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#33526 - 02/16/16 02:41 PM Ideal Enclosure criteria
Hylandwoodcraft Offline
Member

Registered: 03/23/11
Posts: 141
Loc: Western NY
This is branching off from the discussion that DL Bahler started, but I didn't want to get his thread too cluttered up with various side discussions.

The question is, what are the primary criteria that are important to all of you when selecting or considering an enclosure style?

As you may already have picked up I want to move away from SIP type enclosure and while I have some ideas they are a bit nebulous. Please let me know what your thoughts are on what I outline. I like ruthless criticism! grin

1. Ability to "breathe" through passive rather than active systems.

In a nut shell this would mean being able to dispense with centralized HRV systems and the like. I feel that an enclosure should be able to function within it's environment, not operate outside it. That being said, I think that properly placed and sized bath fans and stove hoods are a must to deal with large moisture loads.

2. Differentiation between drafts and desirable air movement.

This is sort of a tricky one, because it goes against modern building ideology of "tighter is better", but it is a critical distinction to make for #1 to work.
I will define a draft as an uncontrolled bulk air infiltration causing discomfort and causing an enclosure to behave unreliably.
What I would be going for would be controlled and predictable through construction methods and design. It should facilitate drying of the enclosure assemblies.

3. Longevity of materials and design.

I would like to use enclosure methods which will be able to keep up with the timber frame in longevity. This would entail finding materials with resiliency, or the ability to resist degradation even under less than ideal circumstances.

4. Sustainability and economy. The ability to use local resources when possible and and also to use homeowner labor effectively to keep their costs down (when they want to).


I suppose I could come up with more, but that will do for now.

Now on to implementation.
I think that my top choice that I have heard of is a light clay and wood chip wall enclosure.
I think that it satisfies 1 and 2 provided that is finished in such a way to not impede breathing; lime plaster or wood for example.
Criteria 3 should be met if basic details such as overhangs and and drainage are addressed. I like idea that the clay slip coats and isolates organic material from each other, rendering it much more resistant to fire, insects, mold, etc. The finished surfaces outside and in will be maintainable or replaceable (whether it is plaster or wood) without compromising the integrity of the enclosure.
Criteria 4 is easy in my area regarding raw materials. I have lots of clay and plenty of wood waste product (some even made by me!). It is also a system which would seem to lend itself nicely to using unskilled volunteer labor with a couple experienced people supervising. My immediate area is what is considered "economically depressed". I prefer to work within my community, building for people I know and live around. However, too often I find that I have to drive an hour or more away to work for people that have the money. It's important for me to find ways to incorporate the labor of motivated customers so they can have quality, beautiful houses.

My second runner up is, as Jay suggested, a form of wall and roof truss, often called the Larsen truss. Having a second option is important, not only for the roof of a chip and slip house, but because their are definitely customers that will demand something more familiar to conventional construction. Also it would be important to have a more production oriented option for further away projects.
They will be easily understandable to other trades, being very similar in form to stick framing.
As far as insulation goes I would lean toward mineral wool. I like the fact that it has good performance around water, unlike cellulose or fiberglass, as well as positive qualities around fire and mold which satisfy #3.
Criteria 1 and 2 are a little fuzzy for me here. It seems that typically people install an interior vapor barrier. Vapor barriers give me the willies as they seem to tend to become vapor trappers. Given the rigid yet permeable structure and it's hydrophobic nature, would it allow one to sucessfully use it without a vapor barrier? The devil would be in the details there I suspect. I also know that there are "smart" vapor barriers on the market by the likes of Pro-Clima, but I haven't looked into it.
I have local sawmills so I could get a lot of the material from small family operations using local trees. And while it might not be as friendly as chip and slip toward unskilled labor, it would still be more accessible toward sweat equity homeowners who are familiar with conventional construction than something like SIPS.

