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Efficient Envelopes

The transition between outdoor climate conditions and the indoor environment

A building envelope is what separates the indoors from the outdoors, including walls, roofs, floors, doors, and windows. It acts as a thermal shield, reduces the demand of mechanical equipment, improves indoor comfort, and extends the lifespan of building components.1 With the green building industry pushing for increased energy efficiency, the building envelope is a great place to start. The typical building envelope is responsible for about 25% on average of all building energy use due to increased heating and cooling demand, but a poor envelope can be responsible for up to 57% in commercial buildings.2

An efficient envelope should effectively control the transfer of three things: heat, air and moisture. Energy modeling software can be used to determine the effectiveness of an envelope based on the project’s local climate, internal gains, and demands.

Although it is a barrier, the building envelope should be thought of more as a controlled exchange between indoor and out. It can serve as a barrier, a filter, a connector, or a switch, depending upon what is needed for the context.3,4