Working Alongside Nature with the Stack Effect

We’re always trying to work smarter, not harder, right? So, that begs a BIG question in construction of why we have worked so hard to heat and cool houses for so many years! So much of our modern mechanical systems and building design ignores very simple ways to heat and cool a space. Instead, if we focused on utilizing passive ventilation practices, our homes would work more FOR us rather than making our systems work for them.

What is Passive Ventilation?

Passive Ventilation often refers to the natural process of creating airflow by working with natural properties of heat rising, and pulling cooler air through lower windows. This is known as the stack effect and is achieved with the use of high windows that allow warm air to escape, and lower windows that pull in cooler outdoor air. The natural rise of hot air and pulling the cool air up through a space makes for a passive ventilation pattern in a space. 

There’s a lot more going on than just hot air rising. There’s a lot more going on than you might first think. When air inside a building is warmer than the outside air, the warmer, less dense air will rise. Depending on the season, the way wind approaches a structure, the height of the structure and number of floors, and other minute factors, the pressure is going to differ. As a result, buildings that utilize the chimney effect of passive ventilation are often nicknamed “breathing buildings.”

Residential AND Commercial Use

Passive Ventilation has been used for years upon years without even putting a ton of mathematical calculation to the process. One example you’ve probably seen is when older homes often had transom windows in bedrooms above the bedroom door. This was a simple example of how historical home designs understood the need to ventilate an individual room and help the hot air escape when needed, and to close it to trap in heat in the alternate seasons. Proper placement of windows or even skylights on upper levels of homes can then be a great way to let the warmer air escape the home and create a natural flow of air. 

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For example, in Colorado where we are located, many homeowners are able to live comfortably without air conditioning by utilizing these techniques specifically at night. Night flushing can allow cooler air to enter a home with lower level windows and force hot air out with second or third level windows or vents. Since our temperatures cool down significantly in the evening, homeowners can flush out the hot air that has built up throughout the day from the building’s structure. Materials like brick and concrete take longer to absorb heat throughout the day, which can also help stabilize the internal climate on a hot day. 

Passive Ventilation is a great answer for not only homes, but for larger buildings as well. The main method is to provide ventilation stacks within the building that ideally have a method of flow control in order to adjust as needed. Sometimes these systems benefit from having a backup mechanical ventilation option as well to make up for times when there is overventilation or underventilation. 

Is the Stack Effect the Answer Everywhere? 

While utilizing the Stack Effect can be a really smart solution for so many spaces, there are definitely some scenarios where it’s not ideal. One example is in colder weather or colder seasons. In these scenarios the heat is a desirable component for a home and pulling hot air up and out actually has a negative effect. High temperature difference between the building interior and exterior can result in overventilation and unwanted building heat loss.

Another scenario where this is not ideal is with high rise buildings, where the higher up the “chimney” of the building, the greater the pressure. The pressure was so significant when skyscrapers were first introduced, the revolving door was invented because the pressure in the building prevented normal doors from opening. 

As mentioned above, sometimes a mechanical system may be installed to help regulate the internal pressure and temperatures. So while passive solutions are often a great way to save on energy costs, it’s not a perfect solution for every season of the year and every location. That said, the energy savings that CAN be gained by employing a passive ventilation system can be significant and one that makes a lot of sense. 

If you’re wanting to work WITH nature, employing the stack effect could improve your project greatly. Our team is always here to help you maximize your options and consider how windows and intentional openings in your home may not only add to the aesthetic nature of your home, but also help you with smart ventilation as well. Drop us a message to discuss!

Modern Farmhouse With a Passive Twist: Profile on Greg Fisher’s Millhaus

Modern Farmhouse With a Passive Twist: Profile on Greg Fisher’s Millhaus

Long before the modern farmhouse was a trendy term on HGTV, an architect had a vision for design that had a connection to nature, history, sustainability, and all-around innovative design. Greg Fisher, architect based in Fort Collins, Colorado, embraced the concept with his home/office, which has become known in the Passive House community as an example of innovative design with sustainability at heart. 

The Millhaus

Millhaus is a Passive House project that combines Greg’s personal home, as well as an architectural office that was named for its history as a mill, and the nod to Passivhaus design. Built on the property of a former cherry mill, the 3200 sq. ft. structure became a collaboration between traditional, gabled design, modern aesthetics, and Passive House principles. The house marries traditional materials native to the original structures of the mill with more modern materials like steel. Greg’s project truly personifies his belief that “aesthetics can be part of Passive House.”

One-of-a-Kind Features

It’s not every day that you run across a home that utilizes these features:

  • History: The property has a long-standing history as a cherry mill. This is a factor that added story and soul, and a starting point for Greg to launch his design. In fact, the kitchen pantry is modeled after the tool crib from the mill. Greg has plans to enclose that here soon, but at the moment it is just an open-shelving section of the home. 
  • Unique Walls: The wall cladding on this house is actually tree bark shingles (a cradle to cradle product). Talk about a connection with nature! 
  • Breathing Easy: Greg incorporated high-quality ventilation solutions to promote energy efficiency and healthy indoor air quality.  
  • Fully Grounded: The home features a two-ton ground source heat pump, which contributes to a more passive approach to heating. The tax rebates aren’t a bad incentive either! They also combined that with radiant floor heating. 
  • High-performance Living: This home features a blower door test value of ACH50- 0.44. The lower the ACH50 values, the tighter the building. Greg’s home ultimately is extremely air tight, maintaining temperature and climate throughout. 
  • Goodbye Dry Skin: Unique to Passive air-tightness, combined with the use of an ERV in the house means that the house is kinder on the skin, especially in the dry climate of Colorado! 

Passive House Products:

Greg’s nod to the Passivhaus design in naming his project “Millhaus” does not go unnoticed to those of us in the Passive House construction community. This project is a fully certified Passive House project. His project features some amazing products:

  • Advantage Smartwin: Throughout the home, fixed, tilt/turns, and swing windows, as well as lift/slide doors were used. They feature Euroglass and offer high-performance design at the openings. They focused heavily on the window to wall ratio and measured that carefully to work with the orientation and sunlight. 
  • Alpen 925 Series Windows: While Advantage windows were used primarily, there are a few locations where the Alpen 925 Series Windows were used. We’ve used these in so many projects and love not only the quality, but the maximum performance they deliver. 
  • SIGA Air/Weather Barrier: Millhaus features the use of both Majrex interior system and Majvest exterior system for achieving the Passive House required air-tight standard.
  • Sequencing:  Emu Building Science (Enrico and Mariana) provided sequencing assistance for the Majrex interior application. [Watch for a more in-depth examination of the power of sequencing on our blog!]
Passive House Weather Barriers by SIGA

The Millhaus is a true example of how great design can meld with sustainable principles. If you want a Passive House design, you can still have an interesting and well-designed home. We love the innovation we’re seeing come out of this movement, and we love helping our clients make innovative decisions for their next project. Talk to our team today and start brainstorming about how great design can truly be passive too!

Bonus!

We have the privilege of being able to hear directly from Greg Fisher about his amazing project. You can hear his approach and more details about the home on the BS+ Beer show’s interview  from Dec 11, 2020 – Millhaus: A Mild Climate Case Study

Shopping Local Never Sounded So Good!

Expanded Capabilities with Alpen’s New Manufacturing Facility

Shopping local and supporting local businesses has become a big concept in our world, and as a small business ourselves, we love that so many people want to support local businesses like ours. It’s even more exciting when we can also support local businesses in the products we offer, which is why we’re so excited about Alpen High Performance Products! (And, with their recent move to a new facility in Louisville, Colorado, they’re literally right around the corner!)

Alpen is a U.S. based window and door manufacturer that offers some of the most energy-efficient fenestration products you can get today! They have over 40 years of experience, which has led them to be an industry leader. We’re proud to carry their products, equipping our customers to build energy-efficient buildings. 

Alpen recently moved to a new facility in Louisville, Colorado (voted a top city in the U.S. to live!) as part of their long-term growth plan. This new facility is 59,000 square feet and is nearly 40 percent larger than their previous facility. 

Consolidation

They’ve now combined their glass (IGU) fabrication, frame fabrication, and paint divisions all under the same roof. They’ve also created space for a larger shipping and receiving dock and updated offices. What a difference this will make for faster communication, better understanding of the various processes, and ultimately a better result for our clients! 

Automation

One of Alpen’s investments within this new facility is machinery to automate manufacturing processes. They’ve invested heavily in automation machinery and equipment in fiberglass cutting and drilling, uPVC welding and paint functions  – something their old setup did not include. 

Greater Capacity

The increase in space and streamlined production allows for Alpen to run even more efficiently. The new facility also provides for increased IGU production, which can now be manufactured in the same space! They have also increased their production capabilities for fiberglass frames, plus improved paint booths and plasma prep on finishes in this new space.

Quality Control

Having every department under the same roof allows for greater quality control. The Alpen team has added staff and improved training, tightening their quality control procedures. Alpen has also put a tremendous amount of focus and energy into the fiberglass paint and painting process they will be using moving forward.

Showroom

The Louisville facility also has room for a new showroom that is in the works. Given the proximity of the new facility to many of our clients, we’re excited to be able to showcase the latest products and offerings from this leader in energy-efficient windows and doors! One of Alpen’s new products includes the WinSert window insert! More information will be coming regarding this exciting new product for energy retrofits.

Certified Excellence – Continued

The new facility is also exciting because Alpen is the first US manufacturer to be PHIUS certified, and the first North American manufacturer to be dually certified by both PHIUS and PHI. Alpen will continue to manufacture these high-performance fenestration products in their new facility.

What does this mean for us?

This facility upgrade means better communication, enhanced quality control, greater throughput, and shorter lead times resulting in improved products moving forward. All of this means a better experience for our customers. The fact that we’re just a hop, skip, and a jump away from this new facility makes it even more fun for us to develop and grow our long-standing relationship with Alpen. 

We’ve been selling Alpen products, like the Tyrol and Zenith lines, for around seven years. We’re excited to see the new innovation that comes out of this brand as they move forward. More than that, we’re excited to offer our customers a great experience as a result of this new facility and the great team over at Alpen. 

Curious to see how Alpen windows and doors can support your next construction project? When this 800-pound gorilla called COVID is under better control, we will look forward to scheduling a factory tour.  In the meantime, please chat with our team to see how you can get the very best in energy efficiency from not only our local company, AE Building Systems, but also from a local manufacturer, Alpen High Performance Products! 

Please contact AE Building Systems by calling 720.287.4290 or emailing info@aebuildingsystems.com.

The Rise of the ADU: Increased popularity AND energy efficiency

Call it a Granny Flat, a Mother-in-Law Suite, a She Shed, a Man Cave, or whatever you want, an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) has become the BIG THING in residential architecture today. ADUs have become a popular feature in homes from city neighborhoods to rural properties, and they make a lot of sense when you dig into the benefits. What we’re seeing, though, is that people not only want to build these additional living spaces on their property, but they want to build it in an efficient manner so that it works for them in the long term.

What is an ADU?

An ADU is an additional living space added to a property, containing all the essential functions of a normal house. They are a solution to the need for affordable housing, population density, and multi-generational living solutions. As the need and interest has grown, many local governments are passing new laws and regulations, allowing for more homeowners to build and rent ADUs. 

Why are ADUs so popular?

ADUs have risen in popularity in recent years for many reasons. Here are just a few of the top reasons why people are considering adding this accessory dwelling to their property:

Sharing Economy: As sites like Airbnb and VRBO become more popular for travelers or short-term renters, there is a need for smaller living spaces that are versatile. These are great income generators for existing homeowners.

Aging Population: As Baby Boomers become the largest aging population we’ve seen, many seniors are opting to live near their family but not fully with their family. ADUs make that possible in a simple way. 

Affordable Housing: Many municipalities have experienced higher housing costs, and the shortage often falls in the category of smaller apartments and affordable options. Adding more ADUs within existing neighborhoods allows for a simple solution for employees to live near where they work. 

Tiny Living: Most ADUs are smaller in nature (compared to the main house on a property) and are often less than 900 square feet. The recent popularity of tiny homes and minimalism has made this smaller living style more popular at large. 

Increased Property Values: An ADU increases the property value significantly. It’s an investment in a property that easily brings in a return, so it’s often a no-brainer for homeowners who are considering adding an ADU. 

Passive Income: Long-term renters are looking for an alternative to multi-family units such as apartment communities, especially during COVID-19, and a sense of their own space that is not communal. ADUs are a source of passive income to families.

Work From Home: With so many employees working from home (not to mention all the kiddos doing school from home, too), many Americans have turned their ADU into a home office space. An ADU gives you options! 

Don’t Just Build an ADU… Build an ADU That Works For You!

Many people get excited about the prospect of building out an ADU, but they don’t realize that by building an energy-efficient structure, they can actually make the building work FOR them even more than they thought. 

Waste Not Want Not

Suppose you’re using an ADU with renters, whether short-term or long-term folks, you don’t always get people who care about decreasing their energy load. Depending on the rental situation, you don’t necessarily charge renters for utilities. If you build an ADU that incorporates energy efficiency, one with passive house principles, and is built to last, you can help offset your investment. Instead of spending your income gained on utility bills and other regular maintenance projects, you can pocket that money as income or pay for the investment quicker! 

Thinking Outside of the Box

One of our friends, Bill Lucas, decided to build an ADU as a second level to his detached garage in a city neighborhood. While he built the structure with a lot of energy-efficient methods in the insulation, wall structure, window selection, and roof selection, he also considered how his ADU could help make his main house more efficient too. His main house is an older home, and the configuration/layout of the roof did not allow for the use of solar panels. However, the roof of the ADU DOES allow for solar panels. As such, he configured the electrical wiring so that the solar panels on the ADU can not only support the ADU itself, but also help cover the electrical load on the main house. Check out this tour and interview with Bill Lucas to get an insider view of his project.

Do the Right Thing

For many of us building energy-efficient Passive House buildings, we do it largely because it’s the right thing to do. Many homeowners building a brand new Passive House will add an ADU into their design and are intentional about making sure the envelope of every aspect of the build is done right from the start. Many homeowners retrofitting an existing space realize the shortcomings in the original structure and want to build the new ADU the right way from the start. 