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#33538 - 02/19/16 10:20 AM Re: Ideal Enclosure criteria [Re: Hylandwoodcraft]
Will B Offline

Member

Registered: 10/02/02
Posts: 179
Loc: Massachusetts
Hi Hy,
What would the armature be for the chip/slip? Wouldn't or couldn't that be a Larsen truss? Or are you thinking a slipform?
I've been in a few wood chip clay houses and I'm bothered by the airspaces between the chips and it seems the proper mix ratio and size of chips is very hard to control. There seems to be lots of air movement (=drafts) even after plastering. I like the idea of making bricks of chip/slip (like adobe) and then using those; no form required and you have more control over the density.
One important criteria to add would be ease, efficiency and economy of construction labor. That's the big advantage of SIPs, of course, in my opinion. Many of the owner-built and natural systems are labor intensive, and if you couple that with inexperienced (owner) labor than it's even more important that it be relatively foolproof.
The real solution is to move to a beach palapa in Mexico...
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#33539 - 02/20/16 03:02 AM Re: Ideal Enclosure criteria [Re: Hylandwoodcraft]
Jay White Cloud Offline
Member

Registered: 11/06/08
Posts: 480
Loc: Vermont
Originally Posted By: Sean Hyland
...what are the primary criteria that are important to all of you when selecting or considering an enclosure style?


I think for me, it is the same thing that many architects of distinction have gone over to these last 5 decades...

Complete and utter "architectural disentanglement" whenever and wherever possible within a structures design.

Modern contracting (especially in the U.S. domestic market) is still decades away from where "commercial" architecture is in some regards, and both could do considerably better...The primary focus is still "speed and profit" which is a "low bare" criteria when actually claiming to be..."good designers and facilitators"...of architecture. Manufacturing also, has a large part to play in this mess, and what they make of it to keep profits high, and "consumerism alive." We culturally as "builders" also are very habitual in nature often "doing things" because that is what "everyone else does."

For me a wall or roof diaphragm needs to be a matrix of interworking components that act in concert (naturally) with each other and not inhibit anyone other component within the system, be it electrical, mechanical or of the thermal envelope.

Looking at 98% of most "wall systems" (including SIP) and we do not see a system that makes an effort to do anything but "try" to insulate and even then the modality is still (relatively speaking) experimental...and for me...the results have been anything but good...The can (and often do) trap interstitial moisture (as do many systems now) and are a nightmare to effectively wire and plumb...and...the absolutely do nothing for "upgrading" or "ease of access."

I know that John (aka J. Larsen) was given the distinction of a the "Larsen Truss" yet this is a misnomer in many ways. "Chased walls" have been in industrial design for many decades and "Wall Truss" systems preday John's efforts to make a "nonstructural wall" to just do insulation.

A wall truss, is without doubt a comprehensive and encompassing system that can manage to meet just about every criteria of "architectural disentanglement" one could ask for...

Continued...
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#33540 - 02/20/16 03:03 AM Re: Ideal Enclosure criteria [Re: Hylandwoodcraft]
Jay White Cloud Offline
Member

Registered: 11/06/08
Posts: 480
Loc: Vermont

Originally Posted By: Sean Hyland
1. Ability to "breathe" through passive rather than active systems.


The concept of "air tight" and then using an "iron lung" (aka HRV or related systems) seemed like a bad idea from the start from my perspective...

Good for big industry and no doubt will stimulate "return service calls" for contractors, but in the way of "good practice and good design" in architecture...I am sorry it fall dramatically short.

"Draft proof" and naturally efficient healthy building practices are my goal...

There is simply nothing wrong with opening a window, if a home is insulated well, to get fresh air when needed or wanted. Venting moisture out of bath space..."may"...be a necessity in some design's however in many the proper employment of natural materials with high "load capacity" for free water should also be part of a system. If I "vent" a bathroom, it is directly within the "shower enclosure" itself which should simply be an open window or vent to the outside. Bathhouses are also a consideration and the use of materials like stone, lime plasters (aka Tadelakt, etc) should also be a consideration.

Originally Posted By: Sean Hyland
2. Differentiation between drafts and desirable air movement.


The distinction between drafts and "fresh air" is a matter of making sure that no "unwanted" air is moving rapidly through the thermal envelope stimulating conductive temperature differentials...and...if it does in anyway that the interstitial moisture can rapidly "dry out." Of the modern insulations few at all can beat "mineral wools" and their 150 year old track record...Of natural insulative or mass (aka flywheel) systems many can achieve this as well.

