the money on the ground source system until you run out of money on the conservation we don't do that because well that interferes with my designs see I want to be green but not actually have to change anything I just want the gold star and then make some computer simulation make it all work and make us all happy it doesn't work that way so I have a very jaded view of green on the commercial side but I have an unbelievable positive view of green on the residential residential Green Works commercial green doesn't why well in the United States of America we have an incredibly sophisticated energy monitoring system set up residentially once a month somebody goes to every house in the United States and reads the meter and all you have to do is add up the 12 and at the end of the year you know exactly what your energy consumption is and people are funny they know what you promised them they know what their neighbors are paying and they know what they used to pay and if you don't deliver the retribution is vicious brutal and instantaneous you can't run you can't hide because there's a feedback loop we measure whether or not we do any well we make it or not and so guess what residential green houses don't have too much glass they're not over ventilated they're not leaky they don't have thermal bridges and they don't rely on gimmicks build tight ventilate right and you measure it commercial we don't measure anything if you don't measure it it doesn't mean anything and what are we doing we're comparing one computer simulation to another so you know you're given the design the engineers given the design when it's too late all of the important decisions have already been made they say hey make this green so where you going to get the 30% well you're going to compare it to a base simulation so it's easy to make the base simulation 30% worse than the piece of crap that you're dealing with you think that doesn't happen apparently you need to get out more I mean the people that couldn't become accountants became engineering simulators because in the counting the act the question is well what answer do you want right apparently you've dealt with fear well the new accounting system is it doesn't matter how much money you make send it all apparently a lot of Democrats in the audience max you're right so how do we how do we fix this well a little bit of physics is very very difficult as an engineer to stand here and talk to a bunch of physicists all right it's tough I'm I've used this with trepidation Engineers don't really care why something is we just want to know whether or not it works or not you folks seem to care want to know about it I don't care you know get Mac get back to me when you figured out friction all right we've been waiting 350 years for you to figure out friction okay and you know if we waited for you until you figured it out planes wouldn't fly trains wouldn't run electric motors wouldn't work so you know to hell with you but occasionally you come up with useful stuff like like the second law so here it is heat flow us from warm to cold moisture flows from warm to cold moisture flows for more or less air flows from higher pressure to lower pressure gravity acts down this is the second law of thermodynamics why this all is is just simply say look because accept it all right this is a big deal it apparently escapes both the engineering and the architectural profession how many have heard about air conditioning when the air conditioning system is on the inside is colder than the outside what direction is the moisture flow from the outside to the inside why because with me on this alright how many people have heard of vinyl wallpaper vinyl wallpaper you might be shocked to hear this is made out of vinyl vinyl wallpaper doesn't breathe vinyl wallpaper is a vapor barrier so if you install it on the inside of an air-conditioned building you get mold because you're violating the second law of thermodynamics I don't need to run a calculation here I can look at this and say look this is stupid every hotel in the United States of America has a rooftop exhaust system that pulls their out of all of the bathrooms so what kind of a pressure do we get negative hotels are also air conditioned they also have vinyl wallpaper so the mole deist buildings the United States of America are air conditioned hotels with vinyl wall coverings and rooftop exhaust I don't have to do a calculation of course one they're mouldy you blame the contractor or the subcontractor clearly the Mexicans caused this well we can't blame the Irish because they're no longer building see all of our immigrants have always built our infrastructure and jokes ok I was told in California if you're part of the group you can pick on yourself but if you're not part of the group you can't prepare I'm basically I'm crippled on many levels I'm a Canadian well Canadian with a Czech ass history I have a book by this guy called betta that says that you can and I'll be happy to exchange it he's like like a Nobel Prize winner but he's not from here so apparently if they're not from here it doesn't matter but you know what can we accept the fact that gravity does act down on the planet sure I mean you can make up your own reason I thought you're going to pick on me about moisture flow being from warm to cold that's a bigger stretch that's a real big stretch I mean it's approximately true remember I'm an engineer you're a physicist I can work with that this is New Orleans vernacular architecture these are FEMA trailers and so FEMA builds all of the trailers according to their FEMA spec and the FEMA spec calls for them all to be built exactly the same way regardless of where they go do I need to do a real detailed climate search of the NOAA site to determine whether or not New Orleans is a hot humid climate I think most of us will accept the fact that New Orleans is a hot humid climate and these trailers are air-conditioned the spec also calls for them to all have vinyl wallpaper so every one of these trailers has got what in it mold they turn to mush they last between 18 and 24 months some of these families have gone through two or three of them already I mean that's extraordinary they also have no ventilation system in them and so what else do we have in them well everything else I mean you know formaldehyde is one of the better known ones that people have been talking about but I mean isn't this don't we know enough that you should maybe have ventilation and that the design should be suitable for the climate I mean there is this dead guy a long time ago Vitruvius he wrote like the books of car architecture 2,000 years ago like he made a big deal about this I I don't know this actually wasn't George Bush's fault and everything else seems to be but this this wasn't alright so let's do the perfect wall well why in case somebody wants to know how to build a wall I mean it could happen somebody might come to you and say you know we've got this multitrillion-dollar part of the economy where you build stuff how should like maybe I build it maybe follow some of the physics some of the engine some of the architecture that goes you know like way way back well oh there it is this is the perfect wall perfect wall has the structure to the inside and all of the control layers to the outside well well what control layers well you need four of them in order of importance the first one is the rain control layer or water control