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67102

DURABLE WOOD-FRAME
CONSTRUCTION FOR ALL CLIMATES

www.cmhc.ca

DURABLE WOOD-FRAME
CONSTRUCTION
FOR ALL CLIMATES

CMHCHOME TO CANADIANS
Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) has
been Canadas national housing agency for more than 65 years.
Together with other housing stakeholders, we help ensure
that the Canadian housing system remains one of the best
in the world. We are committed to helping Canadians access
a wide choice of quality, environmentally sustainable and
affordable housing solutions that will continue to create
vibrant and healthy communities and cities across the country.
For more information, visit our website at www.cmhc.ca
You can also reach us by phone at 1-800-668-2642 or
by fax at 1-800-245-9274.
Outside Canada call 613-748-2003 or fax to 613-748-2016.

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation supports the


Government of Canada policy on access to information
for people with disabilities. If you wish to obtain this
publication in alternative formats, call 1-800-668-2642.

DURABLE wooD-fRAmE
ConstRUCtion foR
ALL CLimAtEs

CMHC offers a wide range of housing-related information. For


details, call 1 800 668-2642 or visit our home page at www.cmhc.ca
Cette publication est aussi disponible en franais sous le titre :
Constructions ossature de bois durables pour toutes les zones
climatiques (67103)

The information contained in this publication represents current research results


available to CMHC, and has been reviewed by a wide spectrum of experts in the
housing industry. Readers are advised to evaluate the information, materials and
techniques cautiously for themselves and to consult appropriate professional
resources to determine whether information, materials and techniques are suitable
in their case. The drawings and text are intended as general practice guides only.
Project and site-specific factors of climate, cost, esthetics and so on must be taken
into consideration. Any photographs in this book are for illustration purposes
only and may not necessarily represent currently accepted standards.
Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication
Mattock, Chris
Durable wood-frame construction for all climates / Chris Mattock, Barry Craig.
Issued also in French under title: Constructions ossature de bois durables
pour toutes les zones climatiques.
Available also on the Internet.
Includes index.
ISBN 978-1-100-16986-6
Cat. no.: NH15-448/2011E
1. Wooden-frame houses--Canada--Design and construction.
2. Wooden-frame buildings--Canada--Design and construction.
3. House construction--Canada. I. Craig, Barry II. Canada Mortgage and Housing
Corporation III. Title.
TH1101 M38 2011

694.1

C2011-980122-1

2011 Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation

All rights reserved. No portion of this book may be reproduced, stored in a


retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, mechanical,
electronic, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior written
permission of Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. Without limiting the
generality of the foregoing, no portion of this book may be translated from English
into any other language without the prior written permission of Canada Mortgage
and Housing Corporation.
Printed in Canada
Produced by CMHC

Table of contents

Table Of COnTenTs
Preface

Introduction

Scope and Context . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4

Part 1: Introduction to the building envelope


Wood-frame Construction

What is the Building Envelope? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Foundations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Crawl Space and Basement Foundations . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Slab-on-grade Foundations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Foundation Insulation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Walls . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Framing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Stick-Built Framing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Prefabricated Panel Framing. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Advanced Framing Techniques . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Roofs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Pitched Roofs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Roof Trusses. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Site-framed Pitched Roofs. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Low-Slope Roofs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Roof Ventilation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Ice Dams and Eave Protection . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Openings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Doors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Windows . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Window Types . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Sealed Glazing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Low-emissivity Coatings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Gas Fills . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Air Tightness, Water Resistance and Wind Load Resistance . . .
Installation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Flashings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Air Barrier. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Skylights . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Mechanical and Electrical Penetrations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Foundation and Wall Penetrations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Roof Penetrations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation

Table of contents

Part 2: environmental Control strategies


Introduction to part 2
Moisture Movement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Sources of Moisture . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Moisture Movement Forces . . . . . . . . . . .
Condensation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Moisture Control Mechanisms . . . . . . . . . .
Defining the Six Moisture Control Mechanisms .
Moisture Penetration Control . . . . . . . . . . .
Moisture Penetration Control Strategies . . . . .
Deflection. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Drainage . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Drying . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Air Leakage Control . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Factors Leading To Air Leakage. . . . . . . . . .
Design for Air Leakage Control . . . . . . . . .
Building Envelope Air Tightness Characteristics
Air Tightness in Multi-Unit Buildings. . . . . .
Air Leakage in Attics . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Air Leakage in Foundations . . . . . . . . . . .
Combustion Air . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Ventilation Air . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Vapour Diffusion Control . . . . . . . . . . . .
The Dilemma . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Possible Solutions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Control of Vapour Diffusion . . . . . . . . . .
Smart Vapour Barriers . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Heat Transfer Control . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Thermal Measurements . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Heat Transfer Mechanisms . . . . . . . . . . . .
Heat Loss and Heat Gain. . . . . . . . . . . . .
Sources of Heat. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The Thermal Barrier . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Types of Thermal Insulation . . . . . . . . . .
Radiant Barriers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Sources of Deterioration . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Decay . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Corrosion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Fungal Growth . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Ultra-Violet Radiation . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Insect Control . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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. 48
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.108
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.115
.118
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.124
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.126
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.128
.128

Table of contents

Chemical Incompatibility
Ventilation. . . . . . . . .
Natural Ventilation . . . .
Hybrid Ventilation . . . .
Mechanical Ventilation . .
Exhaust Systems. . . . .
Supply Only Systems . .
Balanced Systems . . . .
Building Science Summary
Cold Climate Buildings .
Hot Climate Buildings . .
Conclusion to Part 2 . . .

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Categorizing Climates for Building Design and Construction . . . . . .


Climatic Zones for Building Design and Construction . . . . . . . . .
Climatic Influences . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Heating and Cooling
Degree Days . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Wind . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Temperature . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Moisture . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Solar Effects . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Local Climatic Effects . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Seasonal Variations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Environmental Considerations for Moisture Control . . . . . . . . . . .
Rain Control Design . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Wind-Driven Rain Moisture Control Performance of Cladding Systems .
Building Orientation and Roof Overhangs . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Recommendations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Air Leakage Control Design . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Approach . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Choice of Air Barrier System . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Moisture Balance and Vapour Diffusion Control Design . . . . . . . .
Materials for Vapour Diffusion Control . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Special Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Zonal Conditioning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Flooding . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
North American Marine Locations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Conclusion to Part 3. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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Part 3: Climatic Considerations


Introduction to Part 3

163

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Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation

iii

Table of contents

Part 4: Construction assemblies


Introduction to part 4
Construction Assemblies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Very Cold (Vc) Climate: Assembly Details no. 1 . . . . . . . .
Cold Dry (Cd) Climate: Assembly Details no. 2 . . . . . . . .
Cold Humid (Ch) Climate: Assembly Details no. 3 . . . . . .
Warm or Hot Dry (Whd) Climate: Assembly Details no. 4 . .
Warm or Hot Humid (Whh) Climate: Assembly Details no. 5 .
Multi-Climate: Assembly Details no. 6 . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Conclusion to Part 4. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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.197
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.221

List of figures

lIsT Of fIgures
Building envelope components . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
Foundation types . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
Basement foundation with interior insulated wood-frame wall . . . . . 14
Basement foundation with exterior insulation . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
Crawl space foundation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
Slab-on-grade foundation with perimeter insulation . . . . . . . . . . 17
Erection of walls in platform framing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20
Modified balloon framing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22
Roof Types . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24
Types of prefabricated roof trusses. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25
Site-framed pitched roofs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26
Dormer roof framing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27
Ventilated flat eave detail, Cold Roof design . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28
Unventilated pitched roof eave detail, Hot Roof design . . . . . . . . 29
Ventilated pitched roof eave detail, Cold Roof design . . . . . . . . . 30
Soffit roof ventilation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30
Ridge vent (A) and gable vent (B) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31
Ice dams and eave protection . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33
Window types (viewed from exterior) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34
Low-E glass coating for hot climates . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36
Window sub sill flashing integrated with WRB . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37
Window head . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38
Window sill . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39
Stepped flashing for skylight . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41
Prefabricated vent pipe flashing on roof . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42
Prefabricated vent pipe flashing at ceiling . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43
Water entry by gravity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49
Controlling water movement due to gravity. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation

List of figures

Capillary suction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50
Water movement by capillary suction and some methods of control . . 51
Water entry by kinetic energy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 52
Preventing water entry by kinetic energy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 52
Water entry by wind pressure . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53
Preventing wind-driven rain entry with
pressure-moderated rainscreen . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 54
Air leakage can move large amounts of water vapour due to
pressure differences across the building envelope . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 54
Vapour diffusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 55
Moisture Penetration Control Mechanisms . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 56
Examples of deflection . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58
Examples of deflection . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 59
Examples of drainage . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 60
Moisture-laden indoor air leaking into insulated cavities can lead
to condensation during cold months . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 61
Moisture-laden outdoor air leaking into an air-conditioned
building can lead to condensation formation during hot months

. . . 62

Examples of drying in different wood-frame wall assemblies . . . . . . 64


Vapour diffusion and condensation in heating and cooling climates. . . 65
Exposure to wind-driven rain . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 67
Effects of overhangs on wall performance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 68
Influence of overhangs and pitched roofs on wind and rain flow . . . . 69
Rain deflection measures when roof overhangs are not possible . . . . . 70
Rainwater accumulation on cladding . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 71
Examples of Storage or Mass Wall Systems . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 72
Example of Face-sealed Wall System. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 73
Example of a Concealed-barrier Wall System . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 74
Example of Rainscreen Wall system . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 75
Example of Pressure-Moderated Rainscreen Wall System . . . . . . . . 76
Example of PERSIST Wall System. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 77
Moisture Removal Mechanisms in Walls . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 78
Wall Ventilation Techniques. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 80
Driving forces of air leakage . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 82
Air leakage through ceiling penetrations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 84
vi

Canada Mortgage
vivi and Housing Corporation

List of figures

Typical air leakage locations in wood-frame construction. Air will


leak either in or out of the building envelope, depending on air
pressure differentials. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 86
Possible air barrier locations in the building envelope . . . . . . . . . . 89
Combined polyethylene air and vapour barrier . . . . . . . . . . . . . 90
Vapour barrier tab at ends of partitions and air barrier over stud
wall top plates . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 91
Airtight Drywall Approach (ADA) air barrier . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 92
Example of ADA wall penetration details . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 93
Preparing for a fan-door depressurization air tightness test . . . . . . . 94
Air tightness testing using fan-door depressurization . . . . . . . . . . 95
Air leakage in sheet metal ductwork is very high unless air-sealed
with a liquid sealer or durable aluminum foil tape. . . . . . . . . . . . 97
Vapour diffusion from interior to exterior in a cold climate can result
in condensation formation and damage to the wall assembly . . . . . . 99
Placement of a vapour barrier on the inside of a wall cavity in a
cold climate can retard vapour diffusion into the insulated cavity
preventing condensation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .100
Locating a vapour barrier on the inside of an insulated wall cavity in
an air-conditioned building in a hot-humid climate can also lead to
condensation formation and damage to the wall assembly. . . . . . . .101
Insulating a wall cavity on the outside of the sheathing with impermeable
insulation will resist water vapour diffusion in both winter and summer
and allow for drying of the structure to the interior and drying of the
cladding to the exterior. Although more costly than an insulation filled
cavity, this option will work in many climates. . . . . . . . . . . . . .102
Placing low vapour permeance, rigid insulation on the exterior side
of a wall retards vapour diffusion into insulated wall cavities in
hot-humid conditions. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .105
A vapour barrier can be located partway through a wall if the
temperature of the vapour barrier always stays above the dew point
temperature of the air with which it is in contact. . . . . . . . . . . .106
Placement of the vapour barrier with equal insulation value on each
side will prevent condensation formation during winter and summer in
climates with mild winters and hot-humid summers. . . . . . . . . . .106
Exterior Insulation and Finish System (EIFS) wall incorporating
drainage channels, pressure-equalized two-stage joints and a water
resistant barrier membrane or coating. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .107

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation

vii

List of figures

Typical temperature gradient through a wall assembly for a


heating climate . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .113
Psychrometric Chart . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .114
Heat transfer by conduction. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .115
Heat transfer by convection . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .116
Heat transfer by radiation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .117
Heat transfer by air leakage . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .118
Pollution sources in the home include, mould, cigarette smoke, volatile
organic compounds (VOCs), such as formaldehyde, emitted from
particle board and other finishes, moisture generated by cooking,
bathing and washing, products of combustion from kerosene or gas
heaters, cleaning agents and soil gases. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .131
Natural ventilation driven by stack effect within a room . . . . . . . .133
Wind-driven ventilation using single-sided ventilation . . . . . . . . .133
Ratio of building depth to ceiling height for wind-driven ventilation . .134
Building forms that aid buoyancy or stack effect driven ventilation . . .135
Building forms that aid buoyancy or stack effect driven ventilation . . .136
Modifying wind flow with landscaping . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .136
Basic exhaust only ventilation system . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .139
Central exhaust only ventilation system . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .140
Supply only ventilation system . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .141
Basic balanced ventilation system . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .142
Recirculating central ventilation system . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .144
Heat Recovery Ventilator (HRV) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 145
Central Heat Recovery Ventilator (HRV) system with separate
exhaust and supply ducting . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .146
Central Heat Recovery Ventilator (HRV) system connected to furnace
for supply air distribution . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .147
Energy Recovery Ventilator (ERV) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 148
Heat and moisture recovery in a heat wheel Energy Recovery
Ventilator (ERV) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .149
Requirements for a central distributed mechanical ventilation system . .151
Building-as-a-system for heating climates Step 1: Uninsulated
building envelope.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .152

viii

Canada Mortgage
viiiviii and Housing Corporation

List of figures

Building-as-a-system for heating climates Step 2: Insulation reduces


heat loss but can lead to condensation due to air leakage and cold temperatures
in the exterior sheathing and outer parts of the building envelope. . . . 152
Building-as-a-system for heating climates Step 3: A continuous air
barrier reduces condensation in insulated cavities by preventing air
leakage, but may cause indoor air quality problems resulting from
decreased fresh air delivery when uncontrolled air leakage has
been reduced. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .153
Building-as-a-system for heating climates Step 4: Indoor air quality
is improved by providing mechanical ventilation and by using low-toxicity
interior finishes. Heat losses increase as a result of additional ventilation. . 154
Building-as-a-system for heating climates Step 5: Heat recovery
ventilator (HRV) reduces heat losses resulting from ventilation by
up to 70 per cent. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .155
Building-as-a-system for cooling climates Step 1:
Uninsulated building envelope. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .156
Building-as-a-system for cooling climates Step 2: Thermal
insulation reduces heat gains but can lead to condensation resulting
from air leakage and vapour diffusion. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .157
Building-as-a-system for cooling climates Step 3: A continuous
air barrier throughout the building envelope minimizes entry of
moisture-laden air from the outside into insulated cavities. Vapour
diffusion is controlled by a vapour-resistant and water-resistant barrier
or by a low-permeance exterior sheathing.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .158
Building-as-a-system for cooling climates Step 4: Low toxicity
materials improve indoor air quality, but mechanical ventilation
increases cooling load.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .159
Building-as-a-system for cooling climates Step 5:
Energy recovery ventilator (ERV) reduces heat and humidity
gain due to ventilation by up to 80 per cent. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .160
North American Climatic Zones* . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .171
South American Climatic Zones* . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .172
European Climatic Zones* . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .173
Asian Climatic Zones* . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .174
African Climatic Zones* . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .175
Australasian Climatic Zones* . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .176
Plan details . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .199
Section details . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .200

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation

ix

List of figures

Plan details . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .203


Section details . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .204
Plan details . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .207
Section details . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .208
Plan details . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .211
Section details . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .212
Plan details . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .215
Section details . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .216
Plan details . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .219
Section details . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .220

Canada Mortgage
xx and Housing Corporation

PrEfacE
This document supplements Canadian
Wood-frame House Construction, Canada
Mortgage and Housing Corporations
best-selling book on wood-frame
residential construction in the
Canadian climate.
Wood-frame construction, also called
timber frame construction, has been a
successful residential building method
for centuries in many countries around
the world. This is proof of the durability
of wood-frame construction in all climates.
There have been many changes in
residential design and construction:
n
Economic necessity and a better
understanding of building
performance have been the main
drivers of change.
n

New materials and methods of


construction have offered designers
and builders new opportunities.
Governments and homeowners
have encouraged and rewarded
greater energy efficiency and
environmental responsibility.

With these changes came mistakes,


particularly when designers and builders
ignored the consequences of poor
building envelope design. From
mistakes, changes in construction and
research in building performance, we
now have a better understanding

of moisture control in buildings,


which has led to improved building
envelope design.
The desire of homeowners for a more
controlled indoor environment, through
the use of heating systems and air
conditioning has resulted in the
building-as-a-system approach to the
design and construction of housing.
It is no longer possible to ignore the
impact of the design of the building
envelope on the environmental
acceptability and comfort of the
indoor environment.
Durable Wood-frame Construction for
All Climates is a bridge between the
established practices of the past and
todays conditions and imperatives.
CMHC has learned from experience
that when a sound and flexible
approach is taken, properly designed
and constructed wood frame buildings
are durable and can be successfully
built in all climates.
Durable Wood-frame Construction for
All Climates sets out a design and
construction approach that enables
durable and sustainable wood-frame
construction to be built around the world.

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation

Introduction

introduction
This document has been developed to
provide designers and builders with the
information they require to deal with
the durability aspects of wood-frame
buildings in any climate, ranging from
very cold to hot and humid. There is
over a century of experience in Canada
with wood-frame construction, and over
this period it has been proven that if
wood-frame buildings are built and
maintained appropriately for the local
climate they will be durable and last a
very long time. With Canadian companies
beginning to supply wood-frame
construction materials and design
expertise around the world, it is
important to recognize the influence of
local climates and cultural differences that
can affect the durability of wood-frame
buildings. Some of the cultural differences
that can affect durability include the use
of room-by-room heating or cooling
rather than whole-house heating or
cooling and the temperatures and relative
humidity at which homes are operated.
Not only must the building be built
appropriately for the local climate but
it must also be operated and maintained
correctly to ensure long-term durability.
This may require the Canadian supplier
to inform the local designers, builders
and homebuyers of the operation
and maintenance requirements of a
Canadian wood-frame house.
This document is divided into four parts.
Part 1 provides an introduction to the
building envelope. Part 2 identifies the
building science principles that
contribute to a buildings durability. Part 3
introduces definitions for various

climates encountered around the world,


the approaches for assessing various
construction methods and materials and
how well suited they are to particular
climates. Part 4 applies the information
described in Parts 1,2 and 3 and gives
examples of specific construction details
that are well suited to climates ranging
from very cold to hot and humid
conditions. Appendices A and B
provide additional supporting and
reference information.
Durability of a building envelope can
only be achieved if moisture movement
in the building envelope is controlled or
managed. While the majority of this
document will be devoted to addressing
the control of moisture in walls, moisture
control in all the other components of
the building envelope, including the
foundation, the roof and the openings,
must also be achieved. The design of
the roof and attic space, the interface
between walls and windows and doors
and the prevention of moisture entry
from ground water, are also very
important considerations.
Another equally important requirement
is to provide a healthy indoor
environment for the occupants of the
house. Whether living spaces are healthy
or not, depends on how they are designed,
constructed and maintained as well
as how their heating, cooling and
ventilation systems are designed and
operated. The quality of an indoor
environment is a shared responsibility
between the designer, the builder and
the occupants of the building.

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation

Introduction

Finally, in designing and constructing a


durable wood-frame building we must
consider the correct priorities for the
control of moisture. The larger the source
of moisture, the more attention should be
given to it. The more critical an element
is to the success of the building envelope
performance, the more it must be
considered to assure that it is designed
and constructed properly. The more
susceptible a material is to moisture,
the more care must be taken to avoid
accumulation of excess moisture in it.
The purpose of Part 2 is to review the
primary sources of moisture, the forces
that drive moisture and rules that must
be observed to achieve effective moisture
management. Failure to properly address
each of these aspects can lead to partial
or, in some circumstances, complete
failure of the building envelope.

scoPE and contExt


The intent of this guide is to provide an
introduction to how wood-frame houses
should be built to provide healthy and
comfortable living conditions and to
provide durable, long-lasting building
envelopes that will resist the natural
forces in a variety of climates. The
Durable Wood-Frame Construction
for All Climates guide will focus
primarily on the design and construction
of wood-frame wall assemblies. Various
types of wood-frame wall construction
in several climatic zones will be
described and illustrated in detail.

The proper connection of wall assemblies


to the foundation and roof assemblies,
and to the various openings in them, is
very important, so that continuity of
the environmental barriers in the building
envelope components is ensured, from
foundation to wall to roof and to all
openings in them.
However, because of the great variety of
designs, methods and materials of
construction, coming from local building
practices and cultural preferences, this
guide will describe only the basic
requirements for the foundation,
roof and opening components of the
building envelope, and illustrate only
the most common types used in
wood-frame construction.
The building science principles described
for the design and construction of wall
assemblies, also apply to foundations,
roofs and openings. These components
of the building envelope must be
constructed to perform most of the
required functions of walls, and
additional functions imposed by local
climate, customs, materials, building
practices and codes. This guide will
describe the construction methods and
materials used for durable wood-frame
wall assemblies and will not describe the
other building envelope components of
foundations, roofs and openings in any
detail. The Canadian Wood-frame
House Construction guide published
by Canada Mortgage and Housing
Corporation (CMHC) and the
Builders Manual published by the
Canadian Home Builders Association
(CHBA) should be consulted for more
detailed information on wood-frame
construction methods and materials.

Canada Mortgage
44 and Housing Corporation

Part 1: introduction
to the Building Envelope

Part 1: Introduction to the Building Envelope

wood-framE
construction
Part 1 presents an overview of
wood-frame construction and the
major components that make up the
building envelope.
Wood-frame construction primarily
utilizes dimensional lumber, but can also
make use of engineered wood products
or prefabricated structural insulated
panels to construct wall, floor and
roof assemblies. These wood-frame
assemblies are strong, durable, suitable
for all climates, and relatively fast and
inexpensive. Wood-frame construction
has a long history of durability and
excellent performance in North America,
northern Europe, Asia and Oceania.
Contemporary wood-frame construction
in Canada has evolved through many
years of practice and improvements made
as a result of extensive research at the
National Research Council of Canada,
Canada Mortgage and Housing
Corporation and other organizations.

Wood-frame buildings must be


carefully designed and constructed to
provide lasting protection against the
elements in the exterior environment,
and provide occupant health, comfort
and safety in the interior environment.
Wood-frame construction has the
following advantages when compared
with masonry construction:
n

Wood-frame construction is fast, easy


to build, easy to make alterations to.

Wood is a renewable resource that


can be sustained through effective
harvesting, conservation and
protection of our forests.
Wood-frame construction can be
easily and highly insulated to
conserve energy and minimize
heating and cooling costs.
Wood-frame construction can
withstand wind, rain, snow and
earthquake loads. It utilizes
flexible framing components with
strong connections that can adjust
to severe loads without damage.
Wood-frame construction can be
adapted to suit all climatic conditions.
Wood-frame construction can easily
meet or exceed the fire safety and
acoustical privacy standards
required by building codes.
Wood-frame construction techniques
can be easily learned by builders and
requires the use of only basic tools.
It utilizes high quality materials
and tested and proven details
saving time and money during the
construction process.
Wood-frame construction is
economical and provides excellent
performance and long-term durability.
Wood-frame construction is
light-weight and requires smaller
foundations and structural supports.

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation

Part 1: Introduction to the Building Envelope

what is thE
BuildinG EnvEloPE?
The building envelope is the skin of a
building and acts as an environmental
barrier, which is also called
environmental separator, between the
exterior environment and the interior
environment of a building. It contains
structural members, such as floor joists,
wall studs and roof trusses, which
support the exterior cladding and roof
surface of the building. It is comprised
of the following four basic components
(refer to Figure 1.1):
1. foundation, including footings,
foundation walls and floor slabs.
2. Walls, including all the exterior walls.
3. roof, including ceilings, attics,
eaves and the roof surface.

The building envelope contains the


following environmental barriers:
1 Thermal barriers (or heat barriers)
control heat transfer, keep heat inside
the building in cold climates, and
keep heat outside in hot climates.
They can be located anywhere in
the assembly, between the exterior
cladding and interior finish.
Materials include batt, semi-rigid,
board or loose fill insulation.
2 Moisture barriers (or weather
barriers, or water-resistant barriers
(WRB)) prevent liquid moisture from
entering the building assemblies. They
should be located between the
exterior cladding and the structure,
usually over the roof and wall
sheathing. Materials include
house- wrap, building paper, flexible
and rigid membranes.

4. Openings, including windows,


doors, skylights and mechanical
and electrical penetrations in the
other components.

Building envelope components

RoofRoof
Walls
Walls
Openings
Openings

Foundation
oundation
Fondation

1.1

Canada Mortgage
88 and Housing Corporation

Part 1: Introduction to the Building Envelope

3 air barriers (or air barrier systems)


prevent air from moving through
the building assemblies. They may
be located anywhere in the walls
and roof, but must completely
enclose the conditioned interior
environment. Materials include
semi-permeable house-wrap,
gypsum board, plywood, OSB,
air barrier tape and sealants.
4 Vapour barriers (or vapour
retarders) control water vapour
diffusion. Vapour barriers are
required in cold climates;
semi-permeable vapour retarders
are required in hot climates. They
must be located on the warm side
of the thermal barrier for both
cold and hot climates. Materials
include polyethylene film or
flexible membranes, plywood,
OSB, and gypsum board painted
with low permeance paint.)
5 radiant barriers (or radiation
barriers) control solar radiation
and heat in the form of radiation.
They are placed in roofs, walls and
openings to reflect heat to the inside
of the building in cold climates,
and to the outside in hot climates.
Materials for roofs and walls
include aluminum foil-backed
gypsum board, aluminum foil-faced
insulation, foil-faced polyethylene,
aluminum foil, and radiant barrier
paints. Materials for windows and
skylights include low-emissivity
(low-E) coatings, placed on the
outside of the inner pane of glass
in cold climates, and on the inside
of the outer pane in hot climates.

6 sound barriers (or noise barriers)


control the amount of sound or
noise passing through the building
assemblies and openings, in all
directions. They reduce airborne
sound transmission (measured as
sound transmission class (STC),
and structure-borne sound
transmission (measured as impact
insulation class (IIC)). They are
located in the roof, walls, floors
and openings. Materials include
gypsum board, plywood, OSB,
insulation, concrete, glass and steel.
7 fire barriers (including fire blocks,
fire stops, fire separations and fire
walls) control the movement of fire,
heat, smoke, and other products of
combustion through the building
assemblies. They compartmentalize
building components and habitable
spaces to prevent the spread of fire
through and between them. Fire
separations and firewalls have fire
resistance ratings measured in minutes
or hours. Materials include gypsum
board, insulation, wood, metal,
concrete, masonry and sealant.
Each building envelope component can
be adapted to respond to the demands
of the local climate, the availability of
materials, local building techniques and
regulations, and the preferences of the
building occupants. These components
are constructed in a particular sequence,
beginning with the foundation, then the
floors, then the walls, followed by the
roof and ending with the openings in
the components. The building envelope
components must work together as a
system to perform the functions of a
building envelope.

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation

Part 1: Introduction to the Building Envelope

An effective and durable building envelope


must provide the following functions:
n
Keep out wind, rain, snow and
ground water, dust, dirt and
pollution, insects and pests.
n

Keep in sufficient heat during the


cold season, and keep out excessive
heat during the hot season to
ensure occupant comfort and
energy efficiency.
Let in sufficient natural light and
ventilation to maintain a comfortable
and healthy interior environment.
Be strong enough to support live
loads, such as the weight of rain
and the force of the wind, and
dead loads, such as snow, ice and
the weight of the building.
Withstand earthquakes, protect
against fire, control noise, and resist
mould, mildew and fungal growth.
Avoid moisture damage when
materials become damp or wet, by
ensuring that sufficient drying occurs
through diffusion and evaporation.
Perform all of the above functions
for as long as the building exists.
A durable wood-frame building
envelope should last for more than
one hundred years.

A tent is an example of a simple building


envelope, consisting of fabric roof and
walls supported on a structural frame,
and using the ground as a foundation
and floor. Because it can only perform
two or three of the above functions, it
is not an effective building envelope.
Another example is the igloo, which can
perform more of these functions, and
10

therefore provides a better building


envelope than a tent. However, neither
of these traditional buildings will last
long enough to be considered durable.
A wood-frame envelope that is properly
designed, constructed and maintained is
very durable and will perform all of the
above functions for the life of the building.
In wood-frame construction, the wall and
floor structures are usually assembled by
a team of framers and the foundation
is built by another team that works with
concrete. The roof consists of solid wood
joists or pre-engineered wood roof
trusses that are assembled in a factory
and installed on the wall structure by
the framers. Similarly, the doors, windows
and skylights are built in factories and
installed by the framers in the openings
provided in the walls and roof. These
complex, factory built components
must be carefully integrated into the
building envelope to ensure the
continuity of the environmental
barriers and allow the building
envelope to function as an effective and
durable environmental separator.
On-site, or stick built wood-frame
construction begins after the foundation
assembly is complete. Panelized or prefabricated wood-frame modular buildings are delivered to the site and installed on a foundation previously built
by others. This publication will describe
some common types of foundations, such
as full basements, crawl spaces and
slabs-on-grade.
Similarly,
some
common types of wood-frame roofs
will be described, such as vented attics
and unvented cathedral ceilings. The
interface between the wall and foundation
assemblies and the roof and wall

Canada Mortgage
1010 and Housing Corporation

Part 1: Introduction to the Building Envelope

assemblies will be described to emphasize


the importance of the continuity of the
environmental barriers between these
building envelope components.
A brief discussion of the four major
components of the building envelope
the foundation, walls, roof and
openings will explain how these
assemblies must be constructed to manage
the physical forces that act upon the
building envelope in different climates,
so that the result is a comfortable
and healthy interior environment for
the occupants.

foundations
Three types of foundations may be used
with wood frame construction: basement
foundations, crawl space foundations
and slab-on-grade foundations (refer to
Figure 1.2). Basement foundations were
developed in cold climates in
response to the need for a footing
located far enough below grade that

the soil beneath the footing would not


freeze and heave in the winter. For this
reason, basement foundations are
usually only found in cold climates.
Slab-on-grade or crawl space foundations
are used in mixed and hot climates.
Moisture control is important in all types
of foundations to ensure durability of
the building structure and the health and
comfort of the occupants. The following
measures should be taken to minimize
ground water entry and condensation
formation in foundation assemblies:
n
The area around foundations should
be well drained by providing drainage
at the bottom of the footings around
the perimeter of the foundation.
n

There should be a capillary break


between the foundation components
and the surrounding soil. This can
take the form of a water impermeable
membrane, such as polyethylene,
beneath the floor slab and between
the foundation walls and footings, and

Foundation types

Basement

Crawl space

Slab-on-grade

1.2

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation

11

Part 1: Introduction to the Building Envelope

dampproofing applied to the vertical


surface of the foundation walls.
n

To prevent condensation from


forming on floor slabs and foundation
walls, particularly in hot-humid areas
that experience high humidity, the
floor slabs and foundation walls must
be insulated to raise their interior
surface temperature above the dew
point of the surrounding interior air.
This can be done with insulation
placed on the inside or on the outside
of the foundation wall and under
the floor slab.
All foundations should be isolated
from the exterior climate and
crawl spaces and basements should
be treated as conditioned interior
spaces that are heated, cooled
and ventilated.

crawl space and


Basement foundations
Basements and crawl spaces consist of
the volume enclosed by the foundation
walls beneath the ground floor joists.
Most basements are from 1,800 mm
(6 feet) to 2,700 mm (9 feet) high, and
crawl spaces are usually from 600 mm
(2 feet) to 1,500 mm (5 feet) high.
Most basements have non-structural
concrete slab-on-grade floating floors,
placed over a polyethylene vapour barrier
over freely-draining granular material.
In cold climates, the concrete walls and
floor slab are sufficiently below grade to
be protected from frost, which rarely
extends beyond 1,800 mm (6 feet) below
finished grade. In extremely cold
conditions where soils may freeze to a
greater depth, exterior insulation may
be used to protect the foundation walls
12

and floor slab from frost damage.


Crawl spaces may have a structural
concrete slab-on-grade floor that can be
used to support mechanical equipment and
for the storage of household articles, or
the floor of the crawl space can be a
polyethylene vapour barrier over granular
material, when the crawl space is not
readily accessible or used for storage or
mechanical equipment.
There are certain advantages that crawl
space and basement foundations offer
over building directly on a structural
slab-on-grade:
n
Space is provided for installation of
wiring, plumbing and central heating/
cooling equipment and ductwork.
n

Basements that are properly


designed and built may be used for
storage or as additional living space.

Basements and crawl spaces must be


treated as conditioned indoor spaces
that are connected to the conditioned
space in the living areas above. If they
are not, as in buildings constructed on
permafrost, these spaces must be designed
as entirely unconditioned outdoor
spaces, with the indoor spaces isolated
from them. These measures recognize
the following construction realities:
n
The air in crawl spaces and
basements is always coupled with the
living space to some degree, simply
because it is difficult to provide a
complete air, vapour and thermal
seal between the two zones.
n

Required access to crawl spaces and


basements and use of the spaces for
mechanical and electrical services
and equipment invariably increases
the coupling between the two zones.

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Part 1: Introduction to the Building Envelope

Moisture in crawl spaces and


basements can be transferred by
vapour diffusion and air leakage
due to convection into living
spaces leading to condensation
and moisture damage.
Previous code requirements for
crawl spaces vented to the outside,
created microclimates in these spaces
that encouraged mould growth, rust
formation, and decay of the wood
floor and structure above. During
some seasons, the exposed ground in
the crawl space, with or without a
concrete slab-on-grade, acts as a heat
or cold sink and collects moisture
from condensation.

The National Building Code of Canada


requires that crawl spaces be as carefully
managed for the control of moisture, as
are basements. Crawl spaces should also
control vapour diffusion from the soil,
heat loss at the perimeter of the structure
and air leakage through exterior walls
and the interior grade.
In hot-humid climates under certain
conditions, it may be possible for
condensation to form on the slabs-ongrade of crawl spaces and basements,
even though the entire house is cooled
and dehumidified. This is because in
some countries the local population is
accustomed to higher indoor relative

humidity levels and higher temperatures


than what is optimal for wood-frame
construction. In parts of Asia for
example, it is typical for houses to be kept
at 26C and 60 per cent relative humidity
during the day in the summer, and the
air conditioning is turned off at night,
further raising indoor temperature and
humidity. Under these conditions, it is
possible for condensation to form on the
crawl space floor slab in areas where it is
not insulated from the ground below.
In other cases, homes are only cooled
and dehumidified on a room-by-room
basis. This also leads to elevated
temperatures and humidity levels in
crawl spaces and basements, which are
typically not conditioned.
Condensation on the slab can be
prevented by raising the temperature of the
floor slab by insulating under it or by
lowering the indoor relative humidity
of the entire house, and ensuring that
there is adequate air movement.
Lowering the indoor relative humidity
may not feel comfortable to some of
the occupants and will also consume
more energy, particularly if they are
accustomed to cooling on a room-byroom basis. The better option is to
insulate under the entire slab.
Figures 1.3 to 1.6 show foundation
assemblies that address some of the
issues outlined above:

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Part 1: Introduction to the Building Envelope

Basement foundation with interior insulated


wood-frame wall

Air barrier made continuous by air barrier tab


under wall plate, around rim joist and under
sill plate
Siding, sheating and framing at least
200 mm to 600 mm (8 to 24) above grade
Slope soil (5% min.) away
from foundation wall

Air gap membrane or free-draining fill to


redirect ground water to drainage tile

building paper
moisture barrier
to grade

Dampproofing to grade level to prevent


capillary suction from drawing moisture
into the wall
38 x 89 (2 x 4) wood framing
with batt insulation
Polyethylene AVB or airtight drywall barrier
with vapour retarder primer
.15 mm (6 mil) polyethylene capillary break
placed between footing and foundation wall
Perimeter drainage tile with
filter fabric sock sloped to storm
sewer, dry well or daylight and
covered with crushed stone

.15 mm (6 mil)
polythylene
capillary break
placed under
concrete floor
slab

1.3

14

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Part 1: Introduction to the Building Envelope

Basement foundation with exterior insulation

Air barrier made continuous by air barrier


tab under wall plate, over rim joist and under
sill plate
Prepainted sheet metal, preservative treated
plywood, concrete board or cement parging
above grade insulation board protection
Slope soil (5% min.) away
from foundation wall

Air gap membrane or free-draining fill


to direct ground water to drainage tile
Dampproofing to grade level to prevent
capillary suction from drawing moisture
into the wall

Interior finishes
can be added
after concrete
foundation wall
has thoroughly
dried

50 mm (2 in.) extruded polysthyrene or


expanded polystyrene insulation or
hight
density
fibre or
mineral fibre
50 mm
(2 in.)glass
extruded
polystyrene
or
board
insulation
expanded polystyrene insulation or
high density
glass fibre
or acts
mineral fibre
Concrete
foundation
wall
board
insulation
as
air barrier
.15 mm (6 mil) polyethylene capillary break
placed between footing and foundation wall
Perimeter drainage tile with
filter fabric sock sloped to
storm sewer, dry well or
daylight and covered with
crushed stone

.15 mm (6 mil)
polyethylene
capillary break
placed under
concrete floor
slab

1.4

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Part 1: Introduction to the Building Envelope

Crawl space foundation

Air barrier made continuous by air barrier tab


under wall plate, around rim joist and under
sill plate

Siding, sheathing and framing at least


200 mm to 600 mm (8 to 24) above grade
Slope soil (5% min.) away
from foundation wall

building paper
moisture barrier
to grade

Air gap membrane or free-draining fill to


redirect ground water to drainage tile

.15 mm (6 mil)
polyethylene
capillary break
placed under
concrete floor
slab

.15 mm (6 mil) polyethylene capillary break


placed between footing and foundation wall
Perimeter drainage tile with
filter fabric sock sloped to
storm sewer, dry well or
daylight and covered with
crushed stone
Underside of footing below
level of frost penetration

A crawl space is heated, cooled and


ventilated in the same manner as the
rest of the house. In hot-humid
climates the entire floor slab may
require insulation to prevent condensation
from forming on the slab.

slab-on-grade foundations
Slab-on-grade foundations are monolithic
reinforced concrete slabs with thickened
edges to support the wood-frame walls
above, or floating slabs surrounded by
shallow concrete foundation walls or
grade beams. The slab-on-grade is placed

16

1.5

over a 0.15 mm (6 mil) polyethylene


vapour barrier to prevent moisture from
entering, over at least 150 mm (6 in.) of
freely-draining granular material. Unlike
basements and crawl spaces, there is no
useable space beneath the ground floor
of the building for mechanical/electrical
equipment, storage or living space.
Slabs-on-grade are usually placed at or
slightly above grade and must be
protected from the effects of freezing in
cold climates. Rigid insulation is
installed on the outside edges of the
slab and extends to the depth of the

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Part 1: Introduction to the Building Envelope

slab thickening or grade beam around


the perimeter of the slab. This reduces
heat transmission loss from the slab
edge and retains heat from the building
in the ground below the footings, which
keeps the soil from freezing. In cold
climates where greater protection from
freezing is required, insulation is placed
around the perimeter of the foundation
at the bottom of the footing and
extended horizontally outwards below
grade to protect the footings from frost
(refer to Figure 1.6).
The design of a slab-on-grade foundation
is determined by the type and bearing
capacity of the soil. The amount of
insulation for frost protection is
determined by the climatic conditions,
soil type and foundation depth.

foundation insulation
One of the major issues to be considered
in foundation design and construction
is the location and type of thermal
insulation used to control heat loss and
heat gain in foundations. Insulation is
most often placed on the inside of the
foundation walls in crawl space and
basement foundations because it is less
costly than to insulate the exterior of
the foundation walls. However,
exterior foundation insulation is an
acceptable alternative.
Interior insulation placement has the
following advantages:
n
It is easy to build, particularly after
the house has been completed.
n

The insulation is protected


from insects.

Slab-on-grade foundation with perimeter insulation


Fasten wall to slab with
expanding anchor

steel reinforcement consult structural engineer

Reinforced concrete slab


edge designed for soil
load-bearing capacity
Polyethylene dampproofing
under slab

High-density extruded
polystyrene insulation

200 mm (8 in.)
Compacted granular

1.6

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Part 1: Introduction to the Building Envelope

If framing is used to support


the insulation, the framing also
provides a space for mechanical and
electrical services and support for
the interior finishes.

Interior insulation has the following


disadvantages:
n
The foundation wall assembly may
be unable to dry to the exterior
due to moisture in the soil. The
only area for moisture to escape
from the foundation assembly to
the outside is in the above grade
portion of the foundation wall.
n

In cold climates, the foundation


assembly is unable to dry to the
interior due to the presence of a
vapour barrier located on the
inside of the foundation wall.
Where construction moisture is
trapped in the foundation assembly
or where moisture from condensation
due to diffusion or air leakage, or
from ground water penetration
has occurred, interior wood-frame
insulated walls may experience
mould growth and rot.
The benefits of including the thermal
mass of the concrete foundation
walls inside the thermal barrier
cannot be realized.

exterior insulation has the following


advantages:
n
It raises the interior temperature
of the foundation wall,
thereby preventing condensation
from forming.

18

It allows drying of the foundation


assembly, particularly the
concrete, to the interior when
indoor relative humidity is low.
It protects the dampproofing or
waterproofing membrane from
physical damage during backfilling
It protects the foundation walls from
freeze-thaw cycles in cold climates,
The thermal mass of the concrete
foundation wall is inside the thermal
barrier, thereby protecting the wall
from thermal cycling and acting
as a heat sink which moderates
interior temperature swings.

exterior insulation has the following


disadvantages:
n
The insulation can provide a
pathway for insect entry into the
wood wall framing above, if not
designed to resist insect infestation.
n

n
n

It requires the use of more


expensive insulation materials,
such as extruded polystyrene.
Exterior insulation is more
difficult and expensive to install,
unless done before backfilling
against the foundation walls.
It can be damaged by backfilling.
It is more difficult to finish the
exposed face of exterior insulation
than an exposed concrete wall.

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Part 1: Introduction to the Building Envelope

walls

should be grade-stamped and contain not


more than 19 percent moisture, and may
require treatment for use in some countries.

framing
Two common methods of framing used
in wood-frame house construction are
stick-built and prefabricated construction.
Stick-built framing involves on-site
assembly of individual wall studs, floor
joists, roof rafters or trusses and wall
and roof sheathing. Prefabricated wall
and roof panels and modular buildings
are the most common types of
prefabricated construction.
Prefabricated panels are assembled in a
factory and delivered in flat sections
approximately 2.7 m (9 feet) high and
up to 6.1 m (20 feet) long, where they
are erected on site and connected to form
walls and roofs. Modular (or Volumetric)
buildings are also assembled in a factory
and delivered as complete buildings or
in large floor, wall and roof sections
which include mechanical and electrical
systems, windows, doors and interior and
exterior finishes. Modular buildings may
be built with wood framing techniques,
but often employ other proprietary
construction methods and materials which
may differ from those commonly used
in wood frame construction. Therefore,
modular building techniques are beyond
the scope of this document; however,
stick-built and prefabricated panel
framing will be discussed in this section.
Wall framing includes the vertical and
horizontal members of exterior walls
and interior partitions. These structural
members referred to as studs, wall plates
and lintels, serve as a nailing base for
all exterior sheathing and finish materials
and support the upper floors, ceiling and
roof structures. All framing lumber

stick-Built framing
Exterior wall studs are the vertical
members to which the wall sheathing,
exterior cladding and interior finishes
are attached. Wood studs are made from
50 x 100 mm (2 x 4 in.) or 50 x 150 mm.
rough-cut lumber, and measure 38 x 89
mm (1-1/2 x 3-1/2 in.) or 38 x 140 mm
(1-1/2 x 5-1/2 in.) when finished. In
metric measurement they are referred
to as 38 x 89 mm and 38 x 140 mm,
and in imperial measurement they are
referred to as 2 x 4 in. and 2 x 6 in.,
respectively. The studs are supported on
a bottom plate or foundation sill plate
and in turn support the double top plates.
Studs are usually spaced at 400 mm
(16 in.) on centre. This spacing may be
reduced to 300 mm (12 in.) or increased
to 600 mm (24 in) on centre, depending
on the loads to be supported by the wall
and the limitations of the cladding and
finish materials. Wider studs of 190 or
240 mm (8 or 10 in.) may be used to
provide increased space for more wall
insulation, but this increases the cost of
the studs substantially.
Rigid or semi-rigid insulation can be
applied to the exterior of the studs to
increase the thermal resistance of the wall
assembly without increasing the size of
the studs. The studs are attached to
horizontal top and bottom wall plates
of 38 mm (2 in.) thick dimensional
lumber that are the same width as the
studs. Lintels are the horizontal members
placed over window, door and other
openings to carry the loads from above
the opening to the adjacent wall studs.

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Part 1: Introduction to the Building Envelope

Lintels are usually constructed of two


pieces of 38 mm (2 in.) thick dimensional
lumber nailed together to form a single
structural member. The depth of a lintel
is determined by the width of the opening
and the load it is required to support.
Stick-built framing methods include
balloon framing, which was common
until the late 1940s, and platform framing.
Traditional balloon framing is no longer
used, but modified balloon framing,
using the best qualities of balloon framing
and platform framing, will be discussed
in the following Advanced Framing
Techniques section (refer to Figure 1.8).

In platform framing, the lower floor is


assembled first. The walls are assembled
horizontally on top of the floor structure
with the top and bottom plates end-nailed
to each stud, and the wall sheathing
applied before the wall is tilted up into
place. Studs are doubled up at each side
of an opening, to support the lintel that
is placed above. After the insulation
and interior finish, usually gypsum
board, are applied, the wall panel is a
closed compartment that will resist the
spread of fire.

Erection of walls in platform framing


(1) Top plate end-nailed to each stud with
two 3 14 in. (82 mm) nails.
(2) Top plates nailed together with 3 in.
(76 mm) nails 24 in. (600 mm) on centre.
(3) Stud toenailed with four 2 12 in. (63 mm)
nails or end-nailed to bottom plate with
two 3 14 in. (82 mm) nails.
(4) Top plates at corners and load-bearing
partitions are lapped and nailed together
with two 3 14 in. (82 mm) nails or the

plates are butted together and tied with a


metal plate fastened to the top plates with
three 2 12 in. (63 mm) nails on each side
of the joint.
(5) Doubled studs at openings and multiple studs
at corners and intersections nailed with
3 in. (76 mm) nails 30 in. (750 mm) on centre.
(6) Bottom plate nailed to joist or header joist
with 3 14 in. (82 mm) nails 16 in. (400 mm)
on centre.

butt joint with metal


tie or lap top plate
1
2
3
4

temporary brace
stud and jack stud
cripple/trimmer stud
window opening
lintel

5
6
bottom plate
subfloor
let-in bracing or metal
strapping when no or nonstructural sheathing is used

Note: Where the lintel exceeds 3 m (10 ft.), the jack stud needs to be doubled on both
sides of the opening

20

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Part 1: Introduction to the Building Envelope

Unless required by building codes and


regulations, scaffolding is unnecessary
when sheathing is applied to the wall
framing prior to erection. Rigid types
of sheathing, such as plywood, oriented
strandboard and waferboard, will
provide adequate structural bracing to
resist racking and keep the wall square.
Other less rigid types of sheathing, such
as rigid glass-fibre, asphalt impregnated
fibreboard, polystyrene or polyurethane
foam board, do not provide the required
diagonal bracing, and the wall must be
reinforced with diagonal wood or metal
bracing let into the wall studs. Complete
wall sections are then tilted up from the
floor structure and fitted into place. The
wall sections are held in place by
temporary braces and the bottom plates
are nailed through the subfloor to the floor
framing members below (refer to
Figure 1.7).
Once the assembled wall sections are
aligned vertically, or plumbed, they
are nailed together at the corners and
intersections. A second top plate, with
joints offset at least one stud space away
from the joints in the first plate below,
is then added. The second top plate laps
the first plate at the corners and interior
partition intersections and, when
nailed in place, provides an additional
tie in to the framed exterior walls.

Prefabricated Panel framing


The details of prefabricated wall panels
are different for each manufacturer, but
the handling, assembly and performance
of most products are similar. Early types
of prefabricated panel framing were
similar to stick-built framing, except
that the panels were made in a factory
before they were assembled on the

building site. Prefabricated panel framing


has been refined over a 50 year history to
take advantage of new materials, new
methods of construction, improvements
in technology, and the benefits of
prefabrication to high tolerances in a
controlled environment. Many panelized
wall systems contain glass fibre or mineral
fibre insulation between wood studs and
are clad with exterior plywood or oriented
strand board (OSB) sheathing and
gypsum board interior finishes. Other
panelized systems called Structural
Insulated Panel Systems, or SIPS, are
made with rigid polystyrene or
polyurethane insulation glued to and
sandwiched between the interior and
exterior plywood or OSB sheathing and
contain no studs to create thermal
bridges. By reducing the amount of
wood and increasing the amount and
thermal resistance value (RSI or R-value)
of the insulation used, these panelized
walls have much higher insulation values
than stick-built framed walls of the
same thickness.
Prefabricated wall panels are usually
delivered to the construction site
complete with exterior cladding and
sheathing, structure, insulation, moisture,
air and vapour barriers, and can also
include openings, such as windows and
doors. The panels can be erected quickly
by a small crew with only minimal
knowledge of wood-frame construction.
Interior finishes are installed after the
building envelope has been closed in to
keep out the weather. Many interior
finishes are susceptible to moisture and
transportation
damage
and,
consequently, are installed after the
wall and roof panels have been erected
and doors and windows installed.

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Part 1: Introduction to the Building Envelope

Prefabricated panel framing is used increasingly in areas that are served by


ship, rail and truck transportation and
at sites within a 1,000 km radius of a
prefabrication factory. Studies by
the Athena Institute have shown that
buildings constructed from prefabricated
panels and transported by ship
across the North Atlantic Ocean, produce
less greenhouse gas emissions than
similar buildings constructed on site
with local materials.

conduct heat at a higher rate than


insulation, this effect, known as thermal
bridging, reduces the overall thermal
resistance of the building assembly. In
advanced framing techniques, the studs
are placed at the maximum 600 mm
(24 in.) allowable spacing permitted by
building codes, with the floor joists and
roof trusses or rafters located directly
above the studs. This ensures the roof
and floor loads fall directly onto the studs,
making a second top plate unnecessary.

advanced framing techniques

In advanced framing techniques, lintels


are supported with single, rather than
double jack studs and exterior corners are
framed with two studs instead of three.
Because the structural connections are less
robust than in conventional framing,
galvanized steel nailer plates and hangers
are used to connect thestuds and lintels,
and all joints in the single top plates.
Advanced framing techniques reduce
thermal bridging by eliminating up to
20% to 25% of the framing members,
thus reducing materials intensity and
leaving more space for insulation in the
wall and ceiling assemblies.

Advanced Framing Techniques, also


known as Reduced Materials Intensity or
Optimum Value Engineering, is
stick-built framing that has been
modified to reduce material use and
costs. Advanced framing techniques can
also improve the thermal efficiency of
the building envelope by reducing the
quantity of wood studs and plates used
and increasing the amount of insulation,
thereby minimizing the negative effect
of heat transmission through the solid
wood members. Because wood studs

Modified balloon framing

Upper floor wall framing


Lower floor wall framing

Joist ledger attached


to wall framing

Joist

Polyethylene VB tab behind


ledger, sealed to
polyethylene VB on walls
above and below
Joist hanger
attached to ledger
1.8

22

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Part 1: Introduction to the Building Envelope

Another advanced framing technique


that improves the thermal efficiency of
wall assemblies at floor headers is
modified balloon framing where the
floor assemblies are supported on a
ledger and joist hangers hung from the
inside of the wall studs (refer to Figure
1.8). This reduces the thermal bridging
in platform framing techniques where
the floor assembly is supported by the
stud wall below. By moving the floor
assembly to the inside of the stud wall,
more insulation may be placed between
the wall studs at the level of the floor
joists and header. The same principle can
be applied to the ground floor framing
at the foundation wall to reduce thermal
bridging. Vapour barrier continuity is
ensured by placing a polyethylene tab
behind the joist ledger and sealing it to
the polyethylene vapour barrier on the
walls above and below.

roofs
The roof component must perform all
the previously mentioned functions of
a building envelope; it must deflect and
drain moisture away from the building
to prevent moisture penetration, and it
must control heat transfer, air leakage,
and vapour diffusion. The roof must
also support structural and live loads
and must be durable enough to resist
damage from heavy rains, wind, snow
and ice, extreme cold and intense heat,
within the normal seasonal cycle of
various climatic zones.
There are two basic types of roofs
pitched roofs and low-slope roofs and
each type has many variations. The
slope of a roof is the rise or the vertical
component, always shown first.
Low-slope roofs have slopes less than a

1 vertical rise to a 6 horizontal run, and


include what is commonly referred to
as flat roofs. All flat roofs should have
a slope of at least 1:50 (1/4 inch per
foot) to ensure positive drainage
and prevent water accumulation.
Pitched roofs vary in slope from a low
of 1:6 to a high of 1:1 or more. Roof
slopes are also expressed as a rise to run
ratio based on 12 inch units. For example,
a shallow roof slope would be a ratio of
3 in 12, or 3 inches rise in 12 inches
run, and a steep roof slope would be a
ratio of 12 in 12, or 12 inches rise in
12 inches run.

Pitched roofs
Pitched roofs slope on one or more
sides of the building and are usually
framed with dimensional lumber,
engineered wood product joists or roof
trusses. Pitched roofs are most effective
in climates with plentiful rain or snow,
because their shape deflects the moisture
from precipitation away from the
building very efficiently. Most houses
built in North America after 1960 have
roofs constructed with pre-engineered
roof trusses. Roof trusses are most
often pre-engineered and pre-assembled
in a factory, but they may also be
constructed on site. Pitched roofs can
also be framed with dimensional
lumber rafters or joists where roof
trusses are not available, or when the
roof is designed to enclose living space
within the attic. Mansard and gambrel
style roofs are commonly built with a
combination of both dimensional lumber
rafters and pre-engineered roof trusses.
Whether they are built with trusses or
dimensional lumber, roofs should
extend beyond the walls sufficiently to

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Part 1: Introduction to the Building Envelope

Roof Types

1. Flat

2. Monopitch

3. Gable

4. Hip

5. Gambrel

6. Mansard

deflect rain, snow and ice, and thereby


decrease the chance of liquid moisture
getting into the walls. An overhang of
600 mm (24 in.) or more is recommended
for damp and wet climates. The vertical
edge of the eave, or fascia, is covered
by wood or metal, and the horizontal
underside of the eave, or soffit, is
covered by wood, perforated metal or a
cementitious material. Of the many
types of pitched roofs, the gable roof is
the most common and the simplest to
construct, especially with the use of
lightweight roof trusses. Other
configurations, such as the hip roof, are
more complex, but can also be easily
framed with roof trusses (refer to
Figure 1.9).

roof trusses
Pre-engineered and pre-assembled roof
trusses are triangulated wood structures
24

1.9

made with dimensional lumber chord


and web members connected with metal
plate gang nailers. They are designed by
a structural engineer or with computer
software and assembled in a factory
environment, which allows their quality
and precision to be strictly controlled.
Roof trusses are widely used in houses
because they use less material than
site-assembled roof structures and speed
up the process of enclosing the roof.
Pre-assembled roof trusses are transported
by truck from the factory to the
construction site, and installed by the
framers. They provide support for the
roof sheathing, a surface for the
attachment of the ceiling finish material
and a space for ceiling insulation. Since
roof trusses are commonly spaced at
600 mm (24 in.) on centre, 19 x 75 mm
(1 x 3 in.) wood strapping at 400 mm
(16 in.) on centre must be applied to

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Part 1: Introduction to the Building Envelope

Types of prefabricated roof trusses

scissor truss

King-post

raised heel

Howe

mansard

Fink or W

mono-pitch

parallel chord

1.10

the underside of the trusses to support


the ceiling finish material, such as
gypsum board.
Most roof trusses are designed to span
from exterior wall to exterior wall
requiring no intermediate load bearing
walls to support the roof structure
(refer to Figure1.10). This increases the
flexibility of interior planning because
interior partitions can be placed without
regard to structural requirements. Also,
the entire floor area may be used as a
workspace during the construction process.

site-framed Pitched roofs


Site-framed gable roofs consist of sloped
dimensional lumber rafters that span
from the exterior walls at the eaves to a
central ridge board at the top of the
roof. Most rafters are cut to the same
length and pattern, and erection is
simple and straightforward (refer to
Figure 1.11). A variation of the gable
roof may include dormers for additional
light, headroom and ventilation. As an

alternative, operable and fixed skylights


fitted between the rafters will provide
ventilation and light without the complexity
and cost of framing a dormer. In the hip
roof design, common rafters are fastened
at the ridge board and hip rafters span
from the ridge board to the exterior wall
corner and support the jack rafters.
The size and spacing of roof rafters
required by the National Building
Code of Canada is based on the roof and
ceiling loads. The size of roof framing
members needed for structural strength,
for example 38 x 190 mm (2 x 8 in.)
rafters, may not leave enough space for
the required insulation depth and the
recommended 50 mm (2 in.) minimum
ventilation space. Larger members,
such as 38 x 240 mm (2 x 10 in.) or
38 x 290 mm (2 x 12 in.) rafters, or
additional 38 x 38 mm (2 x 2 in.)
or 38 x 89 mm (2 x 4 in.) strapping
may be required to provide sufficient
depth for the required insulation and
ventilation space.

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Part 1: Introduction to the Building Envelope

Site-framed pitched roofs

Gable roof

ridge board
rafter
collar brace
collar tie
gable end stud
ceiling joist
top wall place

hip rafter

Hip roof

jack rafter
ceiling joists
top plate

corner post
1.11

Ceiling joists act as structural ties


between the exterior walls and support
the ceiling finish. If the volume enclosed
between the roof rafters and the ceiling
joists is not intended to be inhabited,
insulation is placed on top of and between
the ceiling joists and a polyethylene
membrane, serving as a combined air
and vapour barrier, is installed on the
underside of the ceiling joists. If the attic
volume is intended for use as a living
space, the insulation is placed between
26

the sloped roof rafters, now called roof


joists because they support a ceiling,
and a polyethylene combined air and
vapour barrier is installed on the
underside of the roof joists.
A dormer is a traditional framing device
used to admit light and natural
ventilation and to increase the useable
space in an attic. Dormers consist of
exterior walls and a roof, and are framed
on top of doubled rafters at each side

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Dormer roof framing


double header
jack rafter
double rafter

joist hangers
valley rafter
side stud
Note: size of window to allow for
proper flashing, detailing and
finishing of roofing
roof sheathing applied prior
to construction of dormer
1.12

supporting the dormer wall studs and


the valley rafters (refer to Figure 1.12).
The roof sheathing may be installed
before the dormer is framed, and then
cut flush with the framing members
around the dormer opening. A bottom
plate added on top of the sheathing
supports the side wall studs enclosing
the dormer and also serves as a nailing
base for the dormer wall sheathing. The
walls and roof of the dormer are completed
in the same way as those in the rest of
the house. To reduce erection time and
improve the quality of the framing,
dormers can be pre-fabricated in a
factory and installed over pre-arranged
openings in the roof. Except for very
small attic spaces, uninhabited attics
require an access hatch for periodic
inspection and maintenance of the attic.

low-slope roofs
Low-slope and so-called flat roofs are
usually less durable than pitched roofs
in climates with heavy rain or snow
conditions because they dont deflect
moisture from precipitation as efficiently
as pitched roofs. In low-slope roof
construction, the roof rafters can also
support the ceiling, and are called roof
joists. The size and spacing of the roof
joists required by the National Building
Code of Canada is based on the roof and
ceiling loads. Roof joists for low-slope
roofs may be laid level or on a slope, with
roof sheathing and a roof membrane.
When the joists are laid level to maintain
a flat ceiling in the living space below, a
slope of not less than 1:50 (1/4 inch per
foot) should be provided by adding
secondary tapered framing members on
top of the roof joists. This will ensure

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Part 1: Introduction to the Building Envelope

that water is deflected and properly


drained from the roof.

roof ventilation
In most climates, it is important to
provide adequate ventilation of the
space above the insulation and below
the roof sheathing in roof assemblies. A
properly vented roof space remains at a
temperature similar to the exterior
air temperature, which reduces the
likelihood of ice formation and water
leakage at the eaves of a pitched roof in
the cold season, and removes some of
the heat in the attic space during the
hot season. Water vapour may accumulate
in the attic space of a pitched roof or in
the roof space under low-slope roofs
during cold weather and condense on
the cold surfaces of the roof joists or roof
truss members and the underside of the
roof sheathing in sufficient quantity to
cause water damage to insulation and
ceiling finishes. In addition, since most
types of roof membranes are highly

resistant to water vapour transmission,


the vapour cannot escape through the
membrane; therefore, the most practical
way of removing water vapour from attics
and roof spaces is by proper ventilation.
Insulation is placed in the roof joist
spaces above the ceiling to keep houses
cool in hot climates or to keep houses
warm in cold climates. When mineral
fibre or glass fibre batt insulation or blown
cellulose insulation are used in cold
climates, the air space above the
insulation must be adequately ventilated
to prevent condensation formation on
the underside of the roof sheathing, which
could wet the insulation. This type of
roof detail is referred to as a cold roof
design, because the roof sheathing is
kept relatively cool by ventilating the
attic or roof space (refer to Figure 1.13).
In hot climates, the insulation at the
ceiling keeps the heat out of the house,
and ventilation removes the hot air
from the attic space.

Ventilated flat eave detail, Cold Roof design


roof sheathing
89 mm (3-1/2 in.) recommended
ventilation space
cross members
prefinished fascia
perforated soffit
insulation batts
air/vapour barrier
gypsum board
roof joist
1.13

28

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Unventilated pitched roof eave detail, Hot Roof design

Roofing extends beyond metal


drip edge to deflect water
and ice
Metal fascia spaced from wall
Drip edge under fascia for
capiliary break
Weather resistive barrier
(WRB) over entire wall with
joints shingle-lapped
Vertical wood strapping to
provide drainage cavity
1.14

Alternatively, the spaces between the


roof joists supporting a flat or sloped
ceiling may be filled with rigid or batt
insulation, which makes the roof
assembly more resistant to condensation
formation in very cold climates and
keeps the roof sheathing relatively
warm by eliminating ventilation of the
roof space (refer to Figure 1.14). In this
hot roof design, which is commonly
used in severely cold climates such as the
Arctic, the space between the ceiling and
the underside of the roof sheathing is
packed with insulation and not ventilated.
Ventilation of the attic space is not
recommended in severely cold climates,
where high winds can blow fine snow
particles through the ventilation
openings at the eaves, displacing
insulation and causing leaks at the
ceiling. The hot roof design can also
be used in severely hot climates to

control heat build-up by making the


attic or roof space part of the interior
air-conditioned space of the house, inside
the building envelope. Attic ventilation
is recommended in most other climatic
conditions, to protect against ice dams
in cold conditions, and to remove
excessive heat from attics in hot conditions.
Ventilation of the attic space is provided
by openings at the eaves or gable ends,
or both, and at or near the ridge of the
roof. When mineral fibre or glass fibre batt
insulation or blown cellulose insulation
is used, a ventilated air space of at least
50 mm (2 in.) depth should be provided
between the top of the insulation and
the underside of the roof sheathing
(refer to Figure 1.15). In addition to
the thermal barrier provided by the
insulation, a well-sealed air barrier and a
vapour barrier is required at the ceiling.

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Part 1: Introduction to the Building Envelope

Ventilated pitched roof eave detail, Cold Roof design


Minimum 50 mm (2 in.) air space
above insulation
Roofing extends beyond metal
drip edge to deflect water
and ice
Metal fascia and eavestrough
Vented soffit
Weather resistive barrier
(WRB) over entire wall with
joints shingle-lapped

1.15

Soffit roof ventilation


baffle

perforated soffit

pre-finished fascia
airflow
1.16

A common method of providing


ventilation in roof spaces is to install
louvered and screened openings in the
soffits at the eaves and at or near the top
of a pitched roof (refer to Figures 1.16
and 1.17). Air movement through the
30

vents is caused by wind pressure


differentials and natural convection in
the attic space due to stack effect. Soffit
vents are most effective when combined
with pot vents, ridge vents or gable
end vents located high on the roof.

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Ridge vent (A) and gable vent (B)


wind flow

airflow

airflow
1.17

Vents should be distributed uniformly


on opposite sides of all roofs, with at
least 25 percent of the openings located
at the top and at least 25 percent of the
openings located at the bottom of the
roof space. Figure 1.17 shows a ridge
vent and a gable vent for pitched roofs.
Vents and ceiling insulation should be
installed so that airflow through the
vents and the roof space is not restricted.
Vents must not allow the entry of rain,

snow or insects. Blocking or wind baffles


should be installed between the roof
trusses or rafters where the wall meets
the eave, to prevent wind washing and
displacement of the attic insulation.
Corrosion-resistant metal or plastic
material should be used for the vents and
for the screening in ventilator openings.
These venting techniques are not
recommended for severely cold climates
where high winds can force fine snow

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Part 1: Introduction to the Building Envelope

through the vent openings at the eaves


and top of the roof and deposit it on the
insulation in the attic space. In areas
with large quantities of wind-driven
snow, a hot roof or arctic roof design
without overhangs and without
ventilation may be appropriate (refer
to Figure 1.14). In such situations,
proven local building practices should
be followed.
Where an access hatch to the attic or
roof space is required, ensure that it is
fitted with a tightly sealed and insulated
door or cover.

ice dams and Eave Protection


In cold climates, heat loss through the
ceiling insulation at the eaves of pitched
roofs, combined with the exposure of
the roof surface to the heat of the sun,
may melt snow on the roof directly above
the heated living space, but not melt the
snow on the eaves, which project beyond
the heated portion of the house and
remain cold. Water from melting snow
can then freeze at the eaves and form an
ice dam at the roof overhang directly
above the exterior walls. This may cause
water to back up under the shingles at
the eaves, penetrate the roof sheathing
and leak into the walls and ceilings
below. Similar ice dams may also form
in roof valleys. A well insulated ceiling,
adequate attic ventilation and an
effective air barrier at the ceiling will
keep attic air temperatures low and help
to prevent snow at the eaves from
melting. Also, steeper roof slopes, the
installation of an appropriate eave
protection water-proof membrane and
the use of proper valley flashings will
also help to prevent water damage from
ice dams (refer to Figure 1.18).
32

oPEninGs
By necessity, openings occur in each of
the main building envelope components:
the foundation, the walls and the roof.
Openings include doors, windows and
skylights, and various mechanical and
electrical penetrations, including
ductwork, piping and wiring. Openings
are an important part of the building
envelope and therefore must perform
all the required functions of an
environmental barrier or separator. Most
factory produced doors, windows and
skylights are very sophisticated and
incorporate all the required environmental
barriers to effectively control the basic
physical factors of heat, moisture, air,
vapour, sound, fire and radiation. The
building envelope components into which
they fit also effectively control these
physical factors. It is the interface between
the two where problems can occur. The
junction between the openings and the
building envelope components must
be carefully constructed and sealed to
provide the required continuity of all the
environmental barriers. For example, the
frame of the door, window or skylight
or the ductwork, piping and wiring
penetrations must be carefully sealed to
the exterior wall or roof component in
which they occur.

doors
Exterior doors are operable environmental
separators and are subject to more wear
than other parts of the building envelope.
Doors should be made with materials
and hardware that resist damage and
degradation from weather, resist shrinkage,
swelling and warping, provide a
moisture-tight and air-tight seal when
closed and resist forced entry.

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Ice dams and eave protection


snow
thin ice slab under snow
trapped water
melted snow
running down
underside of
sheathing
melted snow
ice
ice in eavestrough
inside face of wall
insulation

eave protection
to be a minimum
900 mm (36 in.)
wide (measured
along the slope)
and extend at
least 300 mm
(12 in.) beyond
inside of the
wall studs
water carried to
the eavestrough

1.18

Because doors may be repaired or


replaced several times during the life of
a building, they should be installed in a
way that allows easy removal without
damage to the building envelope. For
example, elements such as nailing
flanges for attaching the door-frame to
the wall sheathing make removal of a
damaged or defective door difficult

when installed behind masonry cladding,


because the removal of the door would
necessitate the removal of part of the
masonry. A door-frame without a
nailing flange that is screw-attached
through the jambs into the rough
opening studs can be easily removed
and replaced without damaging the
exterior wall cladding or the frame, itself.

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Part 1: Introduction to the Building Envelope

windows

window types

In addition to separating the interior


environment from the exterior, windows
provide views, allow light into the
interior space, provide controlled
ventilation and are a critical component
of the building aesthetic. Most problems
related to windows involve moisture
penetration, condensation, overheating
of interior spaces, air leakage and damage
to operating hardware. Many window
performance problems result from
improper installation and lack of
attention to the interface between the
window unit and the wall assembly.
Careful selection and installation of
energy efficient, durable window units
is an essential part of creating a durable
building envelope.

Windows are either fixed or operating


units, or a combination of both. Most
habitable rooms have at least one
operating window to provide natural
ventilation. Common types of operating
windows in houses are casement, singleand double-hung (also called vertical
sliding), awning and horizontal sliding
units. Tilt-and-turn windows are
increasingly popular, and can be opened
to one side like a casement, or at the top
like an awning unit. Hopper windows,
hinged at the bottom and opening
inwards, are less common in houses, but
are often used in high-rise buildings in
combination with fixed windows.
Casement and awning windows are
better than the other types of windows
for three reasons: they provide tighter

Window types (viewed from exterior)

Casement

Tilt-and-turn

34

Slider

Hopper

Awning

Single-hung or Double-hung

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1.19

Part 1: Introduction to the Building Envelope

air seals; their operating portions protect


the window assemblies from moisture
penetration; and, when provided, the
insect screens are placed to the inside of
the opening sash where they are
protected from the weather. Figure 1.19
illustrates the most common types
of windows.
Most windows in houses built before
1980 have wood frames and sashes.
Wood is hygroscopic, meaning that it
absorbs moisture, and reacts to changes
in temperature and humidity by swelling
or shrinking; therefore wood windows
require frequent maintenance and repairs
if they are to continue to function as
effective environmental separators.
Aluminum, polyvinyl chloride (PVC)
and fiberglass window frames have now
become more popular than wood for new
houses because they are more resistant
to weather and require less maintenance.
The use of PVC may be discouraged by
some, due to the greenhouse gases that
are produced during production. For
the look of wood windows on the inside
and the weather resistance of PVC or
aluminum on the outside, wood
windows are available that have a natural
wood finish on the interior and are clad
on the exterior with a thin layer of
PVC or aluminum.

sealed Glazing
Windows for cold climates are
comprised of a minimum of two sheets
of glass separated by aluminum, stainless
steel, silicone or nylon spacers and sealed
in a hermetic, air-tight glazing unit.
Although double-glazed windows
consisting of two sheets of glass are
common, triple-glazed windows are
becoming increasingly popular where

heating costs are high. Insulated spacers


at the edges of the glass, made with low
conductance materials, such as solid
silicone, greatly improve the thermal
resistance of the glazing unit. The interior
glass surface in a typical Insulated
Glazing Unit (IGU) remains clean and
free of condensation so long as the
hermetic seal is not broken. The air space
within sealed glazing units provides a
small thermal resistance value, causing
the interior glass surface to be warmer
than the exterior surface in cold weather
and cooler than the exterior surface in
hot weather. Windows for Very Cold
climates should have a minimum of
three sheets of glass enclosing two
sealed air spaces, to provide sufficient
thermal resistance in the glazing unit.
The width of the air space between
each sheet of glass in an insulated
glazing unit should be between 13 and
19 mm (1/2 and 3/4 in.), which is wide
enough to reduce heat loss due to
conduction, but too narrow to permit
air convection within the air space
that causes convective heat loss. If the
interior glass surface is kept above
the dew point temperature of the
room air by providing sufficient
thermal resistance in the glazing unit
and interior heating in the room,
condensation will not form on the
inside surface of the glazing unit.

low-emissivity coatings
In Cold climates, a factory-applied
low-emissivity, or low-E coating on
the exterior surface of the interior sheet
of glass in a double glazed unit reflects
the heat back into the interior of the
house, thus reducing radiation heat loss
through the glass and increasing the
effective thermal properties of the

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Part 1: Introduction to the Building Envelope

Low-E glass coating for hot climates

LOW-E

30% - 64%

36% - 70%

1.20

window unit. In Hot climates,


reflective low-E coatings should be
applied to the interior surface of the
exterior sheet of glass to keep the heat
from the suns radiation out of the house.
Smart low-E coatings have been
developed that allow low-angle winter
sun to enter the house, while reflecting
high-angle summer sun to the outside.
Figure 1.20 illustrates how a low-E
coating prevents part of the solar
radiation from entering the house.

Gas fills
The air within a typical insulated
glazing unit can be replaced with an
inert gas, such as argon or krypton,
which has a higher insulation value
than air. Gas-filled glazing units also
have lower conductive and convective
heat loss than conventional air-filled
windows, and provide higher overall
thermal resistance values.

36

air tightness, water resistance


and wind load resistance
Windows used in Canada are regulated
by the CSA A-440 (2000) standard for
air tightness, water resistance and wind
load resistance and by CSA A-440.2
(2000) for energy performance of
windows. Different window types, such
as storm, operable and fixed windows,
must meet minimum air tightness
requirements, measured in cubic metres
per hour per metre of crack length of
air leakage. Windows must also be water
tight at different exterior air pressure
differentials, measured in Pascals (Pa)
of pressure. Windows must also provide
minimum resistance to deflection of
sash and frame, and blowout of glazing
units due to wind pressure, measured
in Pascals (Pa) of pressure. Tables 1-3 in
the CSA A-440 (2000) standard
contain the minimum requirements
for air leakage, water tightness and
wind load resistance for windows.

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installation
Windows should be installed in the wall
assembly in much the same way as doors.
Although installation may not be
regulated by codes and standards,
window units that are inadequately
sealed to the air barrier system or that
are improperly flashed may result in
excessive air leakage and severe water
damage to the building envelope. Window
units should be securely attached to the
rough frame opening and have the space
between the frame and the rough
opening filled with air-tight expanding
polyurethane foam. They must also be
carefully sealed to the wall air barrier
material to ensure continuity of the air
barrier system. All window units require
a metal or flexible membrane flashing
over the head and under the sill, which
is shingle-lapped under the water
resistant barrier (WRB), also called the
water-resistant barrier. The sill and
head flashings must deflect water either
directly to the exterior, or into a drainage
cavity that protects the inner wall

surface from moisture damage and


eventually deflects all water to the outside.
To further protect the building
envelope from moisture penetration at
the perimeter of a window unit, the
head flashing should extend beyond the
rough frame opening on both sides, and
a sub sill flashing should be installed at
the bottom of the rough frame opening.
These are described in more detail in
the next section. Figure 1.21 shows a
flexible sub sill flashing, executed
before the window unit is installed.

flashings
With exposure to climatic conditions
and prolonged usage, all doors and
windows will eventually leak.
Pre-finished metal or flexible membrane
flashings should be used above and
below all openings in the building
envelope to deflect water to the exterior.
The opening in which the door or
window is installed should be designed
and constructed to shed all moisture to
the exterior to prevent damage to the

Window sub sill flashing integrated with WRB

wood stud wall framing


OSB sheathing
peel-and-stick sub-sill flashing min. 150 mm
(6 in.) up sides of rough opening
weather resistive barrier (WRB)
sub-sill blocking slopes to exterior

1.21

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Part 1: Introduction to the Building Envelope

building envelope. This second line of


defense consists of a waterproof sub sill
flashing attached to the wood frame
beneath the sill of the door or window
and extends at least 150 mm (6 in.) up
both sides of the opening. The sill
flashing sheds moisture directly to the
exterior of the wall, or into a vented
drainage cavity between the exterior
cladding and the wall sheathing that
diverts the moisture out of the wall
cavity to the exterior (refer to Figures
1.22, 1.23).

Any water that runs down the wall


above the door or window head must
also be deflected and drained to the
exterior. A head flashing should be
installed over all exterior doors and
windows. The flashing should lap over
the top of the frame and extend at least
150 mm (6 in.) up the wall sheathing
and under the water resistant barrier.
To prevent water from penetrating the
wall at the ends of the flashing, it
should extend 100 to 150 mm (4 to
6 in.) beyond the frame on both sides,
and should turn up at the ends to
create a dam.

Window head

drainage space
wood siding
weather resistive barrier (WRB)
over flashing
head flashing extends min. 100 mm
(4 in.) window beyond both sides
WRB over top of window frame
window frame
double glazing
trim around window
1.22

38

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Part 1: Introduction to the Building Envelope

Window sill

wood stud wall framing


OSB sheathing
weather resistive barrier (WRB)
wood furring
drainage space between siding and WRB
siding
sill flashing with end dam extends
out over trim below window
Sub-sill flashing directs moisture
out from under window to
drainage space

1.23

air Barrier
An exterior door or window is an
essential part of the air barrier system
in the building envelope and must be
attached to the adjacent air barrier
components in a manner that is
continuous, rigid, durable and
impervious to air leakage. The air
barrier system must be structurally
supported in both directions to avoid
damage from building movement,
expansion/contraction
or
wind
pressure. The door or window frame
must be securely attached to the rough
opening structure and positioned as
closely as possible to the plane of the
wall air barrier. The door and window
frame should provide an air-tight
assembly when closed, which when
attached to the air barrier in the wall,
ensures the continuity of the air barrier
system. To achieve this continuity,
air-impervious expanding polyurethane

foam should be sprayed into the space


between the door or window frame and
the rough opening. A waterproof
membrane should be attached to the
door or window frame and to the
surrounding air barrier material in
shingled fashion, so that any water
running down the surface of the air
barrier membrane will be deflected
to the exterior. Flexible waterproof
peel-and-stick membranes have been
developed for this purpose.

skylights
Skylights are windows designed and
manufactured for installation in a
roof assembly. The construction and
installation of skylights must be more
robust than for windows because they
are exposed to more severe climatic
conditions, and their remote location
makes them difficult to maintain.
Skylights must be securely attached to

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Part 1: Introduction to the Building Envelope

the roof framing and sealed to the air


barrier system at the walls of the
skylight opening and at the ceiling.
When the air barrier in a wood-frame
building consists of a polyethylene
sheet attached to the inside surface of
the roof framing, the polyethylene
must be extended up and sealed to the
inside face of the skylight frame. When
the air barrier is a membrane on the
exterior of the roof sheathing, it should
be sealed to the outside of the skylight
frame and covered with a pre-finished
metal flashing to protect it from
exposure to ultraviolet radiation, water,
snow, ice and mechanical damage.
Some skylight manufacturers supply
step flashings specifically designed for
their units and for a variety of roof slopes
and finishes, which enables the installer
to effectively integrate the skylight
unit into the roof waterproofing
system. Figure 1.24 illustrates a stepped
base flashing for a skylight unit on a
pitched roof.

mechanical and
Electrical Penetrations
Mechanical and electrical penetrations
create openings in the building envelope
through which water may enter, air may
leak and heat may escape. The most
common penetrations are exhaust ducts
for bathrooms and kitchens, intake
and exhaust piping for furnaces,
boilers, ventilators, electrical outlets,
light fixtures, wiring and conduit,
dryer vents, chimney flues, and plumbing
stacks, drains, pipes and vents and gas
piping. Flues, stacks and vents often
occur in roof assemblies and the other
penetrations mentioned often occur in
foundation and wall assemblies.
40

foundation and wall Penetrations


Penetrations through the building
envelope should be avoided by locating
pipes, ducts and wires in interior walls
whenever possible. However, some
mechanical and electrical elements will
pass through the building envelope and
must be properly sealed to the air
barrier system, protected with flashings
to deflect water to the outside and
sealed to prevent moisture penetration.
Strips of self-adhesive, air and moisture
impermeable, flexible membrane
material should be adhered to the
penetrating pipes, conduits and ducts
and carefully sealed to the adjacent wall
assembly to prevent air leakage,
moisture penetration and heat loss.
The water resistant barrier (WRB)
on the adjacent wall surface should
be shingle-lapped over the flexible
membrane at the top of the penetration,
and under the membrane below the
penetration. The space between the
pipe, duct or conduit and the
surrounding wall should also be filled
with insulation to prevent heat loss.
Where a pipe, drain, duct or conduit
penetrates a foundation wall or
concrete floor slab, the space around
it should be filled with non-shrink
grout and a continuous flexible,
waterproof sealant bead applied to the
joint between the penetration and
the concrete. Wherever possible,
mechanical and electrical penetrations
should be made perpendicular to the
air barrier, so that the opening can be
properly sealed.

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Stepped flashing for skylight


prefinish sheet-steel saddle

prefinished steel step flashing;


lap at corners by saddle flashing
rubberized asphalt sheet (self-sealing)
base flashing turned up and over
the curb
1.24

roof Penetrations
Most houses have at least one plumbing
stack that extends through the roof
assembly. The vent pipe usually
penetrates the air barrier at the ceiling
of the top floor, then extends through
the ventilated attic space and finally
penetrates the roof membrane or
shingles. Pre-fabricated flexible rubber
flashings are made to fit most vent
pipes, and can be easily integrated with
the roof membrane or shingles. Figure

1.25 shows a typical vent pipe flashing


on a shingle roof. Where the stack
penetrates the insulated ceiling or roof
assembly, the opening around the pipe
will allow warm moist air to enter the
unheated attic space, causing water
damage from condensation to the
insulation and wood roof-framing
members. The space between the vent
pipe and the ceiling framing should be
filled with sprayed foam insulation to
prevent heat loss, and a polyethylene

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Part 1: Introduction to the Building Envelope

Prefabricated vent pipe flashing on roof


vent pipe or stack

flexible collar, compression


fit over plumbing stack
add butyl tape at joint for
additional waterproofing

ready-made one-piece
neoprene collar
collar underneath
upper row of shingles
line of shingles

mechanically fasten with


standard large-head
galvanized roofing nails

collar over lower


shingles
n
ow
ed
p
lo

air barrier patch or a prefabricated


vent pipe flashing (figure 1.26) should
be placed around the pipe where it
penetrates the air barrier. The
prefabricated flashing or polyethylene
patch must be carefully sealed to the
vent pipe and the air barrier with a
flexible sealant, to prevent air leakage
and ensure air barrier continuity at
the ceiling.
Most North American houses built
after 2000 have high-efficiency gas or
oil furnaces that vent through pipes in
the foundation wall. These vent pipes
must be sealed to the air barrier in
the same manner as described in the
preceding section. Older houses may
have low- or medium-efficiency
furnaces that vent through masonry or
pre-fabricated metal chimneys in the

42

1.25

roof.
The pre-fabricated metal
chimneys cannot be connected to the
air barrier system because of the danger
of fire, which requires that combustible
materials, such as wood and polyethylene,
be kept at least 25 to 50 mm (1 to
2 in.) clear of prefabricated metal
chimneys. Non-combustible metal
collars should be installed where
prefabricated chimneys pass through
the wood framing at floors, ceilings
and roof. The joint between the metal
collar and the chimney flue and the
joints between the metal collar and the
air barrier should be sealed with
non-combustible sealant, to stop air
leakage around the chimney.

