Saturday, January 30, 2010

SUPERINSULATION - AN INTENTIONAL CHOICE

Why would I propose the use of superinsulation building techniques is the design of a new home or business? The rationale comes down to intentional living. We are faced with choices throughout our lives, but all too often we do not make conscious decisions. We rely too heavily on the status quo. We find comfort in following the mainstream. My wife and I have made the decision to develop a lifestyle based upon our own intentional choices. The concepts of superinsulation would be one of those choices.

We live in a cold climate, on the Northumberland Strait of New Brunswick, Canada. To live in this climate we need to make choices to include staying comfortable during the long winter months with a minimal impact on the environment. When I lived in Missouri, my winter coat included a waterproof wind breaker with a removable fleece lining. Now that I live in New Brunswick I needed to upgrade to a longer, down filled winter coat with an internal wind break. My new NB winter coat cost me a bit more than my old Missouri coat, but the benefits I receive are well worth the added cost.

Choosing superinsulated design for a home is a similar choice. We build homes on what are common building practices. Homes built today are better insulated than homes built prior to 1970. However, we still rely too heavily on heating systems to provide our comfort. Superinsulated design begins from the premise that if we built higher efficency into our homes, we would spend much less to heat (and cool) our homes over time. The additional 5-10% in construction cost would be more than offset over the life of the building not to mention the additional comfort provided. What are some of the benefits:

  • Reduced Heat Loss = Lower Fuel Bills: The heat loss in a superinsulated house is 60-80% lower than that of a pre-1970 conventional house, with a 80-90% reduction in annual fuel cost.
  • Few Architectural Constraints: Almost any housing type or style can be built using superinsulation principles. However, some are better suited than others.
  • Microclimate Is Not Significant: While wind protection and solar orientation are desirable, they are not critical factors in the building design and operation.
  • Macroclimate Is Less Important: The superinsulation principles are applicable to most cilmates with the exception of severe extremes.
  • No Need To Retool: A superinsulated house can be designed using local materials, trades, and building techniques, but with refinements. The one new and important constraint placed upon the the building industry - a stricter attention to quality.
  • Do Not Require Sacrifices: Sperinsulated homes can have better air quality, can have plenty of natural light, provide even temperatures throughout, eliminate drafts, eliminate cold surfaces, control humidity, and are quiet.

In future posts, I will discuss how a superinsulated home works and provide some examples of homes based upon traditional housing types found in the maritimes.


Many of the principles and concepts presented in my posts are gleaned from "The Superinsulated Home Book" by J.D. Ned Nisson & Gautam Dutt published 1985 by John Wiley & Sons. Most of the principles they presented in 1985 still hold true today and are still in practice. Unfortunately the book is no longer in print, but can be found in some public libraries and used on Amazon for a price (I was lucky and got my copy for $35). If you are serious about building a superinsulated house, I would highly recommend investing in this book.


1 comment:

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