Ray Ng

The growth in understanding of building science and how buildings work as integrated systems is one of the most important developments in the recent history of our industry, and if you are not yet intensely focused on this overarching technical discipline, you should be. Without a doubt, some aspect of the success or failure of your green building projects will relate directly to how well you apply building science principles and details to your designs and construction processes. We’ve all heard how green building equates to higher quality construction; that level of quality is largely due to building science. Every year continuing research deepens our understanding and expands our abilities to apply successful materials and details for greater performance. No longer can we afford to think of building materials, products, and systems as separate from each other, because we understand that they respond and perform as integral building components influenced by the variable effects of climatic and environmental factors, occupant behavior, and materials’ properties.

Everything is in play in today’s tighter and more complex homes, from basic flashing details to advanced exterior rainscreens and drainage planes, from insulation and air sealing techniques to evolving vapor control and ventilation strategies. And now, with deepening knowledge and concerns about the ingredients contained in our building products, we need to focus even more on indoor air quality.

For every decision at every stage of design, and especially around product selection and installation details, somebody needs to ask, “Have we addressed the building science considerations here?” And then, for every construction assembly during every phase of construction, somebody who knows what to look for needs to watch over the work and enforce the best practices.

We’ve come a long way since the days when building scientists were mostly guiding us through the mess of mold and mildew. Those problems exposed critical failures, focused our attention to detail, and made everyone realize that building science is absolutely relevant. With architects and builders finally paying attention, building science pioneers like Joe Lstiburek, Betsy Pettit, Terry Brennan, Mark LaLiberte, Gord Cooke, and Justin Wilson have educated tens of thousands of builders across the country and changed the way we build.

And just as green building requires a holistic view of buildings as systems, building science requires us to look more closely at the interactions between their specific materials and components in combination, and under the dynamic conditions presented by their locations and occupants.

I mention all this as a way of emphasizing our own focus on these issues through our award-winning Building Science column written the past three years by Mark LaLiberte and Gord Cooke of Construction Instruction (CI). This year, with the increasing importance, accelerating advancements, and expanding practices encompassing building science, including indoor air quality, we are adding two more experts to our editorial team: CI’s Justin Wilson, and Bill Walsh, founder of the Healthy Building Network and Pharos. It would be hard to find a more experienced or powerful team.

Take what you learn from them, pass it on to your own team, and put it into practice.