Originally Posted By: Sean Hyland
3. Longevity of materials and design.


I have beleive the "wall truss" system will more than match a timber frames design longevity and more importantly also facilitate ease of servicing and/or upgrade/remodel, should that be necessary.

Originally Posted By: Sean Hyland
4. Sustainability and economy. The ability to use local resources when possible and and also to use homeowner labor effectively to keep their costs down (when they want to).


Since our "wall truss" are nothing more than "small timber frame bents" with all mortise and tenon joinery, I couldn't think of a more sustainable and economic system to use. We employ "green" locally harvested wood that we usually mill ourselves within the collective group and create "wall truss" that can be if needed be considered fully structural in nature. Some claim this is "overkill" and wasteful...I say, to such "naysayers" that such a view is deeply steeped in "opinion" and does not reflect that actual nature of just being...really well built...



Quote:
I think that my top choice that I have heard of is a light clay and wood chip wall enclosure.


As Will B. suggested, "wall truss" could more than serve as a armature for this system.

I will note that this is a very labor intensive ($$$) system, and further may better serve for only interior wall spaces to act as a "heat sink" along with the timber frame itself in that capacity. This is why (even though having low R value) log architecture can work very well and creating an efficient structure.

Cobb in general is a wonderful medium, whether in a "dense form" or a "light form" like "straw clay slipping." Both again, are very labor intensive and more in the realm of DIYer and/or very upscale architecture.

If a client has the gumption and willingness to work hard, this "light cobb" methods is well worth exploring...

As for "vapor barriers" I simply will not use them. They are "conceptual" at best and no matter how diligent someone is, moisture always finds its way into the interstitial voids of any wall system with them...and then...can't effectively escape...

Super thick mineral wool batt and then exterior boarding is more than enough "barrier" in and of itself...Combine this with earth/lime/paper plasters, natural paints, jointed wood cladding, etc and there is simply no need to add "plastic barriers or paints."

Like I tell clients and colleagues alike...think of the last time you had a "rain slicker" one...Usually you get just as well from sweat as you would from the rain itself...Few have every tried or got to experience "buckskin" and "thick wool felts" for outer garment...They are still superior an many ways with only a good "hydro fleece" coming up a close second...for get other stuff. As an active Wilderness guide and outdoor professional as well as Timberwright, I like "natural materials" all around... laugh

I also know that there are "smart" vapor barriers on the market by the likes of Pro-Clima, but I haven't looked into it.

Let me know Sean if I can ever help you flesh out the wall truss more, I have designs in Sketchup and I know you (like me) are a "Festooler Guy" and have all you need to make the "jointed forms" of wall truss. You would love them and frankly, nothing complements a timber frame like them...

P.S.

Will B...I have built a number of "Palapa" and "Chickee" over the years...if you have a spot in mind...let me know!!! wink grin


Edited by Jay White Cloud (02/20/16 03:04 AM)
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#33541 - 02/20/16 07:15 AM Re: Ideal Enclosure criteria [Re: Hylandwoodcraft]
TIMBEAL Offline
Member

Registered: 12/10/07
Posts: 1875
Loc: Maine
My winter footwear are Steger mukluks, I don't oil or grease the lower leather or the upper canvas. Felt booties inside along with a couple soles in the bottom for extra thermal break from the cold ground. The breath well, cotton socks are still dry after a full day. This is how a house should function. For wet slush and mud I have the same set up but with rubber overshoes, military chem boots, my sock are still reasonably dry but there is moisture on the inside of the rubber, they have to come apart to dry. No wonder paint peels.

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#33542 - 02/20/16 08:00 AM Re: Ideal Enclosure criteria [Re: Hylandwoodcraft]
Jay White Cloud Offline
Member

Registered: 11/06/08
Posts: 480
Loc: Vermont
Tim...I couldn't give a better example...and...the list goes on...!!!...Well done and perfect...

I have been "raging against" this machine to the point of being threatened in certain states with "gage orders" for comments I have made about "certain" insulative industries...Ooops, guess I got to close to the truth...

What is more amusing to me (or perhaps sad) is the number alleged "experts" (in the construction industry) that have drank so much of the "air tight" and "plastic wrapped" insulation industry "KoolAid"...that they just refuse to even try to perhaps accept...IT'S NOT...a better way...

