Monday, August 11, 2008

Day 2 at Building Science Summer Camp

By Dan Morrison

What did I do at summer camp? met with our advisors, learned about physics, ate food from from Alaska to Dallas, Miami to Maine. And there were cubans with cigars, too.

Building science summer camp is an invitation-only information and consumption festival held during the first week of August each year and hosted by Building Science Corp. Officially calld the Westford Symposium on Building Science, summer camp attracts the best and the brightest in the commercial and residential building fields. There is also very good food, beer, wine, and cigars.

Classes are held during the day at the Westford Regency Hotel and Conference Center, networking and feasting opportunities are at the clubhouse each night. The classes are taught by whoever Joe Lstiburek, one of the founders of Building Science Corp, wants to invite. Typically these teachers are amoung the best in their respective fields. This year was no different.

Opening remarks by Pete Consigli:
“They ate all of the whale blubber” (John Woodward brought whale blubber and seal oil for us lower 48-ers to try. I guess it was pretty good.)

Today's first speaker: Pierre Brusque
According to the official Summer Camp brochure:

Pierre Busque is an engineer with Levelton in Vancouver, BC. He has over
twenty years of experience in one of the most miserable places in the world to
build but one of the most attractive to live in - the building science version
of beauty and the beast. He will regale us with stories of metal roofing
in Whistler, curtain walls and the Qube, historic buildings, recladding of
schools in Sayward and a few lawsuits. He has so many images of building
porn that he is on a most watch list. The second most important thing to
know about Mr. Busque is that he is a talented guitarist - the band is in for a
Vancouver has had its share of water problems. The rotting condo catastrophe is the most famous, but there have been water problems in the area for a long time. One reason, according to Mr. Brusque, is that there is tremendous variation in rainfall, both amount and distribution, among towns in the area. From desert to rain forest, and from slow and steady rain to sideways gully-washers. But weather variation isn’t a problem if designers (architects and engineers) don’t try to impose their home town’s weather patterns on a different city.

When designers from occasional gully-washer cities underestimate the power of constant light rain, they can do as much damage as a designer from the desert underestimating a gulley washer. Brusque: “Small leaks over a long period of time will really cause your building to go to crap.” Big leaks followed by long dry spells are easier to overcome than little leaks that can never dry out.

There are four basic causes of building failure:
  • Ignorance
  • Carelessness
  • Negligence
  • Greed

Ignorance, according to Brusque, is the only one we can do anything about. Designers need to look at local solutions, talk to local experts, and don’t forget to talk to old trade contractors. Pierre showed us a sill fan flashing design that a roofer showed him -- without cutting the metal (Stay tuned, I’ll make a short video using paper as a model). “They don’t build them like they used to -- well, buildings leaked 100 years ago too, but the real pigs were torn down.” The good ones have remained. The guys that built the good ones know how to shed water.

He also offered four rules about windows:

  • Treat all windows like they are leakers, because they really are.
  • Storefront windows should only be used under cover (this includes residential)
  • Because all windows leak, a sub-sill membrane with upturned edge is necessary
  • Never fasten a window through the sill. Even if the manufacturer demands it. If you must break this rule, elevate the membrane at the fastener with a shim to direct water away when it leaks through the hole (this tip from Ray Moore in the audience).

A liquid membrane that Pierre likes is called Siplast, a PMMA membrane (polymethyl methacrylate).

More speakers to come!

No comments: