The Illinois Green Alliance has announced that its 2020 GreenBuilt Home Tour is going virtual – and we’re a part of it!
This year’s event features four unique online sessions that focus on 12 different green home projects across Illinois. Each online event has a theme: passive house design, all-electric homes, deep energy retrofits, and homeowner-driven sustainability projects.
BRINC Building Products is proud to recognize two of our building envelope materials featured in the July 15th Deep Energy Retrofit event – part of the high-performance home of Jamie Carr, Project Manager of Eco Achievers consulting firm.
“ThermalBucks were a great alternative to wood bucks. They were fast and simple to install.”
– —Jamie Carr, Project Manager, Eco Achievers & Net Zero Energy Homeowner
The Carr family loved the location of this Glen Ellyn home, but wanted to update it to be both beautiful, and highly practical. Healthy and comfortable, yet affordable to renovate.
For this all-electric, net zero energy home, Jamie chose a 10 kw solar array, energy recovery ventilator (ERV), heat pump for heating and cooling, and a split-system heat pump for hot water and radiant floor heating. For the building envelope, he installed high-performance Alpen windows in ThermalBuck, and was an early adopter of our new ThermalTight™ System, which features a Neopor ®GPS rigid insulation panel with a self-gasketing, vapor permeable WRB laminated to the exterior. For more information and photos about the Glen Ellyn (net zero) Deep Energy Retrofit, visit greenbuilthometour.org.
GreenBuilt Home Tour Sessions
All-Electric Homes – July 8th – 3:30-5pm CT
Deep Energy Retrofits – July 15th – 3:30-5pm CT
Passive House Showcase – July 22nd – 3:30 – 5pm CT
Wellness + High Performance – July 29th – 3:30 – 5pm CT
The first part of each session will be presented by experts in the high-performance homebuilding industry. The last half “happy” hour is the perfect chance to ask questions, get advice, and connect with these industry professionals.
Join any individual session for only $5, or purchase a ticket to all four tours for a discount at $15. Purchase tickets here.
We look forward to Jamie’s tour, and sharing more details (and hopefully HERS ratings) of this beautiful home on July 15th. Please consider joining any or all of these sessions, and supporting the work of Illinois Green, a USGB community.
The impact of non-profit organizations that promote energy-efficient building standards is growing. Some of the most successful outreach programs include regional events that bring together architects, builders, and high-performance building material experts facing the same set of climate considerations.
This February and March, BRINC Building Products will be again be exhibiting at two notable building conferences in this realm: Better Buildings by Design (Northeast), and Better Buildings: Better Business (Midwest).
Better Buildings by Design
When we think of leaders in energy-efficiency and sustainability, we think of Vermont. It’s no surprise Vermont ranks among the top 5 states in the nation for the advancement and support of energy efficiency, and has long maintained a pioneering role among the states in this arena.
The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) credits Vermont’s three energy efficiency utility companies as the driving force for Vermont’s ranking: Vermont Gas Systems, Burlington Electric, and Efficiency Vermont.
“Efficiency Vermont is really keen on helping with the social responsibility of living in Vermont.“
– Jennifer Severidt, Energy Consultant – Residential, Efficiency Vermont
We’ve been fortunate to witness firsthand the effectiveness of Efficiency Vermont on two housing projects. One, the Rutland Innovation Home, and two, the Central Vermont Habitat for Humanity House in Randolph. We look forward to contributing to their Better Buildings by Design event, the region’s leading design and construction conference.
Better Buildings by Design – February 5th & 6th
The Better Buildings by Design conference brings together over 1,000 attendees from all over the Northeast, and more than 60 exhibitors annually to Burlington, Vermont. Affordable Energy is the focus of the 2020 Better Buildings by Design event, and attendees will share their successes, failures, and strategies for the future. More than 40 workshops are available for attendees, featuring five learning tracks: Building Systems, Business Support, Commercial, Envelope, and Integrated Design.
BRINC Building Products is proud to be an Exhibitor for this year’s event, and will be exhibiting ThermalBuck, the high-performance window buck – as well as a preview of a new building envelope material launching in Spring 2020. For a complete list of exhibitors and more information, check out the event homepage here.
Better Buildings: Better Business – March 9th -11th
Seventh Wave is the force behind the annual Better Buildings: Better Business conference in Wisconsin. Their mission is “To advance economic and environmental sustainability through engineering, education and research”. With offices in Chicago and Madison, this non-profit works with utility programs, offering services such as education, financial incentives, and technical assistance for building owners and design teams to exceed the Illinois energy code standards.
