Burra, Jay, thanks for keeping the thread clean…..I seen some of the post and was not sure how to respond nor did I think I should waste my time but I did address some of the comments above. We are here to discuss “natural” methods. George’s book in transit btw, looks at the pitfalls of mainstream construction to compare and offer better more natural methods, so in that respect I hope you and Jay do not mind we look at some of the problems with it. The other thing that attracted to his book that shows how to replace for example OSB, drywall, with a more natural mag-board is with the abundance of the trades knowing mainstream construction it is time consuming and challenging to cross train them is say rammed earth, adobe brick, hempcrete….So we are attracted to methods that slowly move to more natural methods and do not eat our lunch cost wise, that are competitive to mainstream. George has done the rammed earth, etc, and still does, but has some other natural methods that will help us transition
to them. I tried Rammed Earth and hemprete, there are some things to learn there, it is not as easy as it appears to get the mix and build right. I would struggle to find any trade experienced in it unless I shipped them in from SW USA, hemp Europe, MGO China.
Jay, good, read, I like the way you think it is like the way I do. I can tell you have a lot of experience and a great vocabulary and writing skills I don’t so please excuse me. You know back in the 70’s when I got my bachelors of science in Aerospace there was little bang for the buck to get a Masters or PHD, companies only paid a few bucks more per hour and education is expensive, much more today and many graduate today and cannot find jobs. Most of the PHDs ended up in think tanks in Silicon Valley, CA or teaching at Universities where the salary is lower than the private sectors. After a while they become out of touch with reality, some over educated and can’t find jobs since the market for that level of education in most Design Engineering departments is over qualified. After looking at the mainstream “Building Scientist” it appears some of the Physics PHD have tapped into a “Building Science” job resource that is not regulated like the FAA and NASA does the credentials for an Aerospace Engineer. Just about anyone can become, create a website including carpenters and call themselves a “Building Scientist”. It results in a lot of “Green” websites these days giving bad advice for profits that hurts the industry. If you look at the credentials of a lot of these Building Scientist they don’t have a lifelong history of monitored proven designs throughout the globe, or America, on their resumes. In other industries (e.g.: Aerospace, Submarines) they never get past Human Resources or their resume would never make it the hiring managers, PHD or not. They found a weakness in the Building Industry and tapped into it, one of the few that would even allow it. I’m not saying you have to have an education to be qualified to advise in Building’s, but more regulated industries require it for legal reasons. I hope these advisors carry Errors and Omissions insurance. You are correct, I have worked hand and hand with many Aerodynamic, Thermo-Fluid Dynamics, Weights and Balance, Engineers as a CAD designer and we do not need to seal homes like pressurized aircraft, nor do we need pressure domes or bulkheads for walls and a roofs. What George stated above vapor pressure wanting to equalize that can make the pressures and infiltration higher in an airtight envelope makes sense. The concept of air changing naturally within a wall vs mechanical device makes sense.
In the last lab I worked in we would create environments for mold and fungi’s by generating spores for certain materials and environments found across the globe. We’d studied, measured, tested how they developed based on many variables such as dew we measured and accurately predicted the location of. It can be done given the proper tools. George points out that in the breathable wall it is somewhere between the inner and outer surface, foam walls try and move it to foam where it does not belong since foam cannot manage it well, especially when in contact with plastic that will chemically degrade and cause nasty stuff. The book has some testing about all this I am looking forward to studying. When I talked to George he told me of a German that obtained a passive house certification with a breathable wall I want to find out more about.
I found this interview
with Joe Lstiburek applicable to current conversation. Joe has a PHD but in Engineering, I find him to be a straight shooter, admits when he is wrong, which I admire. He teaches at the University now. I don’t follow him since he does not promote natural building products, but he has a following. He has an interesting perspective on the fall of the American Architect’s education that does not teach them the Sciences and has made “artist” out of them, also noting that if they were “doing their job there would be no need for Building Science” and I’ll add all these people that call themselves such out on the internet. Here is a quote,
“Back in the day, 100 years ago, or maybe 50 years ago in Europe, architects were trained like master builders. They understood structure. They understood mechanical. They understood physics. They understood material science. They understood how everything worked together. The focus now on the architectural education is all art
and what’s missing are all of those other pieces — one of those missing pieces is building science or building physics.”
I like this next one, he’s partially correct on the cause or the epidemiology, most of the warnings on the MSDS (as I pointed out above about foam-plastic) get ignored by so called “Building Scientist and Advisors”, contractors, selling the toxic industries to our public. On one site, GBA, myself and another well versed professional in today’s building materials related health issues were called and asked to stop proving the site wrong or face banning, they want to “control what their readers read”….this also explains the current state of the bulk of building industry,
Joe: “The answer is source control, dilution is not the solution to indoor pollution and increasing ventilation rates is a horrible problem. The right way to do it is to not have the contaminant built into the building in the first place. And despite all of the people saying that there’s a clear link between certain levels of contaminants and medical effects, the epidemiology hasn’t been done”
People claim that it’s been done, but believe it or not, we don’t have the information in houses. We don’t know what the contaminants are. They have not been measured carefully and we’re making national policy decisions on ventilation going blind, with a bunch of people just getting together and offering an opinion. And the opinion is based on which political
faction has managed to stack the ASHRE committee with their dominant voting block.