air the second is the air control layer the third is the vapor control layer and the fourth is the thermal control air so first and foremost we have the water control air that's that heavy black line that heavy black line can also be the air control layer but the water control function is far more important in the air control function most people don't get a call saying I'm going to sue you because my building leaks air but they will see you when my building leaks water right that black line can also be the vapor control layer in fact what I've done here is I've collapsed three of the four control functions into one line that blue layer is the thermal control layer it's blue in this slide because Dow paid me they make a insulation layer it's okay to take money from the private side I just want to let you know and I then we have an air space and we have a cladding system and the function of the cladding system is to make the building beautiful its function is aesthetics it's second function is to protect the other control layers from damage physically and third is to protect the rest of the assembly from exposure to ultraviolet light so it provides aesthetics physical protection and UV protection its function is not to control air and water so caulking the joints you know sealant pookie on the outside doesn't work it just makes the building look pretty until the sealant falls off but it's not functional all right so this wall will work everywhere so let's say I'm in Montreal only two seasons in Montreal this winter and last winter so the inside is hot and wet because of course we're going to hire a famous architect and make a museum so we're going to humidify and pressurize the building in Montreal all right and it's really cold outside so I've got a humidified pressurized structure moisture blows through the structure hits the black line and what happens nothing all of the moisture nothing happens all of the installations outside of the black line so I don't have a temperature drop and so I don't have a change in phase so the wall is happy this is the perfect wall happy happy happy happy hmm well what happens if those maple syrup eating Putin swilling beer drinking québécois say I can I'm a Canadian so I can say that when we move this wall to Montreal to Miami I'm going to be limited as to what I can say because I'm not part of that group but anyway what happens if they have a flaw in the building I mean what are the odds that the workmanship is not going to be 100% perfect 100% of the time 100% so I have a flaw in there and what happens with the flaw well moisture will pass through is it going to hang around in the blue layer no it's going to end up going through the blade blue layer it's going to end up in the air layer when it's in the air layer it's going to get ventilated to the outside and we're done so this assembly fails in a failsafe manner that would be a good thing pronita so let's go to Miami Madonna's house we can pick on her everybody hates her you know why she's from Michigan come on Michigan that's with the Detroit Redwings the central Red Army team they have a lot of Russian hockey players on the Detroit Red Wings that came right that's a sport yes we actually use it in Canada justify global warming the hockey stick so I'm in I'm in Miami and it's cold and dry inside because I've under sized my air conditioning system and it's running all of the time and that was a engineering joke you're not laughing but it's funny at ASHRAE tough crowd so it's hot and white on the outside and the moisture is going to blow through the cladding blow through the airspace it's going to blow through the insulation hit the black line now what happens I mean a condensation aren't I but what's that of the black line was the condensation on on the outside and the wall goes yeah gives the anton scalia in new jersey salute that was I read The Huffington Post he did that once right night okay so why why care because the moisture will drain back to what the outside and his story well what are the odds that Madonna got a bunch of folks who did her wall perfect not going to happen so what happens if I have a flaw on this wall in the south when why she was going to end up in the wall now I got a bit of a concern I got to make sure that that moisture doesn't hang around in that wall it's got to get where it's got to get into the airs got to get into the air real fast real easy because once it's in the air I can get that air to the coldest surface in the building what's the coldest surface in the building the air conditioning cooling coils where I change it from a vapor to a liquid and I drain it out of the building so what I want is I want this I want our defensive err the marginal line is zigfried line right on the outer most part of the structure and when the moisture migrates through Belgium and passes through the Maginot Line and gets into the structure it can go to Dunkirk real fete you're not getting this so you want it to get the heck out of here and it would be a tragedy to say put a radiant barrier on the inside like stapling aluminum foil on the inside of your assembly because aluminum is made out of aluminum well what do they do they put aluminum foil on the inside of those buildings and Miami and that would be a stupid thing you don't ever want to have a vapor barrier on the inside of an air-conditioned building you wouldn't want to put vinyl wallpaper here would you that would be like really stupid so you put gypsum board with latex paint because it breathes and that would be good not that well what if I put a mirror on the wall get a big mirror mirrors made out of glass a mirror is a paper beer mirror mirror on the wall who's the smartest and most handsomest engineer of all John Straub oh so we've learned in the south that we have to back then too late our mirrors can eat a 3/8 of an inch area cap to back ventilate the mirror so that the moisture doesn't get held up so we know how to fix these things we know that we had to fix them after we identified what that there was a problem what about schools schools have blackboards blackboards aren't black anymore they're white they're made out of vinyl blackboard is a vapor barrier we have to back ventilator blackboards we put them on 2×2 furring strips running vertically to back then light them the old days we had cabinetry that was made out of something called wood you know how quaint is that wood now we get like grass from Argentina that we smooshed together with you know the colonel's 11 secret herbs and spices and we have this engineered lead award-winning recycled happy happy you know carbon sequestering who knows what that turns to snot and so we have to do what with them we have to back ventilate them as well so we're finding that we have we are learning the rules to stay out of trouble walls need to dry to the inside and shouldn't have vapor barriers on the inside of them including the features that you add to them especially if you air-conditioned the reason that this is an issue is that the United States of America is the only air-conditioning dominated industrialized nation in the world so you can't get your building science knowledge from a bunch of beer-drinking hockey-playing Canadians and certainly not a bunch of Scandinavians and Germans in French because they know an air condition in the United States we need to develop our own building science rules because and lots of places it's humid