The Better Buildings: Better Business conference will be held March 9th – 11th this year in Wisconsin Dells, at the Kalahari Resort and Convention Center. Nearly 60 exhibitors and sponsors focused on advancing the residential building and remodeling industry are part of the two-day event. It also features multiple workshops and keynote speakers, which will focus on advancing the building industry for a clean energy future. Visit seventhwave.org for a full list of exhibitors.
Want to learn more about energy-efficient organizations in your region? Check out our post, Advancing the Energy Codes, for more information on the six REEOS, or Regional Energy Efficiency Organizations to get started.
Fine Homebuilding (FHB) magazine has been one of the most widely recognized voices in the building industry since its first printing in 1981, nearly 40 years ago.
What makes Fine Homebuilding such a valuable resource to builders is the quality of the content. Written by builders who are considered experts in the field of homebuilding, the articles focus heavily on the details of homebuilding that most builders will encounter on the job site.
Much has changed about the way we build over the years, and the content is now both a combination of best real-world practices for building, and new technology and building materials.
Windows in Thick Walls
In his article entitled “Windows in Thick Walls,”September 2019, FHB, Maine residential design/build contractor Michael Maines explains the challenges of installing windows in thick, highly-insulated walls. He presents detailed illustrations that review 5 typical situations:
One: Recessed windows with extension jambs as exterior trim
Two: Recessed windows with traditional casing
Three: Recessed windows with shingled returns
Four: Windows curbed to the exterior
Five: Curbed windows installed with ThermalBuck
Maines utilizes his experience building many different types of wall assemblies in the article. His solutions address not only moderately high-performance envelopes in climates 3 and up, they can also be modified to suite warmer climate zones, and the highest performance levels of Passive House building.
“Thick, highly insulated walls . . . present some challenges for builders when it comes to installing windows and doors . . . (ThermalBuck) is a great, problem-solving product line.”
—- Michael Maines, Michael Maines Residential Design + Build, Contributing Editor, Fine Homebuilding
Also in the September 2019 issue of FHB was a feature by Senior Editor Patrick McCombe, in the SPEC section, which covers new building materials on the market.
“The best solution I’ve seen is ThermalBuck.”
—- Patrick McCombes, Senior Editor, Fine Homebuilding
When it comes to challenge of properly installing and flashing windows and doors in walls with exterior insulation, most experts don’t recommend installation directly over foam. Not only does it compress the foam and leave air gaps, but it also introduces some potential issues for the window. The most commonly known way to address this is to build a wood buck to extend the mounting point for the window. However, adding wood works against the goal of creating a continuous insulation layer on the building envelope.
See why Fine Homebuilding Senior Editor Patrick McCombes says “The best solution I’ve seen is (the) ThermalBuck,” and learn more about its features and benefits at finehomebuilding.com.
For detailed coverage of real-world ThermalBuck installations, visit Installation Stories at thermalbuck.com. For more ThermalBuck coverage in the media, review Media Coverage at thermalbuck.com
Fine Homebuilding has a a long history as one of the most respected resources for residential builders. The reason why? The content. It’s sourced directly from the job sites and offices of the most talented builders and designers in the US, so it’s real – and readers know the difference.
The 2019 Fine Homebuilding Summit offers an opportunity to take that learning to a whole new level, by bringing together an impressive lineup of top architects, builders, and building science experts in the US to meet and train building professionals in person. Described as the “TED Talk of the Construction Industry”, the two day event in Southbridge, Mass., is a great opportunity for builders to focus on advancing their knowledge – and their business.
“With the Summit, we are inviting all the key players to the table … to share hours of insight with each other, to network, and to advance craftsmanship industry-wide, which is critical for long-term success …”
– —Justin Fink, Editorial Director, Fine Homebuilding
Event Details & Sessions
This year’s summit will be held October 2nd – 4th, in Southbridge, Massachusetts, and features over 50 hours of collaborative learning, along with plenty of opportunities for networking – and the latest in building material technology. Presentations include:
We’re proud to join a distinguished list of event sponsors working to advance the standards of the building industry. BRINC BP will exhibit ThermalBuck, and joins 475 Performance Supply, Benjamin Obdyke, FastenMaster, Minotaur, Rockwool, Schluter Systems, and more.