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Prefabricated vent pipe flashing at ceiling


Polyethylene air and
vapour barrier on
underside of roof framing

Wood blocking
between roof framing
Seal between vent pipe
flashing and vapour
barrier
Prefabricated vent
pipe flashing
Plumbing vent pipe
1.26

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Part 2: Environmental
control strategies

Part 2: Environmental Control Strategies

introduction
to Part 2
Part 2 presents an overview of some
basic building science fundamentals
that affect the durability of wood-frame
buildings. The durability of the building
envelope of wood-frame structures is
directly affected by the four main
physical factors of moisture, air,
vapour and heat acting on the various
assemblies. These physical factors act
on the building envelope in different
ways and with different intensities.
Moisture penetration is the most
powerful physical factor and causes the
fastest and most destructive type of
deterioration
of
the
building
envelope. Uncontrolled air leakage
through the building envelope can also
result in severe deterioration of the
building assemblies. Water vapour
diffusion through the building envelope
is a very slow and uniform physical
force and causes much less deterioration.
Heat transfer, although a very important
physical force in controlling energy
consumption, does not cause significant
damage to the building envelope
assemblies except in extreme climates.
Deterioration of wood-frame building
envelopes is also the result of a number
of other factors, including decay,
corrosion, insect damage, mould
growth and ultra-violet radiation.
Every wood-frame house is a system
and many inter-related issues affect its

performance and durability. The


designer and the builder need to carefully
consider the interaction between the
building envelope components of
foundation, wall and roof assemblies,
and the openings in each of these
components, such as windows, doors
and skylights, and the heatingcooling-ventilation systems needed to
provide durable, long-lasting woodframe building envelopes.
The most important priority for
dealing with potential moisture
damage to wood-frame buildings is to
ensure that the major sources of
moisture are addressed first, in the
design of the building envelope details.
Moisture must be controlled in the
following order: moisture penetration
control first, then air leakage control,
then vapour diffusion control, and
finally heat transfer control. Damage
to the building envelope assemblies
can be minimized if all of these
physical factors are carefully controlled.
In this section we will investigate
how each of these physical factors
act on the building envelope and
contribute to its deterioration, beginning
with the most destructive physical
force, that of moisture. We will begin
with how moisture movement occurs
in the building envelope.

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Part 2: Environmental Control Strategies

moisturE movEmEnt
When moisture moves through the
building envelope, significant damage
can be done to the various construction
assemblies. Therefore, the movement
of moisture must be carefully controlled.
For moisture penetration to occur, three
conditions must exist simultaneously;
there must be a source of moisture,
there must be an opening through
which the moisture can penetrate, and
there must be a driving force to move
the moisture through the opening.
Without all three of these conditions
being present at the same time, moisture
penetration cannot occur. For example,
if moisture is present and there is an
opening, but there is no force to drive
the moisture, moisture penetration
cannot occur. Or, if there is moisture
present and there is a driving force,
but there is no opening, moisture
penetration cannot occur.
Moisture can penetrate the smallest of
openings, such as the pores in porous
materials. Therefore, the moisture
barrier must be continuous and carefully
sealed to eliminate any openings
through which moisture can enter the
building envelope.

sources of moisture
One of the keys to preventing moisture
damage to buildings is to understand
where moisture comes from, how
moisture moves and how condensation
is formed. Moisture is found in nature
in three forms: as a solid (i.e. ice), as a
liquid (i.e. water) and as a gas (i.e. water
vapour). The sources of moisture that
can affect the performance and durability
of building envelopes are as follows:
48

1. Precipitation: Moisture in the


form of rain, sleet, snow or hail is
found in nature and provides the
largest source of moisture affecting
the building envelope components
of walls and roofs.
2. ground Water: The water content
of the soil can vary from wet to
dry and can provide moisture that
affects the foundation component
of building envelopes.
3. Water Vapour: Water vapour
contained in both the indoor and
outdoor environments provides a
source of moisture that can transform
from a gas to a liquid through the
process of condensation.
4. Occupants: The occupants of
buildings produce large quantities
of moisture through daily activities
such as breathing, cooking,
washing and cleaning.
5. Construction Materials: All
construction materials contain
moisture, for example concrete and
wood contain large quantities of
moisture. The moisture can be stored
seasonally in existing materials or
can come from new materials. In
both cases the moisture can be
diffused into the building envelope.

moisture movement forces


The sources of moisture outlined above
can be forced through an opening in
the building envelope in a number of
ways. The following driving forces are
the mechanisms that cause the movement
of moisture through the building envelope:

Canada Mortgage
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Part 2: Environmental Control Strategies

1 gravity:
Gravity will move water vertically
down a wall or sloped surface and also
through downward-sloped openings in
the cladding (refer to Figure 2.1).

Water movement by gravity can be


controlled using drainage planes,
flashings and drip edges (refer to
Figure 2.2).

Water entry by gravity

Moisture barrier

Water flowing down


a wall cladding and
entering a downward
sloping opening by
gravity
2.1

Controlling water movement due to gravity

Water entering by
gravity flows down
the back of the
cladding and is
redirected to the
outside by a
cross-cavity flashing

2.2

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Part 2: Environmental Control Strategies

2 Capillary suction:
Water can move through materials
that have small interconnecting pores
due to a strong adhesive force that
develops between water and the
surrounding material. The related force
of surface tension causes water to cling
to the surface of construction
materials. Capillary action, or
capillarity, is a very strong force; the
force of capillarity drawing water into
stucco has been measured in millions
of Pascals or hundreds of thousands of
pounds per square inch pressure (refer
to Figure 2.3).

Movement of water by capillarity can


be controlled by separating adjacent
materials with an air space of at least
10 mm (3/8 in.), called a capillary
break, or by use of a low moisture
permeance material such as polyethylene
or a waterproof membrane to separate
building materials (refer to Figure 2.4).
3 Kinetic energy:
Raindrops gain kinetic energy due to
the forces of gravity and wind pressure
and can hit the building envelope with
enough speed that their momentum
can carry them, or the spray they produce,
through openings in the building
envelope (refer to Figure 2.5).

Capillary suction
Cladding
Rain water on in cladding
Cracks or joints in cladding
3 mm (1/8 in.) or less in width
Moisture barrier
Water drawn in and
held between cladding
and moisture barrier
by capillary suction
2.3

50

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Part 2: Environmental Control Strategies

Water movement by capillary suction and some


methods of control
Water vapour
evaporating from
the concrete
foundation wall
enters the building
raising the indoor
relative humidity

Waterproof
sill gasket stops
moisture movement
by capillary suction

Damproofing
on face of wall
fills in pores and
stops capillary
action

Locating a
moisture barrier
between the footing
and the foundation
will eliminate the
vertical movement
of moisture

Ground moisture
drawn up through
concrete footing by
capillary action

Capillary break:
when the cladding is held
away from the moisture
barrier a minimum of 10 mm
(3/8 in.), water cannot be drawn
in and held by capillary action
2.4

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Part 2: Environmental Control Strategies

Water entry by kinetic energy

Moisture penetration
at openings due to
kenetic energy
or momentum

2.5

Water penetration by kinetic energy


can be controlled by using baffles,
battens or overlapping joints to
deflect water from the openings and
with drainage planes inside the
cladding (refer to Figure 2.6).

4 Wind Pressure:
Pressure exerted by wind against a
building can cause water to move
horizontally and vertically across the
cladding as well as force water through
openings in the building envelope
(refer to Figure 2.7).

Preventing water entry by kinetic energy

Water entry
deflected by battens
or offset joints

2.6

52

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Part 2: Environmental Control Strategies

Water entry by wind pressure


Water driven
through large
openings by
air pressure
differential
between the
outside and
inside across
the envelope

Air leakage
through wall
assembly

Water on
surface of
cladding

2.7

The effect of wind pressure as a


driving force on water through the
building envelope cladding can be
neutralized by the use of pressure
equalized two stage joints or a pressure
equalized rainscreen. Since the pressure
across the cladding or rainscreen is not
always fully equalized, this system
is sometimes referred to as pressure
moderated (refer to Figure 2.8). This
type of construction requires the use of
a rigidly supported impermeable air
barrier that resists wind pressure and
allows the air space behind the cladding
or the pressure equalization chamber to
quickly pressurize or depressurize in
reaction to the wind pressure applied to
the rainscreen.
5 air leakage:
All air contains some water vapour and
as air moves through a building envelope
assembly, driven by an air pressure
differential, the air brings water vapour
along with it (refer to Figure 2.9).

When this air meets a cold surface,


condensation can occur. Air leakage
can occur in both directions through
the building envelope, as air moves
from an area of higher pressure to an
area of lower pressure. The transport of
water vapour by air leakage can be
controlled by installing a continuous
air barrier to prevent the uncontrolled
movement of air through the building
envelope. Air barriers will be covered in
detail later in this section.
6 Vapour Diffusion:
This is the movement of water vapour
from an area of high water vapour
pressure to an area of low water
vapour pressure. Water vapour will
diffuse through air and solid materials
(refer to Figure 2.10). Some materials
such as gypsum board and concrete
block allow water vapour to diffuse
easily through them and are said to be
highly water vapour permeable. Other
materials such as glass, aluminum foil

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Part 2: Environmental Control Strategies

Preventing wind-driven rain entry with


pressure-moderated rainscreen
Rigid air barrier
resists wind pressure
causing air pressure
in cavity to equalize
with air pressure
outside cladding

Positive
wind
pressure

Water entry through


openings is minimized
because the driving
force of wind pressure
is neutralized

2.8

Air leakage can move large amounts of water vapour


due to pressure differences across the building envelope

20 x 20 mm
hole

A ir leaka

ge

Water
vapour
in air

1m

etr
e
30 litres of moisture
over one heating season

54

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2.9

Part 2: Environmental Control Strategies

and polyethylene allow very little water


vapour diffusion and are referred to as
water vapour impermeable.
Water vapour diffusion must be
controlled in building envelope
assemblies to prevent water vapour
from diffusing into areas where it can
come into contact with cold surfaces
on which condensation can occur. This
can be accomplished by placing a low
permeance material, which acts as a
vapour barrier or vapour diffusion
retarder, on the side of the assembly
where the water vapour concentration
will be the highest. Placement of
vapour barriers will be discussed in
detail later in this section.

condensation
The maximum amount of water
vapour air can hold is determined
by the temperature of the air. As the
temperature of air increases, it can hold
more water vapour; as the temperature

decreases, it can hold less water vapour.


Condensation is formed when air is
cooled to the point where it can no
longer hold all the water vapour it
contains. This is called the dew point
temperature. When the water vapour
contained in the air reaches the dew
point temperature, it condenses to form
liquid water. Condensation can occur
in two forms, as surface condensation,
such as condensation forming on a
cold pane of glass, and as concealed
condensation, which forms inside the
building envelope assembly. Of the
two types, concealed condensation is
the more destructive. To prevent
condensation, either the air must be
kept above its dew point temperature
or the amount of water vapour contained
in the air must be reduced by mixing it
with dryer air. Eliminating the sources
of moisture that can affect the building
envelope can also prevent condensation.

Vapour diffusion
Vapour permeable
material such as
drywall or house-wrap

High humidity

Low humidity

Water vapour moves by diffusion

2.10

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Part 2: Environmental Control Strategies

moisture control
mechanisms

1 Deflection

The overall control of moisture


penetration into building envelopes
can be summarized by the following six
mechanisms of moisture control (refer
to Figure 2.11):

3 air leakage

2 Drainage
4 Drying ability
5 Vapour Diffusion Control
6 Durable Materials

Moisture Penetration Control Mechanisms

Air leakage control


provided by
continuous air
barrier
Deflection

Drainage

Drying to inside
and outside

Diffusion control
provided by proper
location and type
of vapour barrier
according to
local climate
Durable
materials

2.11

56

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Part 2: Environmental Control Strategies

In a very general way, these six


mechanisms are ordered in accordance
with
their
importance.
The
primary sources of moisture leading
to deposition in or on the building
envelope are precipitation from the
exterior
environment,
and
condensation that can result from
interior or exterior sources.

The benefits of thermal insulation far


outweigh the changes in construction
required to ensure long-term durability.
Some climates pose more risk for
moisture penetration than others.
Coastal climates and those with high
temperatures and high humidity tend
to experience more moisture problems
than drier climates.

Moisture can also be built-in during


the construction process by using wet
materials or by the wetting of materials
during construction. Moisture
entering roof, wall or foundation
assemblies through direct leakage may
or may not be tolerated by a particular
construction assembly or material.

defining the six moisture


control mechanisms

Some exterior walls in older woodframe buildings, when opened up,


show evidence of moisture entry that
has been able to dry quickly enough to
prevent decay. These are generally walls
that do not incorporate insulation, air
barriers or vapour barriers. They also
typically have more water vapour
permeable sheathing and cladding
than is typical in modern construction.
The addition of insulation to wall
cavities, if not accompanied by methods
of preventing liquid water and water
vapour penetration, will lead to walls
that are more susceptible to failure.

1 Deflection refers to the diversion


of moisture from striking moisture
sensitive parts of the building envelope.
This is accomplished by intercepting
the moisture using deflection
components such as flashings, drip
edges, roof overhangs and cornices and
collecting the moisture as runoff
before it can come into contact with
the moisture sensitive parts of the
building envelope that could be
damaged (refer to Figures 2.12 and 2.13).

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Part 2: Environmental Control Strategies

Examples of deflection

Eavestrough
Roof overhang
Drip flashing at
heads and sills of
windows and doors

200 mm (8 in.) min.


Slash height

Minimum 5% slope
away from building
2.12

2 Drainage is the removal of moisture


by gravity. Bulk water and water films
are directed away from the building
envelope by the use of flashings and
drip edges. When moisture penetrates
the cladding at either planned or
58

unplanned penetrations, the provision


of a waterproof drainage plane is
necessary to redirect water out of the
building envelope to the exterior.
Drainage should also be provided by
sloping the finished grade surfaces

Canada Mortgage
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Part 2: Environmental Control Strategies

Examples of deflection

Leave a minimum
3 mm (1/8 in.) gap to
stop capillary suction
Minimum
1:5 slope to
ensure proper
drainage

Drip flashings direct water


away from cladding below

Extended window sills with


drips direct water away from
cladding below
away from the building and by using
below-grade drainage (refer to Figure
2.14). In most climates, rain is the biggest
source of moisture that affects the

2.13

building envelope. Therefore, deflection


and drainage are typically the most
important methods of moisture control.

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Part 2: Environmental Control Strategies

Examples of drainage

Waterproof membrane
drainage plane

Air space cavity

Cladding

Cross-cavity flashing
carries water out from
behind cladding to
the exterior

Provide a min. 3 mm (1/8 in.)


gap to stop water from being
held between the bottom of
the cladding and the flashing
by capillary suction

Minimum 5%
sloped grade
directs surface
water away
from wall
Crushed stone
provides a drainage
path for water and
drainage tile directs
water away from
the foundation
2.14

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Part 2: Environmental Control Strategies

3 air leakage Control restricts the


uncontrolled movement of air through
the building envelope. The movement
of air is driven by air pressure
differences between the interior and
exterior environments and is caused
by the following driving forces: wind
pressure on the building envelope, the
stack effect due to air temperature
differences and mechanical pressure as a
result of exhaust or supply fans. The
direction of air leakage can be
from outside to inside, referred to as
infiltration, or from inside to outside,
referred to as exfiltration. As air passes
through the building envelope, it
carries moisture with it. If the air meets
cooled surfaces in building assemblies

condensation can occur (refer to


Figures 2.15 and 2.16). This can
happen during winter months due
to cold outdoor temperatures cooling
the construction materials or during
the summer due to cooling of
interior construction materials due to
air conditioning.
4 Drying ability is a general term
used to describe the ability of moisture
to move from the interior of a material
to an air film on its surface when there
is a vapour pressure difference between
the material and the surrounding air.
Provided there are other materials or air
movement to absorb the moisture or
carry it away, the material will

Moisture-laden indoor air leaking into insulated


cavities can lead to condensation during cold months

Pot lights

Fans

Openings
around
windows
and doors

Electrical
outlets
Undersill plate
2.15

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Part 2: Environmental Control Strategies

Moisture-laden outdoor air leaking into an


air-conditioned building can lead to condensation
formation during hot months

Fans

Pot lights

Openings
around
windows
and doors

Electrical
outlets
Undersill plate
2.16

62

continue to allow moisture to pass


through it or to deplete the moisture it
currently contains until no vapour
pressure difference remains between
the material and the surrounding air
(refer to Figure 2.17).

materials in cold climates. Siding


materials that allow air movement
through the joints, and a ventilated
drainage space between the exterior
cladding and the interior wall will
enable the wall to dry more quickly.

In cold climates, most of the drying


generally occurs from the interior to
the exterior. In these climates, exterior
sheathings and finishes should be
selected to be more water vapour
permeable or breathable to allow
moisture to dry from the inside of the
assembly to the outside. Plywood,
waferboard and oriented strand board
(OSB) are acceptable sheathing

In hot-humid climates, if the building


is cooled, the opposite is true. Drying
is chiefly from the exterior to the
interior. It is on the interior where the
most water vapour permeable materials
should be located, while the least water
vapour permeable materials should be
located on the exterior of the assembly,
to allow moisture to dry from the
outside of the assembly to the inside.

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Part 2: Environmental Control Strategies

Mixed climates are more complicated


as there are periods of the year when
drying will be to the inside and other
times of the year when drying will be to
the outside. This can be dealt with by
placing a water vapour resistant barrier
in approximately the centre of the
assembly, allowing drying of the wall
cavity to occur to both the interior and
the exterior. From a moisture management
perspective, an assembly that will work
in any climate is one having most of
the thermal value and the vapour
resistance for the assembly placed on
the outside of the framing with little or
no insulation placed in the wall cavity.

All materials have some resistance to


diffusion of moisture in the form of water
vapour and their presence may at times
act as the primary diffusion control
barrier within an assembly for some
sources of moisture (refer to Figure
2.18). For example, wall cladding
materials may be highly resistive to
solar driven water vapour, therefore
retarding vapour flow into the assembly
from the outside. Vapour diffusion
moves small quantities of water vapour
through the building envelope. Air
leakage can move 100 times more
water vapour through the building
envelope than vapour diffusion.

Drying is a much slower process for


removing moisture from building
assemblies than deflection or drainage.
The rate of drying depends on the
construction materials used in the
building assembly. The materials
selected for a particular building
assembly may be more effective for
drying in some climates than in others.
Generally speaking, drying is a secondary
control strategy and can only be relied
upon to deal with limited quantities of
moisture. The best approach is to prevent
building assemblies from getting wet.

6 Durable Materials are those that


resist degradation through decay or
corrosion when in the presence of
excess moisture. Wood is durable
because it is able to resist decay and the
growth of mould, mildew or fungi.
Metal is durable because it is able to
resist corrosion. Masonry is durable
because it is able to resist freeze-thaw
cycling that can lead to spalling or
salt migration that can lead to
efflorescence. Certain materials can
have their durability improved, for
example, wood by pressure treatment
with chemicals, metals by galvanizing
or anodizing, and masonry by
proper manufacture or surface
coating protection.

5 Vapour Diffusion Control is the


term used to describe the placement of
materials or finishes within a building
envelope assembly to restrict the
movement of water vapour by diffusion
through an exterior wall, foundation,
floor or ceiling. This may be accomplished
by using one or more layers of low
water vapour permeance materials,
and these may not necessarily be
located together.

No single mechanism is sufficient on


its own to provide a truly durable
wood-frame building envelope. Instead,
some or all of the mechanisms are
involved in each of the following four
main environmental control strategies:

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Part 2: Environmental Control Strategies

Examples of drying in different wood-frame wall assemblies


Air circulation
behind cladding
helps improve
drying
Water vapour
diffusing to
the exterior
Capillary break/
drainage plane/
vented cavity

Polyethylene vapour
barrier prevents drying
to the interior
Heated interior
Water vapour diffusing
from area of higher vapour
pressure within wall assembly
through cladding to area of
lower vapour pressure at the
exterior. This primarily happens
at night and during heating season

A) Drying to the Exterior in Heating Climates


Cladding
Insulation

Water vapour
permeable interior
finish (latex)

Waterproof
membrane/
Vapour barrier/
Air barrier

Gypsum board
Insulation

Capillary break/
drainage plane/
vented cavity

Framing

Water vapour
diffusing to
the exterior

Water vapour
diffusing to
the interior

Sheathing

B) Drying to the Interior and Exterior in Mixed Climates


Low vapour
permeance
sheathing and/or
water resistant
barrier (WRB)
slows the entry
of exterior water
vapour into wall
Capillary break/
drainage plane/
vented cavity
Water permeable
interior finish

Water vapour diffusing


to the interior
Cooled and
dehumidified interior
Water vapour diffusing from
outside and areas of higher
vapour pressure within wall
assembly through interior
finish to area of lower vapour
pressure at the interior. This
happens during humid weather
when the building is air conditioned
and dehumidified

C) Drying to the Interior in Hot Humid Climates


64

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2.17

Part 2: Environmental Control Strategies

Vapour diffusion and condensation in heating


and cooling climates
COOLING CLIMATE
Vapour Barrier

Vapour
Barrier
The diffusion of water vapour from hot humid
exterior air is minimized by the use of a low
vapour permeance insulation or foil faced
sheathing. A vapour permeable interior finish
allows small amounts of water vapour in the
wall to dry to the inside.

Water vapour from hot humid


exterior air comes into contact
with vapour barrier located next
to cold interior finish leading to
condensation on outside of
vapour barrier.

HEATING CLIMATE
Vapour Barrier

Vapour diffusion from heated


interior space through interior
wall finish leads to condensation
on inside of exterior sheathing.

Vapour barrier minimizes water vapour


diffusion preventing condensation on exterior
sheathing. Small amounts of water vapour
can diffuse through the vapour permeable
exterior sheathing and cladding.

Moisture penetration control

Air leakage control

Vapour diffusion control

Heat transfer control

2.18

The following sections describe what


designers and builders can do to
minimize the risk of premature
building envelope deterioration from
inadequate environmental control
by using each of the four main
environmental control strategies to
their best advantage.
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moisturE
PEnEtration
control
The quantity of moisture that can be
tolerated in a building assembly is
small compared with the huge amount
of moisture that falls to the ground in
all the forms of precipitation. In all but
the driest climates, attention to detail
during design and construction is
needed to keep moisture out of the
building envelope.
Driving rain is responsible for the
majority of failures of above-grade
building envelope components. Failures
are most frequent at interfaces, for
example, at windows and doors, joints
between similar materials, junctions
between dissimilar materials and
at balconies and other projections.
Inappropriate choice of construction
methods and materials for the local
climate is also an important factor.

moisture Penetration
control strategies
The building shape, orientation and
position on a building site can reduce
the amount of precipitation deposited
on walls. A wall can be designed to deal
with precipitation in one of three
ways: to drain away any moisture that
penetrates the cladding, to store the
moisture and subsequently dry out
over time, or to exclude all moisture
perfectly. When considering the third
approach, it must be understood that
perfect exclusion is temporary and
cannot be maintained over time.
Moisture is often absorbed into

66

construction materials or penetrates


through openings or imperfections in
the cladding. Some drying capability
must be provided so that the moisture
can be removed from the wall. Often,
there is no choice in the orientation
or position of the building on the
site in relation to the prevailing wind
direction, therefore careful design and
construction of the building details
is necessary to achieve the moisture
control required. These are not unique
concepts. They are common sense
observations gained from experience in
many different climates around
the world.
The primary strategies for dealing with
the control of moisture penetration are
deflection, drainage and drying. The
next three sections examine each
strategy in detail.

deflection
The primary role that deflection
plays in controlling moisture
penetration is by:
n
Preventing precipitation from
striking the wall
n

Redirecting water draining down a


surface away from the building
face by shingle lapping materials
and using flashings with drip edges.

Both climate and site play important


roles in defining the rain exposure of a
building. For example, many coastal
areas experience a significant amount
of wind-driven rain. Exposure to
prevailing wind-driven rains can be
reduced in low-rise buildings up to
four storeys in height by landscaping
and placement near other buildings.

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Vegetation near buildings can deflect


wind-driven rain, and buildings of
equal height located within two
building heights of each other can
also provide a significant amount of

protection from wind-driven rain (refer


to Figure 2.19). Reducing the exposure
of the wall and sheltering it from winddriven rain can significantly reduce
wetting of the wall.

Exposure to wind-driven rain


Wind exposure can
be modified by
adjacent buildings
and vegetation

Very high wind-driven


rain exposure occurs
on bluffs particularly
in coastal areas
2.19

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The shape of the roof and width of


the overhangs are important factors
in controlling wind-driven rain,
especially for low-rise buildings. There
is a long history of constructing roof
overhangs on buildings that are
exposed to rain and snow. Early
construction with minimal or no roof
overhangs was found to experience
damage from water penetration into
the walls. This moisture damage was
reduced or eliminated when builders
extended roofs 200 mm (8 inches) or
more beyond the exterior wall surface,
thereby deflecting the rain and snow
away from the walls and protecting
these surfaces from water damage.
Where roof overhangs are not possible,
walls should be constructed with a
ventilated drainage space including a
waterproof drainage plane to prevent

water from entering the interior of the


assembly, and to enable the walls to dry
more quickly.
Field measurements and computer
modelling have shown that overhangs
and pitched roofs can reduce rain
deposition on walls by approximately
50 per cent. A survey of wood-frame
buildings in the coastal climate of
British Columbia, Canada, found that
the size of overhangs correlated directly
with the probability of rain-related
damage. Figure 2.20 shows the
incidence of damage to walls from winddriven rain relative to the width of the
roof overhangs. For example, of all
walls examined where there was no
roof overhang, 88 per cent experienced
some problems related to water entry.
The least water damage occurred in
buildings having the widest overhangs.

Percentage of Walls
with Problems (%)

Effects of overhangs on wall performance

Width of Roof Overhang (mm)


2.20

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Influence of overhangs and pitched roofs on


wind and rain flow

Rain

Wind

2.21

The obstruction that the building


presents to the wind and its effect on the
raindrop trajectories is shown in Figure
2.21. Gable roofs with overhangs
provide shelter to walls from rain on
two sides of the building, while hipped
roofs with overhangs provide shelter on
all four sides.
Field measurements, computer
modelling and wind tunnel testing
indicate the quantity of driving rain
deposition that can be expected on
vertical wall surfaces. For low-rise
buildings up to six storeys, the amount
of rain deposited is in the order of 10 to
20 per cent of the product of
wind speed and rainfall intensity. The
potential amount of rain deposited on
the walls of low-rise buildings erected

on exposed sites is even higher, and


could be hundreds of litres per square
meter per year.
Roof overhangs are not recommended
in locations that experience high winds,
low rainfall and cold temperatures,
such as in the Arctic, where the force of
the wind under the eaves can lift the
roof off a building (refer to Figure
2.22). Overhangs can also trap the
heat of fires and contribute to the
spread of fire between buildings. In
hot dry climates where bush fires are
common or in locations where
houses are built close together, overhangs
should be reduced in size and protected
with non-combustible materials to
prevent the spread of fire.

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Rain deflection measures when roof overhangs


are not possible

Roofing extends beyond metal


drip edge to deflect water
and ice
Metal fascia spaced from wall
Drip edge under fascia for
capiliary break
Weather resistive barrier
(WRB) over entire wall
with joints shingle-lapped
Vertical wood strapping to
provide drainage cavity
2.22

The study of wetting patterns on


building walls has shown that exposed
building walls tend to have very high
rain deposition in the upper corners,
and at the top and side edges. As
raindrops strike the wall surface, the
water tends to be absorbed by the
cladding material. As the surface pores
fill and the rate of absorption slows, a
film of water will form and it will
begin to flow downward under the
force of gravity (refer to Figure 2.23).
Wind flowing over the surface will
tend to deflect the film from this
downward path and, in extreme cases,
may even force water in an upward
direction. Surface features such as
cornices, overhangs, sills, projecting
trim, surface texture and openings can

70

greatly affect the flow patterns of


surface films of water.
Many buildings have survived for
centuries, even in rainy climates,
because roof overhangs, roofed porches
and water-shedding construction
details deflect water away from their
exterior surfaces. Because construction
exposed to substantial wetting requires
durable materials, repairs and regular
maintenance, builders have made
innovations to reduce the exposure of
wall surfaces. Overhangs shelter walls
from direct exposure to rain, snow and
ice. Architectural details, such as
surface relief, louvers, cornices and
projecting lintels and sills, deflect
rainwater away from openings and
distribute surface water so that

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Rainwater accumulation on cladding

Rain water is
initially absorbed
by cladding

As cladding becomes
saturated, rain water forms
a film of water that runs
down the face of the cladding
and can be pushed sideways
and upwards by the wind

Rain water hitting hard


surfaces can be deflected
onto the base of the wall
2.23

concentrated streams of water will not


stain the wall surface. Ledges and sills
with drip edges and slopes away from
the wall intercept and redirect water
away from the building surface.
Modern designs might not employ
traditional details, but use similar
approaches to reduce the rain load on a
wall (refer to Figure 2.22). Flashings
with drip edges break the capillary
adhesion of water where different
materials and components meet on a
wall surface. The shingle layering of
materials sheds water to the exterior.
The use of eavestroughs to collect
water at the edge of the roof and

channel it safely away from the


cladding is an important part of
the overall water management strategy
for buildings.

drainage
Building shape and exposure, roof
slope and overhang help to deflect winddriven rain, but will rarely prevent all
the wind-driven rain from hitting the
wall. When wetting occurs, the control
of water depends on the materials and
construction of the wall assembly.
Any one, or all of the following
driving forces will transport or move
rain deposited on a wall surface:

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Gravity causing the shedding of


water down the face of the wall

main types of wall construction can be


classified as follows:

Absorption by capillary suction


into the cladding material where
it is temporarily stored, or into
joints and cracks where it enters
the wall assembly

Storage Walls

Face-sealed Walls

Concealed-barrier Walls

Rainscreen Walls

Penetration by the momentum or


kinetic energy of rain drops into
the wall at joints and junctions
Flow of water through openings
in the wall because of wind
pressure difference across the
exterior cladding.

Water passing through the cladding


may, if the wall is properly designed,
drain down the back of the cladding
and be redirected out of the wall
assembly by flashings. Walls handle
wind-driven rain differently depending
on their type of construction. The

a) storage Walls
Storage walls or mass walls are the
oldest strategy for preventing moisture
entry into the interior of buildings.
This approach requires the use of an
assembly with sufficient storage mass
to absorb and store all the moisture
from both the exterior and interior that
is not drained from the outside or inside
surfaces of the wall. This moisture
is stored within the thickness of the
wall and is eventually removed by
evaporative drying to both the exterior
and the interior. Some examples of

Examples of Storage or Mass Wall Systems

Rubble Stone Wall

Solid Masonry Wall

Composite Layered
Masonry wall
2.24

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storage or mass wall materials include


adobe, clay tile, stone rubble, solid
multi-wythe masonry and composite
layered masonry (refer to Figure 2.24).
Controlling the surface absorption
rate through the choice of less water
permeable facing materials such as
glazed tiles or water-resistant coatings
reduces the risk of excessive moisture
loading of the wall, as well as the
potential for algae, mould, mildew and
fungal growth.
b) face-sealed Walls
Face-sealed wall systems stop all
moisture penetration at a single plane
at the exterior face of the wall. Such
complete control of moisture is only
possible by using materials and systems
that can be and are well maintained.
These systems use the outermost

surface as the moisture control plane,


hence the description faced-sealed. This
plane is exposed to large quantities of
moisture, ultraviolet light, extreme
temperature swings, and air pollution
and is therefore prone to rapid
deterioration (refer to Figure 2.25).
Wall system materials that are designed
to function as face-seals include metal
panels, window glazing and frames,
ceramic tiles, stucco and face-sealed
Exterior Insulation and Finish Systems
(EIFS). Long-term success of face-seal
systems depends on paying special
attention to the design and maintenance
of the joints, which occur between
dissimilar materials and the junctions,
which occur between similar or the same
materials. The joints and junctions that
will be the most durable are those that
have redundancy, that is more than one

Example of Face-sealed Wall System


Rain shed from exterior face of cladding

Cladding fastened to sheathing

Rain

Sealed single stage joint


Drip

Sheathing

Framing
2.25

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Part 2: Environmental Control Strategies

line of defence, and that are designed


on the Rainscreen principle. If only a
single bead of sealant is used to seal joints
and junctions, they will eventually fail
and therefore, must be carefully
maintained. Failure of these joints and
junctions can result in total wall failure
because moisture entering a face-seal
system cannot escape through drainage
to the exterior.
c) Concealed-barrier Walls
Concealed-barrier wall systems consists
of an exterior cladding, such as siding or
stucco, placed directly over a water
resistant barrier (WRB), such as
building paper, house-wrap or a liquid
applied barrier.

In this system, moisture is largely


drained at the face of the cladding with
the WRB forming a second line of
defence to control any moisture that
gets past the cladding (refer to Figure
2.26). This is commonly referred to as
a dual barrier or concealed-barrier
approach. This type of system will
typically not work in situations
where the wall is exposed to frequent
and high levels of moisture penetration.
When moisture penetration is frequent,
moisture held between the cladding
and the WRB can cause deterioration
of both the cladding and the WRB,
and eventually the sheathing, because
evaporative drying between wetting
events is insufficient to thoroughly dry
out the wall assembly.

Example of a Concealed-barrier Wall System


Most of the water is
shed from the face
of the cladding

Rain

Small gaps behind


the cladding allow
for drainage
Waterproof membrane
concealed-barrier
Flashings at all
penetrations under
waterproof membrane
Cladding (wood,Vinyl
or aluminum siding,
EIFS or stucco)
Sheathing, framing
and insulation

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2.26

Part 2: Environmental Control Strategies

d) rainscreen Walls
Rainscreen walls are designed with the
knowledge that some moisture will
penetrate the exterior cladding and
that this moisture will be removed by a
drainage plane behind the cladding
and be redirected to the outside by
weep holes and flashings. Because
cladding materials such as wood siding,
stucco and masonry veneers can leak
significant amounts of water, this design
approach is the most realistic and
practical for controlling moisture
penetration through walls. Rainscreens
can be unvented for drainage only or
vented for both drainage and ventilation
behind the cladding to enhance drying
of the cavity (refer to Figure 2.27).

Providing a capillary break or air gap,


and a water resistant barrier (WRB),
collectively termed a drainage plane, resists
further inward penetration of moisture.
Some examples of drained rainscreen
wall systems include masonry veneer
cavity walls, aluminum or vinyl siding
walls and drained EIFS walls.
An air gap is often provided to improve
the drainage capacity and to act as an
effective capillary break between the
cladding and the remainder of the wall
assembly. This air gap needs to be at
least 6 mm (1/4 in.) wide to properly
function as a drainage cavity. Since
dimensional tolerances must be taken
into account, a width ranging from 10
to 19 mm (3/8 to 3/4 in.) should be

Example of Rainscreen Wall system


Most of the water is shed
from the face of cladding
Drainage cavity from (min.)
10 mm (3/8 in.) to 19 mm (3/4 in.)
Rain

Cross cavity flashing with


drips at all penetrations and
floor lines
Moisture penetrating cladding
is drained and directed out
of cavity
Drainage cavity also allows
for ventilation and drying
Framing and insulation

Cladding

Sheathing
Water resistant barrier

2.27

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used in practice. To encourage cavity


drying by ventilation, an even larger
airspace of 19 to 25 mm (3/4 to 1 in.)
should be provided in conjunction
with weep holes at the bottom of the
wall and vents at the top of the wall.
The weep holes and vents allow air to
circulate through the cavity and dry
out the back of the cladding and the
face of the water resistant barrier.
This vented airspace, when accompanied
by rigid dividers, such as flashings, that
divide the airspace into small chambers,
also allows for air pressure equalization
or moderation in the cavity. Pressure
equalization is the term given to the

mechanism whereby wind pressure differences across the cladding are


neutralized by connecting the air space
behind the cladding with the outside air.
By reducing air pressure differentials
across the cladding, less moisture is
forced through openings in the cladding.
Field measurements have shown that
complete pressure equalization is rarely
achieved in practice, but that sufficient
moderation of the air pressures between
the outside and the cavity can be
achieved to be beneficial. For these
reasons, use of the term pressure
moderated instead of pressure
equalized is the preferred and more
accurate term (refer to Figure 2.28).

Example of Pressure-Moderated Rainscreen


Wall System
Cavity behind cladding
is compartmentalized
vertically and horizontally
to allow for faster
pressure moderation
Wind

Air pressure behind


the cladding approaches
the air pressure on the
surface of the cladding
reducing the air pressure
across openings that
cause rain entry
Rigid air barrier
located at the interior
finish or sheathing
Moisture barrier
Through-wall flashing
drains any water
passing through the
cladding to outside

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2.28

Part 2: Environmental Control Strategies

Experience in coastal regions has


shown that drained, ventilated and
rain screened cladding systems are the
preferred approach for providing
effective rain penetration control.
Pressure moderation helps wall systems
that are prone to moisture penetration
by wind and air-pressure driven rain.
A recent development in the design of
rainscreen walls for cold climates is the
PERSIST (Pressure Equalized Rain
Screen Insulated Structure Technique)
wall assembly (refer to Figure 2.29). In
this design, a moisture, air and vapour
impermeable flexible membrane and a

layer of rigid or semi-rigid external


insulation is applied to the outside of
the wall sheathing. This protects the
wood-frame structure from damage
from moisture penetration, air leakage
and vapour diffusion, as well as keeping
the structure and water-resistant
barrier warm by placing part of the
thermal barrier on the outside or cold
side of the structure. Therefore, the
structure is not subjected to the
temperature fluctuations associated
with uninsulated structures, resulting
in a longer lasting, more durable
wood-frame building envelope.

Example of PERSIST Wall System

Exterior cladding
Vertical wood strapping
EPS or XPS insulation
Self-adhering membrane
WRB (lapped over flashings)
Plywood, waferboard or
OSB sheathing
Stud space insulation
(optional)

Air space behind cladding


allows moisture to drain
down and out of wall
Rigid air barrier located at
interior finish or sheathing
Through-wall flashing
drains any moisture
passing through the
cladding to the outside

Gypsum wallboard (drywall)


2.29

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drying
Despite all attempts to deflect and drain
water, field experience has shown that
some moisture may still penetrate into
a wall assembly from the exterior. Also,
significant amounts of moisture from
wet construction materials contribute
to moisture accumulation in walls.
After deflection and drainage, drying is
the third strategy for controlling
moisture in wall assemblies.
Moisture can be removed from wall
assemblies by drying in several ways
(refer to Figure 2.30):
n

By evaporation from the interior


or exterior wall surfaces.
By vapour transport by diffusion
and air leakage in either an
outward or inward direction.
By drainage to the outside driven
by gravity.
By ventilation in the drainage cavity.

Drainage is capable of removing


the greatest volume of water in the
shortest period of time, but a significant
amount of water may remain adhered
to wet surfaces and even held between
materials which are in contact. Stucco
and sidings made of wood and cement
will also absorb and store moisture.
This moisture can only be removed
from a wall assembly by either
diffusion or airflow, or both.
Diffusive drying can occur in either
direction, depending on the wall
system, the location of the moisture in
the wall, the weather conditions at the
time, the interior conditions and the
finishes used. Moisture always moves
towards surfaces at a lower temperature
or towards a lower water vapour
pressure. In colder climates, the
prevailing vapour flow is outwards, and
inward flow only occurs during warmer
weather or when the sun shines directly
on a wall. In hot, humid climates,
water vapour will normally be driven

Moisture Removal Mechanisms in Walls


Ventilation in the
drainage cavity
Evaporation from
the interior or exterior
wall surfaces

Drainage
driven by
gravity
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Vapour transport by
diffusion, air leakage
in either and outward
or inward direction

2.30

Part 2: Environmental Control Strategies

inward. In that climate, particularly with


air conditioning, moisture will tend
to flow towards the inside. Care must
therefore be taken to ensure that
moisture is not trapped in the wall assembly
by moisture impermeable materials.
Air leakage through the building
envelope can, under the proper
conditions, move large quantities of
moisture. Condensation and wetting of
materials can occur when air leakage is
outward in cold weather or inward in
hot weather. Conversely, drying will
occur if air leakage is inward in cold
weather and outward in hot weather.
Because air leakage through the
building envelope is usually not
controlled, it is expensive in terms of
heat loss in winter, heat gain in
summer and the associated increase in
energy consumption. Air leakage can
also affect indoor air quality by
allowing outdoor pollution or
off-gassing from wall assembly
materials to enter the living space. The
correct approach is to control air
leakage through the wall assembly with
a continuous air barrier.
Ventilation, or airflow in the cavity
behind the cladding, caused by wind
pressure differences across the face of the
building and by stack effect, where air
heated by the sun rises in the cavity,
accelerates drying (refer to Figure
2.31). Ventilation bypasses the high
vapour resistance of claddings such as
vinyl or aluminum siding, metal panels
and cement board, by allowing
outward drying through evaporation of
moisture in the cavity. Recent Canadian
research and previous European studies
have shown that ventilation drying is
very effective and occurs over extended

periods of time. Research shows that a


clear air space of at least 19 mm
(3/4 in.) behind the cladding is desirable
to encourage drying by ventilation, and
that venting at both the top and bottom
of the cavity is most effective for drying.
Ventilation openings need to be
protected to limit driving rain entry,
and too much venting may lead to the
formation of condensation on the back
of the cladding under certain weather
conditions. Either the top or bottom
vents should be restricted to between 6
and 12 mm (1/4 in. and 1/2 in.) in size.
The bottom vents may be more
restricted in size yet still permit
adequate drainage of the cavity.
Claddings such as masonry, stucco,
wood and cement board absorb water.
When exposure to direct sun heats
these materials, water vapour is
driven inwards, even in predominately
cold climates, by a mechanism called
solar vapour drive. This inward solar
vapour drive can cause condensation
formation within walls if the cladding
has absorbed a high level of moisture.
Ventilation of the cavity can reduce the
effects of inward vapour drive by safely
redirecting the water vapour to the
exterior, even in hot-humid conditions.
Only walls that are oriented to receive
direct sunshine experience these
conditions. A water-resistant barrier
(WRB) with a low water vapour
permeance is recommended to reduce
the rate of inward moisture flow.
However, this WRB must be sufficiently
permeable to allow water vapour to
flow to the outside when the vapour
drive is towards the exterior.

