Building envelope is common terminology used in home improvement or insulation projects. Despite its ubiquity, not a lot of people understand what a building envelope is.
In this article, we’ll be exploring the definition of building envelope as well as other frequently asked questions regarding the subject.
Building Envelope Definition
A simple definition of building envelope is the separation of the interior and exterior of a building.
The envelope serves to protect the interior while facilitating climate control. Building envelope arguably encompasses the entire exterior building system of your home. This includes your windows, doors, roof, floor, foundations, and insulation.
When people talk about energy efficiency solutions like LED bulbs or low-flow faucets, none of that will be of much use if your building envelope isn’t up to snuff. Let’s look at what function a building envelope serves in a home.
What is the Function of a Building Envelope?
As you might expect, building envelopes serves a variety of functions.
One such purpose is support. Building envelopes ensure strength and rigidity. Structural support is a key component of a good building envelope, as it determines how your home can handle external loads and forces.
Another function is control. This is where building envelopes enter into conversations about energy efficiency and climate control. Good building envelope ensures better control over your home insulation, or the ability to keep warm or cold air indoors. Facilitating the passage of water, heat, and condensation between the interior and exterior of the building is a crucial function of building envelopes.
Aesthetics and looks are also important considerations for building envelopes. Proper envelopes help your building look more attractive, though it’s relatively secondary to its control and support functions.
What are Building Envelope Solutions?
Before we discuss building envelope solutions, we first need to look at common issues. Identifying common problems with building envelopes will allow you to better diagnose different solutions.
Interior building envelope issues include:
- Staining of interior walls and ceilings
- Water-damaged insulation
- Water-damaged soffits and sills
- Peeling of wallpaper
- Stains and dirt along window tracks
- Stains alongside AC units
Exterior building envelope issues include:
- Rust marks
- Spalling brick
- Cracks that go through the masonry and mortar
- Discolored stone or masonry
- Signs of condensation on grass
- Roof seam splits
Many of these building envelope issues are signs of wear and tear or some sort of leakage happening in your systems. Contacting your local contractors to get you a proper quote on these symptoms will set you on the right track towards viable solutions.
These solutions might include replacing insulation, re-applying wallpaper, reconstructing walls and masonry, or replacing steel joints that’s beginning to rust.
How Can I Make a Building Envelope Better?
If you’re looking to improve your building envelope, there are plenty of ways to go about it. Which improvements you make depend on the issues your home might be having or your ultimate energy-efficiency goals. Here are a few ways you can improve your building envelope.
Building envelopes can be drastically improved if you apply proper insulation. Because insulation gives you much more control over your home temperatures, it’s the go-to move for achieving greater energy efficiency.
A lot of older buildings either lack insulation or the ones installed by the previous owner are beginning to deteriorate. Get a professional contractor to check out your current insulation and determine whether or not you need to add more.
Another spot in the home that routinely leaks air are doors. Whether it’s on the front porch or doors connecting your rooms, doors are prime areas for cold or warm air to escape.
Luckily, a lot of modern doors are designed to keep warm or cold air inside and accommodates instances where people are going in and out of a building. They’re also less leaky, leading to better home insulation down the line and a better building envelope.
Likewise, modern energy-efficient windows help keep cold air from escaping in the summer while keeping similarly frigid air out of your home in the winter.
If you don’t have the money to invest in energy-efficient windows, window film might be your next best bet. Window film on your glass windows can block UV-rays from entering your home by reflecting it back to the sun. These films help retain warmth in your home while keeping heat out during the summer.
In any case, your windows can often be improved to boost your building envelope.
Your roof is a crucial part of keeping your home cool in the summer, but constant exposure to the sun can deteriorate it over time. This leads to more leaks and poorer climate control, thereby decreasing your building envelope.
Roof coatings can help prevent that by reflecting solar radiation. This keeps your attic and the rest of your house much cooler in the summer. It elongates your roof’s life span and keeps your building envelope high even during the hottest months.
What is a Building Envelope Specialist?
A building envelope inspection is a survey conducted by a building envelope consultant or expert to look at different aspects of your building envelope to determine its integrity.
The main focus is making sure all the components – the roof, windows, doors, walls, etc. – are all able to keep exterior elements outside of the house. For example, a building envelope inspector might try to find vulnerabilities in your home if your interior is experiencing water leaks.
Specific tests and procedures common in a building envelope inspection include:
- Moisture and water analysis
- Building forensics
- Temperature testing
Overall, building envelope inspections illuminate specific building-related issues, which is crucial for improving their overall envelope and making home improvements.