Education

Have you ever stayed at a really unique dwelling? Many travelers purposely seek out unique situations to stay in, like converted lighthouses, treehouses, and other extraordinary spaces. While your ADU rental might look like a normal house to the naked eye, it could be a great educational tool and a great marketing tool for future renters. Educate your renters on the features of the home, the story of the ADU, and some simple things that can be done to retrofit any space to be more energy efficient. 

Here are just a few of our favorite rentals that are not only leveraging their energy efficiency, but they are also educating in the process. 

  1. Award-winning Passive House on secluded mountainside
  2. Phoenix Haus-Powderhorn Mtn Resort 
  3. Earthship Off-Grid Rentals

If you’re considering adding an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) to your property, now is the time to dream. Go explore what others are doing to get ideas. See if there are ways you can leverage the structure to work for you, as well as your pocketbook. See if there are out-of-the-box ways to build the structure so that it works even smarter for you in the long run. Do your research now to make a smart plan for your ADU! 

Remember, we’re here to help. Together, let’s think through different options for construction, energy-efficient materials, and what people you need on your team. We enjoy dreaming with people about their next energy-efficient space, and we’d love to do it with you!

Adventures in High-Performance Windows & Building Envelope Construction

When we moved into our home, it was an adventure! As we got to know the neighbors, we’d hear stories about the former owner. One such story included how the elderly woman would go away for a week on vacation and leave all of the wooden crank windows wide open so that her cats could come and go as they pleased. What did this mean for us? Well, for one thing, you could literally see the light streaming through the frame because the wooden window frames were so warped from the elements all season long. 

Needless to say, one of the first projects we tackled was replacing ALL windows to high-performance windows. We know we’re not alone here! Most homeowners come across energy loss from their windows after moving into a new home. Often, they blame it on drafts in the home, or simply settle for the fact that stratification and convection currents are part of their lives. But, it doesn’t have to be this way!

Why do high-performance windows and high-performance building envelopes matter? 

  1. Conserve Energy: High-performance windows and building envelopes simply don’t waste resources. But when you have major thermal bridging, stratification, etc. you are paying to heat/cool a space as well as the outdoor space surrounding your home. You’re literally wasting energy every single day. (And, sadly, we see this in both new builds AND retrofits too.) 
  2. Running Out of Resources: Our world is quickly burning through common energy resources. In a few hundred years, we will largely deplete our in-the-ground energy which was created over hundreds of millions of years. Much of the coal, oil, and natural gas derives from decomposed plants (photosynthesis) and animals from long ago. We hear people refer to that energy as prehistoric solar energy.
  3. A Mess For Future Generations: Do we care about how we’re leaving the earth for our childrens’ children and beyond? Literally burning through resources does nothing to help our future generations. 
  4. Climate Change: Stay with us here…whether you have given into the politicized side of this or not, our climates are changing around us and there’s scientific proof to back it up. Using less energy resources to heat and cool our homes is a simple way we can help make a dent. 
  5. Save $$$: If you’re not convinced already, maybe saving a ton of money will help get your attention. Using less energy to heat or cool a home by using high-performance windows and building envelopes means less money you’re spending each month. Some parts of the country and world experience this more than others. For example, homeowners in the Northeast spend roughly 1.5-2.5 times more in energy costs than residents in Colorado! Of course those numbers are changing constantly, but it’s a good picture of how smart building systems can make a difference!
  6. Future Savings: As energy costs increase (which they regularly do and will continue to do as traditional energy sources deplete), your costs can stay more normalized. The more energy-efficient your home is, the less you flux when prices change in energy. High-performance windows/building envelopes are kind of a hedge, if you will, against rising energy costs. The 625 windows will help as well, but 925 will help even more. 
  7. Peace and Quiet: The higher the efficiency of your windows and envelope, the greater privacy and “peace and quiet” you’ll have in your home. Whether you have a baby sleeping, work from home, or just love some silence, high-efficiency windows can make a great impact. 
  8. Greater Comfort: Most importantly, your house will be more comfortable. You will have fewer drafts which are actually more often convection currents. Also, you will be able to read a book next to a window in the winter in a t-shirt without feeling the cold as much. There are a lot of factors that go into a “comfort quotient” and you can go into intense detail if you want on this. The main thing is that if you build for energy efficiency, your home will have less drastic temperature swings from zone to zone and you’ll be more comfortable while in it. 

Ready to help improve your life AND help out our world’s energy problems? Building with high-performance windows and building envelope strategies is just one simple way. It’s a win-win for all. It’s an investment on so many levels. If you’re considering this kind of construction, we’d love to help you find the perfect materials for your project.

For additional reading, check out this recent blog post on “Eco-Friendly Ways to Prep Your Home for Winter”

Breathing Easy with CERV UV

If ever there was a time where we cared about our air quality, it’s now. With the recent pandemic, airborne illnesses have caused a huge spike in air quality considerations for construction. Many universities are moving classes to occur in spaces that already have higher quality ventilation; plus, commercial spaces are retrofitting and improving their ventilation systems to meet higher standards, and everyone is aware of the air they breathe. So, it makes sense that people are also thinking about this in their homes too! That’s why the CERV-UV has been such a revolutionary product for our industry and why we’re loving the results it’s bringing to our customers. 

Breathe Easy With the Help of Build Equinox

Build Equinox released the CERV-UV Ultraviolet Air Purification this last year, which is the latest big addition to the CERV family. They’ve been researching the UVGI (Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation) in recent years, and have incorporated that learning to create the world’s first smart ventilation system that includes integrated UVGI. It’s smart, it’s healthy, and it’s innovating homes like never before! 

Effective Kill Efficiency

Ventilation systems have been notorious for spreading germs and contaminants that affect air quality in a home. CERV has done a great job at improving this, but the introduction of UV to their already great system has been a game-changer! How well does UV work? It all depends on the lamp power and air velocity. This system has selected the lamp power in relation to typical CERV airflow to achieve a good first pass kill efficiency of 85%. UVGI radiation breaks up genetic material in microbes, thus providing a deeper layer of health to your home. These microbes are huge culprits for allergies, poor IAQ, and airborne disease transmission. The CERV UV uses an 18W UVGI light source made of titanium oxide doped quartz glass, so it does not produce ozone either.

A SMART Solution

The CERV UV system is not only great for indoor air quality; it’s also a no-brainer when it comes to simplifying your life. Between their touchscreen panel and mobile app, you can maintain control from anywhere. You can also see analytics on your air quality at any time and manage parts and service options as well. 

Maintenance

The primary consideration to maintain a system like the CERV UV system is to remember that you’ll need to replace the bulb on an annual basis. This helps ensure that the UV light is working fully to your advantage. 

Interested in using this system in your home? 

Whether you’re looking at a retrofit scenario or a new build, the CERV UV system is a superb option. Our team can help you figure out what you need and what specifications to include in an order. We can also answer any questions you might have about your own unique situation.

Stop Settling For Stratification

We’ve come to know that some parts of a house are generally going to be hotter than others in the summer months. Certain rooms of the house bake, while others are nice and comfortable. Why do we settle? The truth is that no house needs to operate like this. When you understand stratification and convection currents, you quickly learn there are simple design strategies to help prevent temperature deltas within the home. 

Why are there problems in the first place? 

