Breaking news on the insulation front

This is a very good day – for all those who own a masonry building, who are interested in a deep energy retrofit and who would like to insulate the masonry walls from the inside.

The frustration has been that there was next to no information available on the pros and cons of insulating the interior of masonry walls, or on how to go about it without damaging the structure.

The Building Science Corporation has taken another step to fill this information gap with the release of a brand new research report (RR-1105) “Internal Insulation of Masonry Walls: Final Measure Guideline,” authored by John Straube, Kohta Ueno and Christopher Schumacher.

Regular readers of the blog will remember my epic search for reliable and sound information on this subject. At the time, I came across one document – to repeat, one document – on this subject, also published by Building Science Corporation.

Do you really want to make an insulation decision of this magnitude based on one document? No, not really. But that’s all that was out there, in addition to some other documents that offered tangential information and the occasional anecdotal evidence.

We had to knit the little information we had together and hope that we got it right. I am glad to report that I see our decisions confirmed, after having read the executive summary of the new research report.

If you have done research yourself on the subject of deep energy retrofits and how to insulate, you will have noticed the abundance of information available for framed buildings or new construction. I cannot fathom why the existing masonry building stock, which is rather significant in metropolises like Chicago, is left without resources.

If we are to get serious about reducing our energy consumption and carbon footprint, we have to get serious about retrofitting the abundant existing masonry building stock. Building new and green can’t be the solution alone. We have to begin to reuse the resources we have.

I am glad that the Building Science Corporation is not shying away from this complex subject.

About Marcus de la fleur

Marcus is a Registered Landscape Architect with a horticultural degree from the School of Horticulture at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and a Masters in Landscape Architecture from the University of Sheffield, UK. He developed a landscape based sustainable pilot project at 168 Elm Ave. in 2002, and has expanded his skill set to building science. Starting in 2009, Marcus applied the newly acquired expertise to the deep energy retrofit of his 100+ year old home in Chicago.

2 thoughts on “Breaking news on the insulation front

  1. Thanks for the link and the blog in general. I’m shopping for something to retrofit and live in with my wife and parents (2 units. not a total masochist) but that article turned me away from brick. My take away was that it is too risky to seal the envelope from the inside in DOE climate zone 5. Did I miss something that you read that was more encouraging?

  2. Aaron, that decision should be made on a project by project basis. I can see to factors that come to play: The owner and moisture management.

    If this is about flipping, there is the risk that corners will be cut that can lead to potential moisture issues in the masonry walls with the SPF on the inside – because the owner has no long term stake in the structure. An owner that has a long term stake in the structure may also have an incentive, interest and understanding in proper moisture management, addresses this issue properly, which than in turn makes an SPF application possible.

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