With the cost of energy rising every year, and with the daily increase of the “energy transition” effort, many houses are designed around one central theme: saving energy. Everybody installs heat pumps and solar panels and ventilation systems and batteries, all to make sure we minimize our carbon footprint. Green is good.
Unfortunately we have no English translation for this post. Click here for the original Dutch version.
Nowadays houses must be draft-free and air tight. We used to place foam strips between the logs, this took care of the draft but it was not fully air-tight. Today we take a more rigorous approach: we completely wrap the house in an air-tight foil. Damp-open, but air-tight. We started wrapping yesterday, at the same time we are placing the main beams on the roof. These are maybe a little over-dimensioned, 60 kilos each, fully laminated, they will never bend.
Every now and then we have a client that wants us to build a house and then in the process use product this or that for the purpose of finising the roof, or insulating the walls, or whatever. Usually product “this or that” is supposed to somehow lower the maintenance cost of the new house. For instance: composite materials for covering outside walls.
Alternatives For Wall Cladding And Roof Tiling
Many years ago products based on asbestos were popular for roof tiling and wall cladding. We all know how that one ended, and today it is very difficult to get rid of the stuff without hiring guys in white astronaut suits. In The Netherland we recently had a client who almost landed himself in jail for a weekend when he tried to get rid of 1 m2 of asbestos flooring from his old house, without hiring the astronaut-brigade. We all had to laugh about his story, but still it is a serious environmental offense.
Anybody that is in the process of designing and building a new house runs into this discussion: should we build with a damp-open construction, with damp-open walls and roof, or not? Because opinions differ, and the debate is heated, amoung architects and building engineers. One is more energy-efficient, but the other is more ecological… etcetera…
What is this all about? And what is better?
One of our offices is based in The Netherlands, and The Netherlands can be really chilly and uncomfortable. Wet and humid. And some Dutch clients think that their climate is not very suitable for a wooden house.
Let’s look at the facts. Below are four graphs, with the relative humidities in Utrecht (Netherlands), Ukmerge (Lithuania), and Moscow (Russia).
The general idea about wooden houses is that they are very well insulated, and a lot better insulated than brick houses. Is this correct? A short explanation.
Previously we wrote about a house that we built in Belgium. This house had double outside log walls (2 x 8 centimeter massive wood) with 20 centimeters cellullose between the walls.
The advantage of this construction was the damp-open construction (no plastic foils anywhere in the walls) plus the enormous thermal capacity of the walls. In the evening the walls warm the house, during summer daytime they cool the house.
And there is yet another advantage of cellulose: the fire rating. If impregnated with fire retardant material, cellulose will not burn. Look at the video below where different insulation materials are compared. It is not a scientific test, but it gives a good impression of what happens in case of fire. Want to know the winner without going through the whole video? Skip to 14m:30s.
We try to avoid polyethylenes and polystyrenes, whether extruded or expanded, as much as we can. It has zero thermal mass, it burns and often with a lot of black smoke, it turns into chemical waste.
Instead we use Rockwool, cellulose, sometimes wood fibre (not tested in the video above). But the poly-stuff we avoid.
Understanding the new rules in France on house construction
As of January 2013 all house builders are facing a new challenge: the RT 2012. There is a lot of confusion about the new rules with everybody having his own interpretation of the law.
But most of the basics are not that complicated. This article tries to explain the basics. Continue reading
Building energy efficient houses is all about R-values: higher R-values mean lower energy-loss, and lower energy bills. Simple. Or maybe not. Maybe it is a little more complicated than that. Maybe there is more in play than just R-values.