Homes often experience stratification. Depending on the weather conditions of the season, the temperature between a basement and second story of a building may vary 15-20 degrees. That’s quite a difference! We could share the complex physics behind this, but the cliff notes version is essentially a layering effect that allows pockets of air with different core temperatures to remain intact, even if a building’s central HVAC system is in place. Drafts and stratification are usually due to interior temperature deltas causing microclimates stratification and convection currents. You experience convection currents and stratification which often manifest as drafts in stairwells and around bad windows or poorly insulated walls and attics which often also cause cold floors. You end up with microclimates throughout the home and most people live this way without giving it much thought.  

But, what if we gave it some thought…???

The truth is that designers have been giving it thought for a long time, and we see it all over the strategies in a Passivhaus design. A Passivhaus, or even a Darn Good House concept, employs techniques that are focused on reducing thermal bridging, drafts, issues at openings, and more. While a Passive House design is focused on energy savings and passive strategies, a huge focus is also on effective insulation. When you have a solidly-insulated air sealed house you have an energy efficient house; these go hand in hand. The side benefit is that you end up with a home that has stable temperatures in both extreme hot and extreme cold environments, and from the lower levels to the upper levels in the home. 

How to Avoid Stratification:

  • Build a Passive House from the start. If you are working on a new project, take the time now to build a structure that is well insulated from day one. This will help ensure you can avoid convection currents and stratification. Your upper stories can be comfortable and similar to those temperatures in your basement level. 
  • Fix an existing problem. If you are working with an existing building that has issues, hope is not all lost. There are a few core things you can do:
    1. High Performance Windows: Replacing openings in the home with high performance windows and doors will help reduce the drafts and swings in temperature you experience throughout the home. 
    2. Continuous Insulation: Proper continuous insulation in walls becomes a solid barrier for thermal bridging. Often a little investment in insulation can go a long way to reduce drafts, energy loss, and ultimately stratification. One simple space to insulate that many don’t even think about is the basement/foundation walls, as well as the horizontal slab. 
    3. More Attic/Roof Insulation: One of the biggest energy penalties comes from poorly insulated and poorly air sealed attics and roofs.  Attics and roofs can account for as much as 40% of a building’s energy losses.  
    4. Air sealing: Find all the leaks you can and seal them up. It is hard in retrofit situations, but made easier with a thermal imaging gun and a blower door.  

We know firsthand how this works. Our owner, Todd Collins, purchased a great house in a great location, but it was built in typical 1970’s construction practices where, sadly, he experiences stratification on a daily basis. He’s combatted this by heavily insulating his attic and incorporating new energy efficient windows. It’s not a perfect solution, but it has helped significantly. We can’t always build a brand new home that is energy efficient from the start; instead we find ourselves working within the framework of a house we purchase. 

Over the years, our culture built homes that simply aren’t the most efficient… and unfortunately, we are still building marginally efficient homes.  However, today we have the knowledge to build highly energy efficient homes and structures. In turn, we’re less reliant on outside energy sources to regulate our spaces, AND we end up with more consistent comfort throughout the entire building. Quality building products and Passive House design strategies help to make any space more comfortable and more efficient. 

Why are Innies Becoming The “In Thing” For Energy Performance?

One of the big debates in construction sounds a lot like we’re talking about belly buttons, but we’re actually talking about window construction:  innie vs. outie! In construction this great debate has been going on for some years and it can be confusing to know what the right solution is for your project. Each style has been used in various ways over the years, but if you’re like us, and concerned about thermal performance and energy savings, you will want to pay attention. 

The Basics of Innie & Outie Window Construction

Outie Window Construction:

Outie windows are constructed with the glazing of the window set flush to the outside of the wall assembly – typically with a “nail fin.” These are the types of windows most Americans are used to seeing in a home. 

Pros:

  • Easier Installation:  Installed with nailing flanges to the outer face of the wall. 
  • Deeper interior sill: Interior sill leaves a small ledge.
  • Simple Drainage: No exterior window sill to be concerned with.
  • Conventional looking: This is what most people are accustomed to, know, and understand. Many homeowners like to have a little sill to place plants or other decorations. 
  • Easier for continuous insulation: When windows are set on the outside, things line up more, and the water and control layer is the face of the continuous insulation

Cons:  

  • More thermal bridging: Since window assembly is on the exterior shell of the home, there are more thermal considerations to deal with. Often ThermalBuck is a good solution for this, but the simple fact of the location means higher heat loss and greater thermal bridging. 
  • More Instability: Since the window isn’t fully framed into the wall itself, and is instead screwed on with flanges, the window often just “sits in” the space, rather than is fully part of the wall like its counterpart. 
  • Wind-washing:  Because the window is to the exterior, wind will cool it down in winter and warm it in summer more readily. 

Innie Window Construction

Innie Windows are a window construction style where the glazing of the window is set at the middle of the wall. Many people enjoy the overall look of Innie Windows, but don’t even realize just how efficient they can be! Take a look at some of the pros and cons of Innie Window assemblies:  

Pros:

  • Weather Protection:  Since Innie Windows are not on the direct outer surface of a wall, the window is protected more from rain and wind. 
  • Improved Thermal Performance:  Since the glazing is within the wall’s depth, the window at large is more insulated from the thermal envelope of the building. 
  • Greater Support:  Innie Windows are secured and supported by a full frame, rather than just screws on a flange. 
  • Solar shading: Recessed glazing provides greater shade from the sun throughout the day. 
  • Better thermal performance: The glazing being within the wall’s depth keeps the glazing within the insulated thermal envelope
  • Better for Passive House design: In Passive House design, every little bit of energy performance matters; ultimately Innie designs can help the overall performance of a home!
  • Aesthetic:  Some architects and homeowners prefer the look of an inset window.  
  • Wind protection: from “Wind-washing” 

Cons: 

  • Greater Complexity: An Innie Window is much more complex to install, as it creates concerns not only for the window itself, but for the exterior sill and surround. 
  • Require thick wall assemblies: Innies are not very common in 2×4 or 2×6 construction. Instead, you’ll find them in Double Stud designs, or Phoenix Haus wall assemblies. 
  • Exterior Sill Detailing Needs:  Requires a solid weather-resistant exterior sill and special considerations for this design. 

It’s easy to see why Innie Windows are becoming a more popular choice for builders. Windows are a hot spot for thermal bridging and while there are a lot of things we can do with insulation construction, supporting products, and the window product itself, we also know that if you’re going for energy savings, the placement of the window itself makes a big difference. It may only be a few inches in, but Innie Windows can provide a solid improvement in energy performance, especially if you’re going for a Passive House certification where every bit of help may make a difference between getting certified or not. 

Still not sure if Innie Windows are right for you? Our team is ready to help you understand if they’re applicable for your project, and if so, how you can best approach the project and make sure everyone is on board. 

Mineral Wool Insulation for Safety, Sustainability, Sound, & Sanity!

Sometimes homes are built in places with noises we can’t control. Whether it’s a plane overhead, a train nearby, or a loud neighbor who likes to sing off-pitch. If you find that there are noises you’d like to keep in, or out, from your sanctuary of a home, the insulation you use is quite important. The cotton-candy looking stuff simply won’t do. You need something more durable, more sustainable, more sound-blocking, and all around so much more. 

When people are looking for increased sound barriers, more sustainable temperature control, safer materials from rot and fire, they typically turn to mineral wool insulation. And, we can see why! Let’s take a quick look at why this stuff is so amazing!

