contemporary insulation precedents


I'm in a wall section class and I have an assignment that requires:

 "Raise the level roof to R-49, walls to R-21 and floors to R-38, as if the project is located in a cold climate. "


so i was wondering if anyone could point me in the direction of contemporary insulating precedents/technologies/materials/ideas that I can begin to research.


Oct 8, 15 1:44 am

um, is there any further requirement than that? Materials, doors, windows, usage? Cost range? Buildings aren't designed around the insulation- the wall assembly is developed to suit the look and functional requirements of the project.

Otherwise you could just specify a watertight metal box with x-inches of insulation. Useless, but well insulated.

Oct 8, 15 6:19 am
Non Sequitur
Did you even spend 10 mins listening in class?

Lazy student.
Oct 8, 15 6:25 am
Olaf Design Ninja_

quite possibly one of the laziest questions to date.

Oct 8, 15 6:38 am

How do you add insulation? Each assembly has its own typical details and insulation can be added in different ways.

What are the basic types of insulation?

How did you plan to insulate the flat roof? Flat roofs are insulated differently from sloped roofs with attics.

How did you plan to insulate the walls? Where does the insulation go? Does it all go in one place, or are there different layers?

Why is the floor insulated with such a high R-value? Is it elevated? This will allow for different details than if it were slab on grade.

Some insulation manufacturers have information about the new IBC energy conservation codes (2006/2009/2012/2015) and how to apply their products given the more strict requirements of each version of the code.

Oct 8, 15 8:18 am

what i do is put a note in all caps that says


Oct 8, 15 9:26 am
Non Sequitur

...or ask for 400mm thick in spray insulation. The trades will loooooOOOooove that.

Oct 8, 15 9:48 am

Simple solution: locate the project in a warm climate.

Oct 8, 15 12:12 pm

Im not asking you guys to do my project, im asking for precedents/ideas of new and innovative insulation technologies/strategies that are unconventional, as a starting point for me to begin to research how I will construct the walls of the building in question. I posted the question here in the middle of the night when libraries / school resources are closed in hopes of getting something to look at today at school instead of starting from zero. 


except for zbig and midlander it seems to me like you guys aren't up on new and cool ideas off the top of your heads, and just wanna call me lazy. 

Oct 8, 15 12:22 pm

^Miles, with those R values in a warm climate would save a lot in AC. 

kid, google R values before asking here

Oct 8, 15 12:24 pm

its as simple as:


"hey check out building A or building B by Firm A or firm B"

"have you seen architect c's work? check it out"


that too much to come to archinect for apparently 

Oct 8, 15 12:24 pm

aldavis, you don't see insulation in any of the new, unconventional, innovative buildings that get published. do you ever see a wall section published from zaha or big? I haven't, they hire construction specialists to do their lifting, they're there only for the looks.

Oct 8, 15 12:28 pm

ALDAVIS, what you posted is extremely vague. I have absolutely no idea how to help you with this assignment.  What exactly IS the assignment?  "Raise the level" of what? Have you been given a wall section drawing of an existing building that you now have to add insulation to? Did you draw a wall section already of your own speculative building design that is insulated per standard? If so, is it wood frame residential?  Is it an igloo?

We need a LOT more background here to be able to help you. I could point you toward Passivhaus as being a contemporary "innovator" in the world of insulation, but I would assume you know about it already.

Oct 8, 15 12:34 pm

except for zbig and midlander it seems to me like you guys aren't up on new and cool ideas off the top of your heads, and just wanna call me lazy. 

i don't know.  sort of sounds like you aren't up on new the new ideas?

i guess if you want cool things to research, straw bale construction should be good insulation.  building underground might be better. 

sips are less cool.  eifs even less cool.

Oct 8, 15 12:35 pm
Non Sequitur

lazy student remains lazy.

The project will probably end up with an overkill R50 wall with steel beams running through the assembly. But don't worry, there will be solar panels (to heat the pool) so it's green!.

ALDAVIS, How is cold climate defined in your project brief?