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Wall Ventilation Techniques

Horizontal vents at
top and bottom of wall
to allow for ventilation

Vents above
and below
window frames

Clear air space


behind cladding
for positive
ventilation

2.31

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moisture Penetration
control recommendations

air lEaKaGE
control

Controlling moisture penetration is


one of the most important functions
of the building envelope because of the
large quantities of water that are
involved and the low moisture
tolerance of most building enclosures.
The most reliable approach for
moisture penetration control involves
the strategies of deflection, drainage
and drying. Moisture can be removed
from wall assemblies by employing the
following recommendations:
n
Use sloped hip roofs and generous
overhangs with eavestroughs to
deflect and redirect rain away
from the building envelope.

Air leakage control strategies deal with


the design of the building envelope
details to address uncontrolled air
leakage in buildings. Large quantities
of moisture, up to 100 times more than
from vapour diffusion, can be deposited
in foundation, wall and roof assemblies
by air leakage. Air containing water
vapour can leak through the smallest of
openings and therefore the air barrier
system must be continuous and
carefully sealed to eliminate all holes,
cracks and openings. Air leakage is
driven by an air pressure differential
(APD) across the building envelope
assemblies and air moves from highpressure areas to low-pressure areas
(refer to Figure 2.32). The importance
of controlling air leakage through
the building envelope cannot be
over emphasized.

Use surface features, such as


cornices, drip edges, and protruding
flashings to redirect water films
away from wall surfaces.
Provide a drainage plane and
flashings to redirect moisture to
the exterior.
Provide drainage openings at the
bottom of the wall and vents at the
top of the wall to provide drainage
and ventilation airflow in a 19 mm
(3/4 in.) minimum cavity.

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Infriltration

Mechanical
(Pressure Exhaust)

Exfiltration

Exfiltration

Mechanical
(Pressure Supply)
Stack Effect
(Heating Season)

Reverse Stack Effect


(Cooling Season)

Hot air
rises

Wind Pressure

Exfiltration

Infiltration

Wind Pressure

Part 2: Environmental Control Strategies

Driving forces of air leakage

Cool air
falls

Infiltration

2.32

Part 2: Environmental Control Strategies

factors leading to air


leakage
n

Air leakage occurs in response to


air pressure differences caused by
temperature differentials between
inside and outside, the operation
of mechanical equipment and
wind around the building. These
driving forces of air leakage are
known as Wind Pressure, Stack
Effect and Mechanical Pressure.
In the heating season, when the
indoor air is warmer and lighter
than the colder and heavier
outdoor air, the warm air rises due
to stack or chimney effect, and is
displaced by the colder, heavier
outdoor air which enters at the base
of the building. When a building
is air-conditioned in the cooling
season reverse stack effect airflow
occurs, where cooled indoor air
leaks out at the base of the building,
and is displaced by warmer, lighter
outdoor air which enters at the
top of the building.
The operation of mechanical fans
is responsible for large quantities
of air leakage through the building
envelope. Supply air fans tend to
pressurize the building causing
outward air leakage, and exhaust fans
tend to depressurize the building
causing inwards air leakage.

Air leakage paths operate in both


the inward direction, referred to as
infiltration and in the outward
direction, referred to as exfiltration,
depending on air pressure differentials
caused by the driving forces. This
means that condensation can
occur in the building envelope in
both winter and summer if the
building is air-conditioned.
Air leakage through insulation
results in the deposition of dirt
and moisture and creates the
possibility of mould growth on
construction materials in the
building envelope.
Wind blowing on and over the
building creates air pressure
differentials between the inside and
outside. A positive air pressure
occurs on the windward side and a
negative air pressure occurs on the
leeward side of the building. This
results in air leakage through
infiltration on the windward side
and exfiltration on the leeward side.
Negative air pressures develop in
attics because of wind flow over
roofs. This negative pressure leads
to indoor air being drawn into the
attic through holes and gaps in
and around partitions and ceiling
penetrations (refer to Figure 2.33).

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Air leakage through ceiling penetrations


Typical air leakage paths
into an attic through
ceiling penetrations

2.33

In addition to the influence of climatic


conditions, other factors related to
the use and operation of the building
also lead to air leakage through the
building envelope:
n
Operation of heating, ventilation
and air conditioning systems
causes air pressure differentials
across different parts of the
building envelope.
n

84

Air duct leakage can result in


additional localized and overall
air pressure differences within
the building.

Supply and exhaust air ducts


located in exterior wall and roof
cavities can result in air leakage
into those cavities.
Coupling of the house air and the
basement or crawl space air is
beneficial if the basement or crawl
space is insulated and isolated from
ground moisture sources by means
of a moisture barrier. If the details
are not properly designed and
constructed, the integration of the
house and the basement or crawl
space can result in a major source
of moisture, leading to condensation
and potential damage to the structure.

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Older heating systems use indoor


air for combustion. As the products
of combustion are exhausted from
the building through chimneys or
ducts, the building is depressurized,
leading to increased air leakage by
infiltration through foundations,
walls, floors and ceilings. As cold
outdoor air infiltrates, it cools
the cladding, framing, insulation,
sheathing and interior finishes,
making these components more
susceptible to condensation and
mould growth. For these reasons
and for improved indoor air quality,
all combustion devices should have
a dedicated supply of outdoor air
for combustion. Ideally, they should
be of a sealed combustion design.
The construction of older houses
was generally very leaky. This was
due to a lack of air barrier, gaps and
openings in the sheathing, shrinkage
of lumber, and the lack of attention
to air tightness details (refer to
Figure 2.34). The high consumption
of energy was acceptable because
energy costs were relatively low
and the societal impact of energy
use was not a high priority.

design for air leakage


control
The move towards energy efficient
construction has led to an increased
awareness of the importance of
incorporating a continuous air barrier
in the building envelope. With
extensive tightening of the building
envelope to control air leakage, it is
essential that there also be a fully
distributed mechanical ventilation
system. This system must be capable of
operating on a continuous basis to
exhaust odours and moisture and
introduce fresh air throughout the
building. In very cold climates, the
ventilation system should include a
heat recovery component. It is
difficult and expensive to upgrade an
existing building to take advantage of
improvements in heating, ventilating
and air conditioning equipment and
controls. Each building constructed
today will be consuming energy for the
next 50 to 100 or more years. Wise
planning for energy conservation
measures contributes to reducing
future energy demand and consumption
a situation that the occupants will
increasingly appreciate with time.

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Typical air leakage locations in wood-frame construction.


Air will leak either in or out of the building envelope,
depending on air pressure differentials.

2.34

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Building Envelope air


tightness characteristics
n

A continuous air barrier should be


provided throughout the building
envelope by systematically sealing
together sheet or board materials
located in foundations, floors,
walls and ceilings that have low
air permeance ratings. Air barrier
systems can be constructed of
materials such as polyethylene,
plywood, OSB, gypsum board,
house-wrap, concrete, sheet
metal, glass, and foam insulations
(refer to Table 2.3.1).
The air barrier system must be
durable and last the life of the
building or be accessible for repair.
The air barrier system is the most
airtight element in the building
envelope, and as such will take the
full force of wind pressures on the
building, as well as pressures caused
by the operation of mechanical
equipment and stack effect. The
strongest of these forces is wind,
which means that the materials
used must be strong enough to
withstand the full force of wind
loading on the building as prescribed
by the local building code.

The function of the air barrier and


the vapour barrier can be fulfilled
by the same component or different
components in the building
envelope. Air barriers can be placed
at any location within a foundation,
wall, floor or ceiling assembly if
they are vapour permeable. If an
air barrier also acts as a vapour
barrier, it must always be located
in the building assembly so that it
is on the warm side of the thermal
barrier or insulation and must be
kept warm enough at all times to
prevent condensation from forming
on it (refer to Figure 2.35).

If flexible membranes, such as


polyethylene or house-wrap, are used
as air barriers, they need to be prevented
from billowing due to changes in air
pressure. Repeated movement of an air
barrier membrane, caused by wind, can
lead to failure over time. Excessive
movement of the air barrier will also
affect the ability of a wall to resist
rainwater penetration because it
compromises the pressure equalization
characteristics of a pressure equalized
rainscreen assembly. For these reasons,
it is advisable to use rigid materials or
to provide structural support for
flexible membranes in buildings over
two storeys high and in locations with
high wind exposure.

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Table 2 3 1: air Permeance of Common building Materials


Air Permeance of Common Building Materials
Material

Thickness mm

Measured Air Leakage at 75 Pa. L/s-m2

Materials with a Non-measurable Air Flow


Roofing membrane (smooth surface)

2.0

0.000

Modified bituminous torch on membrane

2.7

0.000

Modified bituminous self-adhesive membrane

1.3

0.000

Aluminum foil

8.0

0.000

Plywood

9.5

0.000

Extruded polystyrene insulation

38.0

0.000
0.000

Urethane insulation (foil back)

25.4

Phenolic insulation

24.0

0.000

Cement board

12.7

0.000

Gypsum board (foil back)

12.7

0.000

Polyethylene

0.15 (6 mil)

0.000

Plywood

8.0

0.007
0.007

Materials with a Measurable Air Flow

Waferboard

16.0

Gypsum board (moisture resistant)

12.7

0.009

Waferboard

11.0

0.011

Particle board

12.7

0.016

Polyolefin (reinforced, non-perforated)

0.020

Gypsum board

12.7

0.020

Particle board

15.9

0.026

Hardboard (tempered)

3.2

0.027

Polystyrene (expanded, type II)

25.0

0.119

Roofing felt (30 lb.)

0.187

Asphalt felt (15 lb., non-perforated)

0.271

Asphalt felt (15 lb., perforated)

0.396

Fibreboard (plain)

11.0

0.822

Fibreboard (asphalt impregnated)

11.0

0.829

Spunbonded polyolefin

0.959

Polyethylene (perforated, type II)

4.032

Polyethylene (perforated, type I)

3.231

Polystyrene (expanded, type I)

25.0

12.237

Wood planks

19.0

19.113

Glass fibre insulation

150.0

36.733

Vermiculite insulation

70.493

Cellulose insulation (spray on)

86.946

From CMHC Summary Report: Air Permeance of Building Materials, June 17, 1988

88

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Possible air barrier locations in the building envelope

Exterior air barrier

Interior air barrier

Interstitial air barrier


2.35

Flexible membrane air barriers can


also be restrained by being sandwiched
between two structural or rigid
materials. Structural sheathing
materials such as plywood, waferboard
or oriented strand board can form an
air barrier if all joints are sealed with
tape or sealants to prevent air leakage.
Durable materials must be used to
ensure the air barrier lasts the life of
the building.
Generally, it is easier to control leakage
on the outside of the structural frame
than to provide air tightness on the inside
of the frame. This is because there are
fewer penetrations, such as electrical
boxes, at the sheathing plane than there
are at the interior finish plane.
Although an air barrier located on the
inside of the frame has more electrical
penetrations which can cause air
leakage, it is inside the conditioned

envelope of the building, which isolates


it from the temperature and humidity
extremes experienced on the outside of
the frame. This helps ensure a longer
life for an interior air barrier. In colder
climates, it is common practice to install
and carefully seal polyethylene on the
inside of the stud wall, which may
perform both as an air barrier and
vapour barrier (refer to Figure 2.36).
In all climates other than warm or hot
humid, a strip of polyethylene should be
placed between the interior and exterior
wall, and a strip of house-wrap air
barrier above the top plates of the
exterior and interior walls (refer to
Figure 2.37). These will later be lapped
over and sealed to the polyethylene,
which is applied to the walls and to the
underside of the roof framing, to ensure
continuity of the air barrier where
polyethylene is used for this function.

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Combined polyethylene air and vapour barrier

Polyethylene
air/vapour
barrier made
continuous
throughout the
building
envelope

2.36

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Vapour barrier tab at ends of partitions and air


barrier over stud wall top plates
Top plate of stud
partition keyed into
exterior wall
House-wrap AB tab
over top plates of
interior and exterior
stud walls below roof

Polyethylene VB tab
between interior and
exterior stud walls

2.37

If carefully installed, the airtight


drywall approach (ADA) system uses
the interior gypsum board, foam
gaskets and sealants to provide good air
leakage control (refer to Figure
2.38). ADA can be used with or
without a vapour barrier depending
on the application and climatic
conditions. Vapour barriers that have
been used with this system include
low-permeance primer or paint,
aluminum foil backing or even loosely
installed polyethylene.
In the ADA approach, all penetrations
of the air barrier must be made airtight
by using a combination of gaskets and
sealant (refer to Figure 2.39). For more
information on the ADA system, refer
to the CMHC publication Best

Practice GuideWood-frame Envelopes


in the Coastal Climate of British
Columbia. For actual construction
sequencing of this system and other air
barrier approaches, refer to Building
Envelope Solutions Theory and Practice,
also published by CMHC.
When the air barrier is located on the
inside face of the framing, as with
sealed polyethylene and ADA air
barrier systems, pressurization of the
entire wall cavity is required for the
rainscreen cavity to quickly pressure
equalize. This will lead to a delay in
pressure equalization or moderation
and may under some conditions lead to
more wind driven rain penetration in
the cavity behind the cladding.

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Airtight Drywall Approach (ADA) air barrier

Gypsum board air sealed at all


joints and penetrations and
sealed to framing, floor sheathing
and foundation to form
continuous air barrier

2.38

Multiple air barriers can be used to


provide redundancy. In the case of air
leakage control, more than one air
barrier can be beneficial.
92

Quality control during construction is


essential to ensure that the benefits of
airtight construction are realized.
Air barrier quality control can be
provided by visual inspection during

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Example of ADA wall penetration details


Partition wall end stud
forms part of air barrier
system by air sealing to
gypsum board with
continuous gasket
Seal all wiring
penetrations through
partition wall end stud
with compatible and
durable sealant

Proprietary plastic
electrical box with foam
gasket on flange and at
wiring openings. Gypsum
board is screwed to box

Exhaust hood with


pre-insulated flexible
duct, air sealed at
gypsum board with
flange gasket

2.39

installation, and or physical testing


after installation. Physical testing
has proved to be the most effective
method. Fan door or blower
door depressurization testing during

construction both measures the actual


air tightness of a building and locates
air leaks, allowing for repair while
it is still possible (refer to Figures 2.40
and 2.41).

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Preparing for a fan-door depressurization


air tightness test
Measure house dimensions and
calculate the interior volume
to be heated or cooled
Open all
interior doors

Close all attic


access hatches

Temporarily
seal off range
hoods and
exhaust fans

Close all
operable
windows
and exterior
doors

Temporarily
seal off HRV,
exterior
exhaust and
supply hoods

Close
fireplace
combustion
air supply

Close all
outside doors

Place blower
door panel
and controls
in door opening

Temporarily
seal any
combustion
air supplies

Gas and propane fireplaces


switches off. All fireplace dampers
and doors closed

All gas water heaters, boilers


and furnaces switched off,
pilot light extinguished and
flues sealed

94

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2.40

Part 2: Environmental Control Strategies

Air tightness testing using fan-door depressurization


House placed under negative air pressure by blower door
exhausting interior air. Outdoor air drawn through air barrier.
Leaks are located and air barrier is
repaired to ensure continuity.

Air infiltration through


walls and ceiling

Temporary
air seals

Amount of
air passing
through fan
is measured
at different air
pressures
allowing the
total leakage
area of the
building to be
calculated by
the computer

Blower door controls including


fan speed controller, pressure
gauges and computer
Blower door adjustable
panel with variable high
speed fan

2.41

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air tightness in
multi-unit Buildings
In multi-unit residential buildings
each living unit, with its own heating,
ventilation and air conditioning
equipment and controls should be
isolated from other living units. This
means that partition walls, floors and
ceilings between living units should be
as airtight as the exterior building
envelope. This approach minimizes
movement of moisture, odours,
air-borne pollutants, smoke and fire
between living units, as well as reducing
transmission of air borne noise.
For added protection against uncontrolled
air leakage, ensure that all the demising
partitions, or party walls, between units
are blocked off at the exterior to prevent
outside air from leaking into or out of
these walls.

air leakage in attics


All attic/ceiling partition wall junctions
will leak air if not adequately air sealed.
Continuity of the ceiling air barrier can
be achieved by air sealing plumbing
and electrical penetrations in the
partition wall top plate, which in turn
is air sealed to the ceiling air barrier.
In some cases, the gypsum board or
polyethylene ceiling air barrier is
installed before the interior partitions
are built, resulting in greater continuity
of the ceiling air barrier.

96

Plumbing and electrical penetrations


through the ceiling air barrier should
be minimized and properly air sealed.
In all climates, it is not advisable to use
the attic space for ductwork distribution
because of heat loss or cooling loss
from the ductwork. An alternative is to
insulate the roof between the rafters or
the top chords of the roof trusses,
turning the attic into a conditioned
space located inside the air barrier, in
which the ductwork, plumbing, electrical
and other services can be located.
If ducts are located in unconditioned
attic spaces, they must be air-sealed
with a liquid sealer or durable
aluminum foil tape and fully insulated
(refer to Figure 2.42). The walls of the
ductwork above the ceiling are actually
an extension of the ceiling air barrier of
the house and must be air-sealed in the
same way to prevent air leakage.
The ductwork insulation must be
covered with an exterior vapour barrier
to prevent condensation within the
insulation in hot-humid climatic
conditions where cool air is circulated
through the ductwork.

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Air leakage in sheet metal ductwork is very


high unless air-sealed with a liquid sealer or
durable aluminum foil tape.

Air leakage at
ductwork joints

Air leakage at duckwork joints

All joints sealed with


tape or liquid sealer

Air sealing ductwork

2.42

air leakage in foundations

Foundations including crawl spaces,


basements or slabs-on-grade must be
constructed to prevent the entry of
moisture and soil gases into the living
space. This can be achieved by:
n
Providing a continuous air barrier,
extending from the floor above a
crawl space to the foundation
walls or through the basement or
crawl space floor slab
n

Draining the soil of moisture


beneath and around the foundation

Placing capillary breaks and


moisture barriers between the soil
and the footings and slab-on-grade
Insulating the foundation
ith moisture- and airimpermeable insulation
Crawl spaces vented to the exterior
have not performed well. Water
vapour is brought into the crawl
space from the exterior or the ground
leading to condensation formation
on the floor framing above the crawl
space, which can cause degradation
of the structure.

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Except for construction over


permafrost, the safest approach in
all climates is for crawl spaces to
be separated from the exterior and
insulated, air-sealed and ventilated,
heated and cooled by the house
HVAC system. Crawl spaces that are
conditioned and sealed from ground
moisture and insulated properly will
not experience moisture problems
in any season or climate.

Debris and interior dirt and dust from


the living space tend to collect in crawl
spaces, which, due to their low height,
are often difficult to access and clean.
The recommended solution is to pour
a concrete floor slab at a sufficient depth
to provide adequate height for cleaning
and the installation and maintenance
of ducting and mechanical/electrical
equipment. The floor slab, if properly
designed, can also act as a barrier against
termites and air, vapour, moisture,
and soil gas infiltration.
No part of the wood framing must
be in contact with the soil unless it is
preservative-treated.
Typically,
a
minimum 200 mm (8 in.) clearance is
required between the soil and any
wood framing or cladding material.
This dimension may be increased
because of the presence of termites or
other wood-destroying insects.

combustion air
Combustion air must be supplied to all
combustion appliances to prevent flue
gas spillage into the home. The best
approach is to completely isolate the
combustion process from the house by
using sealed equipment that supplies
combustion air directly to the firebox
of the appliance. Freestanding kerosene
98

heaters, gas heaters or charcoal heaters


that do not vent to the outside should
never be used.
When a building incorporates a
continuous air barrier, most incidental
air leakage is eliminated. This has many
benefits in terms of health, comfort,
energy conservation, durability, and
sound control. It also means that the
random air leakage that was available
before to provide replacement air for
exhaust appliances and combustion
equipment is no longer available.
Therefore, all combustion air, also
referred to as make-up air, must be
provided intentionally to ensure good
air quality and to prevent air from
being drawn down chimneys causing
flue gas spillage. Providing intentional
combustion air has advantages in that
the air can be brought in where it will
be most beneficial.

ventilation air
Ventilation air is needed to provide
healthy indoor air quality, especially in
buildings with minimal air leakage.
The outdoor ventilation air can be
supplied at the ceiling or in a high sidewall
location to minimize discomfort to the
occupants. The incoming air can also
be filtered, pre-heated or pre-cooled,
humidified or dehumidified if a
fan-forced supply is used such as in a
heat recovery ventilator (HRV) or
energy recovery ventilator (ERV).
For large capacity exhaust fans, such as
kitchen range hoods, many manufacturers
now produce make-up air supply
equipment that will provide the
necessary ventilation air requirements
when the fan is operating.

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vaPour
diffusion control
Humidity, or water vapour contained
in the air, can diffuse into, or out of,
foundation, wall and roof assemblies.
Vapour diffusion can be both
detrimental and beneficial in its effect
on the building envelope components.
When water vapour diffuses into a
building envelope assembly and
condenses on a cold surface, as it
reaches the dew point of the air,
moisture damage to materials and to
the wood-frame structure can occur
(refer to Figure 2.43). When water
vapour diffuses out of an assembly, the
moisture stored in the materials and
the wood-frame structure can dry out
by evaporation.

Vapour diffusion is a weak, slow and


uniform force and causes much less
damage than that caused by moisture
penetration and air leakage. Water
vapour in the air moves by diffusion
from moist areas with a higher water
vapour pressure, to dry areas with a
lower water vapour pressure. Water
vapour also moves from warmer areas
to cooler areas, because cooler air holds
less water vapour.
Although vapour diffusion control is
less important than the control of
moisture penetration and air leakage to
avoid moisture damage, it is still
necessary to understand the potential
for deterioration due to water vapour
diffusion and to control it.

Vapour diffusion from interior to exterior in a cold


climate can result in condensation formation and
damage to the wall assembly

Direction
of vapour
diffusion

2.43

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The dilemma
The need for vapour diffusion control
has long been recognized in cold
climates where the predominant
vapour drive is from the interior to the
exterior side of the building
envelope assemblies. The introduction of
thermal insulation materials to separate
the warm indoor spaces from the cold
outdoors resulted in the formation of
large quantities of condensation in
the assemblies, with many negative
consequences. Condensation is decreased
by the use of a vapour barrier, such as
polyethylene film, to control vapour
diffusion, located immediately behind
the interior finish on the warm side of
the insulation. This practice is
common in cold climate regions (refer
to Figure 2.44).

It has been found that the inappropriate


use and placement of vapour barriers
can also have negative consequences. In
hot-humid climates, the predominant
direction of vapour drive is from the
exterior side to the interior side of the
building envelope assemblies, particularly
when the building is air-conditioned.
Water vapour driven inward leads to
condensation formation on the exterior
side of the interior vapour barrier (refer
to Figure 2.45). This condensation
water can run down a wall cavity, wet
the insulation and wood framing and
cause significant moisture damage.

Placement of a vapour barrier on the inside of a wall


cavity in a cold climate can retard vapour diffusion
into the insulated cavity preventing condensation
Vapour barrier

Direction
of vapour
diffusion

2.44

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Locating a vapour barrier on the inside of an insulated


wall cavity in an air-conditioned building in a hot-humid
climate can also lead to condensation formation and
damage to the wall assembly.
Vapour barrier

Direction
of vapour
diffusion

2.45

In hot-humid climates, the use of low


vapour permeance interior finishes has
also led to serious consequences. Vinyl
wallpaper acts as a vapour barrier that
traps condensation inside the gypsum
wallboard and can lead to severe mould
and mildew growth. Interior finishes
must be vapour permeable in hot-humid
climates to allow for drying of the
assemblies to the interior. In addition,
the builder must inform the homebuyer
of the possible negative consequences
of using a vinyl wallpaper finish.

Possible solutions
Experience has shown that excessive
water entry into a wall cavity due to
rain in climates with high levels of
precipitation can exceed the ability of
the wall to dry out, particularly if a
vapour barrier has been installed on the

inside of the wall assembly. Considerable


discussion has taken place about the
contribution of vapour barriers to
this problem of insufficient drying
capability. Some building scientists have
recommended that vapour barriers not
be used in wet climates so that the walls
can dry by evaporation to the inside.
To accomplish this, the wall system
requires the use of a water vapour
impermeable exterior insulation with
no insulation in the stud spaces and a
water vapour permeable interior finish
(refer to Figure 2.46). This approach
also requires that the water vapour
pressure differential (WVPD) be lower
on the inside of the wall assembly than in
the insulated wall cavity. A dehumidifier
or air conditioning should be used to
dehumidify the interior air and thereby
reduce the water vapour pressure.

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Insulating a wall cavity on the outside of the


sheathing with impermeable insulation will resist
water vapour diffusion in both winter and summer
and allow for drying of the structure to the interior
and drying of the cladding to the exterior. Although
more costly than an insulation filled cavity, this
option will work in many climates.
Vapour
barrier

Vapour
diffusion
from the
exterior

Vapour
diffusion
from the
interior

2.46

There is also the risk that a low-permeance


interior finish, such as vinyl wallpaper,
may be installed in the future by
uninformed owners, thereby hindering
the drying out of excess moisture in
wall cavities to the interior. Even the
use of multiple layers of conventional
wallpaper or oil-based paint may
eventually lead to such high water vapour
resistance that the ability of a wall to
dry to the interior would be impaired (refer
to Table 2.4.1). In cooling climates, the
covering of exterior walls by cabinets,
mirrors and artwork may also significantly
reduce the potential for drying to the
interior and lead to moisture related
problems in the wall assembly.
102

control of vapour diffusion


There are several possible solutions
for effective water vapour diffusion
control. Some are listed below and will
be illustrated in Part 4.
In cold climates where the predominant
direction of vapour drive is from the
inside to the outside:
n
An effective air barrier is needed
to prevent air leakage into
insulated cavities of walls, floors
and roof.
n

A vapour barrier is required on


the inside or warm side of
the insulation.

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Table 2 4 1 Water Vapour Permeance of Common


building Materials
Water Vapour Permeance of Common Building Materials
Material

Thickness

Measured Air Leakage at 75 Pa.

Concrete (1:2:4 mix)

100.0

47.0

Brick masonry

100.0

46.0

Concrete block

200.0

137.0

Glazed tile masonry

100.0

6.9

Asbestos cement board

3.0

220.0-458.0

Plaster on metal lath

19.0

860.0

Gypsum wall board (plain)

9.5

2,860.0

Gypsum sheathing (asphalt impregnated)

13.0

2.9

Structural insulating board (interior, uncoated)

13.0

2,860.0-5,150.0

Hardboard (standard)

3.2

630.0

Plywood (Douglas fir interior glue)

6.4

109.0

Plywood (Douglas fir exterior glue)

6.4

40.0

Aluminum foil

0.025

0.0

Aluminum foil

0.009

2.0

Construction Materials

Vapour Diffusion Retarders

Asphalt kraft paper facing

17.0

Polyethylene

0.051 (3 mil)

9.1

Polyethylene

0.010 (4 mil)

4.6

Polyethylene

0.150 (6 mil)

3.4

Polyester

0.025

42.0

Polyvinylchloride (unplasticized)

0.051

39.0

Paint
Vapour-retarder paint

26.0

Vinyl-acrylic primer

49.0

Vinyl-acrylic enamel (semi-gloss)

378.0

Exterior acryic

313.0

Asphalt paint on plywood (2 coats)

23.0

Aluminum varnish on wood

17.0-29.0

Enamel on smooth plaster (2 coats)

29.0-86.0

Primer plus flat oil paint on plaster (1 coat)

91.0-172.0

Insulation
Mineral wool

100.0

2,450.0

Extruded polystyrene

50.0

34.0

Expanded Polystyrene

50.0

58.0-168.0

Expanded polyurethane

50.0

12.0-46.0

From 2005 ASHRAE Handbook: Fundamentals, SI Edition

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Part 2: Environmental Control Strategies

Vapour diffusion resistance can be


provided by polyethylene sheeting
or other vapour-resistant materials.
Sufficient vapour diffusion
resistance can be provided by the
application of a low vapour
permeance primer and paint finish.

104

Activities that lead to high interior


relative humidity levels, such as
cooking and washing, require
appropriate ventilation to remove
excess moisture, especially in kitchens,
bathrooms and laundry rooms.
Many types of construction methods
and materials can be used to
construct building envelope
assemblies to control vapour diffusion.
Indoor humidity levels can be
reduced with mechanical
dehumidification. Ventilation
equipment using outdoor air alone
will tend to decrease indoor humidity
levels and cool the house. Therefore,
a Heat Recovery Ventilator (HRV)
that will preheat incoming outdoor
air for ventilation is recommended.

In hot-humid climates where the


predominant direction of vapour drive
is from the outside to the inside:
n
An effective air barrier is
always required
n

A vapour barrier is required on


the outside or warm side of
the insulation.

Vapour diffusion resistance can be


provided by a variety of moisture
and vapour resistance materials,
such as exterior sheathings, foam
insulations and water-resistant
membranes (refer to Figure 2.47).
In hot climates, attics can be kept
cool by placing low permeance,
rigid insulation over the roof
sheathing or by applying spray
insulation directly to the underside
of the roof sheathing. This allows
the attic space to be included in
the air-conditioned space inside
the building envelope enclosure.
This unvented roof design provides
an air-conditioned space in which
to run heating, ventilation and air
conditioning ducts.
Use of low-permeance interior
finishes may be acceptable if no
air leakage occurs from the outside
into wall and ceiling cavities and
there is sufficient water vapour
diffusion resistance at the exterior.
Activities that lead to high interior
relative humidity levels, such as
cooking and washing, require special
attention through use of materials
that are not moisture-sensitive.
Indoor humidity levels can be
reduced with mechanical
dehumidification. Ventilation
equipment using outdoor air
alone will tend to increase indoor
humidity levels. Therefore, an
Energy Recovery Ventilator (ERV)
that will dehumidify incoming
outdoor air for ventilation
is recommended.

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Placing low vapour permeance, rigid insulation on


the exterior side of a wall retards vapour diffusion
into insulated wall cavities in hot-humid conditions.
Vapour
barrier

2.47

In mixed climates, a variety of wall


assemblies are suitable for use. Some
assemblies can be used in most types of
mixed climates, that is, climates that
have both dry and humid conditions,
while others are simply modified
versions of more conventional
wood-frame construction. In all of
these cases, the use of low vapour
permeance finishes is permissible as
long as a high level of air tightness is
provided. In climates with cold winters
and warm, humid summers, a modified
wood-frame construction can be used
with a vapour barrier located within
the wall assembly so that no more than
one-third of the total insulation value

of the wall is located inside the vapour


barrier and not less than two-thirds
of the total insulation value is located
outside the vapour barrier (refer to
Figure 2.48).
In climates with hot, humid summers
and relatively mild winters, modified
wood-frame construction details can
be used with a vapour barrier located
within the wall assembly so that
one-half of the total insulation value of
the wall is located inside the vapour
barrier and one-half of the total
insulation value is located outside the
vapour barrier (refer to Figure 2.49).

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A vapour barrier can be located partway through a


wall if the temperature of the vapour barrier always
stays above the dew point temperature of the air
with which it is in contact.
Water vapour
prevented from
reaching the
dew point by a
continuous
combined air
and vapour
barrier

Batt
insulation

Dew
point
Combined
air and
vapour
barrier

2/3
RSI value

1/3
RSI value

2.48

Placement of the vapour barrier with equal


insulation value on each side will prevent
condensation formation during winter and summer in
climates with mild winters and hot-humid summers.
Vapour
Barrier

Vapour
diffusion
from outside

Vapour diffusion
from inside

2.49

106

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Another approach is to use a standard


wood-frame wall assembly, with or
without insulation in the stud spaces
and with an air and vapour barrier
sandwiched between exterior rigid
insulation and the exterior structural
wall sheathing. Cladding installed over
the rigid insulation provides protection
for the insulation from moisture and a
drainage plane between the sheathing

and the insulation provides for


moisture penetration control by
draining moisture to the exterior.
Some Exterior Insulation and Finish
Systems (EIFS) fall into this category
and perform well in most climates,
provided that the system incorporates a
drainage plane behind the external
insulation (refer to Figure 2.50).

Exterior Insulation and Finish System (EIFS) wall


incorporating drainage channels, pressure-equalized
two-stage joints and a water resistant barrier
membrane or coating.
Vertical drainage
channels cut into
insulation

Water resistant
barrier membrane
(WRB)

Insulation

Two-stage joint
for pressure
equalization and
drainage at joints
between panels

Base coat
with mesh
Finish coat
2.50

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smart vapour Barriers


The location of the vapour barrier in a
construction assembly depends on the
direction of the vapour drive, which is
usually from the interior to the
exterior in cold and mixed climates and
from the exterior to the interior in hot,
humid climates. When humidity
levels and the direction of vapour drive
change with seasonal variations in the
climate, it is difficult to determine
where in the assembly to place the
plane of low water vapour permeance.
In cold and mixed climates the vapour
barrier cannot effectively control vapour
diffusion in both directions and in
both high and low humidity conditions.
A vapour barrier that could control
vapour diffusion on the interior side of
an assembly in winter conditions and
on the exterior side in summer conditions
would be ideal. But, placing vapour
barriers on both the interior and the
exterior sides of the same assembly is not
recommended because of the potential
for trapping moisture between the two
low-permeance planes. What is required
is a vapour barrier material that can
change its water vapour permeance
characteristics in response to changes
in humidity levels and in the direction
of the vapour drive.
With the development of smart vapour
barrier technology a material now
exists that is able to change its water
vapour permeance in response to
changes in the relative humidity levels
of the air. Nylon monofilm smart vapour
barrier materials have a vapour permeance

108

of 57 ng (1 perm) at 50 per cent


relative humidity and 1,144 ng
(10 perms) at 75 per cent relative
humidity. This smart vapour barrier
material is recommended for use in
cold and mixed climates where annual
outdoor relative humidity levels are
relatively low. In the heating season
when the relative humidity in the wall
cavity is low, or below 30 per cent, the
material placed on the inside of the
assembly works as a Type II vapour
barrier, and in the cooling season
when the relative humidity in the wall
cavity is high, or above 75 per cent, the
microscopic pores in the material open
up to allow for drying of the water
vapour in the wall cavity to the inside
of the assembly. When the relative
humidity in the wall cavity drops to
below 50 per cent, the pores close
and the material again functions as a
vapour barrier.
This smart vapour barrier material
is not recommended for use on the
outside of an assembly in hot, humid
climates with high annual outdoor
humidity levels, because the pores in
the material would remain open
allowing water vapour to enter the
assembly from the outside.
The type and location of the vapour
barrier should be carefully considered
to respond to the local climatic
conditions, whether using traditional
impermeable or semi-permeable vapour
barrier materials or smart vapour
barrier materials that can change their
vapour permeability.

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hEat transfEr
control
The control of heat transfer or heat
flow through the various components
of the building envelope is very
important in the creation of healthy,
safe and comfortable housing. It is
also essential for energy efficient,
environmentally responsible buildings
of all types, in all climates.
Wood-frame building envelopes do not
deteriorate as a direct result of heat
transfer, but do deteriorate from
moisture damage caused by condensation
that is indirectly a result of heat flow
through the building envelope
assemblies. Thermal insulation keeps
the heat in, or out of, the assemblies. It
also causes vapour impermeable materials,
such as exterior plywood sheathing
or interior polyethylene vapour
barriers to become cool enough for the
water vapour passing through the
assemblies by vapour diffusion or air
leakage to condense on them. As a
result, heat transfer must be controlled
in conjunction with vapour diffusion
control and air leakage control to prevent
moisture damage to wood-frame
building envelopes.
Heat and cold are basic physical factors
acting on the building envelope.
Heat naturally moves, or flows from
a warm area to a relatively cooler area.
For example, heat transfer occurs from
the inside of a house to the outside in
cold weather, from the exterior to the
interior in hot weather, and from a
warm room in a house to a cooler area,
such as the basement. Although heat
transfer or flow cannot be stopped, it
can be slowed down or resisted. If

the heating or cooling is stopped, the


inside air temperature of a building will
eventually rise or drop until it reaches
the exterior air temperature. In a cold,
or heating climate the predominant
direction of heat flow is from the warm
interior to the relatively cooler exterior
in winter, and in summer the flow is
reversed from the hot exterior to the
relatively cooler interior. In a hot, or
cooling climate the predominant
direction of heat flow is from the hot
exterior to the relatively cooler interior
in summer and from the warmer
interior spaces to the relatively cooler
exterior in winter. In both hot and cold
climates, and in mixed climates, seasonal
variations in climatic conditions will
change the direction of heat flow.
Keeping the heat in, or keeping the
heat out is essential for all buildings, in
all climates. Heat transfer is controlled,
or resisted, by construction materials in
the building envelope assemblies that
combine to provide a thermal barrier
between the interior and exterior
environments. Heat flow must be
controlled in all of the building
envelope components, including the
foundation, walls and roof as well as in
windows, doors and skylights. All
building materials have a natural
resistance to heat transfer. Thermal
insulation is the most important
thermal, or heat barrier material in
construction assemblies because it has a
high resistance to heat transfer.
All of the building materials in an
assembly, together with the interior and
exterior air films, combine to provide an
overall thermal resistance value, or
RSI-value (R-value), for a part of the
building envelope.

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Thermal measurements

2 Thermal Transmittance or u-Value:

The transfer of heat through the building


envelope can be quantified by using the
following thermal measurements:

The thermal transmittance value


measures how well an assembly
transmits heat. This measurement is the
U-value. The U-value is commonly used
to indicate the thermal transmission
properties of window glazing, but
can be applied to any assembly. The
U-value is the inverse of the R-value,
that is U = 1 / R. For example, RSI-4
would be a U-value of 0.25 W/m2C.

1 Thermal resistance Value:


The thermal resistance value of a
building envelope component is a
measurement of how well a material
or assembly of materials resists the
ransfer or flow of heat. The R in
R-values (and RSI values) stands for
resistance to heat flow. In Imperial
measurement, it is expressed in
ftFh/Btu. In the metric Systeme
International (SI) system, it is measured
in Km/W or Cm/W. The metric
thermal resistance of a given material
is usually reported in RSI-value per
millimetre of thickness and the
imperial R-value is per inch of thickness.
Some materials have higher thermal
resistance values than other materials.
For example, mineral fibre insulation
has a thermal resistance value of
RSI-0.024 per mm. (R-3.5 per in.),
softwood lumber is RSI-0.0087 per
mm. (R-1.3 per in.) and steel has a
much lower thermal resistance value of
RSI-0.0000049 per mm. (R-0.003 per
in.). The higher the value, the better
the material resists the transfer of heat
and the lower the value, the better the
material conducts heat.
The following equations show how to
convert from metric RSI-values to
Imperial R-values, and the reverse:
a) RSI-value x 5.678 = R-value
b) R-value x 0.1761 = RSI-value
See Table 2.5.1 for the thermal resistance
of common building materials.
110

3 Thermal Conductance or C-Value:


The C-value or thermal conductance is
analogous to the U-value, but is for a
specific component in an assembly.
For example, 90 mm (3.5 in) batt
insulation has a C-value of 0.38 W/m2C
(0.067 Btu/hrft2F). The inverse of
the U-value gives the overall R-value of
the wall, whereas the inverse of the
C-value gives the R-value of the
specific wall component. The 90 mm
(3.5 in) batt has an RSI-2.6 m2 C/W
(R-14.9 ftFhr/Btu.).
4 Conductivity or k-value:
The conductivity or k-value, is a
measure of the conductance of a
material per unit length. The k-value
typically gives the conductance per
unit meter of the material, or per inch
or foot in Imperial measurement. The
k-value is usually given for materials that
can be used with a variable thickness.
For example, blown-in cellulose
insulation has a k value in the range of
0.039-0.046W/mK (0.27-0.32 Btuin/
hrft2F). To convert the k-value to a
C-value, divide the k-value by the unit
thickness. So 0.305 m (12 in) of
blown-in insulation has a C-value in
the range of 0.127-0.151 W/m2C
(0.023-0.027 Btu/hrft2F).