Mineral Wool Insulation is considered ideal for a number of reasons: 

Fire Resistance

Mineral wool is a winner for so many situations because it has a melting point of 2150 degrees F. Compare that with the average range of house fires of 1200-1400 degrees F. You realize quickly that the material simply doesn’t catch fire in an average residential fire, and as a result, it doesn’t allow fire to spread. Mineral wool is ideal as well because when heated, it doesn’t release toxic gases.  

Rot Resistance

Mineral wool insulation is an ideal material in areas typically prone to rot. Mineral wool insulation is permeable, which allows vapor to pass through, which is extremely helpful in Vapor Open Air Tight design. It also has no food source, so mildew, mold, and bacteria have no interest in setting up shop around this material. If concerns for mold or allergies are paramount, then mineral wool is a material you want to consider. 

Sound Dampening

Mineral wool has been a go-to insulation when you need quality acoustical barriers. Mineral wool is denser than conventional insulation, making it ideal for minimizing and absorbing sound. Environments that require better acoustical barriers, like concert halls, theaters, and classrooms, employ mineral wool. In a home, it can be a great asset for those that simply want a quieter home. 

Versatility

Mineral wool insulation is a very versatile product that allows application in many different situations. There are many ways to detail around windows and doors to include thermal buck, frame extensions, sill extensions, all while using mineral wool to reduce thermal bridging. (Learn more about continuous insulation and how mineral woold can support this technique.) Plus, mineral wool is the perfect addition for renovating with a continuous insulation approach.

Durability

Mineral wool insulation has a history of longevity, with minimal shrinkage, crumbling, or changing shape even with major temperature changes. It requires very minimal maintenance and rarely needs to be replaced. The natural properties of the mineral wool consistency provide excellent thermal protection from extreme climates (both warm and cool). This makes for a more comfortable home AND a more comfortable energy bill!

Mineral wool is clearly a great choice for so many applications. Whether the main concern is safety, sound, sustainability, or some combination of these, mineral wool insulation can be helpful for both commercial AND residential projects. Yes, there are other options for continuous insulation in a project, but we’ve found that when building for the long term, nothing beats mineral wool insulation. 

At AE Building Systems, we work with mineral wool on many types of projects, especially ones that are working to be Passive House designs. We carry quality products for mineral wool insulation, including Rockwool Comfortboard 80 and Rockwool Comfortboard 110. Rockwool has been a great partner to the construction community for years and our AE Building Systems team is always here to help answer your questions about material choices and specific products. 

Simple Approach to Improving Ventilation in Any Home

Take My Breath Away… While the Berlin song from Top Gun was a big hit in the 1980’s, in a home, we know that good air quality is vital to a healthy space. As homes have become more energy-efficient and airtight, air quality in a home is one of the top priorities. 

Why Does Air Ventilation Matter in a Home?  

Proper ventilation is like lungs in a body. Homes need proper ventilation to keep air fresh and the indoor space as healthy as possible. Opening windows doesn’t always work because the air that we allow in is not filtered, and we’re losing thermal energy we paid for with our heating and air conditioning bills. Mechanical ventilation is vital to ensure that fresh air comes in and dirty air goes back out. The air inside of a home can build up pollutants, dust, odors, moisture and more, making it a problem for anyone with asthma, lung problems, allergies, or those susceptible to disease. The proper mechanical ventilation design will help ensure that indoor spaces stay safe and healthy from day one. 

How do you ensure that your mechanical ventilation is set up properly?  

Have a plan. 

Most new construction home projects will have a mechanical design in place that should address many of these concerns. Make sure you are working with an expert who is well-versed in air quality and ventilation. Many contractors know the basics, but ask questions to find out if your hired expert has experience with strict air quality standards, and balanced systems, meaning it exhausts the same amount of air that is being brought in so the home is not artificially inflated or deflated (pressurized or depressurized) If you aren’t sure who to talk to, reach out to our team at AE Building Systems. We have a list of trusted pros.. 

Look for a ventilation plan that incorporates air quality measurements. 

There are simpler models that are intended to just run in the background day and night no matter if the occupants are home or away, which is a ‘good’ approach that works for many families. This system still requires spot exhaust fans in the bathrooms and kitchen vent hoods that are manually activated when needed.

A ‘better’ ventilation system selectively exhausts the stale air and odors from the bathrooms and the kitchen, and delivers fresh air to the bedrooms and living areas. This distribution system is a bit more involved, but it can be designed to meet code requirements for bathroom ventilation so that spot ventilation fans are eliminated, and a kitchen vent hood would only be needed with a gas range or if the occupants’ cooking involves above-average smoke and odors. This ‘better’ system requires a higher-end ERV with a boost feature that allows increasing the air exchange rate on demand, for instance when someone is using the bathroom.

By far the ‘best’ ventilation system on the market today employs an ERV that measures the air quality in the home and adjusts its mode of operation accordingly. This unit is called the Conditioning Energy Recovery Ventilator 2 (CERV2) and it is manufactured by Build Equinox in Illinois. Its air quality sensors measure carbon dioxide (CO₂) and volatile organic compounds (VOC) which together offer indications of how contaminated and or spent the air in a home is at a given moment. It uses this information to adjust its mode of operation from fresh air ventilation to filtered air recirculation and sometimes it simply shuts its blowers off to save energy. 

Instead of the passive heat exchanger core most ERV units use, the CERV2 is equipped with a small internal heatpump that allows precise control of the flow and amount of thermal energy that is recovered. 

Here are some of the features we love about the CERV2:

  1. Instead of the passive heat exchanger core most ERV units use, the CERV2 is equipped with a small internal heatpump that allows precise control of the flow and amount of thermal energy that is recovered.
  2. Fan selection size – You can get 6” or 8” and while 6” fans are generally used in smaller multifamily projects, 8” fans are generally used in most single-family residences greater than 2,000 ft² and homes where the elevation is 5,000 ft.   Please contact us to help with design considerations.  
  3. With a properly laid out distribution system, the fully automated CERV2 provides fresh filtered air to the living areas and bedrooms of the home, and dependably removes stale air and odors from the bathrooms and kitchen. Such a system can meet the requirements of building code and eliminates the need for bathroom fans. In some municipalities, a kitchen vent hood is then only needed with a gas range or if the occupant’s cooking involves above-average smoke and odors. Please refer to your local building code. 
  4. Remote wireless booster switches are used for manual activation of high air exchange (boost) mode, or wireless active circuit transmitters that are installed in bathroom lights for automatic activation of boost mode. By temporarily ramping up the fan speed and switching to air exchange mode when someone is using the bathroom, odors are removed more rapidly.
  5. Geoboost provides pre-conditioning in both summer and winter and it can also help with post-heat with a hot water connection.  
  6. The Warmflo duct heater can also be included for additional BTUs in the supply lines. 
  7. The CERV2 uses various configurations for remote sensors and zone dampers, wireless connections, and even an I/O expansion board for more control. Let us know how we might help with your needs. 