Oct 8, 15 12:39 pm

This post reminds me of my co-worker who often starts off a conversation cold by walking into my office and saying something like "She's pissed off that the work isn't finished yet." And I'm like who is "she"? What is "the work"?  Pissed off at whom? Are you telling me about a coworker or your wife or the governor? Or is this from a movie you watched last night? How am I supposed to respond to that sentence?!

Context, man, I need context.

Oct 8, 15 12:39 pm
Non Sequitur

Donna, an Igloo would have walls approximately equal to R21 using only 12" thick blocks of snow. In this student's project, maybe they can ignore the roof requirements and claim the igloo is composed only of walls! No need for R49 roof.

Oct 8, 15 12:46 pm

^lol. I needed a laugh ..

Oct 8, 15 1:01 pm

well i think ive gotten all that im gonna get from this 'resource'  if anyone still cares as to what the context of the project is:


take Jean Pouvre's Maison De Peuple

 reconstruct the walls to attain the R-values stated in the original post. the assignment also asks to avoid using double skin facades or encasing it in a layer of glass.

so I am going to work on a strategy that maintains the views while reaching the desired R-values. 



i apologize and did not realize i was not providing enough context in the original post

seeing as im a student you cant assume that i know anything about anything, but thank you for providing me with at least one person to study! 


curtkram- just learned about sips and eifs in last lecture ! cool thanks for reinforcing these technologies as something to look towards


well thanks guys !

@non sequitor you must not have many friends irl 

Oct 8, 15 1:21 pm
Non Sequitur

^ got plenty, thanks for asking and thanks for providing us working architects a comedic break .

But to help your case, look at Kalwall systems. The building you linked to is protected since it is historically significant due to being an early built example of curtain wall framing. Best to seek products that will not disfigure it's reasons for being protected.

Oct 8, 15 1:43 pm

See, that helps SO MUCH just to know you're looking at Maison du Pep! I second Non Seq's suggestion to look at Kalwall, also Steven Holl has used channel glass in lots of great ways starting with the Science Institute at Cranbrook and more recently at the Nelson-Atkins Museum (I think that last one is channel glass).

Oct 8, 15 2:46 pm

“Roof to R-49, walls to R-21 and floors to R-38” is easy with simple fiberglass in frame construction where you have cavities, but more difficult with most commercial construction. No one has a magic bullet because there is no market for magic bullets. 

Oct 8, 15 2:49 pm

Oh look at this too, a thread discussing the Nelson-Atkins that links to a lot of detail drawings of how channel glass is used. Education galore!

Oct 8, 15 2:50 pm

Also, you guys, I mean I know we all get grumpy sometimes when it seems like students aren't working as hard as we did back in our day LOL but this seems like cause to celebrate: a student in an architecture program is learning about insulation in a wall section!!! That's freaking amazing!

Oct 8, 15 2:57 pm

To add, Channel Glass is R3, Kalwall can get you to R20, SIPS too and beyond and simple ICF’s are R23, but the payback for these things can be difficult to justify.

Oct 8, 15 3:15 pm

check insulation with aerogel (I don't know if it will help)

Oct 8, 15 3:20 pm

Ooooh, Zaina, that looks cool. I mean it actually looks a lot like Kalwall, but it has Aerogel instead? What is the project/by who?

Oct 8, 15 3:21 pm

Donna. that's Hemsworth managed offices (Atkins)

Oct 8, 15 3:31 pm
Non Sequitur

not related to insulation, but I really like that rod-iron fence thing. It's like the regular fence is wearing a hat made in it's own image. I know it's a gate... but still.

Oct 8, 15 3:43 pm

Pilkington makes an Aerogel version, think gets you to R5.

Oct 8, 15 3:52 pm

Felt and animal fat are very good insulators. Ask Joe Beuys.

Oct 8, 15 4:02 pm

I'm just happy he knows who Jean Prouvé is. Kind of makes my day.


Prouvé kind of made his own thermally improved framing systems.  So...

Oct 8, 15 4:37 pm
Check out SCI-arc's puffy coat insulation from their solar decathlon project.
Oct 8, 15 4:54 pm

Aerogel is cool stuff:

I think there was a library in Bozeman, MT that used aerogel in the glazing. Plenty of other case studies if you look around on the product websites linked above.