Join Us October 2nd-4th to invest in your own building knowledge, grow your building network, and see why ThermalBuck is a game-changer in energy-efficient homebuilding. It’s not easy to find time to leave the job site and focus on training, but it’s always time well-spent. Invest some time in advancing your craftsmanship, and become a part of the future of building. REGISTER NOW at the link above. We’ll see you in Southbridge –
BRINC Building Products, Inc. has expanded ThermalBuck distribution in the Northwestern U.S and Canada through a partnership with Small Planet Supply, a well-known regional high-performance building material supplier for over 10 years.
Small Planet Workshop (the original company name) emerged from a division of West Coast Associates to support the growing demand for net-zero and passive house education and training in North America. The “workshop” side of high-performance building soon developed into a burgeoning business as a trusted building material supplier, specializing in materials designed for super-insulated, airtight structures.
“Adding exterior insulation is a no-brainer for most projects, and ThermalBuck eliminates the challenge that goes into detailing critical areas – like windows and doors,” said Kieran Lavelle, Sales Manager, Small Planet Supply. “This makes it a vital piece of the puzzle towards energy-efficiency and we’re proud to offer ThermalBuck alongside our other high-performance building products,” said Lavelle.
“Adding exterior insulation is a no-brainer for most projects, and ThermalBuck eliminates the challenge that goes into detailing critical areas – like windows and doors.”
– Kieran Lavelle, Sales Manager, Small Planet Supply
While Small Planet Supply has grown the materials side of the business, they’ve maintained their reputation as an excellent resource for building science knowledge and installation expertise. Year-round training and workshops remain a priority – both in the U.S and Canada. Based in Vancouver, BC in Canada, and Tumwater, WA in the US, Small Planet Supply services customers in WA, OR, CA, ID, NV, and parts of MT, UT, and AZ.
ThermalBuck on the West Coast
The building community on the west coast has initiated the highest standards in the country for energy-efficient and sustainable design for years – California in particular, setting the bar for other regions to follow.
ThermalBuck was first introduced out West in 2016, as part of the Wise Workforce Instructions for Standards and Efficiency program (WISE), a combined effort of ConSol, the State of California Energy Commission (CEC) , and the California Homebuilding Foundation (CHF).
The WISE program was designed to advance the education and implementation of high performance building solutions for building professionals in preparation for Title 24. It allows industry experts to share best practices and real-world solutions to building code and efficiency standards with California builders. BRINC Building Products, Inc. was selected as a participating manufacturer, and ThermalBuck is referenced in the 2017 CASE Initiative High Performance Walls Report.
In 2017, BRINC Building Products President and developer of ThermalBuck, John Brooks, was invited to present in San Diego at the Pacific Coast Builders Conference, the largest homebuilding trade show on the West Coast.
By the year’s end, John Brooks was named Hive Top 50 Honoree by Builder Magazine, and honored at their annual awards celebration in Los Angeles.
Small Planet – Big Opportunity
Until now, all ThermalBuck sales were handled by long-term national distributor of ThermalBuck, Alpen HPP – shipping out of their Niwot, Colorado warehouse.
“Alpen does a fantastic job working with passive house customers all over the US, but we’ve been looking to expand out distribution network with a physical footprint on the West coast. Education and a desire to promote sustainability drives the mission of Small Planet Supply – that really matters to us when choosing distributors”, said John Brooks. “Developing the right network to service the needs of our customers is a challenge – and a priority. We’re proud the team at Small Planet has chosen ThermalBuck to complement their line of high-performance building materials,” said Brooks, President of BRINC Building Products, Inc. “We look forward to a future of exceeding the expectations of the high-performance building community.”
Alpen HPP remains a national distributor for ThermalBuck, focusing on the passive house market. Canada is now serviced by both Performance Haus, Inc., and Small Planet Supply.
“We know that education and a desire to promote sustainability drives the mission of Small Planet Supply – that really matters to us when choosing distributors.”
– John Brooks, President, BRINC Building Products, Inc.
Small Planet Supply distributes a wide range of building materials in the categories of air barriers, insulation, and mechanical systems. They also have their own building material success story – Thermacork.
This 100% natural cork insulation made from the outer bark of the Oak tree, was developed and launched by Small Planet Supply, and has a multitude of applications – including roofing, flooring, ceilings, exterior and interior walls. walls.
ThermalBuck joins a respected line of high performance building products at Small Planet Supply, which includes:
Small Planet is offering 3 workshops to demonstrate installation techniques for multiple building envelope applications. Join ThermalBuck creator John Brooks July 9th in Vancouver, BC; July 11th in Tumwater, WA; or July 12th in Portland, OR. These workshops are free, and open to any interested homeowners or members of the local building communities. For more information and to receive notice regarding future workshops, please visit smallplanetsupply.com.
For purchasing information through Small Planet Supply, please contact one of their 2 distribution centers, or contact Steve Lamburg at the sales office in Eugene, Oregon at (541) 521-6270
Tumwater, Washington 1-855-367-7442
Vancouver, BC 1-855-367-7442.
Most people would assume it makes zero sense to build a passive house in a hot, humid climate. The indoor/outdoor temperate differences aren’t as extreme as they tend to be in other climate zones.
But a passive house still offers a huge performance increase from traditional building methods, and a great improvement in the indoor air quality – a major attraction to homeowners. Not to mention the reduction in energy bills. In a cold climate, a passive house is projected to reduce energy expenses by 90%. In a hot climate, more like 70%*. Still a signifiant savings, and worth the investment in additional time and materials up front.
Choosing Investment vs. Expense
From the financial side, the theory is that you’re spending more money on performance, then that money gets divided over the life of your mortgage. If you can spend $30 more a month on a mortgage, while achieving $100 savings a month in utilities – you’re at a major advantage.
Not only does it make a lot of sense, it’s something energy efficient builder Mark Larson, CPHC, Built Green Texas, can readily convey to his clients as a professional builder and consultant.
“When you allocate your money this way, you’re choosing to invest in the value of your home, not the expense of living in it.“
-Mark Larson, CPHC, builder, Built Green Custom Homes, Austin, Texas, and homeowner
Performance Metrics Make the Difference
Mark Larson started his career in corporate real estate. He decided to make the leap into building because he loved that side of the business. If he was going to completely change careers and build houses, he wanted them to be the best ones on the market.
That’s how he discovered passive house design. It’s the most stringent building metric in the world, but also the only one that is performance based. It’s not prescriptive like LEED, meaning certified to operate a certain way in theory. Passive houses MUST perform as they are designed, or they don’t achieve passive house certification. They have to hit certain metrics for air tightness, measured with a “blower door test”.The fact that the performance is completely measurable was much of the appeal.
“I’m a huge fan of performance based metrics – which is exactly what passive house offers. I knew my family would live and breathe in the highest indoor air quality. It really matters.”
-Mark Larson, CPHC, builder, Built Green Custom Homes, Austin, Texas, and homeowner
Blower Door Testing
IAQ Texas conducted the initial blower door testing. But Mark didn’t get the results he was hoping
for, so he employed his own blower door contraption to help find leaks. Mark used a 2500 cfm construction ventilation fan and taped roof underlayment around the door opening.
He found some opportunities for better air sealing between the top plates, and at plate boards butted together. The attic hatch was also a source of leaks. Zip tape was sealed into a 90 degree corner, but air leaked out the ends of the length of tape. Some random nail holes and a few casements windows needed slight adjustments to better seal when closed.
Once those changes were made, Mark’s passive house rater from ATS Engineering did another blower door test before adding interior insulation. These results surpassed Mark’s expectations, and made it below the Passive House metric of .6ACH, and hit .57ACH. (via instagram, Feb 1, 2019). This figure is expected to drop even lower once interior insulation and drywall are added.
The Building Envelope
Mark spent a significant amount of time researching the materials he wanted to use for his home. For the building envelope, he used 2″ x 6″ studs, 16″ on center, Zip sheathing, Rockwool ComfortBoard exterior insulation, and Alpen windows. He had discovered ThermalBuck years prior, and was excited about finally having the chance to use it on his own home.
“ThermalBuck simplifies the water, air, and thermal control layers of window and door installation. It solves a specific problem of how and were to flash windows within continuous insulation. ThermalBuck will always be a tool in my design toolbox to solve the complexities of “outies” in CI,” said Larson.
“It solves a specific problem of how and were to flash windows within continuous insulation.”
-Mark Larson, CPHC, builder, Built Green Custom Homes, Austin, Texas, and homeowner
Passive House Austin
Mark is part of a dedicated group of building industry professionals working to make passive design well-known in the Texas market. Passive House Austin promotes the principles of passive design through events, podcasts, workshops, and most notably, the Humid Climate Conference. Held annually in Austin, the Humid Climate Conference recently featured Joe Lstiburek, widely recognized as the leading building science expert in the industry. It draws building professionals from all over the South, to focus on issues specifically related to their climate – offering a huge benefit over national or international events.
To learn more about Passive House Austin, and view more photos from the recent Huber sponsored happy-hour event at Mark Larson’s passive house build with IAQ Texas and Positive Energy, click here.
New Bethlehem, PA – Geoffrey Sloane, a high-performance building material professional with a background in architecture, historic renovations, green building and the building material industry, has been appointed by BRINC Building Products, Inc., as Market Development Manager – Northeast.
His most recent position was in Commercial Sales with LaValley Building Supply, a well-known building material supplier with 10 locations in the Northeast.
“BRINC BP is offering comprehensive solutions for forward-thinking design and construction. I’m excited to employ my experience in all phases of the building process to develop the New England market for ThermalBuck.”
– Geoffrey Sloane, Market Development Manager – NE, BRINC Building Products, Inc.
Geoffrey has always been passionate about the building industry, having earned his bachelor’s degree in architecture from Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, NY., and acting as both designer and general contractor for his own home. His professional knowledge and experience in both the architect and builder roles allows him to understand the challenges that face both sides of the build. Sloane’s work in the building material industry provides him with an extensive knowledge of a wide array of materials, and an understanding of how important it is to consider the relationship between different building materials in the building envelope.
“BRINC BP is offering comprehensive solutions for forward-thinking design and construction. I’m excited to employ my experience in all phases of the building process to develop the New England market for ThermalBuck,” said Sloane.
ThermalBuck falls into an unusual category of the building material market – there’s nothing quite like it.
Use of exterior insulation on residential and commercial buildings is a growing practice in construction, for its ability to limit thermal bridging.
But it creates a new challenge – now that the insulation extends anywhere from 1.0″ to 6.0″ or more past the sheathing, how do you mount the windows?
Before ThermalBuck, the only option for architects and builders to extend the rough opening was to build a wood buck out of 2 x’s or plywood. Rough openings have always been the weakest spot on any building for air and water infiltration, and “bumping” the window out only makes it more difficult to achieve a good air and water seal. Wood bucks are a challenge to flash, and they can rot, shrink, or warp over time.
“Geoffrey offers a unique balance of knowledge and experience in the building industry. His passion for providing green building solutions to architects and builders is exactly what we were looking for.”
– John Brooks, President, BRINC Building Products, Inc.
The European and Canadian building markets have long recognized the need to build tighter, well-insulated homes. The U.S. building industry is quickly catching up, driven both by the adoption of newer IECC codes, and an increased focus on energy-efficient and high-performance building.
“Architects and builders are looking for solutions on how continuous insulation affects the window installation,” said Brooks, “ThermalBuck is the ideal solution.” Boise Cascade distributes ThermalBuck in New England through their Westfield, Massachusetts distribution center.
“Geoffrey offers a unique balance of knowledge and experience in the building industry. His passion for providing green building solutions to architects and builders is exactly what we were looking for. He’s a great asset to our team, and the ideal fit to manage the growth of ThermalBuck in New England,” said Brooks.
Sloane lives in New Hampshire’s capital region with his wife, Nicole, and their children – Suzie, Peter, and Meredith. Stop by Booth #1037 and meet him in person at the 2019 JLC Live show in Providence March 29th & 30th! Contact Geoff at email@example.com, or 603.268.4640.
BRINC Building Products, Inc, headquartered in New Bethlehem, PA, is the manufacturer of ThermalBuck, the high performance window buck. ThermalBuck is now available through Boise Cascade and Alpen HPP in the U.S., and via Performance Haus in Canada.
The biggest building show in the Northeast, JLC LIVE kicks off in downtown Providence, RI March 27th -- and this year, exhibitor ThermalBuck joins Rockwool, DuPont, and 3M as part of Bill Robinson’s building clinic, “Managing Moisture in Walls with Continuous Insulation”.
JLC LIVE New England is widely known as the best hands-on construction show in the business. Focused on live product demonstrations and popular building clinics, this show stands out as a great training opportunity for builders who want to fine-tune their building science knowledge and installation techniques.
“JLC Live is the one show all year that I can promise you, we won’t miss.”
-John Brooks, President, BRINC Building Products, Inc.
Two packed floors of exhibitors await the thousands of builders in attendance, and three days of educational sessions are open to all attendees. “JLC LIVE is the one show all year that I can promise you, we won’t miss,” John Brooks, President, BRINC Building Products, Inc. If you’re not already planning to attend this year’s show, please consider joining us for the show!