and lots of places we air-conditioned and that's a problem it's difficult we have to think of the wall in the opposite darn direction we're not doing it and we're all running around why us why do we have all of this mold why our people are coughing and wheezing and things are turning into smell because you're stupid that's why so you take the perfect wall and you lay it down you get the perfect roof you flip it the other way you get the perfect slab this is a an aha moment ah the physics of walls roofs and foundations are the same I mean who knew old people wrote it in like books but their old books they require asking a librarian to get them that involves a social interaction that's why young engineers never learn about this so if you take the perfect roof you got the control layer under the insulation you've got your ballast pretty Neeta if you replace the ballast with dirt grass and a goat that would be a green roof you know like grass and dirt and they're they're like green okay work with me on this which is got more thermal resistance dirt or insulation all right let me draw you a map the insulation is better insulation than dirt because if dirt was insulation we put it in walls it's just dirt so claiming that dirt is insulating is stupid when your option is other insulation so instead of putting dirt on your roof you should buy more insulation which is more reflective grass or a white membrane white membrane apparently somebody important used to work here has figured that out another remarkable we actually have a scientist in charge of the Department of Energy I mean what the hell went wrong what a great idea so I'm kind of amused at the architectural community saying green roofs are energy efficient and in fact green when a white roof is greener than a green roof that was a great line I worked hard to set that up and there's absolutely nothing what I never mind let's flip it we get the perfect slap we have dirt stones insulation the control layer and concrete it's absolutely beautiful it was perfect wonderful so now what do we do we have to get the perfect section perfect wall perfect roof perfect foundation now comes another aha moment are you ready for it what do we have to do we got to connect them and how we connect them is a big deal we have to connect the water control of the roof to the water control of the wall to the water control those found datian the air control of the roof – the air control wall – the air control of the foundation the vapor – the vapor – the vapor and the thermal to the thermal to the thermal that's it this is amazing when I teach young architects and young engineers enclosure design building physics I say it's all about continuity of the control layers when we do a design review as we say look take a colored pen and trace around the perimeter of the enclosure the water control element whenever the pen has to leave the paper you've identified a discontinuity that needs to be addressed and you do the same thing for all of the other control layers now I cheated here to give you the concept in many buildings the water control layer is on the outside the air control layer is on the inside the thermal control layers in between and the vapor control layer bounces between the inside and the outside but the concept is the same it's continuity of the control layers this is not taught anywhere by anyone to anybody you don't teach it in architectural school architectural education you don't teach it to civil engineers to mechanical engineers to structural engineers contractors are unaware but yet this is one of the most fundamental things with respect to building science and nobody knows nothing I mean how can you do all of these magnificent things in architecture and engineering if you can't get the fundamentals and this is about as fundamental as you can fundamentally get well okay you can even cheat you don't have to do the analysis that carefully by going around the entire perimeter we know from experience that 90% of the problems happen where rooms meet walls so why don't you focus on where where rooms meet walls and with penetrations what's the most famous penetration of all a window think about what a window has to do a window has to do everything a wall has to do and more it has to handle water heat air vapor and it has to handle radiation people actually want to see through it and every now and then some lunatics expects you to be able to do all with it I'll put it well no wonder they cost so much more because we want them to do so much more you know we've got glazing systems that are able to do this they handle the water the air the vapor in the heat but we have more window problems than we've ever had even though we have better windows and why is that we can't seem to connect them to the wall and it's easy all you got to do is connect the water control piece of the window to the water control the wall the air control piece to the air control piece the vapor piece to the vapor piece and the thermal piece to the thermal piece it just doesn't happen well why well a couple of reasons the window industry doesn't label its windows to tell us this piece of the windows the water piece connected to yours I mean if you ask them they don't even know well we'll get back to you on that when they get back to you don't believe them anyway because if they didn't know at the beginning they're making stuff up we've gotten so disgusted with it that we don't believe anything that they say so we collapse all of the four control functions on the innermost part of the window so we're required to wrap the window opening that way when the window fails the consequences of the failure are directed to the outside as we're building under window gutters so that when the window has a problem that water's directed to the outside a leak is not a leak if the client never sees it repeat after me a leak is not a leak of the client never sees it the second reason is that for 30 years we've been relying on one person to do this and I've been trying to find this person to hunt him down and get rid of him his name is by others if you look at all the drawings in the specification it says window installation by others dimensions verified by others shop drawings by others don't let this prick on your job site I'm going to get a letter for that aren't I all right I can live with that all right so the difficulty is is that this is a really simple concept explained two dimensionally but we live in a three-dimensional world right so we have to think of these control layers three dimensionally and of course we always build compact square cubes this is what a real building looks like those red circles are attorneys targeting diagrams because that's where we have three-dimensional connection between those control layers right that's where the building fails we know that now these need to be drawn on a drawing set by somebody they need to be drawn three dimensionally because you can't figure out how to build them and for the two dimensional set right well okay let me tell you a little bit about the architectural business because we are an architectural firm my daughter is almost an architect my wife is an architect my therapy bills are incredible the architectural business is all about pushing the drawings and specs out the doors as quickly and most efficiently as possible you get your draws based on percentage completion of the drawing set you get a draw at twenty