Q: How do you improve the wall structures for better energy efficiency?

A: Most people think of the wall structure as a wall that is framed with a 2 x 6 and either 4 x 8 sheets of plywood or OSB (oriented strand board – engineered wood particle board).

When considering the wall structure you must also think about other types of walls like a staggered stud approach, concrete or SIP panels (structural insulated panels). Other considerations that have an impact on wall performance are the windows, doors, siding, masonry, insulation, drywall, plumbing, electrical, caulking and sealants.

Recently we have been working with Owens Corning on improving our wall structures. One of the first questions they asked me was do you build your wall structures the same for each wall of the home? I said, yes. They said, maybe you shouldn’t. Hmmm I pondered. What do you mean? They said some walls are more exposed to weather than others. Maybe those walls need to be designed differently to maximize performance. You know what? They are right.

About a month ago I got a call from one of our homeowners on a 95 degree day. The back of their home is south facing with lots of windows to maximize the view. What excited them and me was how the south facing wall structure was protecting the inside temperature (74 degrees without air conditioning). We had spent much time designing that wall and window system to achieve that result.

When done properly, the wall structure can drastically improve your comfort and energy bills. The only way this can happen is to think about what your goals are before you build. You cannot build each home or each wall structure the same to maximize performance.

I also enjoy reading the paper daily. Thank you for doing so.

Next week I will discuss different types of wall structures.

Please submit questions to jon@quailhomes.com Jon can be reached direct at 360.907.5800. Tune into Green Building with Jon Girod on 1550 a.m. on Saturdays at 9 am. See you next week!