Thermal Bridging: The Final Frontier of High-Performance Buildings

Jan 01, 2013

Minimizing use of energy and natural resources are vital components of the global strategy to protect our environment. The US has responded to this awareness with a tightening of building energy and performance standards. ASHRAE 90.1, for instance, has significantly reduced the energy that can be consumed by a building. One significant aspect of energy loss from a building is conductive heat transfer through the building envelope. Common improvement strategies to minimize conductive heat loss--include reducing the window-to-wall ratio, using high-performance window systems and improving façade insulation--are largely responsible for the overall thermal performance of an exterior wall. The focus has turned to a long-overlooked aspect of the design—thermal loss through structural components. Traditionally, not a lot of attention has been paid to the various thermal bridges that are integral to these larger envelope assemblies because they were thought to represent a relatively small percentage of the overall energy loss. As we improve the thermal performance of our overall wall systems, however, the heat loss through thermal bridges becomes a much greater percentage of energy loss and, thus, more important to consider and control. This article explores identifying thermal bridges and employing off-the-shelf, manufactured structural thermal breaks (MSTBs) as a solution.

Matt Capone, Assoc. AIA (Schöck USA, Inc.)
Journal of Building Envelope Design (National Institute of Building Sciences)
Published & professionally reviewed by: 
Building Enclosure Technology and Environment Council (National Institute of Building Sciences)

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