Grab your FREE PASS here -- just enter promotion code EX235 and be our guest on the exhibit floor. You’ll find ThermalBuck at BOOTH #1037 -- check out the floor plan before the show!
Building Clinics & Workshops
This is what makes JLC LIVE unique amongst trade shows -- everywhere you look, you see action. JLC always has a packed schedule of exhibitor installation demonstrations, building clinics, and educational workshops. It’s truly a “hands-on” show, and that’s what makes it so popular.
This year, we’re proud to announce that ThermalBuck will be a part of nationally recognized trainer and building expert Bill Robinson’s building clinic “Managing Moisture in Walls with Continuous Insulation” held on March 29th & 30th, at 9:30 am on the upper level.
ThermalBuck joins distinguished building material veterans including Rockwool ComfortBoard, DuPont Tyvek, and 3M Corporation to help show builders how to successfully deal with the challenges of installing windows with exterior insulation.
Check out the full event program for a complete listing of clinics, and demonstrations that you won’t want to miss. You’ll want to catch Fine Homebuilding editorial advisor and well-known builder Mike Guertin for his popular Roofers Workshops, located on the second floor ballroom at JLC. His clinics include Roofing in High Wind Zones, Critical Roof Flashings, and 4 Ways to Shingle a Valley.
ThermalBuck at JLC
The 2017 show was our first time at JLC, and it couldn’t have been better. The highlight was when the Journal of Light Construction Senior Editor, Tim Healey, stopped by to shoot a short video to introduce ThermalBuck to readers of JLC who might have missed the show.
“This is one of the coolest new products I’ve seen.”
– Tim Healey, Senior Editor, The Journal of Light Construction, JLC Live 2017
A High-Performance Window Buck
Booth #1037 is where you’ll find ThermalBuck at the 2019 show, on the lower level, right by the Simpson Strong Tie demonstration booth. We’ll demonstrate how ThermalBuck solves many of the common challenges wood window bucks create: potential for moisture damage, shrinking, warping or rotting -- all things that challenge the long term operation of windows. Not to mention wood is a thermal bridge, the very kind you’re trying to eliminate by adding continuous insulation in the first place. You’ll be able to compare the flashing steps for wood bucks vs. ThermalBuck, and see how much easier it is to get an airtight, watertight building envelope with ThermalBuck.
JLC Networking & Special Events
All work and no play is never a good idea, and plenty of fun is on the schedule. And this year’s JLC is no exception. This Old House has teamed up with JLC to help Rebuild the Trades, and offers several events promote the importance of apprenticeship programs to the future of the building industry. You’ll have the chance to hear from your favorite This Old House personalties such as Charlie Silva and Tom Sweenor, as well as highly-successful builders such as Matt Risinger, of Risinger & Co.
Check out all of the great networking events here, and don’t miss the Welcome Party Friday night from 5pm -- 6pm in the Level 5 JLC LIVE Lounge. These events offer great opportunities for fellow attendees and speakers to connect, build relationships, and celebrate the future of building.
Since the March weather feels a lot like winter, take a few days off of the job site to expand your knowledge and invest in your training and skills in New England. We promise -- the payback will be worth it.
People often look at ThermalBuck and ask, “How did you come up with this idea?”
Like any good idea, it starts with figuring out you’ve got a problem in the first place. And that’s exactly how this whole process began. John Brooks, developer of ThermalBuck, built his family an extremely energy-efficient, well-insulated house. And he was surprised with how frustrating and difficult it was to install the windows.
So you’ve added exterior insulation to a building, and the depth of the insulation extends past the rough opening, where the windows are installed. The question of “What do we do about the windows?” becomes an important consideration – and a real challenge to overcome.
Rough openings have always presented concerns for air & water sealing on any building, and changing the mounting point for the windows makes them even more vulnerable to moisture damage.
High-performance architects and builders have used exterior insulation for years, recognizing the importance of eliminating thermal bridges in the building envelope. Traditionally, most U.S. builders have insulated between the studs, if they decided to use insulation at all.
But the building practices of the past are giving way to innovation.
“If you see a failure on a building, you can pretty much bet that it started with water.”
John Brooks, president, BRINC Building Products, developer of ThermalBuck
More states are adopting IECC energy codes that require continuous insulation, and builders are striving to understand how building science impacts the energy efficiency and quality of their work. Use of exterior insulation in both new construction and renovations is growing significantly, so solving this challenge has become a priority.