Hans Joachim Preiss and his firm BrightSense have been designing ventilation systems for several years. Starting with generic ERV and HRV units, the first generation CERV, and now the CERV2. “The idea of knowing the quality of the air you’re breathing inside your home and having a ventilation unit that constantly adjusts its mode of operation so that a high level of air quality is maintained without wasting energy, is only offered by the CERV2 from Build Equinox. This concept is so simple yet advanced, I have not had a single client who regrets their decision to go with the CERV.” says Hans.

Conceptual simplified CERV2 system:

Sample CERV2 supply and exhaust diffuser locations and airflow volumes:

Sample layout of a CERV2 distribution system:

Learn more about CERV2 and get more product specifications HERE.

Learn What You Can

Whether you are a homeowner, the designer, a contractor, or a specialist on the project, the best thing you can do is to learn as much as possible about the plan for air quality in the home. Here are a few simple ways to educate yourself:

Your home should be a safe, healthy space. That starts with strategic mechanical ventilation that measures the air quality. When you are able to monitor the quality, you are able to work on any improvements. At AE Building Systems, we want to help you build safe, healthy spaces for yourself or your clients. Let us know how we can help you succeed on your next project!

Passive House Resource Guide

Resource guide to up your Passive House knowledge – 

Whether you are building your own home, or you are hiring a contractor to help build your Passive House, you’ll want to get knowledgeable. The exciting thing about Passive House is that the designs are constantly evolving and getting better. There are new faces joining the movement everyday, and there’s so much to learn!

Educated Consumer

Many homeowners find that base knowledge is vital to the success of their project, especially when it comes to Passive House construction. The more educated you are, the better you can make sure your home is being constructed in the right way. Because of the lack of general knowledge in the industry, it is sometimes best to participate more or less as a quality control agent of sorts. Knowledge also gives you a base for asking the right questions to your contractor. Even more, when you know the details about your type of construction, you can advocate for specific design choices or construction techniques that you might never have considered otherwise. An educated client is a smart client. Your contractor will appreciate the insights you can bring, and you will be more satisfied with the final product.

Educated Contractor

If you are a contractor considering getting into Passive House construction, this is a no-brainer! Education in a focused niche of construction like Passive House techniques is a huge asset to your scope of work. You’ll  find yourself employing passive house concepts or approaches to any type of construction, even if the project doesn’t require strict Passive House requirements. Additionally, if you are certified, it becomes a huge selling factor for people looking for experts  that can achieve nearly any high performance building objective. You can set yourself above the rest of the pack simply by getting more education. 

If you’re looking to up your Passive House knowledge, where do you start? 

Our team has compiled a great list of resources to help you get started. Some of these resources have specific programs and even certifications, and some are simply helpful resources to stay up on the latest developments. Either way, we hope you find them helpful as you go deeper into Passive Houses.

Passive House Associations to Check-Out:

  • (CPHT): Courses and accreditation exams for building professionals. 
  • Passive House Institute US:  This organization is based in the United States, but offers a ton of education on their website if you’re starting off. If you want to go deeper, they also offer certifications in Passive House construction. They even offer live events and trainings throughout the year. 
  • Passive House Institute:  The Passive House Institute (PHI) is an independent research institute focused on performance-based energy standards in construction. They offer certifications, in-person trainings, and a wealth of information on their website. 
  • North American Passive House Network (NAPHN):  A building industry leader in education for low-energy, high-performance Passive House design and construction. They offer educational resources throughout the year, but also with their big conference each year. Don’t miss how they are rolling out a virtual element this year. 

Top Resources For Trainings/Events:

  • Emu:  Emu is an accredited Training Provider with the International Passive House Institute (PHI). They are authorized to offer Certified Passive House Tradesperson 
  • Local PHIUS Meetup: Look for Passive House Meetups in your local area. If you’re in Colorado, we’d love to see you at an upcoming event with this Meetup.  
  • NAPHN Conference in New York: Join NAPHN for their annual conference. More info HERE
  • PHIUS Conference:  Currently set for Fall 2020, the PHIUS conference is always full of great speakers and education! Learn more HERE
  • Global Passive House Happy Hour:  The Passive House Accelerator has a weekly virtual happy hour with people from all over the world. You can find out the times and details HERE. They also have a great newsletter you can sign up for as well, full of quality information. 
  • Love | Schack:  Love & Schack are two architects who focus on client-centered design with high performance and natural materials, and made a witty company name when Lindsey and Lindsay joined forces! They offer amazing designs, but also put on webinars and share great resources with their community. 
  • Build Equinox:  Build Equinox is a great source if you love getting into the details of Passive House construction. They regularly put out new articles and updates to help the community stay on the forefront of this industry – especially related to ventilation strategies.. 
  • Certified Passive Home Consultants: If you need someone to weigh in on your project, consider hiring a certified consultant to give you expert insights. See the above sites for certifications to also find certified experts.

To Stay on Top of the Passive House Movement, Consider Following our Favorite Instagram Accounts:

7 Value Engineering Tips for Window and Door Design

Have you or your clients had significant sticker shock when the window and door bids are provided? It is pretty common… but there are ways to reduce cost without sacrificing much and often while improving performance.   By Value Engineering (VE), you’ll help save money with your project and there are several concepts to consider to make it happen.  

Value Engineering is often an untapped resource in projects that can save costs on a project without necessarily compromising quality and often while improving performance. Experts in Value Engineering can help identify opportunities to create a more efficient setup, especially when it comes to windows. Since we, at AE Building Systems, are always concerned about energy efficiency, we are proponents of anything that improves performance first and foremost. 

Considering performance vs. cost savings, in the window world, they often go together.  Whether you’re looking at many window manufacturers or options within the same manufacturer, there are a number of VE options that can actually save you a ton of money, and improve energy efficiency at the same time. The homeowners will pay less at the front end while saving money down the road in energy costs. That’s why we’re big fans of Value Engineering around here. 

Worried you might be spending too much on windows and doors? You might consider some of these options:

  • Consider the location/region: The best way you can design effective opening is to design for the homeowner’s climate zone. The product someone needs in San Francisco (e.g. double, triple or quad-pane) are going to be drastically different than what you would want in Anchorage, Alaska. The best way to think through this is to look at the glass performance and how many panes and what type of gas-fill you’re needing. In Colorado, the front range (climate zone 5) can generally use a different glazing package than some of the colder mountain locations (often climate zones 6 and 7).
  • Note the purpose of the space: What is the opening used for? Windows for a kitchen or bedroom are going to need higher performance compared to that of an unconditioned garage or three-season porch. You can get by with lower performance windows in some spaces. If the garage is conditioned which is often the case in mountain areas of Colorado, this might not apply.
  • Selected fixed units where you can: Any time you have operable windows, you increase costs compared to fixed windows. They’re just more complex than a fixed window and fixed or picture windows also perform better – not only do they perform better thermally, they are tighter – reducing air infiltration. If it’s feasible that the homeowner is never going to open the window – go fixed. On the performance side… sliding or hung windows also open you up to greater air infiltration through the unit over casements, awnings and tilt/turns. Comparing hungs and sliders to fixed or casement units is a night and day difference. If you don’t need an operable unit in the space, opt for the fixed unit and save your money now and in the future. If you need an operable – try to go casement, awning or tilt/turn rather than hung or sliding due to the air infiltration rates. 
  •  Overlooked the materials: The materials your units are made from can make a huge impact. Wood and aluminum are often more costly than vinyl and fiberglass. If wood is the look you need, different species of wood can vary in price. Keep this in mind as you determine what material you really need.
  • Use fewer IGUs if you can: Consider various diagrams of the unit and how many Insulated Glazing Units (IGUs) you really need. In the high-performance arena, frames are a known culprit of energy performance. If you can consolidate windows within an assembly, you’ll get better performance and lower initial cost simply because you have less frame material and less labor.  The second window below is one IGU with simulated divided lights (SDLs) where the first unit below has 6 IGU’s. The price difference on these two units is significant and using 6 IGU’s can more than double the price of a window assembly.  
  • Be mindful of the hardware (generally door hardware): We often think about the framed unit itself, but hardware costs can add up quickly too. Decide if you really need to go fancy with your hardware. If you really need something custom, be willing to pay for it. Otherwise, the standard fixtures can save you greatly! Keep in mind that painted finishes on hardware can often cost much less than metal finishes. Also, custom door hardware can be very expensive. Depending on the look you’re going for, these simple choices can help you save quite a bit! 
  • Mind the threshold as well: Don’t stop at windows; consider how your door design can benefit your budget. With doors, consider that a balcony threshold can be beneficial compared to a traditional swing door with a low-threshold. Adding multi-point locking on doors can be helpful for performance (air-tightness), but often adds costs. Other considerations for doors include a basic one-panel swing vs french vs sliding vs lift-sliding vs bifold and others that all impact the price and the performance in different ways. Don’t forget to chat about both price and performance with your suppliers. Check out this threshold example from our Instagram feed. 

On any project, budget is generally a difficult discussion and an important one. We want our clients to be happy about the investment they’ve made, but we also want to deliver high-performing products for them. Value Engineering is a simple way to make smart decisions to maximize performance while reducing costs. We know that windows and doors are often zones in a home where lots of money is spent and we want to see it spent wisely. If you, or your clients, have specific questions about how they can best maximize their opening design for a more efficient home, our team would love to talk. We’ve seen a lot and would love to help you design a happier, more efficient space.

A Better Way With ThermalBuck

ThermalBuck Basics For Energy Efficiency

“There’s got to be a better way!”  Have you ever thought to yourself? So many of us in the world of construction become miffed when it comes to dealing with the problem spots in construction like window and door openings. No, this isn’t an infomercial, and we aren’t going to incentivize you with a set of knives, but there truly IS a better way to build out windows and openings, and ThermalBuck is a huge part of that. 

What is ThermalBuck?

ThermalBuck is a product designed to enhance the construction of rough openings. It solves varying problems in window installation, especially when working with continuous insulation and/or rainscreens. ThermalBuck extends the mounting point of doors and windows to help create a flush plane. It extends the rough opening for a window or door, but limits a common thermal bridge within the building envelope. ThermalBuck is easy to install and flash and is a true continuous insulation option for builders. 

ThermalBuck is also coated with a waterproof resin and is affixed to a rough opening with an air & water barrier sealant along with nails. It doesn’t warp or shrink with moisture, and also provides extra support to the weight of a window.

Why is ThermalBuck needed?

Traditionally, a wood buck is used to extend the mounting point of a window to create a flush plane. However, wood can shrink, warp, or even rot over time. Wood is also not an ideal insulator, allowing thermal bridging around each opening, whether a window or door. Wood bucks can only do so much, and can lead to other issues for energy efficiency, condensation, and eventual moisture damage. Ultimately, this is a contributing factor to why there can be so many expensive repairs related to window and door damage. Wood bucks are helpful, but only go so far. With the ThermalBuck, we see an innovative approach that actually provides more long-term benefits to the end-user.

How is ThermalBuck beneficial?

Can you build window openings without ThermalBuck? Sure, you can. But, why would you when there’s a better way? The ThermalBuck product is so helpful when it comes to preventing heat and energy loss, that we’ve come to see it as a given around here. Here are just some of the main ways it’s so helpful in energy-efficient construction:

  • Easier to install than traditional wood buck designs (Watch how it installs here)
  • High-performance window installation solution 
  • Verified for Passive House installations
  • Maintains the integrity of the window installation with a dimensionally stable solution
  • Simplifies flashing and adds an additional water/air barrier at the rough opening
  • Available in multiple depths to match the projects needed depths. 
  • One solid piece, compared to multiple pieces of wood in traditional wood buck installs
  • R-value of 4.4 per inch

How Do I Use ThermalBuck?

ThermalBuck is not necessarily something we carry alone. Instead, it’s a product that is paired with our Alpen window orders. We work with so many people who care about high performance and reducing thermal bridging in a project that we see these two products pair together seamlessly. That said, you can get ThermalBuck in depths of 1.0” to 4” depending on your needs, and Alpen currently stocks 2” and 2.5” depths. This allows you to use a quality product and get a premiere result. 

ThermalBuck & Passive House Design

In Passive House design, the focus is on energy efficiency, especially at areas of weakness like openings and corners. That’s why we love the ThermalBuck products because they eliminate so much of the thermal bridging that normally occurs at these openings. While there are various angles on ThermalBuck and how it relates to Passive House design, here’s a more in-depth review of the product in relation to sustainable design. One thing we can all agree on is that ThermalBuck is a better alternative to traditional wood buck designs if you are building for energy efficiency. 

At AE Building Systems, we’re always working to educate our customers so that they can build with the best resources and processes possible. ThermalBuck is just one of these amazing products that make building a Passive House or building with an energy-efficient focus so much easier. Our team works with these products every day, and we’re happy to help answer any questions you have about using ThermalBuck in your next project!

Learn more about thermal bridging and ThermalBuck here.

New Year, New Products from SIGA

You may not have asked for construction products for the holidays this year, but that’s what you got under the Christmas tree! As we start off another great year, we’re all excited about the latest and greatest from SIGA. We know this means even better construction and energy savings in projects to come. These products make for big energy savings, big-budget savings, and even more comfort. 

Why do we carry SIGA? 

SIGA carries a versatile line of products for the construction industry and building envelopes. Their products avoid spray applications and also avoid toxins such as chemical dyers, formaldehyde, solvents, and harmful resins. This family business started in Switzerland in 1965 and is focused on research and development to always push the thermal envelope! SIGA products are also proven products to help with Passive House design and construction. Whether you’re building to these standards, or you just want a more energy-efficient space, SIGA products are a winner!

AE Building Systems has carried SIGA products for years, which is why we’re so excited to share the latest and greatest in their innovative products. 

Here’s an overview of the newest SIGA products:

SIGA Majvest 700 SOB

Ready to seal out the elements in a sleek way? The Majvest 700 SOB is ideal for open facades with gaps up to 50 mm and maximum surface share of 40%. As designers start to add in more and more intricate exteriors with openings and reliefs, the construction behind the pretty face of the wall needs to hold up. The Majvest 700 SOB product allows you to do just that. This product is also UV stable, making it an ideal product for any side of the building and in multiple different climates. 

Click HERE to learn more about this product.

SIGA Wigluv Black

If you are thinking of using the Majvest 700 SOB, you’ll want to consider looking at the Wigluv Black product too. This black single-sided high-performance tape is perfect for sealing facades and membranes, especially where the Majvest 700 is involved. This product was designed to work well together and allow you to get a solid seal across any kind of wall shape. 