The next "naughty stepchild" in all this...THE PAINT INDUSTRY!!!! Warrantees worth nothing and a life cycle of maybe 10 years (at best). Whereas, I find natural and/or traditional paints and washes on some buildings that are over 150 years old of more...Faded yes...but they didn't peel or destroy the wood underneath...Still one of the most polluting, corporate con games in architecture beside the Concrete and Pest Control Industry. I am actually frightened to the point "disbelief" sometimes the more I learn...and witnessed being done in the name of "good practices in architecture...


Edited by Jay White Cloud (02/20/16 08:02 AM)
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#33543 - 02/20/16 10:29 AM Re: Ideal Enclosure criteria [Re: Hylandwoodcraft]
TIMBEAL Offline
Member

Registered: 12/10/07
Posts: 1875
Loc: Maine
"The next "naughty stepchild" in all this...THE PAINT INDUSTRY!!!! " A while back there was the whole episode about lead in the paint, to boot. I try to paint or stain as little as possible.

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#33550 - 02/23/16 11:21 AM Re: Ideal Enclosure criteria [Re: Hylandwoodcraft]
Hylandwoodcraft Offline
Member

Registered: 03/23/11
Posts: 141
Loc: Western NY
Lot's of good stuff, that I will respond to in length when I get a minute. Thanks guys!

On the basic level, I keep thinking that no enclosure or building method is going to last forever, that is a given.
How long will SIPS last? That question is hard to answer, but lets be really generous here and say 100 or even 200 years if detailed properly (which I know is unrealistic).
That means that in a mere hundred years all that foam is going to end up...where???
I don't know that I want that the guilt of that on my conscience.

In the end, I can imagine clay and wood chips or even wood and mineral wool making a pretty graceful return. Foam, not so much. Sips may not be forever, but the foam is.

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#33551 - 02/23/16 01:15 PM Re: Ideal Enclosure criteria [Re: Hylandwoodcraft]
Jay White Cloud Offline
Member

Registered: 11/06/08
Posts: 480
Loc: Vermont
Hi Sean,

Originally Posted By: Hylandwoodcraft
On the basic level, I keep thinking that no enclosure or building method is going to last forever, that is a given...How long will SIPS last?


Funny you would ask that... wink confused

I was just having lunch with one of my friend's from "Fire Tower PE" today way up here in the Kenewa Peninsula of Michigan, and this very topic came up at lunch...

The agreed consensus (big picture) is that most of the "modern" methods of insulating architecture is (at its very best) a "big experiment" with over 90% (or more) of what most of the industry "thinks"...(or is trying to sell us)...is a "concept" at its very best...and most are greatly underperforming in the "real world" compared to what was advertised...

If we are talking "modern" (aka since the turn of the century modalities) I believe we are going to be lucky to get 50 years (20 on many of them) befor being part of a "fail system" or "outmoded," by other methods. Most are "outmoded" before we even put them in the wall compared to older and/or traditional systems...

As for foam...most of it will end up where I find it every year...chewed up in ant and squirrel nests and/or just more "icky" plastic to get rid of...I may have merit in roofs, if well done and designed for in proper application, and with "pest control/mitigation" in mind...

Originally Posted By: Hylandwoodcraft
In the end, I can imagine clay and wood chips or even wood and mineral wool making a pretty graceful return.


This is the only way I will go from now on unless someone signs a waver and disclaimer releasing me from responsibility...Mineral wool and/or natural modalities are the way of it for me...
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#33611 - 03/24/16 11:51 AM Re: Ideal Enclosure criteria [Re: Hylandwoodcraft]
D L Bahler Offline

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Registered: 05/17/10
Posts: 946
Loc: Indiana
For a long time I have been in favor of the light clay brick, made of either straw, wood chips, or an experiment I have done using charcoal (it works rather well from an insulating standpoint, however the effort required to produce charcoal is likely too great). These can be easily mortared together with the same mud slip used to make the brick, and plastered over to make the wall more draft proof.

A rather clean and cozy design could be made using this in a half-timbered wall system, then cladding over the structure inside and out.
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