Mounting Windows Directly Over Foam
Often builders choose to mount windows and doors right over the exterior insulation, particularly for depths in the .5″ and 1.0″ range. But the nail flange compresses the insulation, creating gaps for air and water to enter. There is also a lack of good support for wide, heavy windows, which can affect the long-term operation of the window. Martin Holliday of Green Building Advisor spoke with Cordell Burton, an installation engineer at Pella Windows, about the issue in 2011.
“You can’t screw through foam sheathing – the foam will compress. You have to have something solid to attach the window to.”
For insulation depths over 1.5″, builders generally built “wood bucks”, made of plywood or dimensional lumber, to extend the mounting point of the window.
The Traditional Wood Buck
While wood solves the problem of extending the mounting point, it creates some new problems of its own in that it often will warp, rot, and shrink.
Wood is a poor insulator, so wood bucks allow air to transfer around each window and door through the rough opening. Cold air is denser than warm air, so in the winter the heated indoor air heads outside, and in the summer, the hot, humid air outdoors moves into the cool air-conditioned interior. This transfer of energy is called thermal bridging, which is what continuous insulation is designed to eliminate in the first place.
The Problem with Thermal Bridging
Thermal bridging isn’t just about wasted energy – although a home that’s more expensive to heat and cool and isn’t comfortable is a legitimate problem. But it’s really about water. Builders know if bulk water isn’t managed properly, it can cause extensive damage to a building. But the moisture that forms from condensation also causes issues over time.
“Another hidden concern is condensation, which can be a consequence of thermal bridging. When warm air comes into contact with a cold spot on the floor or wall, water vapor in the air cools and collects as droplets on the colder surface. This can result in durability problems, as well as poor indoor air quality,” said Joanna Grab, Senior Sustainability Consultant, Steven Winter Associates.
The more we insulate our buildings, the more important it becomes to reduce the potential for condensation to form – good building sense in any climate.
“Another hidden concern is condensation, which can be a consequence of thermal bridging. This can result in durability problems, as well as poor indoor air quality.“
-Joanna Grab, Senior Sustainability Consultant, Steven Winter Associates, as written by Kate Danielsen, High Performance Walls on swinter.com, January 2017
Building a Better Mousetrap: The Process
John Brooks was very familiar with the problems associated with wood bucks. After losing his home in a fire, John built a new home for his family with his own hands. They settled in to make a new start, only to watch as condensation and mold formed around the new windows. Not only did the wood bucks he built cause condensation issues, the flashing process was so difficult that the whole installation process amounted to an exercise in frustration. He began to think there had to be a better way to install windows.
Using his background in construction and his experience in the insulation industry, John began to make prototypes for a product that would be better than a wood buck. It needed to solve multiple problems and still be cost-effective. Here’s the wishlist John had for his new product:
Extend the mounting point
Prevent the compression of exterior insulation
Insulate the rough opening
Protect the rough opening from moisture damage
Support the window
Handle shear & wind loads
Provide durability, strength & flexibility
Simplify flashing & integrate with the WRB
Maintain the long-term operation of the window.
Anyone who has ever come up with a great idea for a new product will agree that the “eureka” moment doesn’t happen without a long period of not-so-great ideas, that take you back to the drawing board time and time again, testing both your patience – and your determination.
This was no different for John, who spent all of his spare time and most of his money on this project, often struggling not to give up. A chance meeting with some strangers at a restaurant, the desire to build a strong business to help sustain their community, and shared Christian beliefs poured new life into his research. After 4 years of prototypes, trial & error, third-party testing, and an unwavering personal faith, John realized his vision for ThermalBuck as it exists today.
The Innovation: ThermalBuck
ThermalBuck is an L-shaped window buck that goes inside the rough opening, and extends outward to create a flush plane with exterior insulation and/or rainscreens.
ThermalBuck is made of a type XIV high-density EPS, and coated in a waterproof resin. Not only does it have the compressive and shear strength to handle the weight of large, high-performance windows, but it also insulates the rough opening with an R-value of 4.4 per inch to limit thermal bridging around the rough opening.
The High-Performance Future of Building
In 2016, Scott Gibson of Green Building Advisor presented ThermalBuck as “An Alternative to Wood Bucks”, and the building industry took notice.ThermalBuck began to receive widespread media recognition, and garnered a lot of attention at conferences and trade shows, because there was nothing like it – it’s simple to use, and solves a common problem.
“This is an impressive product. Once you see it, you really understand the problem this solves for builders like me.”
