Manufacturer of Boiler & Cooling Water Treatment Chemicals

Synergies: Interdependence and the building envelope (USGBC New York Upstate)

Published on 19 Oct 2016  Written by Jodi Smits Anderson  Posted in Industry

Interdependence, like community, is strength. We start as dependent babies, grow into young adults and become independent. Most of us stop there, because independence is not only a national ideal, but a mantra for everyone leaving home and starting their adult lives. However, true strength comes from interdependence—relationships, communities, families and a recognition of how our abilities can complement one another to achieve our common goals.

In my view, there are three pieces to this interdependence. For some metaphorical fun, I’ll use the trendy world of Pokémon Go. In this universe, Team Blue (Mystic) is that the building has to work with itself, and many don’t. Many buildings have leaky walls that undermine poorly designed HVAC systems, or they face the wrong direction and allow too much uncontrolled heat gain.

Team Yellow (Instinct) is the piece where the building needs to commune with its surroundings in order to benefit from wind, sun, rain, flora and fauna and soil conditions. Team Red (Valor) strives for interdependence between the building and its users, so they know how to manage the building and benefit from its capabilities and quirks and so the building can have the breadth of parameters to respond well. And it takes all of these teams to make the game fun and successful.

Mystic (building envelopes)

We have, historically, undervalued building envelopes and their collaborative success with mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems, as well as user comfort. It’s not enough to heat and cool a building; the building also needs to be sustainable.

The building walls, floor and roof are part of the energy system, after all. The building envelope receives solar heat gain through windows and thermal storage through the sun beating on the materials. Using materials that can store heat longer and thereby lengthen the curve of heat gain and loss will help with energy control, and is a viable energy system akin to any radiant system or off-peak ice storage plan.

Designing the fenestrations to be very low in leakage and to optimize timing and amount of heat gain is also an energy production system, and one that can offset most of a building’s heating load, if done well. The most powerful aspect of a well-designed building envelope is its ability to act as a thermos, keeping the heat in the volume of air contained in the building. Tighter is always better, as long as we then mechanically ventilate properly to control air quality. We must select nontoxic, non-off-gassing materials for that building envelope to reduce the burden on the air quality control.

If dealt with as an energy system of interdependent elements, the building envelope can help you downsize the energy-driven systems which will save money, reduce fossil fuels and create higher resiliency in your building. There would be no battle if it were only Mystic out there looking for Pokémon. Interdependence rules. It helps us to survive, and it makes surviving fun.

Written by Jodi Smits Anderson

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LEED Certification

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is a non profit organization that certifies sustainable businesses, homes, hospitals, schools, and neighborhoods. USGBC is dedicated to expanding green building practices and education, and its LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System™.

Chemline, Inc. is a member of The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and has the potential to provide LEED points.