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5 nominal and effective


Thermal resistance:

There are two ways to calculate the


thermal resistance of an insulated
building assembly.
The building
components in the assembly have a
nominal thermal resistance and an
effective thermal resistance. The
nominal thermal resistance refers to
the thermal resistance rating of the
insulation material that is installed in
an assembly. For example, a 38 x 140 mm
(2 x 6 in.) wall constructed with wood
studs at 400 mm (16 in.) on centre
complete with glass fibre batt insulation
in the stud spaces has a nominal thermal
resistance of approximately RSI-3.52
(R-20). For the same wall, the effective
thermal resistance may be from 15% to
30% less. The effective thermal
resistance takes into account the thermal
resistance of the interior finishes, the
exterior sheathing, the exterior
cladding, the interior and exterior air
films and, most importantly, the
wood-framing members. The wood
studs, metal connectors and plates act
as thermal bridges in the wall
assembly by conducting heat to the
outside of the wall assembly. The
effective thermal resistance is usually
lower than the nominal thermal
resistance rating. It is important to select
materials that will comply with the
applicable building code minimum
thermal resistance requirements for
each building assembly.
The following points should be
considered when designing wood-frame
buildings to provide adequate effective
thermal resistance values in all of the
building envelope components:

Wider spacing of studs, rafters and


joists and the elimination of
unnecessary framing members,
along with the associated increase
in insulation, will minimize
thermal bridging and provide
higher effective thermal resistance
in the building assemblies.
Polyurethane or sprayed insulations
have higher initial nominal thermal
resistance values than mineral fibre
or glass fibre batt insulation and
blown-in cellulose insulation.
Insulative exterior sheathings, such
as rigid polystyrene and
polyisocyanurate foam board may
be used to increase the effective
thermal resistance of wall assemblies.
Effective thermal resistance values
of common building materials and
assemblies can be found in the Model
National Energy Code for Houses,
available from the National
Research Council of Canada.
Temperature Differential and
Temperature gradient:

When designing the thermal properties


for a foundation, wall or roof assembly
a useful measurement is the Temperature
Differential across the assembly. The
temperature differential, in either metric
or imperial units, measures the difference
in temperature from the inside to the
outside of the assembly and is referred
to as the Delta T (rT). For example,
if the design air temperature on the
interior of a wall assembly is +20C
and the minimum expected air
temperature on the exterior of the wall
is -20C, the temperature differential
across the wall assembly is 40C. The

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temperature differential is used by the


designer to determine the expected
heat loss for a given R-value.
The basic equation for the heat loss
through a wall is:
Q = U x A x (rT) or Q = A x (rT)/R
where:
Q is the rate of heat flow, in watts
rT is the difference between To (outside
temperature) and Ti (inside temperature)
A is the area of the surface being measured
U is the thermal transmission of a material
RSI is the resistance to heat flow
(metric (SI) value) in m2 C/W, or R
(Imperial value) in ftFhr/Btu.
To calculate heat loss:
Here is a simplified calculation of the
heat loss through 1 m2 of a wall in the
insulation space between the studs,
where the indoor temperature is 20C
and the outdoor temperature is -20C
(refer to Figure 2.51):
The overall temperature difference
(rT) is 40C.

To calculate the temperature of a wall


component:
Reverse the equation to find the
temperature at any point in the wall.
This is a very important procedure
that will help determine the dew point
in a wall.
Start by calculating the ratio (To - Ti)/R.
Then, starting from the outside air,
calculate the temperature increment
(rT) across each wall component by
multiplying the ratio calculated and
the thermal resistance from the outside
air to the wall component in
question (Rc).
rTc = Rc (To - Ti) / R
Then, calculate the temperature of each
component (Tc), where T = To rTc.
Here is an example of how to calculate
the temperature between the glass fibre
insulation and the OSB (fig 2.5.1):
Rc = 0.005 + 0.021 + 0.03 + 1.761 +
0.003 = 1.82 m2 C/W
rTc = 1.82 x (-20 - 20)/5.4 = -13.48 C
T= -20 - (-13.48) = -6.52 C

The overall thermal resistance (R) of


the wall is RSI-5.4.
The wall area (A) is 1m2.
Using the equation Q=A x (rT)/R,
Q = 1 m2 x 40C/5.4 m2 C/W
= 7.4 Watts.

112

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Typical temperature gradient through a wall


assembly for a heating climate
Wall Component

RSI ( R ) Value Deg. C temp.


component
change across
component

Exterior air film


Aluminum siding
Air space with strapping
50 mm (2 in.) extruded polystyrene
Building paper or house-wrap
moisture barrier and wind barrier
11 mm (7/16 in.) OSB sheathing
38x140 mm (2x6 in.) wood studs
with glass fibre batt insulation
Polyethylene vapour barrier
12.7 mm (1/2 in.) gypsum board
Interior air film
Theoretical temperature gradient
Total

2.51

The temperature differential of any


building envelope component can be
graphically represented by a Temperature
Gradient diagram, which illustrates
how each of the materials in an assembly,
including the interior and exterior air
films, resists the transfer of heat
through the assembly (refer to Figure
2.51). By changing the thermal properties
of the materials, such as the type and
quantity of insulation, the wall can be
designed to provide the optimal
temperature gradient across the
wall assembly.

Calculating the surface temperature of


materials with low vapour permeability
is an important step in determining the
potential for condensation. This is done
by plotting the results on a psychrometric
chart (refer to Figure 2.52). A
psychrometric chart is a graph of the
physical properties of moist air at a
constant pressure. It graphically expresses
how different properties of air relate to
each other. The properties that can be
found on most psychrometric charts
include dry-bulb temperature, wet-bulb
temperature, dew point, relative humidity
and humidity ratio.

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Psychrometric Chart

yA

ir)

Psychrometric Chart

io
nT
em

pe
ra

tu
re
(

C)

Ent

hal

py
a

Humidity Ratio (gm water/gm Dry Air)

tS
atu

rat

ion

(J/g

Dr

SI (metric) units
Barometric Pressure 101.325kPa (Sea level)
Based on data from
Carrier Corporation Cat. No. 794-001, dated 1975

lb
Bu
att
W

S
of

at
ur
at

Dry Bulb Temperature ( C)

2.52

The ambient temperature is plotted


on the horizontal and is called
dry-bulb temperature. The relative
humidity is plotted along the red
curves. The top line represents 100%
relative humidity and can be used to locate
the dew-point where condensation
occurs (when moisture in the air
becomes water). So, by finding the
indoor temperature along the bottom
and following the line up to intersect
with the relative humidity, we can then
cross horizontally (towards the left) to
find the dew-point temperature. In the
examples illustrated on the graph, we
see that 20C air with a relative
humidity of 50% RH has a dew-point
of 8.5C, while dryer air at 20C and
30% RH will condense at 2C.
In a hot and humid climate with
air-conditioning set to 25C, start with
114

the outdoor conditions, 35C at 80%


RH. By plotting those conditions, we
can see that this warm and humid air
will condense at 31C. This means
that the vapour barrier needs to be on
the outside of the wall to prevent
condensation inside the wall cavity. If a
polyethylene vapour barrier were
placed behind the drywall, as in most
cold-climate construction, moisture
would condense in the wall, because
the inside surface temperature of
approximately 25C is well below the
dew-point temperature.
This is an important exercise since an
impermeable vapour barrier in the wall
must be located on the warmer side of
the dew-point temperature for the
most commonly occurring climate
conditions. In climates that are both
very cold and very hot, the vapour

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barrier will likely be on the wrong side


of the dew-point temperature for part
of the year.

heat transfer mechanisms


Heat flows or moves through the
building envelope because it is driven
by the forces of four heat transfer
mechanisms: conduction, convection,
radiation and air leakage. These driving
forces will eventually, over time, transfer
all of the heat in a heated building, or
all of the cold in a cooled building
through the building envelope, unless
it is replaced with newly heated or
cooled air. All four of the heat transfer
mechanisms can occur simultaneously.
By understanding how these mechanisms
work, heat transfer can be controlled.

1 Conduction:
Heat is transferred by conduction
through opaque, solid materials, such
as metal, wood and insulation. Heat
causes the molecules in the material
to become excited and heat moves
through the material. A material that is
a good conductor of heat, such as copper,
is a poor insulator and allows heat to flow
through it freely. A large quantity of
heat is transferred through the solid
wood framing members, the sheathing
materials and the metal connectors in
an assembly. These thermal weak spots
are referred to as thermal bridges. All of
the wood-framing members in a wall,
taken together can represent up to
15 per cent of the total wall surface,
presenting a significant source of heat

Heat transfer by conduction

Cold
exterior

Warm
interior

Hot
exterior

Heat loss by
conduction

Cool
interior

Heat gain by
conduction

Thermal Bridge
through studs

2.53

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Part 2: Environmental Control Strategies

transfer (refer to Figure 2.53). A


steel wall stud creates a particularly
conductive thermal bridge through a
wall assembly. Thermal insulation
placed on the outside of the structure
greatly reduces heat loss and heat gain
from conduction due to thermal
bridging. Conduction transfers heat to
the cooler side of foundation, wall
or roof assemblies in both heating
climates and cooling climates.
2 Convection:
Heat is transferred by convection
through a fluid, such as water, or air. As
the air in an empty wall cavity is
warmed it naturally rises and the space
it previously occupied is then filled by
cooler, heavier air in the vertical cavity.
When the warm air reaches the top of

the cavity it is cooled as it comes into


contact with cold sheathing materials.
The air continues to rise and fall in the
vertical cavity and a convective loop is
created. This continuous loop acts like
a conveyor belt taking the heat
from the warm side of the wall and
depositing it on the cooler side of the
wall (refer to Figure 2.54). Thermal
insulation in a wall cavity suppresses
convection inside the insulation
material and minimizes heat loss or
heat gain by convection by eliminating
the convective currents in the vertical
cavity. Convection transfers heat to the
cooler side of a wall assembly as heat
loss in a cold climate and as heat gain
in a hot climate.

Heat transfer by convection

Interior
Exterior

Warm air rises

Heat loss or gain


by convection
Convective loop in wall cavity
Cool air falls

2.54

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3 radiation:
Heat is transferred by radiation through
transparent or translucent materials,
such as air or glass, and can also occur
in a vacuum. Radiation comes from the
sun as both visible light and invisible
light, such as infrared radiation, and
from any warm object, such as a light
bulb. Heat waves radiate heat from a
warm object to a relatively cooler object
(refer to Figure 2.55). For example, the
heat radiated from the sun or from a
heat lamp can be felt on your skin.
The air between the objects is not
warmed; only the objects themselves
are warmed. In houses, much of the

heat loss or heat gain due to radiation


occurs
through
the
glazing
in windows and doors, although some
heat transfer due to radiation also
occurs in the air spaces in wall and roof
assemblies. Radiation through glazing
can be controlled by low-emissivity, or
Low-E, coatings applied to the
glazing units. Insulation reduces heat
transfer by radiation in walls and roofs
by filling the air spaces through which
heat can radiate. Reflective radiant
barrier materials placed inside roof and
wall assemblies also minimize heat
transfer by radiation through these
solid assemblies.

Heat transfer by radiation


Exterior

Interior

Exterior

Heat gain from


exterior by
radiation through
glazing

Interior

Heat loss from


interior by
radiation
through glazing

2.55

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4 air leakage:
Heat is transferred by air leakage
through openings in all of the
components of the building envelope.
The heated interior air in cold climates,
and the cooled interior air in hot
climates, is forced through openings
in foundation, wall and roof assemblies
by air pressure differentials across the
assembly. Heat can be lost or gained
in a building through exfiltration or
infiltration of air leaking through the
building envelope (refer to Figure
2.56). The smallest of cracks, holes and
tears in the air barrier can allow large
volumes of air to pass through
the building envelope assemblies.
Significant quantities of energy are
wasted as a result of the loss of heated

or cooled air by air leakage. Heat


transfer by air leakage can be controlled
by using a continuous, effective air
barrier system in the building envelope.

heat loss and heat Gain


The transfer of heat through the
building envelope can have both
positive and negative effects on the
indoor environment of a building,
depending on the local climate. In
cold, or heating climates heat loss is to
be avoided for the health and comfort
of the occupants and for energy
conservation, while heat gain from the
sun, or Passive Solar Heat Gain, is
desirable for reducing heating costs. In
hot, or cooling climates where heat
gain is to be avoided and heat loss is

Heat transfer by air leakage


Cold
exterior

Warm
interior

Hot
exterior

Heat loss by
exfiltration air
leakage

Cool
interior

Heat gain by
infiltration air
leakage
2.56

118

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desirable to reduce cooling costs, the


opposite is true. Within almost all
climatic zones, seasonal variations in
climatic conditions complicate the
issue because a combination of both heat
loss and heat gain is required for most
buildings, depending on the season.
Heat loss can be decreased by:
n
Using appropriate levels and types
of thermal insulation.
n

Installing an effective air


barrier system.

Providing windbreaks against


prevailing winds in winter
with vegetation, fences or
adjacent buildings.

Using Low-E coatings on window,


door and skylight glazing.
Orienting the building to
maximize Passive Solar Heat Gain
through glazing in the cold season.
Minimizing fenestration on the
north side of buildings in the
Northern hemisphere and the south
side in the Southern hemisphere.
Using external insulation over the
wood-frame structure.

Heat gain can be decreased by:


n
Using appropriate levels and types
of thermal insulation.
n

Installing an effective air


barrier system.
Providing sun shading with roof
overhangs, awnings, shutters,
blinds, louvres and trellises.
Planting deciduous vegetation for
sun shading in summer.

Orienting the building to


minimize Passive Solar Heat Gain
through glazing in the hot season.
Minimizing fenestration on the
south side of buildings in the
Northern hemisphere and the north
side in the Southern hemisphere.
Minimizing fenestration on the
east and west side of buildings in
both hemispheres, to reduce low
sun angle heat gains.
Using Low-E and reflective
coatings on window, door and
skylight glazing.
Cladding the exterior with light
coloured and reflective wall and
roof materials.
Using external insulation over the
wood-frame structure.
Providing natural ventilation and
taking advantage of prevailing
winds for cooling.
Using radiant barriers.

sources of heat
There are a number of sources of the
heat associated with buildings, some
naturally occurring and others
purchased. For the effective control of
heat transfer for both heating and
cooling, it is important to know the
origins of the heat.
Heat in buildings comes from all of the
following three sources:
1 Purchased energy:
Energy to operate heating and cooling
equipment in buildings comes from
electricity, oil, natural gas, propane,

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coal, wood or other cellulose based


materials, geo-thermal power and
heat pumps. Electrical energy can be
produced from hydro, solar, photovoltaic
cells, wind, tidal energy, and oil, gas,
coal or wood fired generators or
garbage incineration.
2 solar radiation:
Heat can be created from solar radiation
by Passive Solar Heat Gain coming
through the glazing in windows, doors
or skylights and from active mechanical
systems, such as solar thermal collectors
or photovoltaic cells. The energy from
the sun can be used to operate both
heating and cooling systems.
3 Internal Heat:
Considerable quantities of heat are
produced from internal heat sources,
including the occupants, lighting,
domestic hot water systems, appliances
and other mechanical and electronic
equipment.

The Thermal Barrier


The thermal barrier in a building
envelope component is comprised of
all of the construction materials in the
assembly, since all materials have some
thermal resistance value. Of all these
materials, the thermal insulation is by
far the most important and effective
material in the thermal barrier. It is the
insulation material that provides the
majority of the total thermal resistance
in the assembly.
Minimum levels of thermal resistance
for foundation, wall and roof assemblies
are identified in most building codes,
and are determined by climatic conditions,
the type of energy used for space
120

heating and cooling and the preferences


of the builders and occupants.
Although the use of insulation is the
most important way of keeping the
heat in buildings in cold climates, it is
also important to keep the heat out of
buildings in hot climates. Insulation is
also effective at absorbing sound, and is
commonly used in wall and floor
assemblies to improve acoustical
privacy between dwelling units.
Fire-resistant insulation materials are
also used to improve the fire resistance
in wall, floor and roof assemblies.
In cold climate regions prior to the
1940s, wood-frame buildings were
commonly uninsulated or at best,
poorly insulated. Occupant health and
comfort suffered, but the durability
of the wood-frame structures was
excellent, mainly because the heated
interior air moved freely through the
envelope assemblies to the exterior,
keeping the wood-frame structure
warm and dry. The escaping heat dried
out any moisture that may have
penetrated the exterior cladding and
also dried out the insulation, sheathing
and finishes in the assemblies. This was
acceptable at the time because
purchased energy costs were very low.
With rising energy costs and a demand
for more comfortable dwellings,
thermal insulation was introduced to
wood-frame construction in the 1950s.
It was soon discovered that the insulation
was keeping the heat in the building,
but it was also keeping the heat out of
the wall and roof assemblies. This resulted
in cooler material temperatures and
condensation problems. Before the
introduction of insulation, heat loss
through the walls and ceilings dried

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out any accumulated moisture and


did not allow the formation of
condensation. In fact, putting insulation
into wall and roof assemblies increased
the potential for wetting from
condensation and decreased the
potential for drying by heat loss.
It soon became apparent that water
vapour must be kept out of insulated
assemblies to avoid condensation
damage, hence, the vapour barrier was
introduced in the 1960s. After
many decades of experience and
research, deterioration of wood-frame
envelopes continued and it was only in
the 1970s that the importance of
moisture transport by air leakage
became well understood and the air
barrier was introduced.
It is now clear that all buildings, in all
climates must have a moisture barrier
to control the penetration of exterior
moisture and water vapour, an air
barrier to control moisture transport by
air leakage, a vapour barrier to control
the diffusion of water vapour from the
interior and the exterior, and finally,
a thermal barrier to control heat
transfer. It is the combination of all
four of these environmental barriers or
separators working together that produces
durable,
long-lasting,
comfortable,
environmentally responsible and energy
efficient wood-frame buildings.
Insulation applied to the outside of
the structure reduces heat loss from
thermal bridges at the studs and
reduces the formation of cracks and
holes in the building envelope by
protecting the structure from movement
due to thermal expansion and
contraction. Tightly fitted insulation in
stud spaces completely fills the cavities

and eliminates the convective currents


that cause heat loss by convection. The
trapped still air in the insulation
material also reduces heat loss or gain
by radiation. Insulation must be
carefully placed in cavities and over
sheathing to eliminate any gaps or
spaces between the insulation and the
studs or sheathing. Gaps and spaces
that allow air to circulate around or
behind the insulation create a short
circuit and reduce the effectiveness of
the insulation. A gap as small as
3 mm (1/8 in.) between the insulation
material and the sheathing can result in
a 40 per cent reduction in thermal
resistance value of the insulation.
In cold climates there is a danger that
warm, moist air moving through a
building assembly towards the
exterior, will cool to below the dew
point temperature, causing the water
vapour in the air to condense
within the assembly. This can damage
moisture-sensitive materials, such as
glass fibre insulation, wood framing
members and sheathing materials. The
location of the dew point in the assembly
is determined by a combination of four
factors: interior temperature, interior
humidity, exterior temperature and the
thermal value of the insulation, or
thermal resistance (RSI-value or R-value),
of the construction materials that make
up the assembly. By choosing the proper
type and quantity of insulation
and by maintaining interior humidity
at a level below 55% RH, condensation
within the building assemblies can
be avoided.
The thermal barrier is equally
important in hot climates. Thermal
insulation placed on the exterior side of

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the wood-frame structure minimizes


heat gain by conduction through the
framing members. Insulation in the
wall stud spaces and in the attic space
above the ceiling keeps unwanted heat
out of the wall and roof assemblies
by minimizing heat gain by radiation
and convection.

types of Thermal insulation


There are many types of thermal
insulation from which to choose. Some
are better suited for certain uses and
locations than others (refer to Table
2.5.1). All insulation materials work on
the same principle, that is, by
trapping gas between the particles,
fibres or inside the cells, this creates a
thermal resistance to the transfer
of heat.
Thermal insulation can be divided into
categories based on the type and
density of the material used. Insulation
materials can be categorized as follows:
n
batt Type: Low-density fibrous
materials that are friction fitted
into cavities.
n

122

Not all insulations are intended for use


in all locations in an assembly, because
of their different moisture resistance
properties. Some insulations, such as
glass fibre batts or blown-in cellulose,
are appropriate for interior use only on
the interior side of the water resistant
barrier, also referred to as the weather
resistive barrier. Others, such as
semi-rigid mineral fibre, extruded
polystyrene and polyurethane boards
can be used on the exterior side of the
moisture barrier. Some insulation
materials, such as extruded polystyrene,
polyurethane foam board or sprayed
insulation must be covered to protect
them from exposure to ultraviolet
radiation, and must also be protected
from exposure to fire. Local building
codes will indicate where different
types of insulation may and may not be
used and how they must be protected
from moisture, radiation and fire.

loose fill: Low-density fibres or


particles that are poured or
sprayed into cavities.
board stock: Medium to highdensity, semi-rigid or rigid, fibrous
or foam board materials that are
applied to the surface of assemblies.
spray applied: Low to high-density
particles or expanding foam that
are sprayed into cavities.

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Table 2 5 1 Types of insulation


Insulation Type

RSI/m
(R/in.)

Characteristics

Advantages-Disadvantages

Batt
Glass fibre

21 26
(3.0 3.7)

Fibrous blankets 1.2 m


(48 in.) long, friction fit
between studs.

Low cost. Readily available.

Mineral fibre

19 26
(2.8 3.7)

Denser than glass fibre.

Better fire resistance and


soundproofing qualities than
fibreglass.

Cotton wool

21 26
(3.0 3.7)

Natural product similar to


glass fibre.

Not readily available.


Natural material.

Loose fill (Loose fill insulation usually installed by a professional contractor.)


Glass fibre

21 26
(3.0 3.7)

Light fibrous fill.

Can be displaced by air


movement in attics.

Mineral fibre

19 26
(2.8 3.7)

Light fibrous fill.

Good resistance to fire and


damage from wetting

Cellulose fibre

21 26
(3.0 3.7)

Fine particles, denser than


glass or mineral fibre.

Better resistance to air


movement than other loose fill
insulations. Can settle if not
installed properly.

Type I and II
(Expanded)
polystyrene or
EPS

25 - 31
(3.6 4.4)

White board of small


(about 8 mm (0.3 in.) in
diameter) foam beads
pressed together.

Usually no HCFC used in


production. Must be covered.

Type III and IV


(Extruded)
polystyrene or
XPS

35
(5.0)

Homogeneous foam board.

Works well in wet conditions,


can act as a vapour retarder.
HCFC (an ozone depleter and
greenhouse gas) usually used in
production. Must be covered.

Rigid glass fibre

29 - 31
(4.2 4.5)

A dense mat of fibres,


usually less rigid than
polystyrene.

Resistant to water.

Rigid mineral
fibre

29 - 31
(4.2 4.5)

Similar to rigid glass fibre.

Resistant to water.

Polyisocyanurate

39 - 53
(5.6 7.7)

Foil-faced rigid foam.

HCFC usually used


in production.

Board stock

Spray applied (All spray-applied insulations must be applied by specialized contractor.)


Wet spray
cellulose

21 - 26
(3.0 3.7)

Polyicynene

25
(3.6)

Polyurethane

40 - 47
(5.8 6.8)

Fine particles held in place


by a binder.

Soft, spray foam that


expands into the cavity.

Can act as the air barrier.


Must be covered.

Foam that expands into the Can act as the air barrier and
cavity and solidifies.
vapour retarder. HFC used in
production. Must be covered.

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radiant Barriers
Heat transfer through the glazing in
windows, doors and skylights has long
been controlled by using low-emissivity
coating radiant barriers. Heat loss and
heat gain through foundation, wall and
roof assemblies can also be controlled
by introducing a Radiant or Radiation
Barrier into the assembly. Radiant barriers
control heat transfer by reflecting heat
energy back into the interior of buildings
in cold climates or back to the exterior
in hot climates. Radiant barriers are
particularly effective in controlling
heat gain in hot climates, where they
contribute to savings in energy costs
for cooling. Radiant barriers can also
be effective in cold climates by
reducing heat loss by radiation, resulting
in savings in energy costs for heating.
Radiant barrier materials must have a
shiny or reflective surface to effectively
reflect heat energy away. Radiant
barrier materials only work effectively
when facing an air space. Heat can be
easily radiated across an open air space,
such as an empty, uninsulated wall
cavity or an open attic space above the
insulation. Radiant barriers are used in
exterior walls to either keep the heat in,
or keep the heat out, but they are most
important in ceiling assemblies,
particularly in hot climates, where they
reflect the suns radiation away from
the attic space. The reflective skin on
foil-backed gypsum board will reflect
some heat energy back into the room,
but the gypsum board material
between the foil and the air space of
the room, will reduce the overall
effectiveness. Foil-faced foam insulation
boards on the exterior of the wall
sheathing also only work effectively
124

when facing an air space behind the


exterior cladding.
A light-coloured reflective roofing
material, such as galvanized or painted
metal, is a simple and effective radiant
barrier. A radiant barrier can also be
created within a roof assembly by
draping reflective aluminum foil sheets
over the roof trusses or rafters before
installing the roof sheathing. This
creates open air spaces below the roof
sheathing and between each truss,
allowing the heat energy to be radiated
back towards the exterior by the
radiant barrier.
There are two basic types of radiant
barrier materials:
1 foil:
Aluminum or Mylar foil, either on its
own or laminated to other materials,
such as gypsum board, polyethylene
film, foam insulation boards or exterior
sheathing materials. The shiny surface
of the foil reflects radiant heat energy
away from the building envelope.
2 Coatings:
A number of paint products or reflective
coatings are available for use as radiant
barriers. Some products use suspended
aluminum particles in the mix that
form a very thin layer of aluminum
when the paint dries. Other paints
contain suspended hollow microscopic
ceramic spheres that provide a reflective
and insulative layer on the finished surface.
Together with low-E coatings on
glazing, radiant barrier materials in
foundations, walls and roofs can reduce
heat transfer by radiation and reduce
purchased energy costs.

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sourcEs
of dEtErioration
The previous chapters have provided
an analysis of how the four physical
forces of moisture, air, vapour and
heat act upon the four building
envelope components of foundation,
walls, roof and openings and also
provided recommendations as to how
to best control the actions of these
forces. It is clear that the control of
these physical forces by using the
appropriate environmental barriers or
separators is essential for the successful
design and construction of durable
wood-frame buildings.
The following list identifies the
physical forces to be controlled and the
environmental barrier that controls
them, in order of importance:
1. Moisture Penetration Moisture
Barrier (or Water Resistant Barrier
(WRB))
2. air leakage Air Barrier
3. Vapour Diffusion Vapour
Barrier (or Vapour Retarder)
4. Heat Transfer Thermal Barrier
(or Heat Barrier)
The most powerful and destructive
force, by far, is moisture penetration
through the building envelope. Water
penetration is the most serious cause of
deterioration to the building envelope.
Air leakage, vapour diffusion and heat
transfer also cause damage to the
building envelope by carrying moisture
into the assemblies, which contribute
to the deterioration of the envelope.

The durability of wood-frame buildings


is affected by a number of deterioration
mechanisms acting on the building
envelope. Almost all of the following
sources of deterioration, with the
exception of UV radiation and
chemical incompatibility, are caused or
supported by the presence of moisture.
Without moisture penetration, the
wood-frame building envelope would
not suffer from durability problems.
The single most important factor in
producing
durable
wood-frame
building envelopes is the control of
moisture penetration.

decay
Wood framing members and wood
based sheathing materials are organic
materials and are therefore subject to
decay, or rot. If untreated wood products
are continuously wetted by moisture,
they will eventually be destroyed by
decay. Some wood species, such as
cedar and redwood are naturally more
resistant to decay when exposed to
moisture than are commonly used
wood-framing species, such as spruce,
pine or fir, but all wood materials are
subject to deterioration by decay in
varying degrees.
The framing members and sheathing
used in all of the wood-frame building
envelope components must be kept dry
to avoid deterioration from all the types
of decay caused by micro-organisms,
including both wet rot and dry rot.
By limiting moisture penetration from
all sources, including precipitation,
ground water, condensation and
plumbing leaks, using proper
environmental barriers, and carrying

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out regular inspection and maintenance,


deterioration of wood-frame structures
by decay can be controlled.

corrosion
Corrosion or rust occurs when ferrous
metals, such as untreated steel, come
into contact with moisture and air. The
metal materials begin to deteriorate by
corroding or rusting and will eventually
be completely destroyed. The metal
fasteners and connectors used in
wood-frame buildings are subject to
deterioration by corrosion and can
cause the failure of the wood-frame
structure. It is common practice to use
zinc galvanized hangers, plates and
connectors, as well as nails and screws
to resist the effects of corrosion in
wood-frame structures.
Another source of corrosion of the
metal components used in wood-frame
structures is the type of chemicals used
in pressure-treated wood products.
Prior to 2004 pressure treated, or
P.T. wood used Chromated Copper
Arsenate (CCA) as the preservative
agent. The presence of arsenic in this
formulation was discontinued because
it was determined to be a health hazard,
particularly for young children. This
old preservative was only mildly corrosive
to metals and presented no real problems.
The new pressure-treated wood products
use Alkaline Copper Quaternary
(ACQ) or Copper Azole (CA) as the
preservative agent and have been found
to be significantly more corrosive to
metal than the old CCA agent. Steel
hangers, connectors, plates, screws,
nails and anchor bolts, and in particular
aluminum sheet materials, such as
flashings, can be severely corroded by
126

the new preservatives used in


pressure-treated wood products. To
minimize the potential for corrosion
from contact with pressure-treated
wood products the following
recommendations should be followed:
n
Sheet aluminum materials should
not be placed in direct contact
with P.T. wood.
n

Use pre-finished or hot-dipped


galvanized steel or stainless
steel flashing materials over
pressure-treated wood.
Use only hangers, connectors and
plates that are stainless steel or have
a hot-dipped galvanized coating,
not electroplated galvanizing.
Use only stainless steel or hotdipped galvanized nail, screw and
bolt fasteners and avoid the use of
coated deck screws.
Consult the manufacturers
specifications for the compatibility
of other metal materials with
pressure-treated wood.

Corrosion can also occur when certain


metals are placed in direct contact with
each other. This is called Galvanic
Reaction or is also referred to as
dissimilar metal corrosion. For
example, copper in direct contact with
zinc will create corrosion, while copper
with stainless steel will not.
Corrosion and rust can be controlled
by selecting and using the appropriate
construction materials and by
conducting regular inspection and
maintenance to keep corrosion problems
in check.

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fungal Growth
Many types of fungal growth can occur
in wood-frame buildings, the most
important of which are molds. Molds
are forms of fungi that occur indoors
and outdoors and break down organic
materials, such as wood, paper and
other natural materials. Mold spores
are dispersed through the air and are
deposited on organic materials where
they digest the organic material, grow
and reproduce to release more spores
into the air. Fungal growth can contribute
directly to the deterioration of woodframe buildings by causing the decay of
organic materials, and indirectly, if
severe enough, by rendering a building
uninhabitable by causing health
problems in the occupants.
Mold can grow on wood-framing
members, wood based sheathing
materials, wood trim and furniture,
paper-faced gypsum board and organic
ceiling tiles, carpets and fabrics. For
mold to grow there must be four
conditions present: air to sustain the
mold, moisture to allow the mold to
survive, a food source for the mould to
digest, and spores to implant the mold.
Although we cannot eliminate air,
mold spores or food sources in our
houses, we can control one condition
moisture.
The moisture necessary for fungal
growth can come from a variety of
sources: foundation, wall or roof leaks,
condensation, plumbing leaks, sewer
back-ups, ground water penetration,
flooding and water damage from fires
or occupants activities. Mold can be
visible on the surface of materials or
hidden in wall and roof cavities, for

example, on the back-face of gypsum


board and ceiling tiles or under carpets.
Wet or damp areas, such as basements,
bathrooms and laundry areas are
particularly susceptible to fungal
growth, which can be identified
visually or by smelling a musty or
mouldy odour in the air. Concealed or
hidden mold in foundation, wall and
roof cavities presents the most
difficult situation, because the mould is
difficult to locate and remove. Harmful
molds in buildings can be found by
visual inspection, and the problem can
be addressed.
In recent years it has been well
established that exposure to fungi,
particularly molds, can cause allergic
and other health problems in people.
Molds produce allergens, irritants and
toxins, all of which can cause health
problems, such as allergic reactions,
asthma and other respiratory ailments.
Mold spores can enter the body through
inhalation, ingestion or skin contact.
Existing mold problems can be
remedied by identifying and
removing the moisture source,
thoroughly removing visible mould
from non-porous materials by cleaning
with detergent and water, and by
cutting out and removing all mould
damaged materials and replacing them
with new clean materials. All traces of
mold must be removed because even
dead mould can cause health problems.
The only way to control fungal growth
is to control moisture. Mold will not
grow if there is no source of moisture
present. Mold problems have increased
with improved air-tightness in
buildings, because this reduces the
potential for buildings to dry by air

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leakage. Excessive humidity in buildings


leads to more condensation and more
fungal spores in the air. Fungal
growth is discouraged by providing
both
natural
and
mechanical
dehumidification and maintaining the
indoor relative humidity below the
level at which condensation occurs.
Also, by incorporating all the necessary
environmental barriers to control
moisture penetration and by conducting
regular inspection and promptly repairing
moisture-damaged materials, fungal
growth of all types can be controlled.

ultra-violet radiation
As well as contributing to heat loss
through the various building envelope
components, particularly the glazing
in windows, doors and skylights,
ultra-violet, or UV radiation can also
contribute to the deterioration of the
construction materials used in the
various assemblies. UV radiation
comes from the sun. UV is a powerful
form of radiation that can break down
materials at the molecular level and in
some cases severely damage certain
construction materials.
Spun-bonded polyolefin fabric moisture
barrier material, or house-wrap, is
susceptible to degradation from
exposure to UV radiation. The
manufacturers clearly state in their
product literature that once installed,
the house-wrap material must be
covered by the exterior cladding within
120 days or the product guarantee is
void. The deterioration of the fabric
by UV radiation can reduce the
moisture resistance of the material and
allow moisture to pass through the water
resistant barrier.
128

Foam insulation can also be damaged


by long term UV radiation exposure.
The plastic foam material changes
colour, which is an indication that
the material has begun to deteriorate
as a result of prolonged exposure to
UV radiation.
Another example of material
deterioration occurs with some
exterior sealants that dry out and crack
or split after long-term exposure to UV
radiation. This compromises the
weatherproof seal around, for example,
windows and doors, and allows
moisture penetration to occur.

insect control
Insect control, particularly in warm
and hot climates, is a necessary and
important consideration for the design
and construction of durable wood-frame
buildings. Many types of insects,
including flies, cockroaches, ants,
spiders, bees and other species can
infest houses, but it is the insects that
feed on, or burrow into wood materials
that are most significant. Of these,
carpenter ants and termites are, by far
the most destructive because of the
damage they can cause to wood-frame
buildings. Termites and carpenter ants
like to build their nests in warm moist
areas, therefore if moisture and heat
can be kept out of the wood members,
the termites and carpenter ants will not
enter the structure.
Insect infestation, particularly by
termites, can also be controlled with
borate-treated lumber. Borate treatment
is not toxic to humans, but toxic to the
wood-digesting bacteria that inhabit
the digestive system of termites.
Without the bacteria, digesting the

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wood becomes impossible and the


termites die. Borate treated framing
lumber and sheathing can be used in
locations such as sill plates, floor joists,
rim joists, wall bottom plates and floor
sheathings to provide a second line of
defence should the termites enter the
wood-frame wall structure through
entry tunnels constructed on the
outside surface of foundation walls.
In wall systems with uninsulated stud
spaces, there is an increased potential
for invasion by insects. A useful form
of insect control involves filling the
stud spaces with blown-in insulation,
such as cellulose, which has been treated
with borate. There is also the added
benefit of moisture buffering of the
wall assemblies by adding insulation in
the cavities. The insulation stores
the moisture until it can be dried out
by evaporation.
Termites have been advancing into
colder climates because the heat loss
into the ground from heated houses
provides the subsoil conditions termites
need to survive the cold winter months.
The long-term resistance of a house to
insect attack, particularly by termites,
will be improved by raising the wood
framing components above the ground
and placing them on top of a concrete
wall or slab. The use of metal termite
shields around the perimeter of the
house may also be effective. A simple
polyethylene vapour barrier covering
the ground in a crawl space does not
provide the protection needed to prevent
infestation by termites. A durable
material, such as concrete, without
joints or cracks is needed for this porpose.

Where permitted, the use of chemical


pesticides can control the termite
colonies that may establish themselves
in a building. To ensure the durability
of wood-frame construction in
termite-infested areas without using
pesticides, all crawl space foundations
should be constructed with a well
reinforced concrete slab-on-grade. The
advantages of crawl spaces with a
reinforced concrete slab-on-grade in
controlling insect infestation are:
n
Proper insect control is achieved
because the reinforcing in the
slab controls cracking in the
concrete and eliminates the points
of entry for insects, especially ants
and termites.
n

With insect entry eliminated,


crawl spaces can then be used for
other purposes, such as storage.
The higher the foundation wall is
above grade the more easily termite
tunnels can be detected on the
outside of the foundation walls
and removed. A recommended
minimum height from grade to
the top of the foundation wall is
450 mm (18 in.).
The use of wood-frame pony walls
or wooden posts and beams bearing
on the concrete slab-on-grade to
carry the floor and bearing wall
supports above is possible in this
type of foundation and is inexpensive
to build. This significantly reduces
floor spans, thereby reducing the
cost of the floor joists.

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Proper moisture control can be


provided with drainage around the
foundation walls and footings and
with a moisture barrier under the
slab-on grade, thereby eliminating
the moisture necessary for the
insects, particularly termites, to
survive.
Sufficient height in crawl spaces,
typically 600 mm to 900 mm (2
ft. to 3 ft.) or preferably more, is
needed to permit easy access for
inspection and treatment of any
insect infestation problems.

One of the simplest ways to keep


insects out of a building is to use
metal or glass fibre insect screens on all
window, door and skylight openings
and carefully seal any cracks, holes and
openings in the building envelope.
Most importantly, to avoid the
deterioration of wood-frame structures
from insect damage moisture penetration
must be eliminated. Without a source
of moisture insects cannot survive.

chemical incompatibility
Another source of deterioration
for building envelopes is chemical
incompatibility
between
various
construction materials that are placed
in direct contact with each other in a
building assembly. For example,
rubberized asphalt roofing membrane
and air barrier materials are adversely
affected by solvents contained in certain
adhesives, or for another example, plastic
foam insulation materials can be
deteriorated by bituminous materials,
such as roofing cement. Caution
should be taken when placing
130

different construction materials


together in an assembly. Refer to
manufacturers product specifications for
information on chemical compatibility
with other materials.

vEntilation
As described earlier, a continuous air
barrier should be used to increase
building envelope durability in all
climates. A continuous air barrier reduces
the random natural ventilation that
occurs due to air leakage through cracks
and holes in the building envelope.
While this uncontrolled air leakage
can result in an increase in indoor
humidity and pollutants, these problems
can be overcome in following ways:
n
Chemical emissions or off-gassing
can be reduced by the selection and
use of low toxicity interior finishes.
n

Moisture formation can be


prevented on the interior surfaces
and inside the building assemblies
by proper design, construction
and selection of materials.
Increased indoor humidity and
pollutants can be controlled by
providing adequate ventilation.
Air leakage can be controlled by
using an effective air barrier.

Distributed, whole-house ventilation is


the most effective way to provide fresh
air for the occupants and to exhaust
odours, moisture and pollutants
produced by building materials,
furniture and cleaning agents (refer to
Figure 2.57). Ventilation was provided
in older houses by air exchange that
occurs naturally between a building

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and the surrounding atmosphere


through air leaks in the building
envelope. Ventilation by air leakage
can be supplemented by opening
windows, operable vents and exhaust
fans in kitchens and bathrooms.
In airtight buildings, the provision
of the necessary ventilation must be
carefully planned. Three approaches can
provide adequate whole-house ventilation:
n
natural ventilation relies on the
natural forces of wind pressure and
stack effect to move the air.

Mechanical ventilation relies on


mechanical equipment, such as
fans, to exhaust and/or supply air.
Hybrid ventilation utilizes
natural ventilation but enhances it
with fans and automated dampers.

These approaches can be used in


combination to provide the ventilation
needed for a building. Each approach
requires a different level of participation
by the occupants. The most energy
efficient way to achieve the desired
level of ventilation occurs when

Pollution sources in the home include, mould, cigarette


smoke, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), such as
formaldehyde, emitted from particle board and other
finishes, moisture generated by cooking, bathing and
washing, products of combustion from kerosene or
gas heaters, cleaning agents and soil gases.

2.57

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natural ventilation is utilized to the


greatest possible extent. The amount of
ventilation needed to maintain a
comfortable interior environment is
determined by each occupants idea
of comfort, and is influenced by
temperature and relative humidity.
Room temperatures between 18C and
25C are comfortable for most people.
Relative humidity greater than 60 may
feel too damp for many occupants, and
promotes mold growth. Ventilation
provides a small amount of temperature
and humidity control; effective control
requires mechanical heating, cooling
and conditioning.
The choices made by the occupants to
achieve a certain level of ventilation are
often linked to their ability to control
sun shading, since thermal comfort is
the prime motivation for occupants to
open windows. However, most
occupants rely on mechanical systems
for ventilation when that capability
has been built into the building.
Automatic switching between natural
and mechanical ventilation, while
possible in the future, is beyond the
level of sophistication of residential
systems in current use.

natural ventilation
Natural ventilation is driven, by stack
effect and wind pressure. Because these
driving forces are determined by the
local climatic conditions, the ventilation
rates are variable and require the
participation of the occupants to
control the ventilation excesses that
may occur. The stack effect is stronger
when there is a large temperature
difference between indoors and outdoors
and also in higher buildings. During
periods of the year when the outdoor
air temperature approaches the indoor
temperature,
the
temperature
differential will not be sufficient to
provide air exchange. The effectiveness
of wind-driven natural ventilation
will also vary with the wind speed
and direction.
It may appear that there is a conflict
between natural ventilation and air
tightness of the building envelope. In
fact, it is possible to construct naturally
ventilated airtight buildings that
perform better than leaky buildings,
because the air leakage can be
controlled and the rate of natural
ventilation can also be controlled.
Natural ventilation can be achieved
by either single-sided ventilation or
cross-ventilation. For single-sided
ventilation to be driven by stack effect,
high and low openings in the walls
should be used (refer to Figure 2.58).
Providing a high ceiling also aids
this approach.

