Maintain building envelope to save on energy costs

Did you know the envelope determines 40% of a building’s energy performance?People today often seek out ways to reduce their energy consumption and costs. Obvious methods are to reduce usage: turn off your lights, lower the heat, keep the windows closed. Something you may have not considered is properly maintaining your "building envelope."

Did you know the envelope determines 40% of a building's energy performance?

What is the building envelope?

The term "building envelope" refers to the entire outside of a building. It is comprised of the roof, subfloor, exterior doors, windows, and exterior walls. Its purpose is to shield the structure from the elements and ultimately lengthen its lifespan. There are two types of building envelopes: loose and tight.

Tight building envelopes restrict airflow to and through its underlying structure, while a loose envelope allows for a freer flow. The looseness or tightness of an envelope is determined by the materials used to construct it.

Loose envelopes

Loose building envelopes allow for more natural airflow, and therefore higher indoor air quality. This reduces or eliminates the need for mechanical ventilation, saving money on utilities for the building's tenant, according to Echo Tape. The building can, however, become drafty, and the temperature will be more difficult to regulate. Unless you live in a perfectly comfortable climate, a tighter envelope is typically a safer bet for contractors.

Tight envelopes

Tight envelopes require heavier insulation and sealants as well as energy-efficient windows, but the costs are offset by the money saved on heating and cooling. They also reduce the chances of mold or mildew developing. Tightening up a building envelope up is a good way to make dramatic changes in monthly spending over time.

When undertaking the project, Echo Tape says air sealing should be a top priority, with a special focus on insulation. Sealing up the areas along the top and bottom of the house in the attic and the foundation will make quick work of the task.

How can a building envelope get damaged?

A building envelope can fail for many different reasons. Poor design, workmanship, or choice of materials can weaken it from the start. Things like extreme weather - or even average rain and wind over time - can further degrade the envelope.

Maintaining the building envelope

According to Facilities Net, a maintenance plan for your building envelope should include annual checks for and repairs of deterioration and openings in roofs, wall-system components, sealants, window perimeters, and glazing gaskets. Homeowners should also conduct infrared surveys of the roof and wall components at least once every five years.

You can improve a home's existing envelope by switching out the current insulation for a more effective type, resealing the air barrier and ensuring the owner knows to stay up to date on inspections.

Actively maintaining your building envelope can help you save big down the line.Actively maintaining your building envelope can help you save big down the line.

How much can they save?

A well-maintained building envelope can generate some real savings. Goodway reported that homes with a tight building envelope see between a 30% and a 60% reduction in energy costs. It also found that a vast majority of people favor commercial buildings with green designs that implement sustainable practices. So much, in fact, that these people are willing to pay up to 5% more to stay at a hotel that practices sustainability rather than one that doesn't.

From a business perspective, this makes building envelope maintenance a very wise investment. It's better for the planet, the building, and your bottom line.

How to get started

If you're a contractor undertaking a building envelope maintenance project, visit Amerhart for the materials and supplies you'll need to carry it out successfully.