percent forty percent seventy percent and you know construction set permit set right and so the idea is you want to push the percentage completion out the door as quickly as possible in order to get your money it takes three times as long to draw a three-dimensional drawing as a two-dimensional drawing be with me on on this is and so firm in the business of making money is going to take a section through this in this every one of those red circles right so you're on the jobsite and Bob was talking to guido talking to betsy talking to Maria talking to Jose and they're saying what do we do here the answer is usually well just it the universal answer is it I call it building Science in the tube and it doesn't work Pookie don't work repeat after me Pookie don't work this is unbelievable and who draws and let's say that you actually get the drawing done is it the most experienced person in the firm no it's the intern and and you know how let me tell you about you graduate with a master's degree in architecture and you know what your starting salary is $35,000 a year well that's a real incentive to to go through all of the pain I don't understand it's got to be something about love because it's certainly not about money and so the most junior and experienced people of all are doing the details and you can recognize them in the companies the firm's you go and walk the floor you know firm with 3040 people it's the ones that are doing the details are the youngsters with the bose noise-canceling headphones listening to their iPod in their body is jerking because they're listening to music that has no heart no soul no rhythm well no wonder the freaking buildings leak some of these details are so difficult it can't be drawn and so the only way to do it is you have to do a mock-up you know it takes five seven thousand dollars to do a mock-up in the field but you know if you're going to have an enclosure that has two or three hundred windows or 40 balconies makes sense that you get the first one right and then all of the others are going to be okay you don't wait until the end and say I wonder if that works and whenever we do mock-ups we always have an experienced person and an inexperienced person do the mock-up at the same time and we let the inexperienced person do most of the work the experienced person is just to kind of keep him out of trouble so they'll make really stupid decisions and the idea is that you know that the first time up the detail is going to leak nobody is that good so they all come back a young architect young engineer comeback all bloodied and beaten and bruised and everybody the older folks in the office are all smiling because they know it's coming right you know oh man I can't believe what happened it leaked well what happened well the old guy who installs windows yelled at me well what happens is well I was stupid as well what'd he do so they came up with this and we did it and it didn't leak so I don't have to change all of the drawings and I said well so it worked whew and he's now kind of happy that trades guy and and you were using his recommendation so he's bought into the solution and so he's now going to be part of the deal to make sure that it gets executed right sounds to me like that old guy has got your back that doesn't happen anymore because we don't let the youngsters go out into the field we don't talk with the tradespeople none of that happens we got to fix that this was a dream this didn't happen I made that up I I'm a consultant I made a story up just to make you feel good so let's put a little bit meat on these walls for a minute let's look at three versions of the perfect wall we're going to use the institutional wall to the commercial wall in the residential wall this is the institutional wall we sometimes call it the 500-year wall because it one represents 500 years of evolution – it will last 500 years and three it will take your clients 500 years to pay for see that's why you know we pass it from one generation to the next that's why it's called an institutional but this is the best of the best cube you can't build anything better than piling rocks up right I mean the oldest structures on the planet are piles of rocks in the last 10,000 years we figured out how the piles of rocks can hold together even in an earthquake so you want a lot building to last a long time made it make it a bunch of rocks and reinforce it so it doesn't fall down in an earthquake and man you got a structure then what keep the water out of it keep the air out of it from both the outside and the inside let the vapor out if it if it gets into the inside and outside put all of the thermal stuff on the outside put your cladding on the outside and man you are going to rock and roll forever this is the best of the best of the best of the best and you should recognize this we don't tell people this we don't teach them this so how can anybody know what to aspire for if we don't know what's the best of the best and you've got all kinds of options I mean there's black line could be a fully adhered member a could be a spray applied system it could be a trowel applied system it could be vapor opens we've ever closed it could have a whole bunch of characteristics it's not just one thing that blue layer could be extruded polystyrene expanded polystyrene foil faced isocyanate it could be a semi rigid fiberglass my personal favorite is rock wool you know why rocks don't burn repeat after me rocks don't burn the greeny weenies hate rock wool because you have to oh you have to melt the rock well it takes energy to melt the rock well yeah but the amount of energy the melted fluffy rock saves over its useful service life is a thousand times more than the energy it took to melt the fricking rock so don't talk to me about embodied energy because you're an idiot I don't get invited to many of those conferences anymore sites don't know why yeah right and then you have a cladding and you know brick and stucco or a fantastic hundred year 200 year 500 your cladding stall you know zinc no that's what like Architects on drugs recommend and they get awards you know apparently you don't know any famous architects so here's the disconnect if I've got a 500 year wall and a 500 year cladding I probably shouldn't have a 20 year flashing system I probably shouldn't have galvanized ties I should probably have stainless steel flashing and stainless steel ties because if my connection system fails after 20 years I have to take apart my wall which would be a stupid thing right nodding here would be good right now all right never mind commercial wall look how easy it is just take the rocks in the concrete which are the really expensive part and replace it with steel studs and gypsum sheathing without papers say dense clouds gold everything else is the same Wow really great yeah pretty freakin awesome notice that there's no insulation in the studs right because insulating a steel stud is a thermodynamic obscenity yeah you could actually use the laws of thermodynamics to show that part I couldn't do it but I'm an engineer but we could you know maybe you could do that now is there a reason that it might make sense to actually insulate that cavity anyway well yeah for acoustical reasons and one of nature's amazing ironies fiberglass is a horrible thermal insulation but a fantastic acoustical insulation so we insulate the cavities typically for acoustics but we wrap the insulation