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Natural ventilation driven by stack effect within a room

Air
out

Warm air
rises

Air
in

2.58

Wind-driven ventilation using single-sided ventilation


Air baffle
Air
out

Air
out

Air
In

ling
Prevai

winds

Positive
air pressure

Negative
air pressure

ling
Prevai

winds
2.59

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Single-sided ventilation from prevailing


winds can be improved by using tall,
casement windows and by placing
projecting elements on the face of the
building to control wind direction
(refer to Figure 2.59).
Although it is possible to provide limited
natural ventilation with openings
located on one side of a building, the
most effective natural ventilation occurs
when there are openings on both the
windward and leeward sides of a
building. This is easily done with
detached houses, but can also be achieved
with other building forms such as:
n
Apartment buildings with singleloaded corridors or single-loaded

external balcony access, as is often


seen in hot climates.
n

Townhouses up to four storeys


high, where each unit has two or
more exposures.
Apartment buildings that have
internal or external staircases and
up to four units per floor with
windows on two or more sides.

For wind-driven cross-ventilation to


work effectively, the interior floor plans
must be relatively open and the ratio of
building depth to ceiling height should
be no more than five-to-one (refer to
Figure 2.60).

Ratio of building depth to ceiling height for


wind-driven ventilation
Direction of prevailing winds

Air
Out

HEIGHT
MAXIMUM BUILDING DEPTH = 5 X HEIGHT

2.60

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Building forms that aid buoyancy or stack effect


driven ventilation
Air
Out

Air
Out
ROOF WINDOW

AIR
SHAFT

Air
In

Air
In

Cross
ventilation

Cross
ventilation

Air
In

Air
In
2.61

The natural buoyancy of air caused by


stack effect can also drive ventilation
vertically through a building if the
building has an open plan. Natural
buoyancy can be further aided through
the use of atria, chimneys, fans and
wind scoops (refer to Figures 2.61
and 2.62).
The location and orientation of the
building can aid natural ventilation by
positioning the building and openings
in the correct relationship to prevailing
winds. Vegetation can also be used to
capture wind and redirect it into the
building (refer to Figure 2.63).

Natural ventilation is an excellent way


to provide fresh air and cooling to
buildings under some climatic
conditions, because it requires few
moving parts and little, if any, direct
energy to operate. However, occupants
must accept the following limitations in
houses with natural ventilation systems:
n
Relying on natural ventilation will
mean that ventilation rates will
vary with weather conditions.
n

Although natural ventilation


systems require little direct
energy for their operation, they do
require considerable vigilance
by the occupants to maintain
comfort control.

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Building forms that aid buoyancy or stack


effect driven ventilation

Air
Out
Cross
ventilation
ATRIUM
Air
In

Cross
ventilation

2.62

Modifying wind flow with landscaping


Hedges
or trees

Prevailing
winds

Air
In

WIND FLOW AROUND BUILDING


WITHOUT LANDSCAPING

Air
Out

MODIFYING WIND FLOW


WITH LANDSCAPING
2.63

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Uncontrolled natural ventilation


during heating or cooling
conditions can consume energy.
The temperature differences that
cause buoyancy or the stack effect
are intensified by the heating
systems in winter and cooling
systems in the summer. As
outdoor air is introduced into the
building, it must be heated or
cooled, requiring more energy
consumption.
In some cases, solar heat gain can
supply the increased temperature
differential required to propel the
natural ventilation system, but this
may decrease occupant comfort.
Distribution of natural ventilation
is difficult to predict.

hybrid ventilation
The performance of natural ventilation
can be enhanced with fans and controls.
When wind pressure and stack effect
are unable to move adequate amounts
of air, fans can assist in moving air
through the building and providing
effective
distribution.
Hybrid
ventilation systems operate in two
modes, using natural ventilation part
of the time and assisted by mechanical
ventilation at different times of the day
or season. The mode of operation
used at any time depends on the
conditions in the building and the
ambient weather conditions. The main
difference
between
conventional
ventilation systems and hybrid systems
is that hybrid systems use intelligent
control systems that can automatically
switch between natural and mechanical
modes to minimize energy consumption.

mechanical ventilation
The third whole-house ventilation
option is mechanical ventilation.
There are three types of mechanical
ventilation systems:
a. Exhaust systems
b. Supply systems
c. Balanced systems.
a exhaust systems draw air out of the
house, placing it under a negative
pressure and relying on building
envelope air leakage or intentional
openings, such as windows, for the
supply of make-up air.
b supply systems blow air into the
house, placing it under a positive
pressure and relying on air leakage
through exhaust fans and ductwork
and through the building envelope for
the exhaust of excess air.
c balanced systems use fans that supply
and exhaust air at equal rates so the air
pressure difference across the building
envelope is minimized. Exhaust and
supply systems cause airflow through
the building envelope. This can result
in condensation formation in the
building envelope assemblies under
certain conditions. Balanced systems
minimize airflow through the building
envelope, thereby reducing the
possibility of condensation formation.
Mechanical ventilation systems can
vary from a simple bathroom exhaust
fan to a sophisticated fully distributed
energy recovery ventilation system.
Simple kitchen and bathroom exhaust
systems rely on building envelope air
leakage to provide make-up air to

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replace the air that has been exhausted.


With airtight buildings, these simple
types of ventilation systems cannot
provide adequate ventilation for the
whole house.
It is important to recognize that the
ventilation system layout, quality of
installation and type of equipment
used, contribute equally to the
effectiveness of the system. A poorly
installed high quality ventilation system
will not deliver satisfactory results.

advantages
n
Low cost
n

There are two types of exhaust


ventilation systems:
a. Basic Exhaust Only Systems

b. Central Exhaust Only Systems


n

a basic exhaust Only systems


A basic exhaust only ventilation system
usually consists of a small, quiet
bathroom fan controlled by a centrally
located humidistat or timer. Make-up
air is provided by natural air leakage
through the building envelope (refer to
Figure 2.64). This type of system is
used primarily in milder climates and
where building codes do not require
distribution of fresh air around the
house. Complaints of poor air quality,
high humidity and surface condensation
have been reported in houses without
forced air heating and cooling systems,
particularly in bedrooms and closets.

138

Provides some dehumidification


in winter

Disadvantages
n
Unpredictable and ineffective
ventilation air distribution
n

Exhaust systems

Controls indoor humidity levels


when a humidistat is used

n
n

No filtration of ventilation air


No pre-heating or pre-cooling of
ventilation air
No humidification or
dehumidification of ventilation air
May draw pollutants into the
indoor environment
May draw moisture, air pollutants
and radon gas from crawl space
areas
May cause occupant discomfort
due to drafts
No energy recovery possible
May draw moisture into
assemblies from the exterior

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Basic exhaust only ventilation system


Low noise bathroom fan

Ductwork sealed
and insulated

On/off switch or
momentary timer
Centrally located
dehumidistat or
time of day timer

Exhaust
air

Ventilation air
provided by
random infiltration
through building
envelope

Exhaust
air

2.64

b Central exhaust Only systems


In this type of ventilation system, a
continuously operated central exhaust
fan is usually ducted from bathrooms,
laundry rooms and kitchens and in
some cases may also be ducted from
bedrooms (refer to Figure 2.65).
Make-up air is provided by natural
air leakage through the building
envelope. These ventilation systems
have been widely used in apartment
and townhouses where non-forced air
heating systems are used. These systems
perform well in controlling humidity
in winter and in providing effective
air distribution.

Central exhaust only ventilation


systems are only appropriate for use in
mild heating climates and for small
dwelling units with non-forced air
heating systems. These systems also
depend on a relatively airtight building
envelope to work effectively.
advantages
n
Can control indoor humidity levels
n

Provides dehumidification

Quiet operation

Provides continuous air exchange

May provide different levels of


ventilation for day and night,
if desired

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Exhausts air from multiple


locations providing better
ventilation air distribution
Lower installation cost than other
distributed ventilation systems

Disadvantages
n
n

Minimal filtration of ventilation air


No pre-heating or pre-cooling of
ventilation air
May draw pollutants into the
interior environment
May draw moisture, air pollutants
and radon gas from crawl space areas
May draw moisture into
assemblies from the exterior

No dehumidification of make-up
air in the summer which increases
air conditioning costs

supply only systems


In a supply only ventilation system,
outside air is forced into the house by a
fan and air is exhausted through air
leaks in the building envelope or
through intentional openings such as
exhaust air grilles (refer to Figure 2.66).
The most common form of
supply only ventilation systems consist
of a duct bringing exterior air to the
return air plenum of a forced air
furnace. The furnace fan may operate
continuously to provide ventilation, or
it may operate when triggered by a
timer or humidistat.

Central exhaust only ventilation system

Ductwork located inside


building envelope to
prevent condensation

On/off switch or
momentary timer
Separate
stove
exhaust
air

Centrally located
dehumidistat or
time of day timer
Ventilation air
provided by random
infiltration through
building envelope
Central
exhaust
ventilator

Exhaust
air

2.65

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Supply only ventilation system


Centrally located
dehumidistat or
time of day timer

Electromechanical
damper

Mixed recirculated
and ventilation air
distributed around
house

Supply
air

Force air
furnance

Filter
Preheater

Air flow
control
damper
2.66

advantages
n
Relatively low cost when a
forced-air heating system is used
n

Provides fresh air distribution


throughout the house

n
n

Can utilize high-efficiency filters

Disadvantages
n
Very cold outside air may damage
the heating system in cold climates.

May cause discomfort in heating


season when air being supplied from
floor grilles is not adequately heated
Increased energy consumption
No pre-cooling of outside
ventilation air in summer
No dehumidification of air
in summer
May drive moisture into the
building envelope assemblies by
exfiltration of air

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Balanced systems

a basic balanced Ventilation systems

In balanced ventilation systems, the


movement of both the supply and exhaust
air is forced by fans. There are four
types of balanced ventilation systems:
a. Basic Balanced
Ventilation Systems

This system usually consists of a forced


air furnace with a duct to the return air
plenum on the supply side and a
separate ducted or non-ducted exhaust
fan (refer to Figure 2.67). The two fans
either operate continuously or are
controlled by a humidistat or timer, so
that they operate together.

b. Re-circulating Central
Ventilation Systems
c. Heat Recovery
Ventilation Systems

advantages
n
Provides fresh air distribution
throughout the house

d. Energy Recovery
Ventilation Systems

n
n

Can provide filtration of incoming air


Eliminates pressurization problems
associated with supply only systems

Basic balanced ventilation system


Centrally located
dehumidistat or time
of day timer
controlling operation
of furnace fan and
central exhaust fan
Ducted central
exhaust fan
Air flow control
damper
Exhaust air
Supply air

Air flow
control
Supply air
preheater

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Part 2: Environmental Control Strategies

Eliminates depressurization
problems associated with exhaust
only systems

Disadvantages
n
May cause discomfort in winter
when air being supplied from the
floor grilles is not adequately heated
n

Increased energy consumption for


both heating and cooling
No pre-cooling or pre-heating of
outside ventilation air
No humidity recovery during
heating season

for both outside air and recirculated


inside air.
RCVs are limited by the quantity
of outdoor air they can supply because
they depend on the mixing of
recirculated air to heat or cool the
incoming air. Total ventilation is
limited because high quantities of
incoming outdoor air would result in
discomfort and potential condensation
on ducts.
advantages
n
Provides ventilation air
distribution throughout the house
n

No dehumidification during
cooling season

Consumes more energy for


continuous operation than
dedicated ventilators
n

b recirculating Central Ventilator


systems (rCV)
A Recirculating Central Ventilator
(RCV) consists of a single fan
contained in an insulated box (refer
to Figure 2.68). The fan draws air from
the house, exhausts part of it to the
outdoors, and mixes the remaining
indoor air with outdoor air. The
RCV then delivers this mixture of
recirculated and outside air back to
the living spaces through a supply duct
system. The outdoor air is tempered by
mixing it with the recirculated air. The
RCV exhausts the same quantity of air
as is brought in from outside, so that
the ventilation is balanced. Some
systems also control the quantity of
outdoor air based on its humidity.
Most RCVs also provide built-in filters

Filters incoming air


When operated in balanced mode,
can eliminate pressurization
problems associated with supply
only systems
When operated in balanced mode,
can eliminate depressurization
problems associated with exhaust
only systems

Disadvantages
n
Can recirculate odours around
the house
n
n

Limited ventilation capability


Increased energy consumption
for heating.
No humidity recovery in
heating season
No dehumidification in
cooling season
Requires separate bathroom and
kitchen exhaust fans

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Recirculating central ventilation system


Exhaust air
drawn from
single or
multiple
locations

Mixed house air and


ventilation air supplied to
single or multiple locations

Separate
stove
exhaust

Exhaust
air out

Ventilation
air in

Recirculating central
ventilation (RCV)

c Heat recovery Ventilation systems


Heat Recovery Ventilator (HRV) systems
consist of a central heat recovery
ventilator unit that contains two fans
and a heat transfer core, ductwork and
controls (refer to Figure 2.69). When
properly installed, the HRV exhausts
stale moist air from the bathrooms,
laundry room and kitchen, and supplies
fresh air to all other habitable rooms.
As the stale and fresh air streams move
through the HRV unit, heat is
transferred from the warm exhaust
air to the cool supply air. HRVs were
developed primarily for use in
heating climates.
144

2.68

There are two methods of supply air


distribution used with HRVs:
1. Independent and separate
supply and exhaust duct systems
(refer to Figure 2.70).
2. Independent exhaust ducting
with supply ducting through the
forced-air heating system. The
fresh air is supplied to the return
air plenum of the furnace and a
continuously operating furnace
fan provides distribution
throughout the house (refer to
Figure 2.71).

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With both methods, the kitchen range


hood is not connected to the HRV
system and should be exhausted
directly to the outside to ensure rapid
elimination of pollutants and to avoid
the risk of grease, smoke or flame
entering the ventilation system or HRV.
advantages
n
Provides ventilation air distribution
throughout the house, which
enhances indoor air quality.
n
n

Quiet operation
Eliminates pressurization problems
associated with supply only systems

Eliminates depressurization
problems associated with exhaust
only systems
Pre-heats incoming ventilation air
in the winter
Recovers heat from exhaust air,
uses it for pre-heating supply air
and reduces heating costs
associated with ventilation
Enhances comfort in the winter by
warming incoming fresh air
Can provide filtration of
ventilation air

Heat Recovery Ventilator (HRV)

Exhaust air from


kitchen and bathrooms
Supply
air fan

Filter to reduce
dirt accumulation
in the core

Preheated ventilation air supplied


to habitable rooms

Fresh ventilation
air drawn in
from outside
Exhaust fan air

Ventilation
air filter
Plate type heat
transfer core
Condensate drain
2.69

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Disadvantages
n
High initial cost
n

n
n

Minimal pre-cooling of ventilation


air in summer
No humidity recovery in winter
No dehumidification of
ventilation air in summer

d energy recovery Ventilation systems


Energy Recovery Ventilator (ERV)
systems are essentially the same as heat
recovery ventilation systems with the
exception that energy recovery

ventilators (ERVs) are capable of


transferring moisture as well as heat
between the exhaust and supply air
streams (refer to Figure 2.72). Up to
80 per cent of the moisture contained
in an air stream is usually recovered.
The transfer of moisture is accomplished
with either a perforated wheel type core
that rotates between the supply and
exhaust air streams, or a conventional
plate type core made of water vapour
permeable materials (refer to Figure
2.73). The transfer of moisture, as well
as heat, has many advantages.

Central Heat Recovery Ventilator (HRV) system with


separate exhaust and supply ducting
Momentary
timer switch
Tempered and filtered
ventilation air supplied
to all habitable rooms

Stale air exhausted


from kitchen
and bathrooms

Separate
stove
exhaust

Centrally located
dehumidistat or
time of day timer

Supply
air in
2m
(6)
minimum

Central heat recovery


ventilator (HRV)

Exhaust
air out
2.70

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Central Heat Recovery Ventilator (HRV) system


connected to furnace for supply air distribution

Stale air exhausted from


kitchen and bathrooms
Return air
to furnace

Separate
stove
exhaust

Supply air to
all rooms

Supply
air in
2m
(6)
minimum

Forced air furnace


Central heat recovery
ventilator (HRV)

Exhaust
air out
2.71

If the home is air-conditioned, the ERV


can remove up to 80 per cent of the
moisture from the incoming ventilation
air and direct it to the outside. This
significantly reduces the cooling load
on the air conditioner and saves energy.
During the winter, over-drying of the
house is prevented because up to
80 per cent of the moisture contained
in the exhaust air stream is recovered
and returned to the house in the
incoming air stream. This reduces
complaints of dry air and possible
damage to interior finishes, while some
dehumidification is provided.

advantages
n
Provides ventilation air
distribution throughout the house,
improving indoor air quality
n

Enhances occupant comfort in


the winter by humidifying and
pre-heating incoming ventilation air
Humidity recovery during the
heating season prevents over-drying
Enhances occupant comfort in the
summer by dehumidifying and
pre-cooling incoming ventilation air

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Eliminates pressurization problems


associated with supply only systems
Eliminates depressurization
problems associated with exhaust
only systems
Reduces energy costs associated
with ventilation air in both winter
and summer
Can provide filtration for
ventilation air, particularly when
installed with a forced-air heating/
cooling system

ventilation system installation


The following are minimum
requirements for a distributed
ventilation system (refer to Figure 2.74):
n
A supply or exhaust grille located
in every room to ensure a complete
flushing of air through the room
(located opposite an undercut door).
n

Disadvantages
n
High initial cost
n

A variable speed ventilator fan


that is quiet and capable of
continuous operation.
Air supply grilles designed to
minimize occupant discomfort by
locating grilles high on a side wall
or on the ceiling.
An easy to operate central speed
and interval time controller.

Energy Recovery Ventilator (ERV)

Heat and moisture


transfer wheel
Exhaust air collar

Supply air collar


148

Filter

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Fan module

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Part 2: Environmental Control Strategies

Heat and moisture recovery in a heat wheel


Energy Recovery Ventilator (ERV)
64% to 77% of the heat and
80% of the moisture in the
exhaust air stream is
transferred to the fresh air
stream through the thermal
wheel

Thermal wheel
rotating
continuously
between air
streams

Stale air exhausted


to the outside

Stale and humid


air exhausted
from the home

OUTSIDE

INSIDE

Fresh air supplied


from the outside

Heating Season

Thermal wheel
rotating
continuously
between the
streams

79% to 82% of the heat


and 80% of the moisture
in the supply air stream is
transferred to the exhaust
air stream through the
thermal wheel

Stale and dry


(dehumidified)
air exhausted
from home

Stale air exhausted


to the outside
carrying heat and
moisture with it

INSIDE (AIR
CONDITIONED)

OUTSIDE
Hot and humid
fresh air supplied
from outside

Fresh, filtered,
heated and
humidified air
distributed
throughout
the home

COOLING SEASON

Fresh, filtered
cool, dry and
dehumidified
air distributed
throughout
the house
2.73

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150

High speed switches in


the bathrooms.
All ductwork sized correctly and
laid-out with the minimum number
of elbows to minimize air flow
resistance and help ensure that
airflows meet the required standards.
All joints, seams and connections
in the ductwork to be air sealed
with a liquid sealer or durable foil
backed tape. This helps prevent
warm moist air from escaping into
the structure where condensation
can form and it also helps ensure
that the air flows at the exhaust
and supply grills meet the
system specifications.
The air tightness of ductwork should
be measured using a duct tester.

All ducts running through attic


and crawl spaces should be insulated
and covered with an exterior vapour
barrier to control condensation
formation in and on the ductwork.
Exterior air supply hoods should
be located at least 400 mm (16 in.)
above the ground and 2 meters
(6 ft.) away from sources of air
pollution such as gas meters, range
hood exhausts, dryer exhausts and
ventilator exhausts, or according
to manufacturers instructions.

The exterior air supply hoods must


be readily accessible for cleaning.
Ductwork leading to exhaust
hoods must be sloped to allow any
water accumulation to be drained
to the outside.
Ventilation system exhaust and
supply flows must be measured
after completion of the system to
ensure that they meet
specifications and do not under or
over ventilate the house.
All ductwork that penetrates the
building envelope must be air
sealed at the air barrier to prevent
air leakage, and adequately flashed
and sealed to ensure there is no
exterior moisture penetration.
Successful performance of a
ventilation system requires diligence
and expertise by the designer and
installer. It must be designed and
installed correctly to ensure the
mechanical ventilation system
functions as expected and works
to help ensure a durable
building envelope.
Additional information about
ventilation systems can be found
in Canadian standards Association
CSA F326. This standard
describes the requirements for
performance, installation and
application, and verification of
mechanical ventilation systems.

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Requirements for a central distributed


mechanical ventilation system
Supply grilles located to minimize drafts
Supply or exhaust in
every habitable room

All ductwork sized and laid out to


maximize air flow, sealed and airtightness
tested. Ductwork throughout unheated
spaces are insulated.
Supply hood minimum 450 mm (18 in.)
above grade and 2 metres (6 ft.) away
from all exhaust and gas metres, and
accessible for easy cleaning

Quiet variable
speed ventilator,
noise and vibration
isolated from living space

Ventilator air flows measured to ensure


they meet required minimum and maximum
air flow requirements and balanced for
HRV and ERV systems

Exhaust hood duckwork


sloped to exterior for drainage
Central speed controller and timer
with high speed switch in bathrooms

Building
science summary
The previous sections of Part 2 have
discussed various issues related to the
durability of wood-frame buildings in
both heating climates and cooling
climates. The following series of
illustrations summarizes the concepts
presented in the earlier sections of Part
2, as they relate to moisture penetration,
air leakage, vapour diffusion, heat
transfer, ventilation and energy use.
The following illustrations show five
steps that should be followed in the
design and construction of durable
wood-frame buildings for cold
climates, and five steps that should be
followed for hot climates (refer to
Figures 2.75 to 2.85).

2.74

It is important for designers and


builders to understand that as certain
aspects of a building are changed, these
changes may affect other parts of the
building. The building should be
thought of as a system of interrelated
and interdependent parts that perform
together as a whole. For example, to
reduce energy used in winter for
heating, buildings must be insulated. If
at the same time air leakage through
insulated cavities is not controlled, the
unintended result may be condensation
formation in those cavities. The
building-as-a-system approach to
design and construction will ensure
that buildings will be durable, comfortable
and provide a healthy indoor environment.

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cold climate Buildings


Building-as-a-system for heating climates Step 1:
Uninsulated building envelope.
Heated air leaking through
cracks and openings in the
building envelope
Heat loss to the outside
through walls, floors
and ceilings
Heat loss through
windows and doors
Air leakage into the
building through cracks
and openings in the
building envelope
Heat loss to the ground
2.75

Building-as-a-system for heating climates Step 2:


Insulation reduces heat loss but can lead to condensation
due to air leakage and cold temperatures in the exterior
sheathing and outer parts of the building envelope.

Air leakage through


cracks and openings in
the building envelope
leads to the formation
of condensation on
cold surfaces

Insulation placed in the


walls, floors and ceilings
reduces heat loss

2.76

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Building-as-a-system for heating climates Step 3:


A continuous air barrier reduces condensation in
insulated cavities by preventing air leakage, but
may cause indoor air quality problems resulting
from decreased fresh air delivery when uncontrolled
air leakage has been reduced.
Heat loss through walls, floors
and ceilings is reduced by a
continuous air barrier
Natural draft combustion
appliances are susceptible
to flue gas spillage

A continuous air barrier


prevents uncontrolled air
leakage and eliminates
condensation in
insulated cavities
Heated air leaking through
cracks and openings in the
building envelope
Humidity and indoor air
pollutants from interior
finishes, human activities,
and cleaning agents
is increased

Air leakage into the building


through cracks and openings
in the building envelope
2.77

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Building-as-a-system for heating climates Step 4:


Indoor air quality is improved by providing mechanical
ventilation and by using low-toxicity interior finishes.
Heat losses increase as a result of additional ventilation.
Sealed combustion equipment with
dedicated outdoor air supply
eliminates flue gas spillage

Use of non-toxic interior


finishes reduces chemical
off-gasing and polluants
Mechanical ventilation
system continuously
exhausts stale air and
introduces fresh outdoor
air and also increases
the heating load

Air
supply
Exhaust
Air
Air
supply
2.78

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Building-as-a-system for heating climates Step 5:


Heat recovery ventilator (HRV) reduces heat losses
resulting from ventilation by up to 70 per cent.
Heat recovery ventilator
system recovers heat
from stale exhaust air
and preheats incoming
fresh air reducing heat
losses due to ventilation

Fresh
Air in

Exhaust
Air out
2.79

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hot climate Buildings


Building-as-a-system for cooling climates Step 1:
Uninsulated building envelope.
Hot humid air enters through the
upper portions of the building
replacing the cooled air leaking
out at the bottom

Radiation falls on roof heating roofing


and sheathing. Heat is radiated from the
underside of the sheathing to the ceiling
which in turn heats the building interior

Water vapour
from outside
moves by
vapour diffusion
into wall
cavities

Heat gain from the


outside hot air
Cooler, drier air drops to
the lower part of the building
and leaks out at the base

Radiation
enters
windows
and heats
interior

2.80

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Building-as-a-system for cooling climates Step 2:


Thermal insulation reduces heat gains but can lead
to condensation resulting from air leakage and
vapour diffusion.
Insulation added to ceiling and
walls reduces heat gain from the
outdoors and causes the inner
parts of the wood framing and
interior wall finish to be cooler

Radiant heat transfer through


the roof is reduced by a radiant
barrier located on the underside
of the roof sheathing

Water vapour
condenses on the
cooler framing
and interior
finishes in air
conditioned
buildings
Hot humid air leaks into
the building envelope
through cracks and
openings at the top

Low-E
coating
on glass
reflect
sunlight
reducing
cooling
loads

2.81

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Building-as-a-system for cooling climates Step 3:


A continuous air barrier throughout the building
envelope minimizes entry of moisture-laden air from
the outside into insulated cavities.Vapour diffusion is
controlled by a vapour-resistant and water-resistant
barrier or by a low-permeance exterior sheathing.
A continuous air barrier minimizes moisture-laden outdoor
air from entering insulated cavities. This prevents
condensation and reduces the cooling load
A low vapour permeance weatherresistant barrier or plastic foam
insulation is placed on the
outside of the
wall cavity to reduce
vapour diffusion from
the exterior

The interior
wall finish is
highly vapourpermeable to
allow drying to
the inside

Airtightness leads to build-up of


indoor humidity and air polluants

Plumbing and electrical penetrations are


sealed at partitions wall top plates to prevent
warm moist outdoor air from entering and
causing condensation
158

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Part 2: Environmental Control Strategies

Building-as-a-system for cooling climates Step 4:


Low toxicity materials improve indoor air quality, but
mechanical ventilation increases cooling load.

Fresh
supply
air
Use of low toxicity
interior finishes reduces
the chemical off-gasing
and improves indoor
air quality

Stale
exhaust
air

A ventilation system exhausts stale indoor


air and brings fresh outdoor air reducing
interior pollutant levels and also bringing in
moisture and increasing cooling load
2.83

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Part 2: Environmental Control Strategies

Building-as-a-system for cooling climates Step 5:


Energy recovery ventilator (ERV) reduces heat and
humidity gain due to ventilation by up to 80 per cent.

Supply
Exhaust
ERV

An energy recovery ventilator (ERV) continuously


supplies fresh dehumidified precooled air and
exhausts stale air thereby reducing the cooling
loads and increasing comfort

Following the preceding recommended


steps for cold climates, where buildings
are predominantly heated and for
hot climates, where buildings are
predominantly cooled, will result in a
highly durable building envelope that
consumes less energy and provides
improved indoor air quality and
comfort for the occupants.

conclusion to Part 2
Part 2 identified the four main physical
factors of moisture, air, vapour, and heat
and explained how each of them act on
the building envelope and how they
contribute to the deterioration of
160

Stale
exhaust
air

Fresh
supply
air

2.84

building envelope assemblies. Clearly,


moisture penetration is responsible for
most of the damage to wood-frame
building envelopes, though the effects
of all the other physical forces should
also be carefully controlled. Also, some
miscellaneous sources of deterioration
were identified and the importance of
ventilation to the success of wood-frame
building envelopes was discussed.
In Part 3, the climatic zones in which
buildings are located and the effect
of climatic conditions on the durability
of wood-frame building envelopes will
be investigated.

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Part 3: Climatic Considerations

introduction
to Part 3
Part 3 presents an approach for
assessing and selecting building
envelope details for their durability in
various climates and conditions of use.
In areas of the world where there is a
tradition of wood-frame construction,
designers and builders have developed
construction methods for durable
buildings. In areas where wood-frame
construction is not traditional, building
styles, construction materials and
techniques and other requirements,
such as operating costs and energy
efficiency, may affect the durability
of wood-frame building envelope
assemblies in ways that are not
immediately recognized by the
designers and builders.
When constructing buildings in climates
where wood-frame construction is not
traditional, care must be taken to ensure
that the building envelope will be
durable. The designer and builder must

take into account both the


exterior and interior climatic conditions
and the local conditions of use, which
vary among different cultures and user
groups. For example, in many parts of
Asia, partly because of tradition and
partly because of the high cost of
energy, houses are heated or cooled on
a room-by-room basis. This may
cause elevated water vapour pressure
differentials that may lead to high
localized interior relative humidity
levels, resulting in an increased risk for
mold growth on interior finishes or
within foundation, wall and roof
assemblies. This may also lead to
premature deterioration of the
building envelope. There is evidence
to indicate that when houses are very
energy efficient, occupants tend to
adopt whole-house conditioning
because acceptable comfort levels can
be attained economically.

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Part 3: Climatic Considerations

catEGoriZinG
climatEs for
BuildinG dEsiGn
and construction

other climatic zones. In some cases,


experience with some traditional
construction techniques had been lost,
and has had to be rediscovered to
avoid the problems leading to building
envelope failure.

Reference is made in Part 3 to the


different climatic zones in which
buildings may be designed and built.
There is considerable controversy
about how precisely climatic conditions
need to be identified and how they
affect the design and performance of
wood-frame building envelopes. Design
and construction requirements using
these parameters are the result of
historical requirements for acceptable
building envelope performance based
on interior and exterior temperature
and moisture conditions.

In Part 3, we define the conditions that


will allow designers and builders to
categorize their local climate by placing
it into one of five basic climatic zones.
The general conditions for each of the
climate zones will be described in
detail. Any design recommendation
that accounts for climate, requires the
designer and builder to be aware of
variations in local climatic conditions
when deciding upon the degree of
exposure that the proposed building
will face. For example, coastal cities
such as San Francisco and Seattle in the
United States and St. Johns and
Vancouver in Canada experience
different exposure to wind and
precipitation in different parts of
their metropolitan areas. This is not a
unique situation; any geographic
location with mountains or large
bodies of water will experience wide
local climatic differences.

The stress that climate imposes on


building envelopes has become an
active area of investigation. It is of
interest to the construction industry in
all parts of the world to address both
the durability of building envelopes
and the need for construction practices
that produce healthy and comfortable
indoor environments. Experience in
both residential and commercial
construction has shown that common
wood-frame designs have demonstrated
considerable tolerance to climatic
variations. Where problems have been
encountered, it has often been with the
use of new and unproven building
envelope systems and materials or from
the inappropriate application of
building envelope systems and
materials that had performed well in

164

The discussion in Part 3 should be


considered more a general guideline
than a precise description of the
climatic conditions a building will
experience in its lifetime. Where there
are more precise guidelines for the
design and construction of buildings
based on climate, as there is for
Canadian locations in the 2005 edition
of the National Building Code of
Canada (NBCC), those guidelines

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should be followed whenever possible.


The procedure presented here is to be
used as a supplement to that approach
for parts of Canada where specific data
is unavailable, and for other parts of
the world where there is a lack of
detailed climatic data available. A
useful source of climate information
for various world locations is the
Langley Research Center database on
Surface Meterology and Solar Energy
from the NASA Earth Science
Enterprise Program, the use of which is
described
in
detail,
including
examples, in Appendices A and B.

climatic ZonEs for


BuildinG dEsiGn
and construction
Table 3.1 identifies and defines the
general characteristics of five basic
climatic zones for the purpose of
building design and construction and
gives geographic location examples for
each climatic zone. The approximate
limits of each of the climatic zones have
been shown on the following series of
maps, one for each continental area,
which will help designers and builders

Table 3 1 basic climatic zones for building design


and construction
Climatic Climatic Zone
Designation
Zone
Number

Climatic Characteristics Example Locations

Very Cold = VC

Long very cold winters and


short cool summers

Cool or Cold
Dry = CCD

Cool or cold winters and warm Whitehorse, Canada


or hot summers with low
Denver, United States,
precipitation and low humidity Tashkent, Uzbekistan

Cool or Cold
Humid = CCH

Cool or cold winters and warm Ottawa, Canada


or hot summers with high
Stockholm, Sweden
precipitation and high humidity Moscow, Russia

Warm or Hot
Dry = WHD

Short mild winters and long,


warm or hot, dry summers
with low precipitation and
low humidity

Phoenix, USA
Monterrey, Mexico
Santiago, Chile

Warm or Hot
Humid = WHH

Short mild winters and long,


warm or hot, humid summers
with high precipitation and
high humidity

Miami, USA
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Bangkok, Thailand

Fairbanks, Alaska
Edmonton, Canada
Bergen, Norway

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Part 3: Climatic Considerations

to determine the climatic zone in


which their project occurs. These maps
have been adapted from Koeppen-Geiger
climatic maps and show the approximate
locations of zones in which temperature
and moisture have comparable effects
on building design and construction.
More accurate maps that correlate
heating degree day (HDD) and cooling
degree day (CDD) data with moisture
index (MI) data were not available for all
climatic zones at the time of this writing.
The five climatic zone definitions
provided in Table 3.1 are very general
in nature. Guidelines for construction
assemblies recommended for use in the
different climatic zones are described in
detail in Part 4.
Various climatic zones have been
identified based on the temperature,
precipitation and humidity levels of
each climate. The primary intent of
identifying climatic zones is to determine
where certain design and building
practices need to be altered from the
norm of traditional construction in
that region to provide durable, long-lasting
building envelopes. In some cases, such
as in very cold climate areas, the deviation
from normal building practices simply
involves construction of more energy
efficient details, with greater care taken
to ensure proper thermal values, air
tightness and vapour control.
The approach taken in the following
sections of Part 3 is to assess the heating
season and cooling season conditions
separately for temperature control
requirements and to evaluate the
overall humidity conditions for the
different climatic zones.

166

climatic
influEncEs
General climatic zones can be
characterized by using combinations of
various climatic parameters and
influences. Some zones can be
sufficiently identified by temperature
conditions. Other zones can be
identified by humidity conditions.
Some zones must be characterized
by using both temperature and
humidity parameters.

heating and cooling


degree days
Cold climatic zones can be identified
by using the Heating Degree Days
(HDD) parameter, which establishes
18C (64F) as the base temperature
below which heating in a building may be
required. Hot climatic zones can be
identified by using the Cooling Degree
Days (CDD) parameter, which
establishes 18C (64F) as the base
temperature above which cooling in a
building may be required. For further
reference, HDD and CDD values are
provided in Appendix C of the 2005
National Building Code of Canada
(NBCC) for Canadian locations, in
similar sources for locations in the
U.S.A., and in the building codes in
many other countries around the world.
Although 18C (64F) is the temperature
used to determine whether heating or
cooling would be required in North
America, it is not a comfort temperature
in all parts of the world. Temperatures
between 18C (64F) and 25 C (77F)
might define the comfort zone in other
countries where the inhabitants are
accustomed to higher temperatures.

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wind
A considerable amount of information
is available in the sources noted above
concerning wind speeds and wind
directions for various locations, both as
10-year summaries by month and for
different periods of the day. The wind
speeds provided in these sources should
also be adjusted to account for the
effect of topographical features, forests,
crops and adjacent buildings. Sufficient
information is provided to assist a user
in either correctly orienting a building
relative to the prevailing wind, or given
no choice, deciding on what extent the
wall design needs to account for the
effect of wind.
In assigning climatic zones to geographical
locations, wind information is not
required. However, the information is
useful and readily available.

temperature
On its own, the mean annual
temperature at a building site is not a
very sensitive indicator for identifying
different climatic zones. However, by
examining the maximum and minimum
monthly average temperature, as well
as the four-month average temperature,
more complete information will be
provided for defining climatic zones.

moisture
Parameters involving moisture data relate
to the mean dew point temperature for
each month, the Relative Humidity
(RH) averages, the humidity ratio, the
near-surface precipitation level and the

total precipitation level. Both of the


precipitation parameters are a measure
of the average water content in the
atmosphere and can be used to classify
a climate as humid or dry. Generally,
hot humid climate zones have relatively
high uniform precipitation values
throughout the year, while other regions
having marked seasonal changes show
large differences from the summer to
winter seasons.

solar Effects
The sources noted above include a
great deal of information on solar effects
that can be used for solar collector designs
and related issues. This information
can also be used by building designers
to determine how building orientation
can maximize or minimize solar heating
effects at different locations in the
world. This information could affect
the choice of specific wall and roof
designs and the materials used. Building
designers should think of thermal effects
related to climate as differences in ambient
indoor and outdoor conditions. A
specific wall assembly can experience
temperature gradients that are very
different from, and much more extreme
than, those temperatures inferred from
outdoor ambient conditions and
assumed indoor conditions. This should
alert the reader to the fact that heating
degree day and, particularly, cooling
degree day information, is an imperfect
guide to what is required to maintain
indoor comfort levels.

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168

local climatic Effects

seasonal variations

There are local climatic effects that


exist largely because of site location.
For example, we know that fog conditions
are often found in coastal areas.
Specifically, fog can lead to the deposition
of large amounts of moisture on exterior
walls. Fog is not normally accounted
for in computer models dealing with
heat, air, vapour and moisture transport,
in part because the information on fog
is not precise enough in weather data.
However, durable construction in
different parts of the world usually
reflects the experience of local designers
and builders, particularly in coastal
regions, in the choice of cladding systems
and materials that have survived well in
the local climate. Marine climates can
subject buildings in coastal regions to
high levels of moisture contained in
low-lying fog, which can also carry
significant levels of air-borne salt. The
incidence of higher levels of rain in
combination with high winds is also to
be expected in coastal areas. To account
for these conditions, an adjustment for
local climatic effects should be made.
Based on the location of the site adjacent
to a large body of water, an ocean for
example, it is appropriate to reassign a
marine climate classification to a more
humid (H) category. For example,
the climatic zones for Vancouver, in
Canada and Seattle, in the U.S.A.,
should be reclassified to reflect the
more humid conditions that exist in
those locations.

Variations exist within each of the


climatic zones identified in this
publication. Although the climatic
zones are presented as though they are
static and uniform, they are, in fact,
dynamic and varied. Areas within a
particular climatic zone can vary greatly
from other areas within the same zone.
For example, areas in close proximity to
large bodies of water, in mountainous
regions, or in open unprotected locations
can have significantly different climatic
conditions, even though they co-exist
in the same climatic zone. Also,
seasonal variations within a climatic
zone can result in significantly different
climatic conditions. For example, in a
cold dry heating climate, the
predominant annual conditions are
cold and dry, but for a few days or
weeks in the cooling season the
conditions can be hot and humid. This
can create a number of problems
within the building envelope, such as
the correct location of the vapour
barrier. In a heating climate the usual
direction of water vapour drive is from
the warm inside to the cold outside,
therefore the vapour barrier should be
placed on the warm side of the thermal
barrier, that is, on the inside of the
insulation. This works well for the
majority of the year, but during those
brief times of hot, humid conditions in
the cooling season, and particularly in
air conditioned buildings, the vapour
barrier should be located on the outside

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of the insulation, that is, on the warm


side of the thermal barrier. Ideally, the
vapour barrier should be on the inside
of the insulation in the heating season
and on the outside of the insulation
in the cooling season. Since this is
very difficult to achieve and not
recommended, we must design the
assemblies for the predominant
climatic conditions and accept that for
a few days a year the assembly will not
have optimal performance.
In a hot dry cooling climate, the
predominant annual conditions are
hot and dry, but for a few days or
weeks of cool, rainy weather in the heating
season the conditions can be cold and
wet. In the case of air-conditioned
buildings in a cooling climate the
usual direction of water vapour drive is
from the warm outside to the cool
inside of the building envelope,
therefore the line of vapour control
should be on the outside or warm side,
of the thermal barrier. During the brief
periods of cool, humid weather, when a
limited amount of interior heating may
be required, the vapour barrier should
be located on the inside of the insulation.
It is not recommended to have a
vapour barrier on both sides of the
insulation in the same assembly. This
could lead to water vapour being
trapped within the various assemblies
and possibly condensing, which would
result in moisture damage and the
deterioration of the building envelope.

