One of my favorite newsletters comes from the Building Science Corporation. It features the new “Insights,” expounding on yet one more aspect of homebuilding with inimitable wit and rasor-sharp commentary on the sorry state of current residential construction. Ah, we lament, why are there not more Dr. Joe’s and Dr. John’s out there?
In one spirited debate with Joe Lstiburek, he assured me that he could build as tight and energy efficient a house with traditional wood framing as anyone could with ICFs, SIPs or other. To which I wholeheartedly agreed, but he doesn’t live in my home town and isn’t building all the homes across the nation. Building good thermal envelopes is so darn complicated and mired in potential “mold” mines. So how do we educate the masses?
Or do we? What if we took another tack, and developed building materials which can deliver the promised performance with the existing level of trades? What if we looked at the requirements of green building, specifically energy efficiency, and more precisely the thermal envelope, and developed products which are “modular.” That is to say that they delivery all we want in the exterior wall – i.e., structural strength adaptable to any situation (ie high wind, earthquake, etc), continuous insulation, not subject to moisture problems, airtight, noise resistant, bug resistant, no off-gassing, recycled material …. What if we asked for all that in one product, and required that all these performance specs be inherent in the system, i.e. NOT dependent on install.
Of course, one great system comes to mind, ICFs. It is an "all-in-one" material. This concept of ‘modular’ material would help guarantee the delivery of performance. It would reduce the potential for error, because the number of installation steps would be reduced, and the number of trades involved would be simplified. This approach might also simplify current problems of scheduling and sequencing. The materials could then be further engineered for ease of install, for improved interface and connections with other materials.
Fewer sku’s, fewer connections, and more reliable delivery of performance. Where else might this lead? Sheetrock replaced lathe & plaster. Marmoleum’s new “Click” flooring combines the cork underlayment with the top linoleum. Can modular roof be designed with snap-together trusses, insulation, sheathing, and waterproofing?
Any ideas? Thanks for thinking.