on the outside for the thermal performance and both can work because a wall is more than just about energy right it's about structure it's about sound it's about all of the other things that walls and enclosures have to do then residentially same thing except now I can insulate the cavities because wood is not conductive so it makes sense to insulate the cavity this is the perfect residential wall I mean isn't this neat Wow too bad nobody knows it's just a secret be very very quiet so this is how they come together in the field you know an engineer was involved because there's no windows but he had some help from the architect because of the stupid curved roof over this goes the insulation and the cladding another wall notice this is window notice how the window opening is wrapped when the glazing system is installed in that notched enclosure and when the glass leaks the the water is directed where outside insulation over that and then in granite cladding so I got an air gap I've got my insulation my control layers my masonry was amazing that Harvard got it right what they did whoa how many joints well there are 5000 pieces of granite 10 to 15,000 joints what are the odds that eager Guido lurch luigi manuel bubba betsy betty jose are going to caulk and seal ten to fifteen thousand joints and have a sealant installed on a warm dry dust free surface do we care in this assembly no if the sealant fails and falls out the performance of the wall actually improves because i have more air circulation behind the cladding this is amazing as the building ages and looks more ratty and disgusting it actually performs better and this is the same line i'm using with my wife yeah I can apparently I'm going to get a letter for that one too I'm determined to get the three because three strikes you're out I understand in California so this is a commercial wall steel studs dance class gold the control layers the insulation the cladding we can do this my version of the rainbow coalition this MIT this is your competition this is Frank Gehry this is the state of building and Alice is like less than a mile from my office for three years I went back and forth in front of it watching it go up and as the water control air control in vapour control layer on the outside where it's supposed to be they needed to do only one more thing and what did they do they didn't put the insulation on the outside they ate the sweater so they have a vapor barrier on the wrong side of the wall and so this building is a smelly gooey losing mess and so they have to reclad it they have two reskin it 85 million bucks now I saw this going up and I knew they were making a mistake didn't I have a moral and ethical responsibility to stop and tell them no you know why as an undergrad they turned me down [Applause] this is terminal a of the Boston Logan Airport steel studs dense glass gold the control layers no insulation on the outside the eight the sweater vapor barrier and the wrong side it's a disaster and it's another disaster I it's not like they didn't have money then you go to this I will tell you mr. diamond about the story of that one it's going to take too long and it's going to require alcohol and it requires you to never tell anybody else so then you get this you get a building commissioned by the Smithsonian this is the Museum of the Native American it's on the mall you see the Capitol dome behind it the architect is Douglas Cardinal what a spectacular job this is a mass masonry structure they've got a Blueskin water control air control and vapor control air this is the mock-up they put all of the insulation on the outside and air space in the cladding it's magnificent I mean it's one of them it's one of the most beautiful buildings I've ever seen and it works and there's no conflict between beautiful stunning architecture that follows the right engineering and physics I mean what's frustrating to me is that you know architects and engineers are in separate camps that don't talk to one another we don't teach the engineers what they need to know to be good engineers and we don't teach the architects what they need to know to be good architects but I have hope because every now and then something magnificent and good happens it would be nice to figure out how it happened rather than by accident but it worked didn't it can't you know you could have just kept quiet and let the and kept the dream alive we are supposed to leave with hope that life is good and we can fix this okay let me rephrase this even a Blind Pig will find an acorn occasionally alright I'm going to leave you with the research need the enclosure is the easy piece we know how to do it we just need to get the information to the people that are actually needing the information to make it work we are doing a horrible job of integrating the building's mechanical system with the enclosure that's the big problem a little common example that I'll leave you with say one of the most common air distribution systems is a drop ceiling return plenum negative pressure nobody ever talks about how the ceiling meets the wall we often are basically sucking whatever is in the wall cavity what's in the parapet in the roof into the return side of the air distribution system and we're injecting it into the breathing zone of the occupied space and there's you know one building failure after another dealing with these drop ceiling return plenums how we disconnect the mechanical system when we need to from the enclosure and how we then need to connect the mechanical system the enclosure when we need to is one of the challenges that we should take on as the next generation of building science research nobody is currently doing that this would be a magnificent thing for you folks to take on and we would love to be there with you in the journey so that good buildings aren't an accident they happen by design so thank you very much [Applause] so we standing doesn't work in an hour these do have time for questions I know it's one o'clock so if you would like to you need to leave we understand for other commitments but we have we have time for just a few questions please raise your hands and there are people with mics we're going to go the question is the California Academy of Sciences Building in San Francisco the answer is I can't because I'm not familiar with it but I am familiar with the GSA Building with Libya that looks like out of Mad Max right the one that was built with no air-conditioning system and to me that's an embarrassment they did a nurse amount of engineering computational fluid dynamics and my comment is is whenever you hear the word computational fluid dynamics go danger Will Robinson danger I mean how could you conclude that you could build a 28 story building in in San Francisco without air-conditioning yeah and you guys are dreaming those people are now suing the GSA because it's uncomfortable you might be able to do it in the house and you might be able to be willing to accept discomfort but you're not going to be able to do it in an office building you know people are saying you know what if only people are willing to accept discomfort Americans are such wusses you know we could you know we could go back and not have air conditioning systems we could be really uncomfortable and save a lot of energy I don't do that as a green you're not going to be very productive when you're not comfortable if you took all of your energy consuming