Again, we must design the assemblies


for the predominant climatic conditions
and recognize that for brief periods
during the annual climatic cycle
the assembly will not have optimal
performance. However, with careful
detail design and material selection,
moisture damage to the building
envelope assemblies will be minimal.
It is important to remember, that in all
climatic zones, hot or cold, wet or dry,
it is essential to provide an effective air
barrier system in all the construction
assemblies, to prevent moisture damage
caused by uncontrolled air leakage
through the building envelope.
Another example of seasonal variations
within a climatic zone involves the level
of thermal resistance in the
various construction assemblies. In hot
climates, lower levels of insulation
value are generally acceptable, compared
with the requirements for higher levels
of insulation in cold or very cold
climates. In these predominantly hot
climatic zones, brief periods of cool or
even cold temperatures can occur in
the winter months, making the low levels
of insulation inadequate for keeping
the heat in. By designing and building
assemblies with higher than standard
levels of thermal resistance
in hot climates, the improved thermal
values will not only keep the heat in
during cold weather, but will also keep
the heat out of the building when the
weather is hot. This also applies to

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170

buildings in cold climatic zones where


high levels of insulation are standard.
The increased thermal resistance not
only keeps the heat in during the
heating season, but also keeps the heat
out during the cooling season.

world climatic
ZonEs for
BuildinG dEsiGn
and construction

Designers and builders must be aware of


these seasonal variations within climatic
zones and build to accommodate the
predominant climatic conditions of the
zone in which the building is to be
built. Assembly details should be
designed and constructed to address
not only the typical climatic
conditions, but also the variations.
Designers and builders should always
study the local building traditions and
consult local expertise, before starting a
building in a new and unfamiliar climate.

The following set of maps show the


world divided into six continental areas
(refer to Figures 3.1 to 3.6). For each of
these continental areas, a separate map
shows the basic climatic zones for
building design and construction, as
defined in Table 3.1. The climatic zone
designations for the various continental
areas will allow designers and builders
to quickly and easily determine the
climatic zone in which their building
project occurs. This climatic zone
designation can then be used to locate
the appropriate construction assembly
details recommended for that climatic
zone, as described in Part 4.

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North American Climatic Zones*

Legend
Severe Cold
Very cold
Cold Humid
Cold Dry
Warm or Hot Humid
Warm or Hot Dry
3.1
* Map adapted from Koeppen Geiger climatic mapping

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South American Climatic Zones*

Legend
Severe Cold
Cold Dry
Warm or Hot Humid
Warm or Hot Dry

3.2
* Map adapted from Koeppen Geiger climatic mapping

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European Climatic Zones*

Legend
Severe Cold
Very cold
Cold Humid
Warm or Hot Humid
Warm or Hot Dry
3.3
* Map adapted from Koeppen Geiger climatic mapping

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Asian Climatic Zones*

Legend
Severe Cold
Very cold
Cold Humid
Cold Dry
Warm or Hot Humid
Warm or Hot Dry

3.4
* Map adapted from Koeppen Geiger climatic mapping

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African Climatic Zones*

Legend
Warm or Hot Humid
Warm or Hot Dry
3.5
* Map adapted from Koeppen Geiger climatic mapping

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Australasian Climatic Zones*

Legend
Cold Dry
Warm or Hot Humid
Warm or Hot Dry
3.6
* Map adapted from Koeppen Geiger climatic mapping

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rain control design


EnvironmEntal
considErations for The following table outlines rain and
moisturE control wind climate factors for different
As noted in Part 2, the priority for the
design of moisture tolerant buildings is
to deal with the sources of moisture in
the order of their magnitude and the
consequences of their effect. Part 3 also
uses this approach, but with an emphasis
on environmental considerations.
Moisture penetration control, air leakage
control, and vapour diffusion control
are not entirely independent factors. If
buildings fail to deal properly with
a high level source of moisture, the
building envelope might experience
moisture damage, regardless of how
well a lower level source of moisture is
dealt with. It should be noted that many
solutions exist for each building envelope
problem. While we will address
building envelope design principles
and offer specific recommendations for
construction details, we must be aware
that economic and structural factors
also play an important part in the
decisions designers and builders must
make to achieve a durable wood-frame
building envelope.

combinations of wind intensity and


annual rainfall. It is not always possible
to define wind conditions during the
periods of highest rainfall, because
climatic data of this sort is not readily
available. Design wind speeds are
usually reported independently of
precipitation. Nevertheless, designers
and builders who know the local area
can easily distinguish between areas of
low and high-wind intensity.
The degree of exposure of the building
site should also be taken into account.
Building sites on open terrain or facing
the sea will be exposed to more
wind than sites surrounded by other
buildings or by trees. Buildings on high
exposure sites are subjected to higher
environmental stresses on the building
envelope. Regions exposed to hurricanes,
typhoons, cyclones or tornadoes are
considered high exposure regions.
The numerical levels shown in the
table are intuitive and are only given to
recommend greater building envelope
durability that will better handle
higher levels of rainfall on higher
exposure sites. The higher the number,
the more important is the requirement
for moisture penetration control.

Table 3 2 rain and Wind Climate factors


Rainfall Class

Annual Rainfall mm (in.)

Wind intensity class


Low
Exposure

Moderate
Exposure

High
Exposure

Low

<750 (30)

Moderate

7501,250 (3050)

High

>1,250 (50)

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wind-driven rain moisture


control Performance of
cladding systems
The resistance of a wall assembly to
wind-driven rain penetration depends
on the cladding system chosen and the
type and location of the water resistant
barrier (WRB), as well as the type and
location of the air barrier system (ABS).
The design strategy selected to resist
moisture penetration should be
combined with the expected quality of
the construction and assigned a specific
relative moisture tolerance level. The
performance of the following systems
depends on the materials used and the
quality of construction, which in turn
greatly depends on the skills of the
trades people involved and the level of
inspection provided.
Potential cladding systems include
the following:
n
face seal cladding: The
performance of this single line of
defence strategy is highly sensitive
to the quality of installation; otherwise
continuous maintenance and repair
of sealants is required. As a result,
these systems are not recommended
for residential buildings.
n

178

Direct-applied cladding: This


strategy involves siding, panels,
stucco or exterior insulation and
finish systems (EIFS), which are
attached directly to the wall sheathing
or studs and include one or two
layers of sheathing membrane
behind the cladding. Flashing is
provided at the base, at penetrations
for windows and doors, at changes
of materials and at any break in
the field of the installation, to

drain any water that may reach these


locations to the outside. When
flashings are omitted, or are
improperly installed so that water
is retained in the system, directapplied cladding systems may perform
as poorly as face-seal systems.
n

rainscreen cladding: This strategy


involves siding, panels, masonry,
stucco or EIFS, which are applied
in a manner that provides a capillary
break between the cladding and
the sheathing to permit direct
drainage of moisture to the base of
the wall or to a break in the field
of the installation where flashing is
provided, and to direct the water
to the outside of the cladding.
Rainscreen claddings also provide
for varying degrees of ventilation
of the drainage space:
1. Ventilation at the base of the
wall only
2. Ventilation at both the base
and at the top of the wall

Various terms have been used to


describe rainscreen cladding systems
including pressure-equalized rainscreen
(PER), pressure-moderated rainscreen,
and drainscreen.
Pressure-equalized rainscreens are
systems that permit the air pressure
behind the cladding to quickly adjust
to equal the air pressure that the wind
applies against the face of the cladding.
This minimizes the air pressure
differential (APD) across joints and
junctions in the cladding that could
force rainwater through these openings.
PER walls require that the air
space behind the cladding be

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compartmentalized, or sub-divided
into smaller compartments so that the
air pressure in the cavity will equalize
with the outside air pressure more
quickly. It also requires that there is no
air leakage through the sheathing into
or out of the air space behind the
cladding and that the sheathing be
rigid so that pumping of air does not
occur in the cavity. An effective and
continuous air barrier is necessary
to achieve these requirements. Many
systems do not fulfill all of these
conditions and are therefore referred
to as pressure-moderated systems.
The principles are similar for both
pressure-equalized and pressuremoderated systems but the performance
of the pressure-moderated system is lower.
The behaviour of any cladding system
in minimizing the entry of moisture
depends on the materials used in its
construction and the way in which it is
attached to the structure. Some
important factors that affect the
performance and durability of cladding
systems are as follows:
n
Vented or ventilated cladding
systems are examples of a pressuremoderated system and permit some
airflow to take place behind the
cladding, depending on the size of
the air space provided, the thermal
and moisture buoyancy of the air
and the restrictions on air flow at
the top and bottom of the column
of air in the cavity.
n

All siding systems are expected to


allow some moisture to penetrate
under certain wind and rain
conditions. The suitability of their
performance depends on their

ability to drain the water that passes


through the cladding. Very little
space is required for water to drain.
However, at least 10 mm (3/8 in.)
clear space is recommended to
minimize moisture retention and
to permit rapid dissipation of any
moisture that has been retained on
the interstitial surfaces, in joints or
in the materials themselves.
n

Blower door testing for air


tightness, commonly done by
builders who are seeking to produce
high quality energy-efficient buildings,
has one significant advantage that
goes beyond energy conservation
considerations. There are many
small openings in wall assemblies
that can allow moisture penetration
through air leakage. Blower door
testing enables us to determine
whether air leaks have been adequately
sealed and whether adequate air
tightness has been provided.
Water absorption by the cladding
materials themselves is of particular
concern if the cladding system is
applied directly to the sheathing.
Installations of this type should be
avoided unless the climate is
relatively dry and precipitation is
low. Where systems are applied so
that venting of the cavity is
provided, their ability to dissipate
moisture is enhanced, but may
still require further measures to
minimize the solar driven
moisture that can be stored in
the cladding materials.

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Flexible, direct-applied siding


systems that are loosely attached
to the sheathing are better able to
dissipate moisture that may have
entered the space behind the cladding
than tightly attached sidings.
Structural stability and puncture
resistance is an important
consideration in regions subject to
high winds, such as hurricanes or
tornadoes. Puncture resistance
from flying debris is needed to
prevent penetrations of the
cladding that would permit
rainwater to enter the wall cavity.
In some weather conditions, excess
airflow behind a rainscreen may
be undesirable. This is not only
because of the cooling the wall
may experience, but also because
more air-borne moisture can be
deposited on the materials in the
ventilation space behind the
cladding. This special circumstance
is likely to occur in regions where
dense fog is common.

With all of the choices of cladding


materials and systems available, and the
concern about performance in the local
climate, one hesitates to rate the ability
of different cladding systems to satisfy
the climate factors noted in Table 3.2.
The moisture penetration characteristics
of exterior wall systems are still a
matter of intense research. At this time,
only very general, broad ratings are
presented, and they are to be treated
only as preferences, not as firm design
recommendations (refer to Table 3.3).
In the numerical scale shown, the
higher the number the better the
performance of the cladding type.

Building orientation and


roof overhangs
Further discussion is warranted
concerning the benefits of building
orientation and roof overhangs. The above
cladding descriptions do not account
for the types of cladding materials that
might be selected, nor do they
distinguish from what primary direction
wind driven rain might be expected.

Table 3 3 Cladding system ability to Manage Wind-Driven rain


Cladding type

Preference scale

Face sealed

Direct-applied

Rainscreenbottom vent only

Rainscreentop and bottom vent with limited top venting

Pressure-equalized rainscreen*

* Rainscreen with pressure-equalization, top and bottom ventilation, full compartmentalization


and a rigid, continuous air barrier

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Information on 10-year, monthly


averaged wind speed and direction are
available from the NASA website,
which can be accessed as described in
Appendix A. Wind direction is variable
and may have the same effect on the
deposition of moisture when blowing
against a wall at an angle, as when
blowing perpendicular to a wall. In
regions where rainfall is high, it is wise
to use the most effective details on the
sides of the building that are most
likely to be exposed to wind-driven
rain. In conditions of driving rain, even
extensive roof overhang widths provide
only marginal protection for the storey
immediately under the eaves, and offer
little or no protection for lower storeys.

recommendations
A face-sealed cladding system is not
recommended
for
conventional
residential construction in wet and
humid climates. Direct-applied cladding
systems with little or no planned drainage
are appropriate only in dry climates.
It is not desirable to use absorptive, directapplied cladding systems, such as
traditional stucco, in moist and humid
climatic zones, except where it is known
that rainfall is low and drying ability
during the wet season can be assured,
there is extensive protection from roof
overhangs or porches, or these cladding
systems are installed only on leeward
walls. Traditional stucco systems were
often installed on 19 x 38 mm (3/4 x
1 1/2 in.) vertical strapping, which
provided an air space to enhance
drying. Some stucco systems have been
built in drier climates without intentional
drainage or flashings. The reason for this
is that when there is little moisture that

might get into the wall assembly, there


is virtually none to drain out, because
the moisture will be absorbed into the
back of the stucco. In this instance the
absorbed moisture will subsequently
dry out after the rain stops, provided
that the air space behind the stucco has
sufficient capacity to assist in the
drying process.
One circumstance that is often
neglected is the need to dissipate
construction moisture. Systems that
provide a means for rapid drying of the
moisture contained in the building
materials to the outdoors will better
satisfy this requirement. Rainscreen
cladding systems with venting and
drainage provide an effective means of
drying construction moisture.

air leakage control design


The leakage of moist air into wall
assemblies can transport large quantities
of moisture in the form of water vapour.
Condensation of this water vapour
can take place under certain thermal
gradient conditions. The risk of
condensation from air leakage is most
effectively controlled by use of a
continuous air barrier system. As
previously discussed in Part 2, an
effective air barrier system also limits
the waste of energy caused by leakage
of heated or cooled conditioned air
through the building envelope. Other
benefits of an effective air barrier
system include reduced noise transmission,
reduced deposition of dust and molds
in wall cavities, and greater comfort in
the dwelling by decreasing drafts and
increasing the efficiency of the air
distribution system.

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approach

The following section will assist


designers and builders in choosing an
effective air barrier system for their
projects. Air barrier systems primarily
control the unwanted movement of air,
but may also improve the ability of wall
assemblies to control vapour diffusion.
The need for controlling air leakage
through building envelope assemblies
is a priority because it has been
demonstrated that large quantities of
moisture can be deposited by air
leaking into interstitial spaces.
The factors responsible for driving
air into or out of building envelope
assemblies are:
n
Wind speed and direction.
n

Stack effect

Mechanical or fan pressure.

n
n

Air pressure differential through


the assembly.
Orientation of the assembly.
Quality or effectiveness of the air
barrier system.

The performance of the air barrier


system depends on:
n
The thermal differential between
the inside and outside
environments and the direction of
thermal gradient in an assembly as
a function of climate.
n

182

The vapour pressure differential


between the inside and
outside environments.

The air pressure differential between


the inside and outside environments
that is produced by the heating,
ventilating and air conditioning
(HVAC) system and other airmoving appliances used by the
occupants, such as bathroom and
kitchen exhaust fans. If the air
pressure inside the building is
positive, air leakage through the
assembly will occur by exfiltration
and if the air pressure inside the
building is negative, air leakage
will occur by infiltration.
Stack effect, which is the result of
warm air rising, is also an important
factor, as this creates infiltration
air leakage at the bottom of walls
and exfiltration air leakage at the
top of walls and into attic spaces.

Two driving forces move water vapour


across building envelope assemblies.
The first is the water vapour pressure
differential (WVPD) between the
exterior and interior environments.
The second is the thermal gradient
across the assembly that causes
redistribution of moisture within the
construction materials. Thermal
gradients always move moisture towards
the cooler side of the assembly. Here we
are more concerned about the
consequences of air-borne moisture
caused by air leakage through the
building envelope assemblies.
To account for these relationships,
Table 3.4 provides a rating system
for combinations of indoor design
humidity conditions and climate,
which indicates the severity or stress
that an assembly may experience. The

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higher the number, the higher is


the requirement for an effective air
barrier system.

the indoors in the heating season and


air infiltration from the outdoors in the
cooling season.

Indoor humidity levels are affected by the


number of occupants using a dwelling,
their activities and their operation of
heating, air conditioning and ventilation
equipment. Outdoor humidity conditions
are classified by the climate class for
both cooling and heating seasons.

The larger numerical values represent a


greater need for an effective air barrier
system for the given climatic conditions.
The colder and more severe the climate
and the more humid the outdoor
condition or the desired indoor
condition, the greater the need for
control of air leakage through the
building envelope. NR signifies that an
air barrier is not recommended
because the conditions are not desirable
or, in some cases, not achievable.

The combination of the two driving


forces, water vapour pressure differential
and thermal gradient, is the larger
requirement and is introduced as an
intuitive method of measuring the
need to prevent air exfiltration from

Table 3 4 Minimum required effectiveness of air barrier systems


to control air leakage and vapour diffusion based
on climate class and interior design relative humidity
levels in the heating season and cooling season
Climate
Class

Low
< 35% RH

Moderate
35-55% RH

High
> 55% RH

Heating or
Cooling

Heating
Season

Cooling
Season

Heating
Season

Cooling
Season

Heating
Season

Cooling
Season

Heating
Season

Cooling
Season

Very Cold
(VC)

NR

NR

NR

Cool or
Cold Dry
(CCD)

NR

NR

NR

Cool or
Cold
Humid
(CCH)

NR

NR

NR

Warm or
Hot Dry
(WHD)

NR

Warm or
Hot Humid
(WHH)

NR

NR

NR

Note: Higher number = higher requirement for effective air barrier; NR = not required.

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A specific concern for appropriate air


barrier system design is local space
heating, cooling or ventilation as
opposed to a central HVAC system that
delivers conditioned air to all rooms
simultaneously. Local space heating or
cooling in an individual room, to the
exclusion of any other conditioning
in the dwelling unit creates large
differences in temperature and humidity
of the air between the different rooms.
If partial or local conditioning is practised
in the dwelling with supplemental
heating or cooling provided for selected
rooms, the conditions will be acceptable
only as long as the differentials in
temperature and humidity are not
excessive. Appearance of mold on
interior surfaces would signify that the
differentials are excessive and that
other measures should be taken. That
course of action is entirely up to the
occupants. Localized temperature and
humidity conditions can be safely
designed for, but only by planning for
this before construction. This is the
preferred approach that will protect
both the builder and the occupants
from future problems.

blower-door air depressurization tests


and by the sealing of any air leaks, this
leads to a high level of assurance that
the installation will attain the
desired performance level. Designers
and builders should seek confirmation
of the quality of the work done by
persons who may not be sufficiently
familiar with this type of construction.
One type of material that can be used
to control air leakage in an air barrier
system is a water-resistant barrier
(WRB) membrane. WRB membranes,
which act primarily as a moisture barrier,
can also act as an air barrier if they are
impervious to air and adequately
lapped, taped or clamped so that
passage of air is minimized. WRB
membranes consist of the following
types of products:
n
Asphalt-impregnated cellulose fibre
based sheet (eg. Building Paper)
n

choice of air Barrier system


The next consideration is the effectiveness
of the air barrier system to control
air leakage and the accompanying
moisture transport through the building
envelope assemblies. To rate the
effectiveness of an air barrier system,
we need to consider the effectiveness
of the type of air barrier material
chosen for use in the system. Greater
care is needed to construct some
types of systems to ensure that more
effective performance will be attained.
If performance is confirmed by
184

Spun-bonded polyolefin fabric


(eg. House-wrap)
Perforated or non-perforated polymeric
film (eg. Polyethylene Sheet)
Spray-applied liquid or troweled-on
mastic (eg. Rubberized asphalt)

Other types of air barrier materials


that are also moisture barriers are
self-adhesive
or
peel-and-stick
membranes, or high density sprayed
polyurethane foam insulation. The latter can be applied to the outside or the
inside of the sheathing in a wood
framed assembly.
There are some cautions to be noted
when using some of these air barrier
materials. For example, unrestrained
perforated polymeric films, such as

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polyethylene, may permit liquid


moisture penetration under some
circumstances and permeability to air
may be high. Also, some membranes
are more vulnerable to damage from
tearing before restraint is provided and
special fasteners may be required to
resist wind action from damaging
the materials during construction.
Some, though not all, air barrier
materials have low water vapour
permeability and act as a vapour barrier,
therefore their position relative to the
thermal insulation in the wall must be
carefully considered. Generally, to
avoid condensation problems it is
recommended that in a cold or heating
climate the low water vapour permeable
material, that is the vapour barrier,
should be placed on the warm side or
inside of the thermal insulation and in
a hot or cooling climate the vapour
barrier should also be placed on the
warm side of the insulation, that is, on
the outside.
It should be obvious to any designer or
builder that if an air barrier system is to
retain its effectiveness it should be
inspected for defects and repaired
where and when this can be most easily
accomplished in the sequence of
construction. Preferably, the air barrier
system should be inspected and
evaluated before it is closed-in by
interior finishes or exterior cladding
and is then unavailable for corrective
action. Blower-door testing before the
assemblies are closed-in is the most
effective method of locating defects in
the air barrier system, thus allowing
corrective measures to be taken while it
is still possible to do so. In an air
barrier system, it is far more important

that continuity of the air barrier be


provided than it is to have a limited
amount of air permeability in the air
barrier material. Continuity of the air
barrier, with no holes, gaps or openings,
is essential for an effective air barrier
system. Also, the more rigidity and the
more restraint that can be provided for
an air barrier system, the more effective
the air barrier system will be, particularly
under extreme wind conditions.
An effective air barrier system is
important for the performance of the
building envelope. Examples of
appropriate air barrier systems are
illustrated in Part 4, together with air
barrier materials and details to control
air leakage between foundations and
walls, walls and floors, and between
walls and roofs. These details should
provide the basis for excellent air
barrier performance in any climate
where wood-frame construction is
used. It should be noted that an
effective air barrier system will reduce
the amount of naturally occurring
ventilation that passes through the
building
envelope
assemblies.
Ventilation requirements for the
dwelling should be provided for by
other natural and mechanical means.

moisture Balance and vapour


diffusion control design
The preceding discussion considered
moisture penetration control and air
leakage control separately. In each case,
it was noted that in addition to the
primary function of each form of control,
it is necessary to consider additional
aspects of system performance. The
design of walls for moisture, air,
vapour and heat control requires that

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the moisture balance in the assemblies


be addressed. In this document, we will
rely on experience to describe appropriate
measures and types of details that will
provide this balance and control. As
noted in the remarks about moisture
control priorities, it is important to
successfully design and build the wall
system to provide adequate control of
moisture penetration and air leakage.
Once decisions have been made on
how moisture and air control is
accomplished, the components of the
assembly will have been well defined
and decisions on vapour diffusion
control can then be made.
Experience has shown that there is no
ambiguity on where the main plane of
water vapour diffusion resistance is
required in cold or hot climates. The
amount of water vapour resistance
depends on the amount and strength of
water vapour drive. In extreme cases,
providing a maximum degree of vapour
control will not lead to any difficulty.
In addition to the general climatic
definitions, which identify different
degrees of vapour control, we also need
to consider three conditions that affect
water vapour diffusion control:
1. Moisture from rain that may be
stored in the cladding materials
can be driven inward through the
wall by solar effects.
2. Moisture stored in materials at the
time of construction, as well as
potential incidental moisture added
to walls through defects that allow
for moisture penetration.
3. Use of air conditioning,
particularly cooling.

186

The first condition requires that any


absorptive cladding system, such as
wood, stucco or masonry, should have
a capillary break or a ventilated cavity
appropriate to the storage capacity of
the cladding system and the degree of
exposure to moisture. Traditionally, an
air space of not less than 25 mm (1 in.)
would be used as a separation between
the face brick and the sheathing of a
masonry veneer wood-frame wall in any
climate. Also, in the past, a ventilation
gap of not less than 19 mm (3/4 in.)
would be used behind most other
cladding systems, including wood
siding and stucco. In some climates, it is
preferable to avoid the use of absorptive
cladding systems. This is demonstrated
by the use of non-absorptive construction
in different parts of the world that have
survived well in local climates.
In climates where fog can load
absorptive cladding systems with
moisture, this effect can be countered
by the use of non-absorptive materials.
Excessive ventilation behind cladding
materials may also contribute to
increased moisture build-up in the
cladding materials.
The second condition can be
controlled by the builder, who must
provide a wood frame that is not
excessively wet. Proper storage and
protection of materials on site and
careful timing of framing activities will
keep the moisture content of the
materials as low as possible. When the
weather is inclement, it is necessary to
take additional measures to enhance
drying. A wall that has been subjected
to moderate construction moisture
loading will be able to deal with the
excess moisture penetration at minor
defects by evaporative drying.

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The third condition involves the use of


air conditioning. The climatic
assessment system proposed in Part 3
takes into consideration the cooling
degree days for the building location.
We may safely assume that air
conditioning will be used where the
CDD levels are high enough to
warrant its use. It is currently accepted
that about 85 per cent of all new
construction in the U.S.A. includes
installation of an air conditioning
system. In Canada, a similar amount of
air conditioner use is being seen in regions where the CDD levels are
high. In other parts of the world, where
electrical power generation is sufficient
and the CDD levels are high enough,
the preference is to install some form of
air conditioning whenever possible.
If a very energy efficient building
envelope is built, as recommended in
this document, the energy required for
establishing and maintaining interior
comfort will not be overly demanding.
In the event that electrical power supply
is inadequate or too expensive, only
natural ventilation can be relied upon,
whatever the CDD level for
the location. Reliance on natural
ventilation would require a substantial
modification in the design of the
building, but durability would be
enhanced if measures recommended
here are followed for the design of the
building envelope.

materials for vapour


diffusion control
Permeance is the rate at which vapour
flows through the thickness of a
material for a given pressure difference.
It is the measure of water vapour flux
(mass of water per second) through a
unit area of a layer, induced by a vapour
pressure difference (Pascals) across that
layer. The traditional imperial unit of
measurement for characterizing the
water vapour permeance of materials is
the perm. In the metric system of
measurement, vapour premeance is
measured in nanograms per Pascal
square metre second (ng/Pam2 s).
One unit of permeance in the metric
system equals 1 ng/Pam2 s. An
imperial perm is approximately 57.4
times the metric unit of permeance. In
accordance with the National Building
Code of Canada, a vapour barrier
material shall have a vapour permeance
not greater than 60 ng/Pam2 s.
Materials used to control water vapour
diffusion in building envelope assemblies
can be categorized as three general
types based on their permeability as
outlined in Table 3.5.

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Table 3 5 Classification of Materials used for Control


of Water Vapour Diffusion
Vapour
Control Type

Vapour
Permeability

Vapour
Permeance
Range
(perms)

Vapour
Permeance
Range(ng/
Pam2s)

Applications
Inside
Vapour
Control
Climate

Outside
Vapour
Control
Climate

Very Cold
(VC) and
Cool or
Cold
Humid
(CCH)

Warm or
Hot Humid
(WHH)

Type I Vapour
Barrier

Impermeable

0 to 1

0 to 60

Type II Vapour
Retarder

Semi-
permeable*

1 to 10

60 to 600

Cool or Cold Dry (CCD)


and Warm or Hot Dry
(WHD)

Over 600

Very Cold
Warm or
(VC)cand
Hot Humid
Cool or
(WHH)
Cold Humid
(CCH)

Type III Vapour


Breather

Permeable

Over 10

* Some materials that are generally semi-permeable to water vapour are: plywood, OSB, expanded
polystyrene (EPS), all asphalt-impregnated building papers and typical facings on batt insulations
and most latex-based paints applied with a primer sealer.

A summary of the possible combinations


of vapour control classes, as defined in
Table 3.5, that are recommended for
conventional wood-frame construction
having insulation only in the stud wall
cavities, is provided in Table 3.6. It
should be noted that the choice of
thermal resistance might dominate the
wall assembly design in many climatic
zones. For example, in extremely
cold climates, use of external insulation
on the outside of the frame is often
required. The external insulation in
combination with a WRB on the
outside of the wall assembly provides
more vapour resistance than is

188

recommended, if vapour diffusion


from the inside is the only
consideration. The construction of the
air leakage control plane is a much
more important consideration and
would take priority over the location of
the vapour diffusion control plane.
Where it is important to have excellent
vapour diffusion control as well as air
leakage control, as in some of the
specified climates, it is necessary to
consider framing and insulation
techniques, such as the PERSIST
system, that go beyond conventional wall
framing systems (refer to Figure 2.29).

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Part 3: Climatic Considerations

Table 3 6 Vapour Control Types for Conventional


Wood-framed Wall Construction with
Insulation in stud Wall Cavities Only
Vapour Control Type
For Inside Vapour
Control
(From Table 3.5)

Climate Class

Vapour Control Type


For Outside Vapour
Control (From Table 3.5)

Very Cold (VC)

III, II

Cool or Cold Humid (CCH)

III, II

I, II

Cool or Cold Dry (CCD

II

I, II

Cool or Cold Humid (CCH)

II

II, III

Warm or Hot Dry (WHD)

I, II

III

Warm or Hot Humid (WHH)

special considerations
The use of highly water vapour-resistant
wall finishes, such as vinyl wallpaper, is
not recommended in certain climates
because the low vapour permeability of
the material prevents moisture in the
wall from escaping by diffusion and
drying to the inside. In assemblies
where this has been a problem, poor air
leakage control has contributed to
moisture transport into the wall assembly
from the outside. This problem occurs
mainly in Warm or Hot Humid
(WHH) climates and the use of highly
vapour resistant wall finishes in these
climates should be avoided.
In cold climatic zones where a high
level of water vapour resistance is
required on the inside face of the
insulation, the use of highly vapour
resistant interior finishes, such as vinyl
wallpaper, is appropriate. Whether the
application of highly vapour-resistant
finishes should replace the use of
traditional vapour control materials
in the wall assembly is debatable.

Occupants can remove interior


finishes, such as vinyl wallpaper, which
act as the vapour barrier in a wall and
unknowingly create vapour control
problems. The need for an effective
vapour barrier in these circumstances is
required for more than just the wall
assemblies. Vapour control protection
for ceilings below unheated attics,
and especially for floors above unheated
spaces in cold climates, requires
special consideration.
There is no reason that highly vapour
resistant finishes cannot be used to
supplement conventional vapour
control. It is important to know that
construction moisture contained in the
building materials must be allowed to
dissipate before applying highly vapour
resistant interior finishes. In any wall
assembly without stud space insulation,
the wall studs and stud spaces will
experience approximately the same
environmental conditions as the
interior of the building. Given that
there will be little vapour pressure drive
and no restriction of airflow, since that

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will be controlled on the exterior of the


wall assembly, it would be possible to
use vapour resistant interior finishes in
these circumstances.
Walls with external insulation and no
insulation in the stud spaces, allow for
such good control of air leakage that
the accumulation of moisture in these
wall cavities is less likely to occur.
Since the interior finishes are not fully
continuous, there is an opportunity
for drying of the stud cavities by
evaporation to the inside. The only
drawback would be if direct water
penetration into the empty stud spaces
took were to occur at improperly
flashed windows and doors or at other
wall penetrations. Most conventional
wall assemblies have a vapour barrier
on the inside of the insulation at the
exterior side of the gypsum wall board
and can tolerate vapour-resistant
finishes in addition to the traditional
vapour barrier, effectively placing two
layers of vapour control in close proximity
to each other. If the vapour-resistant
wall finish material is later removed by
the occupants, the vapour barrier
material, usually polyethylene film, will
continue to act as an effective vapour
control barrier.

Zonal conditioning
One additional issue that needs to be
considered involves the use of room air
conditioners, particularly in hot humid
climates. Zonal conditioning refers to
the air conditioning of individual zones
within a dwelling, as opposed to central
air conditioning of the entire dwelling.
To minimize the possibility of mould
growth on interior partitions between
rooms in zonally conditioned dwellings,
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it is important to apply the same


knowledge gained from building in
cold climates. Some vapour resistance
is needed on the opposite side, or warm
side, of the interior partitions enclosing
the air-conditioned space. This can be
readily achieved by using low vapour
permeance primer, paint or wallpaper.
Furthermore, it may be desirable to
provide the interior partitions with
some capacity for moisture buffering,
i.e., having the capability to temporarily
store moisture until it dries by
evaporation. If different areas of the
house are air conditioned at different
times, it may be safer to use finishes
that are only moderately resistive to
vapour diffusion and to use blown-in
cellulose or another type of insulation
that can act as a moisture buffer. Water
vapour is temporarily stored in the
insulation material and eventually dries
out through evaporation. As higher
insulation levels are used in exterior
walls, the temperature difference between
rooms is minimized and condensation
and mould growth problems between
rooms become less frequent. In
cultures where individual room
conditioning is prevalent, feedback
suggests that energy-efficient buildings
with whole-house conditioning have
more evenly heated or cooled living
spaces. This could also be attributed in
part to the use of continuously operating
furnace or mechanical ventilation.
Zonal conditioning also affects ceiling
and attic spaces. Proper levels of
insulation and air leakage and vapour
diffusion control are needed to separate
the attic conditions, both directly over
the room below as well as over interior
partitions between rooms. There are

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Part 3: Climatic Considerations

obviously many vapour control


difficulties to be overcome when cooling
by long-term zonal conditioning.
Equally difficult to design are rooms
that are individually heated while the
rest of the building remains in an
unconditioned state. The interior walls
and ceilings of individually heated
or cooled rooms must be designed
to address heat, air and vapour
control issues.

retained moisture that could not


dissipate rapidly enough, there is some
doubt that construction in these
locations needs to be radically
different from construction in other
climatic zones. The provision of a
drainage and ventilation space behind
the cladding addresses most of the
moisture penetration issues and leads
to better performance and durability of
the wall assemblies.

flooding

In addition, using appropriate


installation details for windows and
doors and for other mechanical and
electrical penetrations in the cladding
has eliminated most of the moisture
penetration problems. Common sense
and traditional building practices, such as
these, are appropriate for all regions of
North America and should be routinely
used. It is a matter of designing properly
for moisture penetration control.

A moisture related issue that can


only be addressed by examining the
topography and weather history of
a construction site is whether the
building will be at risk from flooding.
If there is historical evidence of
flooding, the site should simply
be avoided. Local building by-laws
will also regulate development on
flood prone sites.

north american marine


locations

conclusion
to Part 3

Recent building envelope durability


problems in some parts of North
America, particularly in areas that
could be described as Marine climates,
such as coastal British Columbia,
Canada, need special consideration.
The fact that the durability problems
are considered to be special cases
implies that construction in those
locales needs to be substantially
different from that in other parts of
North America. However, since the
problems experienced in British
Columbia had to do primarily with
the use of face-seal, direct-applied
claddings that either could not drain
water that penetrated them, or that

Part 3 has provided a means of


identifying the climatic effects that
influence design and construction in
different locations. The use of
satellite-derived climatic data enables
designers and builders to apply their
skills to the construction of durable
wood-frame buildings in any location
in the world. This approach allows a
builder to consider changes to the
construction details that may improve
the durability of wood-frame buildings.
In doing so, data about local climatic
conditions will have been considered,
which will provide information that
goes well beyond that contained in the
local building codes.

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Part 3: Climatic Considerations

The proper application of this


information will result in superior
quality, durable wood-frame buildings.
If climatic data is available for specific
locations, as provided in local building
codes, this information should be used.
If specific design and construction
procedures are also provided in local
building codes, they should supersede
or be used to supplement the approach
described here.
The critical lessons presented in this
document are:
n
Wood-frame construction should
and can provide durable, long
lasting shelter in any climate.
n

Examples of successful woodframe buildings abound in all


climate zones.
All durability concerns ultimately
have to do with controlling
moisture penetration.
Keeping the order of priorities
straight ensures that the materials
selected and the assemblies
built will meet all the
requirements for long-lasting,
durable wood-frame buildings.

The procedure outlined in Part 3 for


assigning various climatic zones to
particular locations around the globe,
enables designers and builders to
rapidly ascertain the appropriate
climatic zone for their buildings.
Specific requirements are associated
with mountainous and coastal regions,
such as exposure to wind, fog, and
air-borne salt. These are factors that
designers and builders must deal with
when building in these areas.
The major changes in the construction
assemblies to suit different climates
deal with thermal and moisture flows
within the interstitial spaces in the
foundation, wall and roof assemblies.
With the above procedure, it should be
possible to address these thermal and
moisture issues for conditioned, woodframe buildings in any part of the
world. This will enable designers and
builders to determine if heating or
cooling is necessary and whether it is
feasible to pursue a certain type of
design and construction.
In Part 4, we will present examples
of construction details that are
appropriate for use in the different
climatic zones.

We have provided a procedure,


supplemented by Appendices A and B,
which uses a minimum number of
parameters to categorize the climatic
zone for the location in which a
building is planned. We have also
described certain preferences in
dealing with the environmental
effects that must be considered when
designing and building durable
wood-frame buildings.

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Part 4: construction assemblies

Part 4: Construction Assemblies

introduction
to Part 4
Part 4 presents details for wood-frame
construction assemblies for different
climatic zones and service conditions.
The details in these construction
assemblies are based on the building
science principles and building
envelope design principles previously
described in Parts 1, 2 and 3.
After considering the principles of
moisture, air, vapour, heat and
radiation control, as they affect the
accumulation of moisture in wood-frame
construction assemblies, we will now
account for these principles in the

design of the details for the various


construction assemblies of a typical
wood-frame house. We will examine
these principles for the five basic
climatic zones first described in
Table 3.1 in Part 3 and included in the
following
Table
4.1:
Basic
Climatic Zones for Building Design and
Construction.
A
sixth
generic
Multi-Climate zone and associated
assembly details have been included to
illustrate recommended construction
assembly details for use in climates
with mixed climatic conditions.

Table 4 1 basic Climatic Zones for building Design


and Construction
Climatic
Zone and
Assembly
Details
Number

Climatic Zone
Designation and
Map Symbol

Climatic
Characteristics

Very Cold = VC

Long very cold winters and short cool summers

Cool or Cold
Dry = CCD

Cool or cold winters and warm or hot summers with low


precipitation and low humidity

Cool or Cold
Humid = CCH

Cool or cold winters and warm or hot summers with high


precipitation and high humidity

Warm or Hot
Dry = WHD

Short mild winters and long, warm or hot, dry summers with
low precipitation and low humidity

Warm or Hot
Humid = WHH

Short mild winters and long, warm or hot, humid summers


with high precipitation and high humidity

Multi-Climate

Generic climatic zone with cold, warm or hot temperatures,


high or low precipitation levels and humid or dry humidity levels

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Moisture control in many climates is


concerned with the control of water vapour
diffusion. Vapour diffusion control is
achieved through the correct selection
and placement of materials appropriate
for the climate in which the building
is
located
and
the
interior
operating conditions of the building.
The control of moisture penetration
from rain must be achieved in all
climates for a building to be useful and
durable. Also, air leakage control needs
to be achieved in all climates to
minimize heating and cooling loads,
ensure occupant health and comfort
and to avoid condensation in the
construction assemblies.
The moisture content of the construction
materials of most building assemblies
will vary seasonally and will depend on
the details that are used. In some cases,
moisture accumulation in the
assemblies can occur, particularly in
extremely humid climates. The ability
of walls to dry this accumulated
moisture to acceptable levels by
evaporation may be limited because of
the humid climatic conditions.
Consequently, special attention is
required to successfully select the
appropriate construction materials and
assembly details that are the least
vulnerable to moisture accumulation
in extreme climates.
In extreme climates it is desirable to
place all or most of the thermal
insulation outboard of the wood
framing. By doing this, the wood-frame
structure is contained within the
insulated building envelope and is
therefore not subject to the extreme
outdoor conditions. This will result in
196

a more durable wood-frame structure.


A typical misconception when using
external thermal insulation is that there
is no need for a water-resistant barrier
(WRB) membrane on the exterior
sheathing. While this may be true in
some climates when using a continuous
layer of spray-on polyurethane foam
insulation, it is incorrect when using
rigid polystyrene foam board or
semi-rigid mineral fibre or glass fibre
insulation. A WRB sheathing membrane
is needed to provide a drainage plane to
prevent liquid moisture penetration
into the wall stud spaces. Depending
on the vapour permeance of the
insulation used, the degree of vapour
resistance provided by the WRB should
be sufficient to protect the wall
assembly from the high humidity
caused by moisture storage in stucco or
brick veneer claddings when they are
saturated with water and heated by the
sun. A high degree of vapour resistance
in the WRB membrane may also be
desirable when using other types of
claddings in humid climates to protect
the assembly from high humidity levels
in the wall cavity. The WRB membrane
is also necessary to allow connection of
the flashing system around openings in
the wall assembly to ensure continuity
of the cavity drainage system.
In all climates, the choice of exterior
cladding, whether stucco or EIFS, or
aluminum, vinyl, steel, hardboard,
wood, or cementitious siding, depends
on the issues of moisture penetration,
absorption, storage and drainage, as
well as material cost.

