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Tech Talk: High Performance Envelope: The Core of Construction

Why the Core of Superior Construction Starts with the High Performance Building Envelope.

Every structure where people live, work or play: homes, stores, offices, medical, municipal, industrial, needs to be built with a High Performance Building Envelope (HPBE).  Read on as I share with you the case for why HPBE’s should be the basis of design for every structure.

finished_bendAn HPBE goes way beyond just walls and roofs to keep rain and snow out of a building.  Yes, they have to do that, but in a time where sustainable and resilient building practices are the norm, every aspect of performance should be considered for the building envelope.  I’ve researched many articles and papers and the following attributes were presented by many of the leading researchers, designers and manufacturers specifying, supplying or building with HPBEs.

So, what are the high-level attributes of a superior performing HPBE?  Let’s look at them one by one.

  1. The HPBE must provide performance, be functional and sustainable.
  2. Cost for its high function should be in balance and yet still affordable.
  3. It has to be easily constructed, simple and elegant.
  4. Low maintenance and be robust, strong and durable.4 Key attributes of superior HPBE

#1: Performance:

bend-metro-garden-roof-420x315-1HPBE featuring Green Roof & LEED Platinum certification, Bend Metro Parks & Rec Center

Let’s look at performance first.  A well designed HPBE must protect against the elements of rain, snow, wind and extreme heat and cold fluctuations.  In so doing, the HPBE must provide a means to control moisture, temperature, air movement and reduce noise pollution.  Without controlling these energy and comfort robbing agents you cannot achieve energy efficiency, comfort for occupants and the long term durability of the building envelope.  This is what is meant by the functionality and sustainability of the HPBE.

#2 Balanced Costs:

In our current world, the cost of building materials in general is rising faster than in recent history.  It’s therefore incumbent on designers and builders to stay committed to designing and building high performance structures, but at the same time looking at materials and systems that give the best value.  It should be stated, that a well designed and built HPBE will dramatically reduce a buildings operating costs of heating and cooling, as well as maintenance costs.  I will discuss initial investment vs true operating costs of high performance buildings separately in a future article.

#3 Ease of Construction:

SIP-Installation2-640x393-1San Miguel, AZ – Large HPBE installed in just 18 days.

The labor force is at a critical point, both shortages and the availability of fully trained laborers plagues the construction industry. Therefore, it is imperative that an HPBE be simple, elegant and as easily constructable as possible.  This is best accomplished by having the critical components of the HPBE be factory assembled, be in large wall or roof sections and installed with mechanized equipment and fewer laborers.  Larger sections also bring the benefit of faster construction time.

#4 Durability: 

High wind events like hurricanes, tornadoes and straight-line winds from thunderstorms will assault the HPBE.  In addition, seismic prone areas will certainly test the strength and durability of HPBE covered structures.

Therefore, only strong, reliable, structural and weather tested and Building Code Recognized HPBE systems should be considered for specification by the design/build community.

kalskag-7-14-10-038-420x315-1HPBE High School, Alaska

I’ve presented the high level attributes of an HPBE and given many reasons for their adoption and use.  In future articles we’ll discuss in greater detail performance benefits, materials and components, costs and construction methods for High Performance Building Envelopes.

Stay tuned!

Mike Tobin, 

Technical Director

Contact Mike

Ready to learn more about why Premier SIPs are considered the optimal High Performance Building Envelope? Learn more here. 


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