Energy Conservation – Owner clients, particularly institutions with aging building stock and a focus on sustainability, generally list improving energy conservation near the top of their priorities.
Although the design and consulting community offers a variety of energy modeling tools to forecast the impact of design decisions, many of these models may not accurately estimate future performance.
At SGH we are currently metering a building pre and post thermal and air tightness improvements. This energy retrofit project, going forward, will provide us with feedback on the validity of energy models. Such realistic energy retrofit models will help owners get the most bang for their energy-conservation buck.
NFPA 285 Fire Testing – Many architects are scratching their heads over NFPA 285, which is required in the International Building Code (IBC) for many types of combustible exterior wall materials used in non-combustible construction. Notwithstanding a local building official’s acceptance of a variance, the exact wall assembly must have passed the NFPA 285 fire propagation test, and designers must specify particular fire-safing details at wall openings.
The head-scratching exists although NFPA 285 has been a part of the IBC since 2000. It remained largely unknown and unenforced until foam plastic insulation achieved widespread acceptance as a durable solution to International Energy Conservation Code continuous insulation requirements. Once NFPA 285 awareness emerged, the requirement that other combustible materials commonly used in high-performing building envelopes comply (e.g., metal composite materials and high-pressure laminates) also revealed itself.
Designing NFPA 285-compliant exterior walls is feasible, but requires diligence in specifying, detailing, and constructing building envelopes. Note to the building design and construction community: Increasingly stringent NFPA 285 requirements are scheduled for release in IBC 2012 and 2015 editions.
John Karras ua a building envelope engineer at Simpson Gumpertz & Heger (SGH) in Waltham, Mass