Turning Up the Heat: Back to the Basics with Thermal Performance

It’s that time of year as the holidays approach and heating bills climb. Next to moisture control, thermal behavior has occupied the top spot in performance considerations of the facade system for many years now. So how are we doing? Not so hot! How is it that after years over years of focus on this problem of thermal transfer we are still struggling to get it right. Our tools are inaccurate, our processes inadequate, and out techniques largely ineffective. The glass industry has done a great job of delivering better performing architectural glass products, at least with respect to thermal performance, but we’ve long ignored what’s happening at the edges; it’s all about the edges! The edges, the boundary conditions, the transitions between systems; this is where we are losing the battle, the battle of the wall, as the glass industry likes to call it.

So, in this SKINS we focus on the issue of thermal performance and the facade system. We start with Breaking Bridges; Ellen Rogers builds the framework from the perspective of the glass industry with FTI’s Helen Sanders weighing in heavily in the discussion. We follow that with an important resource, the Thermal Bridging Design Guide from Morrison Hershfield; Canada is really stepping up building performance with their new step-codes and clearly playing a leadership role in North America when it comes to building and facade system performance. Next is Warming Up, which references another resource from Canada, Morrison Hershfield’s Guide to Low Thermal Energy Demand for Large Buildings. The link to chapter 4 begins with a discussion of an important metric: thermal energy demand intensity (TEDI), a metric more relevant to facade system performance than energy use intensity (EUI). Finally, we include one of the papers from our recent World Congress that addresses thermal bridging and building energy performance. This will keep you busy reading for a while.

So, time for some easy listening! Episode 9 of our SKINS podcast introduces a new series with my pal Ted Kesik—the brilliant author, researcher and professor of building science at the University of Toronto—co-hosting with me as we wade into some thick topics with the help of some special guests. We initially conceived of this as a building science 6-pack, but it’s looking likely to end up as at least a 12-pack (we both like to talk; should we go for a full case?). Here are the upcoming topics as they tentatively stand:

  1. An introduction with Ted Kesik, professor of building science at U. of Toronto
  2. Modular prefab and offsite manufacturing
  3. Embodied carbon
  4. Durability
  5. Resilience
  6. Risk management and the emerging standard of care
  7. Facade futures
  8. Inside: health, wellness and productivity
  9. Outside: urban impacts
  10. Material matters
  11. Hot and humid
  12. Thermal performance and condensation resistance

Let me know if there are other topics you’d like us to address.

But wait, there’s more for your listening pleasure! Helen Sanders does an outstanding job of laying out the current issues with the building skin in discussion with John Wheaton on his new podcast platform, Creating Structure. Check it out!

We had another great Forum event this month in New York City with our partner, the Ornamental Metal Institute of New York. Virtual, of course; three excellent sessions comprised the Pandemic Pantry: Digesting Covid-19 and Understanding the Lessons for Buildings and Facade Systems. A recap can be found below, and the recorded sessions will be available for streaming soon. And check out the new Metals in Construction design challenge.

I’m excited that we have a new team at SKINS! Katie and I are joined by Brienna Rust with SGH, Christopher Payne with Gensler, and Marty Trainor with Ventana, all members of the Institute’s Special Advisory Council. New blood! We are looking at slimming SKINS down in terms of content. I’m being told there’s too much in each edition. But there’s just so much to talk about, I object! Maybe we’ll publish more often but limit the content of each publication? We’ll see how this plays out. Love to hear your thoughts. Regardless, we’d welcome your original contribution! Or even the referral of facade-relevant content to our attention.

Lots happening on the academic and policy fronts at the moment, too; you’ll be hearing about that, soon.

Enough for now. Wonderous Thanksgiving wishes to you and yours from all of us at SKINS and FTI!

This is the personal opinion of Mic Patterson, PhD, LEED AP+ and does not reflect the views of Facade Tectonics Institute.


Photo of Mic Patterson, PhD, LEED AP+

Mic Patterson, PhD, LEED AP+

Executive Editor, SKINS

Facade Tectonics Institute

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