-Matt Risinger, Risinger Construction, The Build Show
John met Matt Risinger at the EEBA conference in Dallas, Texas, in 2016. Based in Austin but originally a Pittsburgh native, Matt had a western Pennsylvania connection with John.
Matt is a highly respected builder, educator, and self-proclaimed “building science geek” with over 300,000 followers on his popular YouTube channel, Build with Matt Risinger.
He’s well known for sharing solutions and new products to his thousands of followers – and appreciated for his candor. Risinger took home our tabletop displays to share with his building community and gave ThermalBuck great feedback. John was fortunate to film some videos with Risinger & Co. in Austin, and the building community took notice.
BRINC Building Products, Inc. is proud to announce that the BASF Corporation will feature ThermalBuck as a continuous insulation solution in their 2019 exhibit at the International Builders Show on February 19-21st in Las Vegas, Nevada.
High-performance builders have consistently used a combination of interior and exterior insulation to achieve desired R-values for their wall assemblies. With the rapid adoption of advanced energy codes across the U.S., and increasing demand by consumers for energy-efficient homes, use of continuous insulation is becoming the standard for most builders. As this practice grows, more building professionals, insulation manufacturers, and window manufacturers are becoming familiar with the challenge this presents for window and door installation.
“BASF has always been an industry leader in building material technology. We appreciate the opportunity to work with them to share best-practice installation details with the building community at IBS.”
-John Brooks, president, BRINC Building Products, Inc., manufacturer of ThermalBuck
The Innovations of BASF
BASF is a company well known for its commitment to technological advancements in the building industry. Their Neopor® graphite polystyrene (GPS) rigid foam insulation provides architects and builders with maximum efficiency, cost-effectiveness and sustainability for exterior insulation on construction projects.
Easily recognized for its steel-grey color, Neopor® GPS is comprised of many small pockets of air within a polymer matrix containing graphite. The graphite reflects radiant heat energy like a mirror, increasing the material’s resistance to the flow of heat, or R-value. Most polymer-based foams exhibit a greater ability to slow the movement of heat as the temperature decreases. Neopor® GPS is in a unique class because it increases in R-value as outdoor temperatures drop (neopor.basf.us).
When it comes to insulating value, Neopor®consistently outperforms traditional EPS, XPS, polyiso, and mineral wool insulation. But like these others, it creates some challenges for window installation. Commonly used in Europe for decades, GPS insulation is now experiencing solid growth in the U.S., and BASF has found ThermalBuck to be an effective solution.
ThermalBuck Continuous Insulation
“Builders have been so receptive to ThermalBuck because it’s such a simple, effective solution to the problems they face when installing windows with foam,” said BRINC President, John Brooks. “When insulation is added to the exterior of any structure, the rough opening remains set back at the sheathing. This can present problems with cladding attachment and trim, and the thicker the insulation – the bigger the problem,” said Brooks.
The traditional way builders dealt with the different planes was to build a wood buck to match the depth of insulation, install the window, then flash the window and wood buck. But wood is a poor insulator, and creates potential for moisture damage at each rough opening. Not to mention it creates a thermal bridge – a conduit for energy to pass through the rough opening around each window and door. When you’re adding insulation to a building, creating thermal bridges at all of the penetrations is really working against the goal of insulating.
“Builders have been so receptive to ThermalBuck because it’s such a simple, effective solution to the problems they face when installing windows with foam.”
-John Brooks, president, BRINC
ThermalBuck is a proven solution to the challenges architects and builders face with installing windows with exterior foam. It’s unique “L” shape goes inside the rough opening, and extends outward to match the continuous insulation and/or rainscreen depth, creating a flush plane for cladding.
With an r-value of 4.4 per inch, ThermalBuck insulates the rough opening to prevent thermal bridging. It supports the window and allows structural attachment, transferring shear and wind loads to the framing. Made of a high-density EPS with a waterproof coating, ThermalBuck is installed with high-quality window & door sealants, that allow it to act as an additional air & water barrier at the rough opening, simplifying flashing with exterior insulation. Lightweight, flexible, and durable, ThermalBuck comes in 8′ lengths and is cut to fit on site. It’s ideal for both residential and multi-family residential retrofits and new construction.
We look forward to sharing the stage with BASF in Las Vegas at the 2019 International Builder’s Show in Booth PB2, as part of the Professional Builder’s Show Village. Look to BRINC Building Products for more building envelope solutions in the future.