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climates

Very Cold - A very cold climate is defined as a region with approximately 9,000 heating degree days or greater (65°F basis) or greater and less than 12,600 heating degree days (65°F basis).

Cold - A cold climate is defined as a region with approximately 5,400 heating degree days (65°F basis) or greater and less than approximately 9,000 heating degree days (65°F basis).

Mixed-Humid - A mixed-humid and warm-humid climate is defined as a region that receives more than 20 inches of annual precipitation with approximately 4,500 cooling degree days (50°F basis) or greater and less than approximately 6,300 cooling degree days (50°F basis) and less than approximately 5,400 heating degree days (65°F basis) and where the average monthly outdoor temperature drops below 45°F during the winter months.

Hot-Humid - A hot-humid climate is defined as a region that receives more than 20 inches of annual precipitation with approximately 6,300 cooling degree days (50°F basis) or greater and where the monthly average outdoor temperature remains above 45°F throughout the year. This definition characterizes a region that is similar to the ASHRAE definition of hot-humid climates where one or both of the following occur:

  • a 67°F r higher wet bulb temperature for 3,000 or more hours during the warmest six consecutive months of the year; or
  • a 73°F or higher wet bulb temperature for 1,500 or more hours during the warmest six consecutive months of the year.

Hot-Dry/Mixed-Dry - A hot-dry climate is defined as region that receives less than 20 inches of annual precipitation with approximately 6,300 cooling degree days (50°F basis)or greater and where the monthly average outdoor temperature remains above 45°F throughout the year.

A warm-dry and mixed-dry climate is defined as a region that receives less than 20 inches of annual precipitation with approximately 4,500 cooling degree days (50°F basis) or greater and less than approximately 6,300 cooling degree days (50°F basis) and less than approximately 5,400 heating degree days (65°F basis) and where the average monthly outdoor temperature drops below 45°F during the winter months.

Marine - A marine climate meets is defined as a region where all of the following occur:

  • a mean temperature of the coldest month between 27°F and 65°F;
  • a mean temperature of the warmest month below 72°F;
  • at least four months with mean temperatures over 50°F; and
  • a dry season in the summer, the month with the heaviest precipitation in the cold season has at least three times as much precipitation as the month with the least precipitation.

information

Building Science Insights are short discussions on a particular topic of general interest. They are intended to highlight one or more building science principles. The discussion is informal and sometimes irreverent but never irrelevant.

Building Science Digests provide building professionals from different disciplinary backgrounds with concise overview of important building science topics. Digests explain the theory behind each topic and then translate this theory into practical information.

Published Articles aare a selected set of articles written by BSC personnel and published in professional and trade magazines that address building science topics. For example, our work has appeared in Fine Homebuilding, Home Energy, ASHRAE's High Performance Buildings, The Journal of Building Enclosure Design and The Journal of Building Physics. We thank these publications for their gracious permission to republish.

Conference Papers are peer-reviewed papers published in conference proceedings.

Research Reports are technical reports written for researchers but accessible to design professionals and builders. These reports typically provide an in-depth study of a particular topic or describe the results of a research project. They are often peer reviewed and also provide support for advice given in our Building Science Digests.

Building America Reports are technical reports funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Building America research program.

Designs That Work are residential Case Studies and House Plans developed by BSC to be appropriate for residential construction in specific climate zones. Case Studies provide a summary of results for homes built in partnership with BSC’s Building America team. The case study typically includes enclosure and mechanical details, testing performed, builder profile, and unique project highlights. House Plans are fully integrated construction drawing sets that include floor plans, framing plans and wall framing elevations, exterior elevations, building and wall sections, and mechanical and electrical plans.

Enclosures That Work are Building Profiles and High R-Value Assemblies developed by BSC to be appropriate for residential construction in specific climate zones. Building Profiles are residential building cross sections that include enclosure and mechanical design recommendations. Most profiles also include field expertise notes, material compatibility analysis, and climate challenges. High R-Value Assemblies are summaries of the results of BSC's ongoing High R-Value Enclosure research — a study that BSC has undertaken for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Building America research program to identify and evaluate residential assemblies that cost-effectively provide 50 percent improvement in thermal resistance.

Guides and Manuals are "how-to" documents, giving advice and instructions on specific building techniques and methods. Longer guides and manuals include background information to help facilitate a strong understanding of the building science behind the hands-on advice. This section also contains two quick, easy-to-read series. The IRC FAQ series answers common questions about the building science approach to specific building tasks (for example, insulating a basement). The READ THIS: Before... series offers guidelines and recommendations for everyday situations such as moving into a new home or deciding to renovate.

Information Sheets are short, descriptive overviews of basic building science topics and are useful both as an introduction to building science and as a handy reference that can be easily printed for use in the field, in a design meeting, or at the building permit counter. Through illustrations, photographs, and straightforward explanations, each Information Sheet covers the essential aspects of a single topic. Common, avoidable mistakes are also examined in the What's Wrong with this Project? and What's Wrong with this Practice? mini-series.

Building America Reports
Robert LePage, Joseph Lstiburek

Exterior sheathing insulation is an effective strategy in increasing the overall R-value of wall assemblies; other benefits include decreasing the effects of thermal bridging and increasing the moisture durability of the built assembly. Vapor-permeable exterior insulation, such as mineral board or expanded polystyrene foam, are one such product that may be used to achieve these benefits. However, uncertainty exists on the effects of inward driven moisture and the interaction of increased sheathing temperatures on the moisture durability of the edifice. To address these concerns, Building Science Corporation (BSC) conducted a series of hygrothermal models for cities representing a range of different climate zones.

Building America Reports
Aaron Grin, Jonathan Smegal, Joseph Lstiburek

Unvented roof strategies with open-cell and closed-cell spray polyurethane foam insulation sprayed to the underside of roof sheathing have been used since the mid-1990's to provide durable and efficient building enclosures. There have been isolated moisture related incidents that raise potential concerns about the overall hygrothermal performance of these systems. This project involved hygrothermal modeling of a range of rainwater leakage and field evaluations of in-service residential roofs using spray foam insulation. The exploration involved taking a sample of spray foam from the underside of the roof sheathing, exposing the sheathing, then taking a moisture content reading. All locations had moisture contents well within the safe range for wood-based sheathing.

Building America Reports
Christopher Schumacher, Robert LePage

There is little consensus on the incidence of and physics behind moisture problems in dense-packed roof assemblies. Only a handful of field research projects have considered the moisture performance of dense-packed roof assemblies and the majority of these were proprietary studies that were not made public. This document focuses on dense-packed insulation retrofits to roof assemblies in cold climates and identifies, describes and compares four strategies that designers, builders and manufacturers have implemented to avoid moisture problems in dense-packed roof assemblies.

Cold
Building America Reports
Kohta Ueno, Joseph Lstiburek

Basements can account for up to one quarter of the typical energy consumption in a house. Therefore, insulating foundations is a critical measure for achieving high performance buildings. However, many foundations are damp (either due to bulk water or capillary “wicking” of moisture) or of a type of construction that is not easy or straightforward to insulate (such as rubble foundations). Damp foundation repair methods can be “leveraged” to provide energy efficiency benefits. An example of this “hybrid” approach is spray foam insulation, which can be an effective means of liquid phase water control (leaking basement), vapor phase water control (diffusion and air leakage transported condensation) as well as an effective insulation.

Building America Reports
John Straube, Kohta Ueno, Christopher Schumacher

Load-bearing masonry buildings are a significant portion of the existing building stock. Given the Building America goals of reducing home energy use by 30%-50% (compared to 2009 energy codes for new homes and pre-retrofit energy use for existing homes), insulation and air sealing of mass masonry walls will need to be a component of this work if mass masonry residential buildings are to be addressed.

Building America Reports
Kohta Ueno, Joseph Lstiburek

Successfully executing strategies to control bulk water for foundations is critical for building durability, indoor air quality, and creating acceptable conditions and/or living spaces within the foundation space. Although the energy impacts of properly done bulk water control are small to insignificant, it should be considered a base requirement for any high performance house. In addition, measures such as basement insulation are predicated on properly managed foundation bulk water.

Building America Reports
John Straube, Aaron Grin

The following report is an excerpt from the 2010 Building Science Corporation Industry Team Building America Annual Report. The goal of this research is to find optimally designed, cost effective roof insulation systems that can be included with other enclosure details to help reduce whole house energy use by 70%. This report will compare a variety of roof insulating strategies and present their advantages and disadvantages according to several comparison criteria.

Building America Reports
Building Science Corporation

The following report is an excerpt from the 2009 Building Science Corporation Industry Team Building America Annual Report. BSC has been active for many years in working to help identify and address code and standards issues that are a barrier to the proper use of technologies and products in the design and construction of high efficiency homes. Code and Standards manifest in many forms from improper code interpretation or employment, missing code language, or incorrect code language. Three specific building code issues were identified for action during the building code cycle application to the 2012 Model Building Codes and discussed in this report including their current “adoption status.”

Building America Reports
John Straube, Jonathan Smegal

Many concerns, including the rising cost of energy, climate change concerns, and demands for increased comfort, have lead to the desire for increased insulation levels in many new and existing buildings. More building codes are being modified to require higher levels of thermal control than ever before. This report considers a number of promising wall systems that can meet the requirement for better thermal control. Unlike previous studies, this one considers performance in a more realistic matter, including some true three-dimensional heat flow and the relative risk of moisture damage. For more information, see Popular Topics/High R-Value Walls.

Building America Reports
Joseph Lstiburek

Conditioned crawlspaces perform better than vented crawlspaces in terms of safety, health, comfort, durability and energy consumption. Conditioned crawlspaces also do not cost more to construct than vented crawlspaces. Despite that, there is not a significant trend towards the construction of conditioned crawlspaces. The model codes do not allow the construction of “unvented” crawlspaces – except in very limited circumstances, but they do allow the construction of “conditioned” crawlspaces. The distinction is important and necessary. Four conditioned crawlspaces were constructed and monitored over a 12-month period. The data is presented and used to support the current code requirements for the construction of conditioned crawlspaces.

Building America Reports
Building Science Corporation

Heat loss through uninsulated basement walls can account for up to one-third of the heat loss from an average home. Installing insulation on basement walls is often inexpensive, easy to accomplish and frequently combined with “finishing the basement.” Unfortunately, basement walls are often damp or are only dry on the surface because of evaporation of water into the basement air. Installing wood framing or fiberglass batts directly against basement walls subsequently leads to mold growth and decay of the wood due to fungal growth. Insulating basement walls can be safely accomplished by assessing the moisture conditions of these walls and applying some basic "building science" to the design process.

Building America Reports
Building Science Corporation

Heat loss from basements accounts for a significant portion of the energy loss from a home. In many jurisdictions, basement insulation is a building code requirement. Cost usually determines the type of insulation system used. Unfortunately, safely insulating basement walls requires consideration of many factors in addition to reducing thermal conductivity across the foundation wall. Moisture dynamics must be considered in detail before insulating a basement wall. Materials used to insulate a basement wall must be selected based on their ability to control the flow of moisture and air as well as heat. Selecting the wrong type of insulation or placing it in the wrong wall assembly often leads to moisture accumulation with subsequent material deterioration and growth of mold.

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