That’s not the way to do this. I mean you’d think with the amount of energy that buildings consume, and the amount of energy that residential buildings consume, that maybe somebody, like the federal government, would actually fund a study. You would need $20 million or $30 million and to go around and measure a whole slew of things in houses. That’s not been done, but yet, changing the ventilation rate by 15 or 20 percent is going to have more than that impact cost-wise on energy within the first year.
This kind of stuff drives me crazy. They manage to piss away money on stupid s*** and they can’t seem to fund something that’s important. “
And the same thing in commercial buildings. You know, people are claiming that this level of formaldehyde is dangerous and this level isn’t. What’s all of this based on? I mean most of the limits and for indoor air in buildings we’re simply taking occupational numbers and dividing by ten. Why not dividing by 12? Why not dividing by 15? In California, because California is crazy on every conceivable level, they divide by 100. So, in one state the occupational number because the indoor number by dividing by ten and California divided by 100. If people knew how arbitrary and capricious this was they’d go, “Well, you’re kidding me.”
I have always said there is no link in the ventilation requirements for the mechanical devices they are putting in homes to toxins, the ASHRAE specs are flawed! A lack of the proper analysis to generate the proper design criteria, such as the lack of mechanical, chemical, thermal, properties to design foam-plastic to.
Is California basing their numbers on European models?
Joe: No. “It wasn’t based on any models. What’s amazing is formaldehyde in houses doesn’t respond to ventilation rate changes. So if you’re ventilating at 0.1 versus 0.2 versus 0.3, the formaldehyde concentration remains constant. The reason is the more you ventilate the more it emits. You ventilate less it emits less. Don’t put it in the building, that’s a phenomenally successful way of dealing with the problem.
I’ll give you another example, which will never happen, but late at night I dream about it — have you’ve heard of the MSDS sheets?
They tell you absolutely nothing. What people think that the MSDS sheets tells us is what the manufacturer puts in their product. The answer is no. That would be useful if they told us everything that went into this product and the quantities, but that’s viewed as a trade secret
What that means is that people are idiots to take anything from that list, to put it in there. So they use a whole bunch of other things that nobody knows anything about or haven’t made it to the list, but they don’t have to tell you about it. I always laugh –LEED and other people want you get to the MSDS sheet – and I’m saying “Why?” What you need to do is you need to take one of the guys who makes this stuff out to dinner, get him drunk, and ask him: “What’s in there?”
Spot on! However, I think there are some warning that it reveals, the problem is they are for the installers not the homeowner and do not disclose outgassing over time.
Joe: Building enclosure is an environmental separator. You want to keep the outside out and the inside in, except when you want to bring the outside in and when you want to have the inside out. That’s it and there are certain rules on how to do that.
So you feel confident that building science is at the point now that we can build a quality envelope that we’ll feel comfortable with 40 years from now. We go back, we tear that thing up, and we’ll feel that everything’s done what it needs to?
Joe: Oh, we were able to do that 50, 60 years ago. The answer is yes, we’re able to do that now and we were able to do that before I was born. The irony is that even though that information has been known for so long, it’s not been used. And my observation on that is that people don’t use stuff until it becomes impossible for them to not use it. In other words, things become intolerably bad before there’s a change or an intervention. It’s only recently that things are becoming intolerably bad enough that we have to intervene and fix, even though we knew or some folks knew how to avoid the problems 50 or 60 years ago.
None of this is very complicated, none of this is a big mystery. What’s happening now is that we need to get this information into the people who need to make the decisions in an informed matter. In other words, people aren’t inherently bad. They just don’t have the information they need at the right time to make the right decision. So this is an information issue as opposed to a research issue. We don’t need to do anymore research. We need to do better transfer of what we know to the people who need to make the decisions at the right time.
Spot on! A lot of folks look to BSC when todays building designs fail, he stays quite busy it sounds like.
Joe: “The best way we learn all of this is to build it and you see what happened. You say, “Ah, this worked. This didn’t,” and that’s the best education or information. That information lies in the experience base of the older engineers, architects and contractors.
One of the biggest problems we have is what I call our own institutional memory. We do a lousy job in construction, engineering and architecture, passing on the lessons of one generation to the next. So we are this huge, dysfunctional family. We need a Dr. Phil to get us all to talk to one another, or an Oprah, or somebody.”
I think the biggest lesson to past on to the next generation is todays manufactured building materials are highly flawed, look at more natural materials and methods that were proven centuries ago….we need to look back at history. We see more and more moving to this solution and tired of “greenwashed”…We employ 8 of the current generation, I teach them what I learn in natural building and make them aware of the issues of the materials we replace every day for clients. At the end of day, the client makes the final call.
In closing this is classic, there are a lot of Ego’s and debating over and over what is already known….more should follow his advice and put their egos aside….
Joe L: It’s funny. I am one of the most frustrated, egotistical engineers on the planet. I thought I was a clever, smart guy who figured out stuff and it turns out that nothing I’ve ever thought I figured out did I actually figure out. It had been already done – better, earlier, more elegantly by not just one person, by lots of people. And we’re having all of these same discussions and arguments over and over and over again.
You know what? I feel like Bill Murray in Groundhog’s Day, except I don’t have an Andie MacDowell.