devices out that didn't generate heat you know maybe but how much work Nene had done we can maybe go back to the pencil and paper and the abacus huh so I I don't think we should sacrifice comfort for an affair for environmental reasons there's no need to there's so much low-hanging fruit there's so much we can do with simple simple basics that we don't have to sacrifice comfort we don't after to sacrifice health will not have to sacrifice anything and right now we're just not thinking about the problem the right way and it's just it's irritating no gimmicks I mean computational fluid dynamics they couldn't even get they can't keep the rain out of that damn building now this is it's outrageous but he won an award he won an award it's like Sir Norman Foster you know London City Hall won an award one of the worst energy pigs in England right the Seattle City Hall won another award it's not it's consuming more energy than the 1960 building it replaced and now they're blaming the occupants saying well they just don't know how to run the building right so you know because pardon me they both had air-conditioning one had the windows Shakers are you telling me that an all-glass building with all kinds of thermal bridges you want to justify that as green come on that's wrong we have good glass if you're willing to pay for it we can build tight building enclosures we don't have to over ventilate we can put insulation in the right place and until the architectural engineering communities get serious about doing those things you're not going to get green you're going to get the failures that we get and you're destroying a green brand and I'm done with you guys I need a beer the GSA would not fund the necessary studies of Shady to make that be the at least partially work well okay so why wouldn't the architect choose a building with a lower glazing ratio we don't need a study to do that well of course well yeah but well of course and so you know who made those decisions so the architect went ahead and knowingly did a building that couldn't work because the studies weren't done I mean aren't you so you're experimenting on your occupants and tenants that's the most irresponsible architecture of all what happened I'm sorry what happened was well how did we end up with a building that doesn't work because of the administrative so it's their fault that they didn't do the studies the right that didn't do the studies well so wouldn't what if sorry if somebody tells me that we didn't do the studies to know whether it works maybe I should use a different strategy know if you already have a design approved and funded by Congress preliminary design and okay so let's go you're right it's Congress's fault that the buildings is for the process yes tonight so how are we going to fix this are we going to fix this through policy and regulation are we going to fix this through litigation well are we going to fix this through a tease and academic approaches the best way to fix this is through education technology transfer it's not difficult to get a good building you know think about structural engineering for a minute structural engineering is an incredibly mature profession when's the last time a building fell down from a structural perspective yep we figured all of this stuff out well why we had horrible wet yeah one of all of the buildings you know what let me finish this because I'm on stage you can get the next presentation we learned through horrible failures a hundred years ago and the profession fixed it and educated itself it doesn't happen structural engineering is such a boring profession because nothing happens that's why structural engineers are so boring you want excitement become an architect because we have failures and we don't talk about the failures because it's politically incorrect to talk about the failures we've got to keep the rain out of the buildings you know you realize that two out of every ten buildings have water leakage problems would you fly American Airlines if two out of ten times they crashed will 80% of the time they didn't this is horrible you can't do stuff until you accept the fact that you have a problem and the way to fix the problem is to educate the people so that they don't have the problem that starts with getting the practitioners on board and I believe the only hope is in the architectural in the engineering schools now I know of no University on an undergraduate side that teaches engineers cold air and hot air HVAC design nor do I know any architectural school that does that I don't know of anybody that teaches enclosure design an undergraduate level now so you can end up becoming an engineer and an architect and not know anything about what it takes to make a building work how good is that yes it seems to me then the answer to this is you should write a really good textbook you're talking to education if you go to our website I have written more stuff more ways it's a textbook for the schools that's the only thing people see its students see is textbooks they don't see a single paper we don't have an architectural textbook for anybody architecture well because that's not the way architects are taught that's a problem and when we and we have a whole bunch of engineering textbooks they're all about computer simulations and calculating something no I'm not you're the solution an easy one please it's not really a question it's um the investor-owned utilities in California are trying to remedy this for the residential existing buildings they are providing cash rebates throughout the state there's a couple of organizations that train contractors to they teach contractors building science how to make homes existing homes energy efficient so there are some steps that we are doing in California to trim remedy bed sick buildings well on the residential side we've got great successes because we're actually knowing how to keep score the reason that you've got these things in the California side is that we know that leaky buildings don't save energy and you track what the utility bills are so you are focusing on leaky ducts you're focusing on leaky building enclosures we know how to do this on the commercial side none of that is happening because people aren't being held accountable when you spend federal money or utility money residentially they want to know whether or not it actually worked when you design this new building did it save energy or not do you have any idea how difficult it's been for us to try to get consumption data from these commercial buildings we have to get involved under freedom of information that tells you something when you have to sue them in order to get the data right you my view is that the first thing that comes is to expose the failures by making sure that the utility bills are made available to everybody if you're going to take federal money for a project show us what the result is because otherwise you're not you're going to get waste in the moment we have the feedback people will change people aren't stupid they'll figure it out if it costs them something so I applaud California on the residential side I have no whining or complaining about that it's the commercial stuff that irritates me well the lead should leave residential alone that's perfectly in good shape they should focus on what they screwed up on the commercial side in my view that I would like to bring this to a close I want to thank Joe [Applause]