SIGA Wigluv Black tape is great for any range of temperatures, and is ideal in areas where there are big swings in temperature throughout the day or year. It can handle it all! The black color makes for a seamless, UV-stable product that holds up to fading and aging. This product also has a low perm rating, making is impermeable to water, yet can diffuse water vapor, eliminating condensation risks. If you’re thinking about building a Passive House, this product is your best friend!

Click HERE to learn more about this product.

SIGA Wigluv

We love Wigluv – so much we’re talking about it again. This one is the white version and it now comes in 12” widths! That’s rulers upon rulers worth of seal-tight goodness any Passive House lover can get excited about. Even if you aren’t a Passive House nerd like we are, if you’re just looking for any level of energy efficiency, the wider Wigluv tape is a big deal! 

Wigluv has a reputation for being an extremely sticky acrylic sealing tape, yet low-profile and versatile. This product has a unique vapor-permeable polyolefin (PO) film, pressure-sensitive glue, and reinforcing mesh, allowing it to bond with difficult substrates and in extreme climates. Now with a wider area of bonding, the seal is even more secure, making it a great product for Passive House design and energy efficiency where thicker wall assemblies are used. 

Click HERE to learn more about this product.

SIGA Fentrim 430 Grey

Attention: Product Name Change!

We all know windows are notorious for energy loss, which is why we are big fans of SIGA’s Fentrim 230 grey adhesive tape. This product was specifically designed for windows and door frames to seal exterior component joints. The adhesive tape is ideal for solid structures and metal structures, but can work with a number of different substrates and applications. If you’ve used the Fentrim F product, you’ll find that this is the new product to look for now. Also, this now has four months of UV exposure and comes in 4”, 6”, or 9” versions. It’s designed to be even more versatile and designed to help make these complicated openings in a building more of a breeze to build, while keeping the breeze out of the construction. 

Click HERE to learn more about this product.

SIGA Fentrim 230 Grey

Attention: Product Name Change!

Previously known as Fentrim IS 2, the Fentrim 430 Grey is a winner for so many of our customers. This adhesive flashing tape is fleece-backed, yet semi-permeable. The polyolefin (PO) material helps resist abrasions to the flashing tape, while allowing it to remain pliable (even in extreme temperatures). It works great with proven adhesion to cured concrete, wood, and metal. It comes pre-folded in 75mm, 100mm, and 150mm versions to fit whatever project you have. 

Click HERE to learn more about this product.

Still have lingering questions about these new SIGA products—let’s talk! We’re always happy to help you find the right product for your next project and understand the differences.

Keep the Arctic Out: An Overview of Passive House Design Solutions

Have you ever experienced a drafty spot in the living room? Perhaps, you have one room that just never stays warm? In our modern days, we’ve come to expect that houses simply are drafty or have cold zones. However, the truth is that we don’t have to settle for Arctic blasts inside our homes. There’s another alternative!

Passive House, or PassivHaus, is a remarkable construction strategy that allows us to build spaces that work for us, providing a naturally regulated system for heating and cooling. One major goal of a passive house plan is to reduce energy consumption required to heat a home, but it has many other positive impacts as well including healthier and quieter spaces, greater durability, and greater comfort for inhabitants. Passive House building focuses mainly on three areas: SuperInsulation, low air infiltration and minimizing thermal bridging. In a passive home, you don’t need to sleep in a parka just because your bed happens to be in a drafty corner! Pack up your parkas; there’s no need for one in a Passive House. 

History of Passive House Building

The Passive House was highly developed in Germany, but has roots in North America as well. Now a global movement, the Passive House movement became an idea after the oil embargo of 1973 in the United States. Americans realized the need to be more self-reliant in energy, and the Lo-Cal house was designed. The Lo-Cal house in 1976 was created to be highly insulated and consumed 60 percent less energy than the standard house at that time. 

In the late 1980’s the movement shifted over to Germany where Wolfgang Feist refined the passive house approacheven more. Dr. Feist eventually designed and built the first PassivHaus in 1991 with an annual heating demand of 15 kilowatt-hours per square meter of living space. Feist also founded the Passivhaus Institute (PHI) and created the Passivhaus performance standard, which is known as the highest standard for energy efficiency even to this day. Heating loads must meet 4.75 kBTU/sf/yr. Most existing and even some new homes are 40 to 70 kBTU/sf/yr. Also, airtightness must be below 0.60 ACH50. Most existing homes are 4.0 to 15.0 ACH50 and even worse. 

Passive House Institute US (PHIUS) and Passivhaus Institute (PHI) are now the two leading organizations that set standards for passive homes in North America and in Europe. PHIUS has certifications available for properties that meet their standards and also has many collaborative partnerships with other organizations to promote better energy efficiency in the construction industry.

Why Invest In Passive House/Haus?

Passive House Buildings have strict standards. While many homes meet all the requirements, some also follow the guidelines but don’t get certified (we call these Darn Good Houses around here and you can see why we coined this phrase here). Many homeowners and designers also work to retrofit existing builds along the passive haus ideas to help lower the energy load on an existing structure. There is also a retrofit standard separate from new construction. Regardless of the type of project and level of certification, there are numerous benefits to a Passive Haus building:

Illustration by Passive House School
  1. Comfort: Passive House Standards are focused on a superior level of comfort both during the cold months AND warm months. The design concepts work for both extremes of climate, including the extreme heat of the desert to the extreme cold climates. Multiple studies by passive home residents confirm these high levels of comfort year-round.
  2. Quality:  Passive House designs are known for high efficiency largely due to the high levels of insulation and airtight design. Any weak spots around the home are constructed to Passive House buildings standards. Special attention is put on the windows, doors, corners, and any other angles.
  3. Sustainability:  Passive House design is sustainable by nature, due to the dramatic energy savings in heating/cooling the home. They use very little primary energy, and any extra measures for building a house in the first place to these high standards pales in comparison to the amount of energy savings the house will have over the lifetime of the building. A Passive House requires as low as 10 percent of the energy used by typical Central European buildings!
  4. Cost Savings:  While Passive House buildings have some extra upfront costs, they truly are an investment, rather than an expense. Any additional budget items in the original build save a homeowner thousands upon thousands in the long run in energy costs. 

Beyond The Residential Home

What began as a way to decrease the loads on residential homes, has now become a global movement for passive design at large. The applications are just as relevant for commercial designs for almost any type of space, from hospitals to schools, to commercial store buildings, offices, and more. The Passive House design principles have been adopted by architects, engineers, and contractors alike to make smarter spaces for our communities. If we can build smarter and more efficient buildings, why wouldn’t we? It’s simply the logical thing to do.

AE Building Solutions is proud to be a leader in the Passive House world, providing building envelope components and products that help designers and contractors meet Passive House Standard and certification requirements. We carry products like windows, weather/air barriers, ventilation systems, and insulation for comprehensive building construction. We’re devoted to increased thermal performance, reduced air infiltration, and reduction of thermal bridging to make more efficient homes. 

Given we are burning through our natural resources rapidly, AE exists to help make a dent. Wanting to have an impact on our children’s energy and environmental future, setting our children up for a better tomorrow, and simply doing things more energy efficiently is all a part of AE’s mission.

Looking to get involved with other Passive House construction professionals?