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Part 4: Construction Assemblies

construction
assEmBliEs
One set of construction assembly
details, including a written description
of the construction methods and
materials used, is presented for each of
the five basic climatic zones. A sixth set
of details has been included for a
Multi-Climate zone, which represents
a generic climate zone incorporating
the temperature, moisture, and
humidity characteristics found in the
other milder climatic zones.

very cold (vc) climate:


assembly details no. 1
Figure 4.1 shows a typical cross-section
through the exterior wall, typical plan
details at an exterior corner and at an
interior partition meeting the exterior
wall, and typical section details at the
roof eave, at an intermediate floor and
at the top of the foundation wall for a
dwelling built with either 38 89 mm
(2 4 in.) or 38 140 mm (2 6 in.)
wood-frame construction. The
materials referred to by numbers in
brackets in the following text match
the numbers in the details.
The exterior of the wood-frame wall
structure is covered with plywood, waferboard or oriented strand board
(OSB) sheathing (4) and the interior is
finished with primed and painted
gypsum wallboard (1). The exterior of
the dwelling can be finished with
stucco or EIFS, wood, vinyl, fibre
cement board or metal siding, or
masonry veneer cladding (10).
The material serving the air
barrier function is 0.15 mm (6 mil)

polyethylene film (2), which also


acts as the vapour barrier. The air
permeance of the polyethylene film is
0.00 L/s-m@75 Pa and the water vapour permeance is 3.4 ng/Pams
(0.06 perms). The polyethylene air and
vapour barrier (AVB) film must be
overlapped a minimum of 200 mm
(8 in.) and sealed with either a
continuous bead of acoustical sealant
or construction tape at all joints
and junctions and stapled to the
wood-frame backing, to provide the
required air barrier continuity.
The water-resistant barrier (WRB)
sheathing membrane (5) is either
spun-bonded
polyolefin
fabric
house-wrap or asphalt-impregnated
building paper, which also acts as wind
barrier or secondary air barrier.
All joints and junctions in the
house-wrap membrane must be sealed
with compatible tape. If using building
paper, two layers are recommended
instead of one, to provide a higher
degree of wind resistance during
construction and improved air leakage
control and drainage for any water that
may penetrate the cladding. Building
paper can be used in the field of the
wall with additional tabs of housewrap used for air sealing at rim joists
and at the top and bottom of walls.
This is a recommended practice for energy
efficiency and durability since these
locations are often poorly air sealed.
The stud spaces (3) in the wood-frame
wall are insulated with glass fibre or
mineral fibre batt insulation, blown-in
cellulose fibre, mineral fibre or glass
fibre insulation, or spray polyurethane
foam (SPUF) insulation.

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The external thermal insulation (8) is a


layer of 38 to 75 mm (1 1/2 to 3 in.)
semi-rigid glass fibre or mineral-fibre
board, rigid extruded type II or type III
(XPS) or expanded (EPS) polystyrene,
or spray-applied medium or high-density
polyurethane foam (SPUF). The
external thermal insulation in this
assembly must repel liquid water
either on its own or through the use of
a waterproof facing. This low vapour
permeance exterior facing on the
insulation will provide protection from
reverse solar vapour drive, that is,
moisture driven from a rain-soaked
stucco or brick veneer cladding
into the wall from the exterior by
solar radiation.
Vertical preservative-treated wood
strapping (7), ranging in thickness
from 10 to 19 mm (3/8 to 3/4 in.) is
installed at 400 mm (16 in.) on centre
directly over the external insulation
(8), or on optional preservative-treated
wood shear blocks (6) if required for
seismic restraint or to accommodate
the weight and thickness of the
cladding. The cladding is then fastened
to the strapping with corrosion-resistant
fasteners. For vertical siding or wood
shingles, horizontal strapping can be
added over the vertical strapping to
support the cladding.
An important part of rainscreen
design is the drainage and venting of
the air space (9) between the external
insulation (8) and the exterior cladding
(10) at the top of the wall and at all
intermediate floors and at the top of
the foundation wall. At the bottom of
the wall and at all intermediate floors,
the cavity is vented and flashed from
198

behind the sheathing membrane (5) to


the outside. This will direct any
moisture that penetrates the cladding
to the outside. Insect screen should be
installed at all openings, vents and
drains to prevent entry of insects into
the air space.
All window and door heads and
mechanical penetrations through the
wall must be flashed with an appropriate
flashing material that extends up 150 mm
(6 in.) behind the WRB sheathing
membrane (5), passing through the
drainage cavity (9) and extending a
minimum of 19 mm (3/4 in.) beyond
the face of the cladding. Roof overhangs
should extend a minimum of 600 mm
(2 ft.) to protect the wall area
immediately below the eaves.
To manage water that may penetrate
window and door frames, a sub-sill
flashing must be applied to the rough
opening sill beneath all windows and
doors and extend a minimum of 150 mm
(6 in.) up the jambs of the rough
opening. The window and door
sub-sill flashings must be drained into
the drainage cavity behind the cladding
or directly to the outside. The assembly
details shown in Figure 4.1 are suitable
for climates with long, very cold
winters and short, cool summers,
and are equally effective in either wet
or dry climates with high or low levels
of precipitation.

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Part 4: Construction Assemblies

Plan details

VERY COLD (VC) CLIMATE


Wood-Frame Structure: 38 x 89 mm (2 x 4 in.) or
38 x 140 mm (2 x 6 in.) wood studs at 400 or 600 mm
(16 or 24 in.) on centre

Cladding Options: Stucco, wood, vinyl, fibre


cement board, metal, masonry veneer

Insulation Options: Glass fibre or mineral fibre batt, or blown cellulose, mineral fibre or glass fibre,
spray foam stud space insulation
Construction Notes: Polyethylene air and vapour barrier sealed at all joints with continuous bead of
acoustical sesalant or construction tape and stapled at 200 mm (8 in.) on centre to wood backing

Typical Wall Assembly:


Gypsum wallboard
.15 mm (6 mil) polyethylene air and vapour barrier (AVB)
Stud space insulation
Plywood, waferboard or OBS sheathing
Building paper or house-wrap moisture
barrier and wind barrier
Optional preservative treated wood shear block
10 to 19 mm (3/8 to 3/4 in.) preservative treated vertical
wood strapping 400 or 600 mm (16 or 24 in.) on centre
38 to 75 mm (1 1/2 to 3 in.) external insulation
Ventilation and drainage air space
Exterior cladding

Polyethylene
AVB tab
Plan Detail at Typical
Interior Partition

Plan Detail at Typical


Outside Corner

4.1a

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Part 4: Construction Assemblies

Section details
Full depth insulation
at eave

House-wrap AB tab
Polyethylene air and
vapour barrier
Section Detail at
Typical Roof Eave

External insulation

Vapour permeable
house-wrap air
barrier at headers

Polyethylene
VB tab

Through wall flashing

Section Detail at Typical


Intermediate Floor

Polyethylene
VB tab
WRB membrane sealed
to face of concrete
foundation wall
Sill gasket

Section Detail at Typical


Foundation Wall

200

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4.1b

Part 4: Construction Assemblies

cold dry (cd) climate:


assembly details no. 2
Figure 4.2 shows a typical cross-section
through the exterior wall, typical plan
details at an exterior corner and at an
interior partition meeting the exterior
wall, and typical section details at the
roof eave, at an intermediate floor and
at the top of the foundation wall for a
dwelling built with either 38 89 mm
(2 4 in.) or 38 140 mm (2 6 in.)
wood-frame construction. The materials
referred to by numbers in brackets in
the following text match the numbers
in the details.
The exterior of the wood-frame wall
structure is covered with plywood,
waferboard or oriented strand board
(OSB) sheathing (4) and the interior is
finished with primed and painted
gypsum wallboard (1). The exterior of
the dwelling can be finished with
stucco, wood, vinyl, fibre cement board,
metal or masonry veneer cladding (6).
The stud spaces (3) in the wood-frame
wall are insulated with glass fibre or
mineral fibre batt insulation, blown-in
cellulose fibre, mineral fibre or glass
fibre insulation, or spray polyurethane
foam (SPUF) insulation. Depending
on the required thermal resistance value
(RSI or R value) of the insulation,
either 38 89 mm (2 4 in.) or
38 140 mm (2 6 in.) wood
framing may be selected. However,
from a building science point of view,
38 89 mm (2 4 in.) framing with
additional external insulation is
preferred to the more conventional
38 140 mm (2 6 in.) framing
without external insulation. This
provides a superior thermal break at

the wall studs and minimizes the


condensation potential in wall cavities,
while providing equal or better total
thermal resistance values.
The material serving the air
barrier function is 0.15 mm (6 mil)
polyethylene film (2), which also acts
as the vapour barrier. The air permeance
of the polyethylene film is 0.00 L/s-m
@75 Pa and the water vapour permeance
is 3.4 ng/Pams (0.06 perms). The
polyethylene air and vapour barrier
(AVB) film must be overlapped a
minimum of 200 mm (8 in.) and sealed
with either a continuous bead of acoustical
sealant or compatible tape at all joints
and junctions and stapled to the woodframe backing, to provide the required
air barrier continuity.
The water-resistant barrier (WRB)
sheathing membrane (5) is either
spun-bonded
polyolefin
fabric
house-wrap or asphalt-impregnated
building paper, which also acts as wind
barrier or secondary air barrier.
All joints and junctions in the
house-wrap membrane must be sealed
with construction tape. If using
building paper, two layers are
recommended instead of one, to
provide a higher degree of wind
resistance during construction and
improved air leakage control and
drainage for any water that may
penetrate the cladding. Building paper
can be used in the field of the wall with
additional tabs of house-wrap used for
air sealing at rim joists and at the
top and bottom of walls. This is a
recommended practice for energy
efficiency and durability since these
locations are often poorly air sealed.

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Part 4: Construction Assemblies

All window and door heads and


mechanical penetrations should have a
through-wall flashing extending up a
minimum of 150 mm (6 in.) behind
the WRB sheathing membrane and out
19 mm (3/4 in.) beyond the face of the
cladding
to
ensure
proper
drainage of the wall cavity. Roof
overhangs extending a minimum of
600 mm (2 ft.) beyond the outer face
of the wall will serve to protect the wall
area immediately below the eave.
To manage moisture that may
penetrate at window and door frames,
a sub-sill flashing membrane must be

202

applied to the rough opening sill


beneath all windows and doors and
extend a minimum of 150 mm (6 in.)
up the jambs of the rough opening.
The window and door sub-sill flashings
must be drained directly to the outside.
The assembly details shown in
Figure 4.2 are suitable for cold winter
climates with relatively dry, warm or
hot summers. This assembly is not
recommended for other climates.
In cold, humid climates a rainscreen
approach is recommended for
wall assemblies.

Canada Mortgage
202202and Housing Corporation

Part 4: Construction Assemblies

Plan details

COLD DRY (CD) CLIMATE


Wood-Frame Structure: 38 x 89 mm (2 x 4 in.) or
38 x 140 mm (2 x 6 in.) wood studs at 400 or 600 mm
(16 or 24 in.) on centre

Cladding Options: Stucco, wood, vinyl, fibre


cement board, metal, masonry veneer

Insulation Options: Glass fibre or mineral fibre batt, or blown cellulose, mineral fibre or glass fibre, spray foam
Construction Notes: Polyethylene air and vapour barrier sealed at all joints with continuous bead of
acoustical sealant or construction tape and stapled at 200 mm (8 in.) on centre to wood backing
Typical Wall Assembly:
Gypsum wallboard
.15 mm (6 mil) polyethylene air and vapour
barrier (AVB)
Stud space insulation
Plywood, waferboard or OBS sheathing
Building paper or house-wrap water
resistant barrier (WRB) and wind barrier
Exterior cladding

Polyethylene
AVB tab
Plan Detail at Typical
Interior Partition

Plan Detail at Typical


Outside Corner

4.2a

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation

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Part 4: Construction Assemblies

Section details

House-wrap AB tab
Polyethylene air and
vapour barrier
Section Detail at
Typical Roof Eave

Insulated recessed
header

Vapour permeable
house-wrap air barrier
at headers
Polyethylene vapour
barrier tab

Section Detail at Typical


Intermediate Floor

Through wall flashing


Sill gasket

Section Detail at Typical


Foundation Wall

204

Canada Mortgage
204204and Housing Corporation

4.2b

Part 4: Construction Assemblies

cold humid (ch) climate:


assembly details no. 3
Figure 4.3 shows a typical cross-section
through the exterior wall, typical plan
details at an exterior corner and at an
interior partition meeting the exterior
wall, and typical section details at the
roof eave, at an intermediate floor and
at the top of the foundation wall for a
dwelling built with either 38 89 mm
(2 4 in.) or 38 140 mm (2 6 in.)
wood-frame construction. The materials
referred to by numbers in brackets in
the following text match the numbers
in the details.
The exterior of the wood-frame wall
structure is covered with plywood,
waferboard or oriented strand board
(OSB) sheathing (4) and the interior is
finished with primed and painted
gypsum wallboard (1). The exterior of
the dwelling is finished with stucco,
wood, vinyl, fibre cement board, metal
or masonry veneer cladding (8).
The stud spaces (3) in the
wood-frame wall are insulated with
glass fibre or mineral fibre batt insulation,
blown-in cellulose fibre, mineral fibre
or glass fibre insulation, or spray
polyurethane foam (SPUF) insulation.
Depending on the required thermal
resistance value (RSI or R value) of the
insulation, either 38 89 mm
(2 4 in.) or 38 140 mm (2 6 in.)
wood framing may be selected. However,
from a building science point of view,
38 89 mm (2 4 in.) framing
with additional external insulation is
preferred to the more conventional
38 140 mm (2 6 in.) framing
without external insulation. This
provides a superior thermal break at

the wall studs and minimizes the


condensation potential in wall cavities,
while providing equal or better total
thermal resistance values.
The material serving the air
barrier function is 0.15 mm (6 mil)
polyethylene film (2), which also
acts as the vapour barrier. The air
permeance of the polyethylene film is
0.00 L/s-m@75 Pa and the water
vapour permeance is 3.4 ng/Pams
(0.06 perms). The polyethylene air and
vapour
barrier
(AVB)
film
must be overlapped a minimum of
200 mm (8 in.) and sealed with either
a continuous bead of acoustical
sealant or compatible tape at all
joints and junctions and stapled to
the wood-frame backing, to provide
the required air barrier continuity.
The water resistant barrier (WRB)
sheathing membrane (5) is either
spun-bonded
polyolefin
fabric
house-wrap or asphalt-impregnated
building paper. All joints and junctions
in the house-wrap membrane must
be sealed with construction tape. If
using building paper, two layers are
recommended instead of one, to
provide a higher degree of wind
resistance during construction and
improved air leakage control and
drainage for any water that may
penetrate the cladding.
Building
paper can be used in the field of the wall
with additional tabs of house-wrap
used for air sealing at rim joists and at
the top and bottom of walls. This is a
recommended practice for energy
efficiency and durability since these
locations are often poorly air sealed.

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Part 4: Construction Assemblies

Vertical preservative-treated wood


strapping (6), ranging in thickness from
10 to 19 mm (3/8 to 3/4 in.) is installed
at 400 mm (16 in.) on centre over the
water resistant barrier and exterior
sheathing. The cladding is then fastened
to the strapping with corrosion-resistant
fasteners. For vertical siding or wood
shingles, horizontal strapping can be
added over the vertical strapping to
support the cladding.
An important part of rainscreen
design is the provision of drainage at
the bottom and venting at the top of
the wall ventilation and drainage
cavity (7) between the WRB (5) and the
cladding (8) and at all intermediate
floors and at the top of the foundation
wall. At the bottom of the wall and at
all intermediate floors the ventilation
and drainage cavity is vented and
flashed to direct any moisture in the
cavity to the outside. Insect screen
should be installed at all openings,
vents and drains to prevent entry of
insects into the wall cavity.
All window and door heads and
mechanical penetrations should have a
through-wall flashing extending up a
minimum of 150 mm (6 in.) behind
the WRB sheathing membrane and out
19 mm (3/4 in.) beyond the face of the
cladding to ensure proper drainage of

206

the wall cavity. Roof overhangs


extending a minimum of 600 mm
(2 ft.) beyond the outer face of the wall
will serve to protect the wall area
immediately below the eave.
To manage moisture that may penetrate
at window and door frames, a sub-sill
flashing membrane must be applied to
the rough opening sill beneath all
windows and doors and extend a
minimum of 150 mm (6 in.) up the
jambs of the rough opening. The
window and door sub-sill flashings
must be drained into the drainage
cavity behind the cladding or directly
to the outside.
The assembly details shown in Figure
4.3 are for use in predominately cold
climates that require an air and vapour
barrier placed on the warm side of the
thermal barrier in the wall assembly.
The preservative-treated wood strapping
(6) improves the drying ability of
the wall to the outside, since the
polyethylene air and vapour barrier (2)
does not allow for drying to the inside.
To achieve a higher degree of moisture
tolerance in colder and more humid
climates, external thermal insulation
on the outside of the wall assembly is
recommended, as shown in the wall
assembly details in Figure 4.1.

Canada Mortgage
206206and Housing Corporation

Part 4: Construction Assemblies

Plan details

COLD HUMID (CH) CLIMATE


Wood-Frame Structure: 38 x 89 mm (2 x 4 in.) or
38 x 140 mm (2 x 6 in.) wood studs at 400 or 600 mm
(16 or 24 in.) on centre

Cladding Options: Stucco, wood, vinyl, fibre


cement board, masonry veneer

Insulation Options: Glass fibre or mineral fibre batt, blown cellulose, mineral fibre or glass fibre, spray foam
Construction Notes: Polyethylene air and vapour barrier sealed at all joints with continuous bead of
acoustical sealant or construction tape and stapled at 200 mm (8 in.) on centre to wood backing
Typical Wall Assembly:
Gypsum wallboard
.15 mm (6 mil) polyethylene air and vapour
barrier (AVB)
Stud space insulation
Plywood, waferboard or OBS sheathing
Building paper or house-wrap waterresistant barrier (WRB) and wind barrier
10 to 19 mm (3/8 to in.) preservation treated vertical
wood strapping 400 or 600 mm (16 or 24 in.) on centre
Ventilation and drainage air space
Exterior cladding

Polyethylene
AVB tab
Plan Detail at Typical
Interior Partition

Seal joint between


cladding materials

Plan Detail at Typical


Outside Corner with Masonry

4.3a

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation

207

Part 4: Construction Assemblies

Section details

House-wrap AB

Polyethylene air
and vapour barrier

Section Detail at
Typical Roof Eave

Header air sealed with vapour


permeable house-wrap tab
connected to polyethylene AVB
above and below floor
structure

Through wall flashing

Polyethylene
VB tab

Section Detail at Typical


Intermediate Floor

Through wall flashing

Polyethylene
VB tab

Parging
Sill gasket

Section Detail at Typical


Foundation Wall with Masonry

208

Canada Mortgage
208208and Housing Corporation

4.3b

Part 4: Construction Assemblies

warm or hot
dry (whd) climate:
assembly details no. 4
Figure 4.4 shows a typical cross-section
through the exterior wall, typical plan
details at an exterior corner and at an
interior partition meeting the exterior
wall, and typical section details at the
roof eave, at an intermediate floor and
at the top of the foundation wall for a
dwelling built with either 38 89 mm
(2 4 in.) or 38 140 mm (2 6 in.)
wood-frame construction. The materials
referred to by numbers in brackets in
the following text match the numbers
in the details.
The exterior of the wood-frame wall
structure is covered with plywood,
waferboard or oriented strand board
(OSB) sheathing (4) and the interior is
finished with primed and painted
gypsum wallboard (2). The exterior of
the dwelling can be finished with
stucco, wood, vinyl, fibre cement board,
metal or masonry veneer cladding (6).
The stud spaces (3) in the wood-frame
wall are insulated with glass fibre or
mineral fibre batt insulation, blown-in
cellulose fibre, mineral fibre or
glass fibre insulation, EPS or spray
polyurethane foam (SPUF) insulation.
The blown-in cellulose fibre is a
preferred insulation material because of
its moisture buffering characteristics.
Cellulose fibre insulation is treated
with a borate solution to provide fire
resistance and also to prevent mould
growth and to discourage insects.
The Airtight Drywall Approach (ADA)
air barrier is provided by the interior
gypsum wallboard (2). The ADA

system in combination with a


low-permeance primer and paint
finish functions as the semi-permeable
vapour retarder (1). In the Airtight
Drywall Approach air barrier system,
the interior finish drywall with taped
joints is sealed to wood framing
members, and is carefully sealed at
window and door frames, and all
mechanical, electrical and plumbing
penetrations, using continuous and
durable air tight sealants or gaskets.
When correctly installed, this system
provides an effective, continuous,
rigid, air barrier that is easily repaired
and can last the life of the building.
ADA is often used in combination with a
water-based, low-permeance vapour
retarder primer or paint on the gypsum
wallboard, thereby eliminating the
need for a conventional polyethylene
film vapour barrier. As this combination
of air leakage control, using the ADA
system, and vapour diffusion control,
using a semi-permeable coating,
provides both limited water vapour
diffusion control and also a limited
degree of inward drying, this system is
more moisture tolerant than systems
with conventional vapour impermeable
membranes, such as polyethylene film.
The details presented in this assembly
can therefore be used in both hot
and cold climates. The same method
of air leakage and vapour diffusion
control can also be used on gypsum
board ceilings.
A semi-permeable vapour retarder
coating (1) such as primer or paint
is placed on the interior surface of
the gypsum wallboard (2). The
liquid-applied vapour retarder has a
vapour permeance of between 150 to

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation

209

Part 4: Construction Assemblies

250 ng/Pams (2.5 to 4.2 perms).


This level of water vapour diffusion
retardation can be achieved by
applying a water-based primer and a
finish coat of latex paint. In hot
climates, low vapour permeance
coatings, films or membranes, such as
vinyl wallpaper or polyethylene film
should not be used on the interior side
of the wall, unless they are perforated
and tested to show the required level of
water vapour diffusion can be achieved.
In high humidity areas, such as
bathrooms, kitchens and laundry
rooms, with vapour impermeable
finishes, such as ceramic tile, and in
particular
bathtub
surrounds,
condensation can be prevented by
installing a layer of foam board
insulation over the inside face of the
wood-frame studs and under the
gypsum wallboard. This will reduce the
thermal bridging at the studs and
generally raise the temperature of
the wood-framing members, thus
preventing the formation of
condensation on the interior finish
material. Mechanical ventilation of
these moist areas will also help control
humidity levels.
The water resistant barrier (WRB)
sheathing membrane (5) is either
spun-bonded
polyolefin
fabric
house-wrap or asphalt-impregnated
building paper. All joints and junctions
in the house-wrap membrane must
be sealed with construction tape. If
using building paper, two layers are
recommended instead of one, to
provide a higher degree of wind
resistance during construction and
improved air leakage control and

210

drainage for any water that may


penetrate the cladding. Building paper
can be used in the field of the wall
with additional tabs of house-wrap
used for air sealing at rim joists and at
the top and bottom of walls. This is a
recommended practice for energy
efficiency and durability since these
locations are often poorly sealed against
air leakage.
All window and door heads and
mechanical penetrations should have a
through-wall flashing extending up a
minimum of 150 mm (6 in.) behind
the WRB sheathing membrane and out
19 mm (3/4 in.) beyond the face
of the cladding to ensure proper
drainage of the wall cavity. Roof
overhangs extending a minimum of
600 mm (2 ft.) beyond the outer face
of the wall will serve to protect the
wall area immediately below the eave.
To manage water that may penetrate
window and door frames, a sub-sill
flashing must be applied to the rough
opening sill beneath all windows
and doors and extend a minimum of
150 mm (6 in.) up the jambs of the
rough opening. The window and door
sub-sill flashings must be drained
directly to the outside
The assembly details shown in Figure
4.4 are suitable for warm, dry and hot,
dry climates. For more humid climates,
details with a higher moisture tolerance
are needed, as described in the next set
of details in Figure 4.5.

Canada Mortgage
210210and Housing Corporation

Part 4: Construction Assemblies

Plan details

WARM or HOT DRY (WHD) CLIMATE


Wood-Frame Structure: 38 x 89 mm (2 x 4 in.) or
38 x 140 mm (2 x 6 in.) wood studs at 400 or 600 mm
(16 or 24 in.) on centre

Cladding Options: Stucco, wood, vinyl, fibre


cement board, metal, masonry veneer

Insulation Options: Glass fibre or mineral fibre batt, blown cellulose, mineral fibre or glass fibre, spray foam
Construction Notes: Airtight Drywall Approach (ADA) air barrier system for walls and ceiling. Air
sealing provided by closed cell foam gaskets between gypsum board and wood framing members and
with house-wrap tabs at floor headers and at top and bottom of wall
Typical Wall Assembly:
Semi-permeable vapour retarder coating
Gypsum wallboard (drywall) air barrier (ADA)
Stud space insulation
Plywood, waferboard or OBS sheathing
Building paper or house-wrap water
restant barrier (WRB) and wind barrier
Exterior cladding

Continuous
gypsum board
AB (ADA)
Plan Detail at Typical
Interior Partition

Plan Detail at Typical


Outside Corner

4.4a

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation

211

Part 4: Construction Assemblies

Section details

House-wrap AB tab
Semi-permeable vapour retarder
coating applied to both attic
ceiling and wall gypsum board

Airtight Drywall
Approach (ADA)
air barrier

Section Detail at
Typical Roof Eave

ADA air barrier continuity achieved


with house wrap tab at all headers
connecting gypsum board above floor
to gypsum board below floor
with closed cell gaskets

ADA gaskets
Section Detail at Typical
Intermediate Floor

Through wall flashing

Sill Sill gasket

Section Detail at Typical


Foundation Wall

212

Canada Mortgage
212212and Housing Corporation

4.4b

Part 4: Construction Assemblies

warm or hot humid


(whh) climate:
assembly details no. 5
Figure 4.5 shows a typical cross-section
through the exterior wall, typical plan
details at an exterior corner and at an
interior partition meeting the exterior
wall, and typical section details at the
roof eave, at an intermediate floor and
at the top of the foundation wall for a
dwelling built with either 38 89 mm
(2 4 in.) or 38 140 mm (2 6 in.)
wood-frame construction. The materials
referred to by numbers in brackets in
the following text match the numbers
in the details.
The exterior of the wood-frame wall
structure is covered with plywood,
waferboard or oriented strand board
(OSB) sheathing (4) and the interior is
finished with primed and painted
gypsum wallboard (2). The exterior of
the dwelling can be finished with
traditional stucco or EIFS, wood, vinyl,
fibre cement board, aluminum or steel
siding or masonry veneer cladding (6).
The stud spaces (3) in the wood-frame
wall are insulated with glass fibre or
mineral fibre batt insulation, blown-in
cellulose fibre, mineral fibre or glass
fibre insulation, or spray polyurethane
foam (SPUF) insulation. The blown-in
cellulose fibre is a preferred insulation
material because of its moisture buffering
characteristics. Cellulose fibre insulation
is treated with a borate solution to provide
fire resistance and also to prevent
mould growth and to discourage insects.
The Airtight Drywall Approach (ADA)
air barrier is provided by the interior
gypsum wallboard (2). The ADA
system in combination with a

low-permeance primer and paint finish


functions as a semi-permeable vapour
retarder (1). In the Airtight Drywall
Approach air barrier system the interior
finish drywall with taped joints is
sealed to wood framing members, and
is carefully sealed at window and door
frames, and all mechanical, electrical
and plumbing penetrations, using
continuous and durable air tight
sealants or gaskets. When correctly
installed, this system provides an
effective, continuous, rigid, air barrier
that is easily repaired and can last the
life of the building. ADA is often used
in combination with a water-based,
semi-permeable vapour retarder primer
and paint on the gypsum wallboard,
thereby eliminating the need for a
conventional polyethylene film
vapour barrier.
The semi-permeable vapour retarder
coating (1) is placed on the interior
surface of the gypsum wallboard (2)
and should have a vapour permeance of
between 60 to 600 ng/Pams (1 to 10
perms). In hot-humid climates, semipermeable coatings or impermeable
membranes, such as vinyl wallpaper or
polyethylene film, should not be used
on the interior side of the wall, unless
they are perforated and tested to show
the required level of water vapour
diffusion can be achieved. In high
humidity areas, such as bathrooms,
kitchens and laundry rooms, with
vapour-impermeable finishes, such as
ceramic tile, and in particular bathtub
surrounds, condensation can be
prevented by installing a layer of foam
board insulation over the inside face of
the wood-frame studs and under the
gypsum wallboard. This will reduce the
thermal bridging at the studs and

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation

213

Part 4: Construction Assemblies

generally raise the temperature of the


wood-framing members, thus preventing
the formation of condensation on the
interior finish material. Mechanical
ventilation of these moist areas will
also help control humidity levels.
The sheathing membrane (5) is a
self-adhesive or liquid applied
low-permeance flexible membrane that
acts as the moisture barrier, air barrier
and vapour barrier. The water-vapour
permeance of the flexible membrane
should be lower than that of the
semi-permeable interior primer and
paint finish, that is, a maximum of 60
to 120 ng/Pams (1 to 2 perms) for
warm, humid climates and a maximum
of 10 to 30 ng/Pams (0.16 to 0.5 perms)
for hot, humid climates. The flexible
water-resistant membrane (WRB) also
resists water vapour diffusion from
entering the wall cavity from the
exterior and controls air leakage in
both directions. The higher vapour
permeance of the interior finish
allows the wall assembly to dry to the
interior when the interior air is dried
by dehumidification.
Vertical preservative-treated wood
strapping (6), ranging in thickness
from 10 to 19 mm (3/8 to 3/4 in.) is
installed at 400 mm (16 in.) on centre
over the water resistant barrier and
exterior sheathing. The cladding is
then fastened to the strapping with
corrosion-resistant fasteners. For vertical
siding or wood shingles, horizontal
strapping can be added over the vertical
strapping to support the cladding.

214

An important part of rainscreen


design is the provision of drainage at
the bottom and venting at the top of
the wall ventilation and drainage cavity
(7) between the WRB (5) and the
cladding (8) and at all intermediate
floors and at the top of the foundation
wall. At the bottom of the wall and at
all intermediate floors, the ventilation
and drainage cavity is vented and
flashed to direct any moisture in the
cavity to the outside. Insect screen
should be installed at all openings,
vents and drains to prevent entry of
insects into the wall cavity.
All window and door heads and
mechanical penetrations should have a
through-wall flashing extending up a
minimum of 150 mm (6 in.) behind
the WRB sheathing membrane and out
19 mm (3/4 in.) beyond the face of the
cladding to ensure proper drainage of
the wall cavity. Roof overhangs extending
a minimum of 600 mm (2 ft.) out from
the face of the wall will serve to protect
the wall area immediately below the eave.
To manage water that may penetrate
window and door frames, a sub-sill
flashing must be applied to the rough
opening sill beneath all windows and
doors and extend a minimum of 150 mm
(6 in.) up the jambs of the rough
opening. The window and door
sub-sill flashings must be drained
directly to the outside. The assembly
details shown in Figure 4.5 are suitable
for warm, humid and hot, humid
climates. For dryer climates, details
with a lower moisture tolerance are
acceptable, as described in the previous
set of details in Figure 4.4.

Canada Mortgage
214214and Housing Corporation

Part 4: Construction Assemblies

Plan details

WARM or HOT HUMID (WHH) CLIMATE


Wood-Frame Structure: 38 x 89 mm (2 x 4 in.) or
38 x 140 mm (2 x 6 in.) wood studs at 400 or 600 mm
(16 or 24 in.) on centre

Cladding Options: Stucco, wood, vinyl, fibre


cement board, metal, masonry veneer

Insulation Options: Glass fibre or mineral fibre batt, blown cellulose, mineral fibre or glass fibre, spray foam
Construction Notes: Airtight Drywall Approach (ADA) air barrier system for walls and attic ceiling. Air
sealing provided by closed cell foam gaskets between gypsum board and wood framing members or
with house-wrap tabs at floor headers and at top and bottom of wall.
Typical Wall Assembly:
Semi-permeable vapour retarder coating
Gypsum wallboard (drywall) air barrier (ADA)
Stud space insulation
Plywood, waferboard or OBS sheathing
Flexible membrane water-resistant barrier (WRB)
10 to 19 mm (3/8 to 3/4 in.) preservative treated vertical
wood strapping 400 or 600 mm (16 or 24 in.) on centre
Ventilation and drainage air space
Exterior cladding

ADA gaskets
Plan Detail at Typical
Interior Partition

Plan Detail at Typical


Outside Corner

4.5a

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation

215

Part 4: Construction Assemblies

Section details

House-wrap AB tab
Semi-permeable vapour
retarder coating applied to both
ceiling and wall gypsum board
Section Detail at
Typical Roof Eave

Airtight Drywall
Approach (ADA)
air barrier

ADA gasket

ADA air barrier continuity


achieved with house-wrap
tab at all headers connecting
gypsum board above floor to
gypsum board below floor
with closed cell gaskets

Polyethylene
VB tab

Through wall flashing


ADA gaskets
Section Detail at Typical
Intermediate Floor

Polyethylene
VB tab
Through wall flashing
Sill gasket

Section Detail at Typical


Foundation Wall

216

Canada Mortgage
216216and Housing Corporation

4.5b

Part 4: Construction Assemblies

multi-climate:
assembly details no. 6
Figure 4.6 shows a typical cross-section
through the exterior wall, typical plan
details at an exterior corner and at an
interior partition meeting the exterior
wall, and typical section details at the
roof eave, at an intermediate floor and
at the top of the foundation wall for a
dwelling built with either 38 89 mm
(2 4 in.) or 38 140 mm (2 6 in.)
wood-frame construction. The materials
referred to by numbers in brackets in
the following text match the numbers
in the details.
The interior finish layer (1) on the
gypsum wallboard (2) has a water vapour
permeance of 150 to 250 ng/Pams
(2.5 to 4.2 perms). This semi-permeable
level of water vapour diffusion is
achieved by applying a water-based
primer sealer and a finish coat of latex
paint. The wood-frame stud spaces (3)
in this detail are left empty. All the
thermal insulation value is provided by
the external insulation on the outside
of the structure, as described below.
The exterior of the wood-frame wall
structure is covered with plywood,
waferboard or oriented strand board
(OSB) sheathing (4) and the interior is
finished with primed and painted
gypsum wallboard (2). The exterior of
the dwelling can be finished with
traditional stucco or EIFS, wood, vinyl,
fibre cement board, aluminum or steel
siding or masonry veneer cladding (6).
A moisture, air and vapour impermeable
flexible membrane (5) is sandwiched
between the exterior plywood,
waferboard or oriented strand board
sheathing (4) and the external thermal

insulation (8) to provide the required


moisture penetration, air leakage and
vapour diffusion control. The membrane
can be either a self-adhesive sheet or a
spray-applied liquid membrane. The
water vapour permeance of the membrane
at 10 to 30 ng/Pams (0.16 to
0.5 perms) is much lower than that of
the semi-permeable interior finish layer.
The air permeance of the membrane is
less than 0.02 L/s-m@75 Pa. This
membrane functions as a moisture
barrier or water-resistant barrier (WRB),
air barrier and vapour barrier on the
exterior side of the wall sheathing.
The wood-frame stud spaces (3) can be
left empty or insulated with batt,
blown or sprayed insulation. If the stud
spaces are insulated, the ratio of
thermal resistance value (RSI or R
value) of the insulation in the stud
spaces on the interior side of the
membrane (5), to that of the external
insulation (8) on the exterior side of
the membrane, will vary with climatic
conditions. The approximate ratio of
the thermal resistance value should be
not less than 2/3 of the total thermal
value on the exterior side of the
membrane (5) and not more than 1/3
of the total thermal value on the inside
of the membrane (5) for cold or
heating climates, and the reverse ratio
for hot or cooling climates. If the
stud spaces (3) are only partially filled
with insulation, the insulation must be
installed firmly against the inside of the
sheathing (4), so that there are no air
pockets between the insulation and the
sheathing. These air pockets will reduce
the effectiveness of the insulation.
The external thermal insulation (8) is a
layer of 38 to 75 mm (1 1/2 to 3 in.)

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Part 4: Construction Assemblies

semi-rigid mineral fibre or glass fibre


board, rigid extruded (XPS) or expanded
(EPS) polystyrene foam board, foil-faced
polyurethane or polyisocyanurate foam
board, or spray-applied medium or
high-density polyurethane foam (SPUF).
The external thermal insulation in this
assembly must repel liquid water either
on its own or through the use of a
waterproof facing. This low vapour
permeance exterior facing on the
insulation will provide protection from
reverse solar vapour drive, that is,
moisture driven from a rain-soaked
brick veneer or stucco cladding into the
wall by solar radiation.
Vertical preservative-treated wood
strapping (6), ranging in thickness from
10 to 19 mm (3/8 to 3/4 in.), is installed
at 600 mm (24 in.) on centre directly
over the external insulation or on
preservative-treated wood shear blocks
(7) if required for seismic restraint or
to support the strapping. The cladding
is then fastened to the strapping with
corrosion-resistant fasteners. For vertical
siding or wood shingles, horizontal
strapping can be added over the vertical
strapping to support the cladding.

All window and door heads and


mechanical penetrations through the wall
must be flashed with an appropriate
flashing material that extends up 150 mm
(6 in.) behind the WRB sheathing
membrane, passing through the drainage
cavity and out 19 mm (3/4 in.) beyond
the face of the cladding. Roof overhangs
should extend out a minimum of 600 mm
(2 ft.) to protect the wall area immediately
below. To manage water that may penetrate
window and door frames, a subsill
flashing must be applied to the rough
opening sill beneath all windows and doors
and extend a minimum of 150 mm (6 in.)
up the jambs of the rough opening. The
window and door subsill flashings must
be drained into the drainage cavity behind
the cladding or directly to the outside.

The assembly details shown in Figure


4.6 are suitable for use in a number of
different climates with a variety of climatic
characteristics. The details are suitable
for climates with cold, warm or hot
temperatures, high or low precipitation
levels and humid or dry humidity levels,
including Cold, Dry (CD), Cold, Humid
(CH), Warm or Hot, Dry (WHD), and
Warm or Hot Humid (WHH) climatic
zones. The details can also be used in
An important part of rainscreen design Very Cold (VC) climates where high
is the drainage and venting of the air levels of thermal insulation are required,
space (9) between the external insulation but with some special considerations.
(8) and the cladding (10) at the top of With all of the thermal value in these
the wall and at all intermediate floors details being provided by the external
and at the top of the foundation wall. insulation (8), the structural support of
At the bottom of the wall and at all the insulation and the cladding becomes
intermediate floors, the cavity is vented difficult, because of the thickness of the
and flashed from behind the sheathing insulation material. Although in special
membrane to the outside. This will cases 150 mm (6 in.) thick external
direct any moisture that penetrates the insulation board has been fastened directly
cladding to the outside. Insect screen to the wood-frame structure, a practical
should be installed at all openings, limit of 100 mm (4 in.) maximum
vents and drains to prevent entry of thickness is recommended because of
the limitations of available fasteners
insects into the air space.
and the structural support of the
exterior cladding.
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and
Housing
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Part 4: Construction Assemblies

Plan details

MULTI-CLIMATE
Wood-Frame Structure: 38 x 89 mm (2 x 4 in.) or
38 x 140 mm (2 x 6 in.) wood studs at 400 or 600 mm
(16 or 24 in.) on centre

Cladding Options: Stucco, wood, vinyl, fibre


cement board, metal, masonry veneer

Insulation Options: Extruded polystyene (XPS), expanded polystyrene (EPS), foil faced polyurethane
foam board, semi-rigid mineral fibre board, spray polyurethane foam
Construction Notes: Flexible membrane air, vapour and moisture barrier. No insulation in stud spaces

Typical Wall Assembly:


Semi-permeable vapour retarder coating
Gypsum wallboard
Stud space
Plywood, waferboard or OBS sheathing
Flexible membrane air barrier, vapour
barrier and moisture barrier
10 to 19 mm (3/8 to 3/4 in.) preservative treated
wood strapping at 600 mm (24 in.) on centre
Galvanized metal Z-bar or preservative treated
wood shear blocks aligned with stud spacing
38 to 150 mm (1-1/2 to 6 in.) external insulation
Ventilation and drainage air space
Exterior cladding

Intermediate strapping as
required to support some
siding materials
Plan Detail at Typical
Interior Partition

Plan Detail at Typical


Outside Corner

4.6a

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Part 4: Construction Assemblies

Section details

House-wrap AB tab
Polyethylene air and
vapour barrier at ceiling
Section Detail at
Typical Roof Eave

Continuous flexible
membrane air, vapour
and moisture barrier

Through wall flashing

Section Detail at Typical


Intermediate Floor

Through wall flashing

Flexible membrane sealed


to face of concrete
foundation wall to provide
air, vapour and moisture
barrier continuity

Section Detail at Typical


Foundation Wall

220

Canada Mortgage
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Motar levelling
course

4.6b

Part 4: Construction Assemblies

conclusion
to Part 4
Wood-frame construction has been
used extensively in North America in
the last century to provide some of the
most affordable, comfortable and
durable housing in the world.
Wood-frame construction has become
a very sophisticated construction method
supported by in-depth technical research
and is capable of meeting or exceeding
all building science challenges in any
climate in any part of the world.
Like many other building systems,
wood-frame construction requires
reasonable care in its design and
construction to provide long-lasting,
comfortable and safe shelter. When
properly designed and built, wood-frame
construction can be adapted to suit all
climatic zones from the hot, humid
climates of the tropics to the cold,
dry climates of the arctic to the hot, dry
climates of the deserts.
Designers and builders should always
be sensitive to cultural differences in
how people use their dwellings. Also,
local building codes, knowledge of local

building materials and the effects of


local climate, must also be carefully
considered in the design and construction
of buildings that are appropriate for
their location. This concludes the
discussion of construction assemblies
for various climatic zones. The details
presented represent only some of the
possible solutions that could be used to
ensure the durability of wood-frame
construction, and are not intended to
represent the only solutions. Once
the designer and builder have an
understanding of the principles of
building science and building envelope
design, and an understanding of the
effects of the local climate and site
exposure, they can either adopt the
details presented here or develop their
own assembly details based on the
principles discussed in this publication.
With the application of the general
knowledge presented in this document,
wood-frame construction can be
modified to provide durable, affordable,
energy-efficient,
environmentally
responsible, safe, healthy and
comfortable buildings in any climatic
zone in the world.

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