44 Replies to “Distinguished Lecturer Series: Building Science – Adventures in Building Science

  1. Holy facadists batman! I knew I didn't like steel framing in houses before, now I have a new reason why. How any architect failed to notice that steel inside large skyscrapers gets insulated before attaching anything to it is wilful stupidity.
    One after thought for Joseph: next time you're in California speaking, don't take the first question until after you crack open a beer. Such dumb questions… I thought there was going to be a literal hair pulling moment. Collegiate types whining about having to read white papers and insisting nothing gets learned without a textbook? No wonder the state is in a downward spiral: educators are hooked on format instead of facts.

  2. Well In 2014 he preaches vented roof and now in 18 he speaks unvented WHAT THE HELL? Clear it up please. Distinguished? when you change opinions every other year I do not feel it.

  3. I just realized: This is who I was aspiring to be my whole life! (I'm an HVAC Mechanical Engineer too.)

  4. An unfunny lecturer who thinks he's funny completely ruins any informative quality his presentation might otherwise have had.

  5. I do have to add that although research into LEED performance post occupancy is showing LEED projects not performing as intended, the documentation trail LEED required is instrumental in being able to conduct post occupancy evaluations. I can only imagine if LEED not around how much more difficult to do “forensic” building evaluation.

  6. Folks should know Joe isn't so brash in other lectures. Maybe he slept in one of those all glass hotels the night before and got no rest 🙂

    He is on point about Greeny weenie worthless awards. Just yesterday I was trying to find a house that was designed by undergrads and won one of those Solar Decathalon awards. Well, I couldn't find it because the house doesn't exist!! It was an award for a house on paper only! OK house model but it's the same because it didn't get built. That should stop. Don't experiment on us living in these buildings based on untried models or biased baselines and then praise people for not following through.

    As another example, I found one of the double envelope passive solar homes with Earth berm from the 1980s on the market. Went to take a look because it was being sold by the original owners who had it comissioned. Oh the problems it had were so sad but so basic too: heavy vapor and water damage. Everything Joe talks about here. So this newer age of innovation in building has me skeptical that it's creating problems again instead of sticking to basics.

  7. I share this lecturer when I hear a stupid question (or worse yet answer) to building envelopes. I re-watch probably once a year – my wife thinks I'm crazy.

    As for how to change the education system, we need to get educators out of education and train willing and energetic trades people to teach (and then let them teach). I worked 15 years in commercial architecture (and have a M of Arch degree) then taught CTE (high school Career and Technology Education) drafting and design to highschool students interested in architecture and engineering. I took the essential classes to get my teaching licence but it was very limited. … side note: In upper level education, teachers/professors that are personally knowledgeable in their field are important – here I'm just relaying my personal experience with the American high school system …

    The first thing I did was throw out the 30+ year old text books. In the State of VA, as a lateral entry teacher, I was only allowed to teach classes under the state # for DRAFTING – so I called them, Drafting I& II – Engineering, and Drafting I&II Architecture … To be able to teach the state # ARCHITECTURE or ENGINEERING classes, I would have had to have a degree in Career and Technology Education (with no experience or training in architecture or engineering) … what a joke. The first school I taught at understood the importance of professional experience. (all of their CTE teachers had professional experience in the trades they were teaching). I found out later that this is very rare. I did a long term substitute job where the students that took the architecture class had been given an old book and told to do chapters because the licenced educator just didn't know what to do with them. That school system told me they couldn't hire me full time unless I went back to school for an education degree. In my opinion, that's the education version of accounting – make sure the numbers are in the right box – to hell with everything else … disgruntled much – sorry – In the short time I was there, I had students in their 2nd year say they learned more in the 2 1/2 months that I was there, than they did in the 1-1/2 years. … when it messes with kids that want to learn, I get irritated.

