Pushing the Envelope

By Jennifer dos Santos, Assoc. A.I.A., MCPPO Certified

The building envelope acts, essentially, as the ‘skin’ of a building and is a critical component of any structure.  It is the first line of defense, protecting the building and its occupants from the elements.  Too often people take the building envelope for granted when performing repairs and renovations either because they are trying to keep costs low or they just do not realize the true extent of the problem.  However, a compromised building envelope can cause a whole host of problems including water infiltration that can damage the infrastructure or the contents of your building, or air leakage that can lead to significant energy loss and could cost you thousands of dollars in utilities. 

 The building envelope has gained much more attention in recent years as people are becoming more and more conscious of energy consumption and the loss of heating and cooling through this critical part of their building.  The adoption of new, more stringent energy codes has also added to the building envelope awareness movement.  This includes the implementation of the International Energy Code in Massachusetts as well as the Stretch Energy Code by many other cities and towns.  These codes often have complex requirements for evaluating and upgrading the envelope components of buildings when performing repairs, renovations and modifications.  There are also many tax credits that have been offered for upgrading or properly maintaining envelope components. 

 In this vein, it is important to remember that if you had a pain in your knee, you wouldn’t call your dentist and if you have a pest problem in your garden, you wouldn’t call your accountant.  The same goes for renovations to your home or building.  Not every design or construction professional will have the skills and the knowledge that are necessary to properly protect the envelope of your building.  In light of this face, when renovating or upgrading your building envelope, you should consult a Building Envelope Consultant or expert.  This is just as much an area of expertise as mechanical, electrical, or landscape design. 

 Building Envelope Consulting is a very specialized area of expertise and is becoming increasingly important.  Whenever considering a construction project, ask your design professional or contractor about the potential impact to the envelope of your building and make sure that you have the proper team on board to protect your building and it’s contents.