The building envelope is an intricate part of the design process that can make or break your rain, wind, or snow protection strategy. It includes many parts of the structure that are often complex and layered.
The four basic functions
Building envelopes are the outer layer of a building that protects it from exterior environmental factors. These are made up of various materials with different properties. The facade is the outside surface of the building envelope which can be decorative or not. Fenestration includes all the openings in the wall, including windows, doors, skylights and other openings.
An average wall in a home might include a layer of gypsum board, then a vapour barrier. Next it would get cavity insulation, OSB board and water-resistant barrier. Finally, there would be exterior insulation and cladding such as brick, stucco or wood.
That’s just one of seven different layers that make up the building envelope.
Building a new home is not the easiest task in the world, especially if you’re inexperienced. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all of the steps and different materials involved. A single mistake anywhere in the process could have huge consequences.
A building envelope may have one of four basic functions: it can protect the interior, support the interior, filter air in-and-out, or separate the different parts of the enclosure.
- Provide support for, transfer and accommodate the structural loads imposed by the environment and the building
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- Ensure that the surfaces meet aesthetic or other performance requirements
- Act as a method to distribute electricity and piping throughout the property.
The sum of all parts is greater than the whole
Though there are many factors to consider, building envelopes is all about doing what you need them to. Do they provide the level of protection / insulation you want? Are they easy to build? Efficient? Can you repair them if needed?
With a building’s envelope, it is the interaction of the components that matters. All of them need to work together effectively in order to support a comfortable interior climate in environmental conditions that can change quickly from driving rain to hot sun to freezing cold.