  8. Could a drop ceiling return plenum just be changed to a drop ceiling supply plenum? (run the fan the other direction) To generate a positive pressure instead? Would there be other problems resultant of this technique?

  9. As a glazier who now owns a 50,s built solid foundation house. Who worked curtain walling systems in Aust England. I get what your saying. As a tradesman, the amount of time I have solid debates with Architects over a design floor we could sit down all night and drink beer. The laws of nature have to be worked with, but a lot of Architects just don't get that brilliant lecture. Let me know if you ever want to come to Australia. I have so many things I would like to talk over with you. Again Thanks . Jeff Moore

  10. Wonderful man, really enjoying his presentations. I have graduated from technical university, I have structural engineering bachelors degree, we have got ton of stuff to learn, and basically almost none of these fundamental things which is being tought here, even though I always wondered, it didn't really come, mostly it was mechanics + mashup of everything 😀 I wonder if it is like that in so many other technical universities.

    +1 on students not being active socially, +anotherone on students being boring, true.

  11. Has Joe L. produced a textbook so we can push to get his knowledge into every architecture, construction and building engineering curriculum in the US?? Currently, we are at a point of epidemic envelope failures due to water intrusion causing mold and material damage. I completely agree that LEED is nothing but gimmicks.

  12. Dr Joe Lstiburek:, "Life is tuff enough as it is, its harder if your stupid ,… Don't do stupid things!".
    John Straube Instructor – Building Science,
    "You got the Rot, We got the time".

  13. Great lecture but around 1:04:00 I don´t understand why there is a discussion being avoided with the member of the audience.

  14. Extremely interesting, in the 8 years since this was recorded I am currently being taught all of this stuff in detail (mechanical electrical, building science, structural etc) in a 2 year Architectural Technologies program.
    It seems to me that the message is getting across especially if the next generation of professionals are learning from these mistakes.

  15. Awesome guy , knows his stuff and highly practicle . Canadian humour just like Australian humour . Doesn't translate well to Americans though …… obviously !
    Lol ….

  16. its a learning experience from Rodney Dangerfield.he's a good handle on making a system that's available and been around to laymen forever. its basic fundamentals. and hes right they are being lost and not taught any more because of time. now here the lecturer exposes a comment upon every message hes trying to teach. his style is [read other comments] ton which they feel its abrasive. i think he wastes alot of time. he could give more reference to back uppish genius.

  17. If I understand him correctly, traditional batts of insulation, with a paper vapor barrier should not be used in attics and walls?

  18. Joe's not abrasive, just a realist.Very funny about it also.Called common sense!!!Just not common today.

  19. I don't find doc caustic at all. I've been saying commercial buildings are stupid too particularly the HVAC.
    I don't see why people would reject the truth because they don't like the package it came in. This guy is spot on.

  20. Do you know of anyone who has implemented or any resources about an air ondol system that moves air from an attic down to the crawl space and back up to the attic?
    Is this feasible for attics with blown-in insulation and crawl spaces with a dirt floor?

  21. so if you added sound proof drywall with metal between it. on the outside wall it would mold wouldn't. so is it only for inside walls right?

  22. I try to remember that his abrasive manner is probably the result of a lifetime of dealing with unscientific, ridiculously flawed building structures.

  23. Check out this kickstarter project


  24. Min 108: "people aren't being held accountable on the commercial side"

    Joe, there is no accountability on the residential side either.

    Energy Upgrade California doesn't report back actual performance to contractors or homeowners, and if you dig really hard you'll find their program only delivers 34 cents of savings per dollar projected. Its a travesty, a fraud on the consumer of gargantuan proportions.

  25. Funny how he ridicules architects, "greeny weenies" and LEED certification.  Green roofs with "dirt" as he calls it and "goats" might be less efficient than "stupid insulation" or white reflective roof but the good news is it's not only about energy efficiency.  There's also so much benefits that you wouldn't have from only super efficient insulation (better air quality, less heat island effect, better aesthetics…)  I'm an engineering student and I think engineers and architects should work together.  Increased ventilation in LEED buildings might be more energy-consuming but what about volatil organic compounds, better air quality and the like?  We need an holistic approach and stop bashing about other professions, everyone should work together.  In my opinion, he has some good points but an argument cannot be presented with "stupid" as the main reason.  

  26. If we can't get more energy efficiency into our building, then I must say all the experts in the field are over qualified for their positions. What do you think?

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