In 1987—exactly twenty-five years ago—I took a two-day building science workshop led by Joe Lstiburek. I remember being so riveted by the information he was presenting that I was afraid to go to the men’s room because I thought I’d miss something. I spent two days jiggling on the edge of my seat, literally and figuratively.
The revelation of those two days with Joe was that “quality construction” needed to be defined in four dimensions. It was not just about level, plumb, and square—it was about level, plumb, and square over time. It didn’t matter if it all looked and felt great right after I had completed the work; it only mattered if it continued to look and feel great year after year after year. It sounds obvious now, but I’d only been a carpenter for about 6 years at the time, and to me the long view extended about as far as the next afternoon.
The early NESEA conferences understood that time component of quality, even back then. It’s no wonder that Joe’s talks were always the big draw at those conferences; it’s also no wonder that we called those annual gatherings “Quality Building Conferences.”
Fast-forward 25 years. Our definition of quality has been getting more and more demanding when it comes to energy performance. This is a good thing. And we’re pretty sure that these Zero Net, Passive House, and Deep Energy Retrofit projects will prove to be quality projects over time. Pretty sure—but not completely confident. There’s a big, big difference.
What single factor gives us the most pause when it comes to feeling rock-solid certain that our high-performance projects will stand the test of time?
Water, of course. If any of your projects has experienced a rot or mold problem, an air quality issue, a failed finish, a sticking door, a cracked caulk joint, a stained ceiling, or a summertime comfort complaint, the root cause was inevitably a failure to manage moisture properly. Almost all our warranty callbacks, in fact, result from not adequately anticipating how water will interact with our buildings. Water is essential to life, but it’s the single biggest enemy of quality construction. What an interesting dilemma to be faced with as designers and builders.
But there’s hope for us all: BE13 is blessed to have the dream team of Lew Harriman and Bill Rose offering what is likely to be your best and most entertaining route to enlightenment on this fraught topic of water in buildings.
In fact, Bill wrote the book (literally) on water in buildings, titled, succinctly enough, “Water in Buildings.” Lew, for his part, was lead author for the “ASHRAE Humidity Control Design Guide.” Here’s the session description, from the conference website:
“The cost of moisture-related problems in buildings has exceeded billions of dollars in the last ten years. According to credible research, dampness-related health effects has cost the public tens of millions of dollars in financial terms, not to mention the emotional cost of financial pressures and building disruption. On the other hand, was any of this necessary? What do we really know about the effects of moisture in buildings? How can we be sure they are as bad as we think? …And if they really cause such expensive and disruptive problems, shouldn’t we prevent them through building codes? What code requirements would prevent the observed problems? This presentation will explore the issues and suggest ways to proceed with respect to managing humidity and moisture in buildings.”
My bet is that’s a description that many of you will find dauntingly dry (pun intended). Lurking behind that description, though, is possibly the most important and valuable 90 minutes you’ll spend in 2013.
See you there.
Posted: 2/26/2013 4:05:30 PM by
Mary Kestner | with 0 comments