Oct 8, 15 5:19 pm

Bless all of you, sorry for being laZy xD

Oct 8, 15 5:33 pm
Sounds like typical residential insulation for climate zone 6 (?) it's a touch above what's required in zone 5 -where I am- but very standard for residential roof, walls and elevated floor. 16" batt in the attic, 2x6 studs and 12" floor. This isn't rocket science. Use WUFI to develop more interesting strategy and ComChek or ResChek if you feel like analyzing the whole building.

Obviously continuous insulation is better but makes a more difficult/expensive wall.
Oct 8, 15 5:46 pm
Olaf Design Ninja_

damn you Everyday Intern you gave lazy Al here real info.

Oct 8, 15 7:33 pm

I'm in climate zone 7.

Your puny R-21 walls amuse me!

Oct 9, 15 12:27 am

Seriously, that doesn't even meet our code up here.  


Oct 9, 15 12:28 am

@Olaf, real information for a really expensive building. Even the manufacturers themselves admit that their products should only be used in limited areas because they are so expensive.

But it's all academic, so who cares if it costs a lot!

bowling_ball is the one giving out the real information. +1 for BSC.

Oct 9, 15 12:46 am
Olaf Design Ninja_

bowling_ball you are killing me......Everyday Intern - true on costs, i spec'd one of those products on a very cool detail I developed for another architect, with regard to cost, the windows I spec'd that have superthin Steel sight lines (top of the line) will make the insulation pale in comparison, hoping that pushes it through. its a scenario in which the design element is so worth the potential sales that the developer may throw money at one damn expensive custom window design (repeated multiple times)........

Oct 9, 15 6:39 am

BSI-086: Vitruvius Does Veneers: Drilling Into Cavities

 I'd love to attend this one, but I'm not a dentist

Oct 9, 15 10:12 am

We have to do Effective R28 walls. Not nominal. I can't remember the last time I put insulation inside a cavity, it doesn't make much sense once you throw that word "effective" in there. Time to invest in Dow Corning.

Oct 9, 15 5:38 pm

Invest in the other Corning while you're at it. Owens Corning has Thermafiber. With NFPA 285 finally getting attention by building departments, foam plastic insulation is getting trickier to use ... legally. 


... plus the Pink Panther.

Oct 9, 15 6:00 pm
Olaf Design Ninja_

worked for a firm whose one of the namesake on the partnership was married to an heiress to the Corning family/empire etc....insulation. who knw. she was supposedly one the wealthiest heiresses when he hooked up.

Oct 9, 15 7:17 pm

You don't put insulation in cavities? What type of wall systems are you using?

Oct 10, 15 8:27 am
Oct 10, 15 10:04 am

Shuellmi, one of the nice things about fully continuous exterior insulation is that it doesn't matter what your structure is. All you need is your structure, an air barrier, insulation, and cladding of your choice. That's oversimple, but it's also true.  Think of a commercial flat roof, and rotate 90 degrees.

You no longer need any vapour retarder, your wiring and plumbing are fully insulated (and don't require gaskets, tape, special boxes, etc). 

The main issue we've had is how do you hang your cladding 6" away from the wall? Which is a tricky one.

Our cold climate does some really weird things when you start using both exterior and cavity insulation. Once you put a certain ratio of insulation outboard of your structure, the requirement for and details surrounding the vapour retarder get a little iffy. It also gets to 100 fahrenheit up here, so for 4 months of the year, the vapour retarder is on the wrong side of the cavity insulation. Again, that's not an issue with fully-outboard insulation. Neat, eh?

Oct 11, 15 1:33 am
Bowling ball - you hit the nail on the head- how DO you hang the cladding out there? Always the
Oct 11, 15 2:54 pm

An accident happened a couple of nights ago at a restaurant here where contractors sprayfoamed the existing attic. They apparently sprayed too thick of a layer, and the foam spontaneously combusted at 8pm when the restaurant was full.  Nobody was injured but caused $700k in damages. Spray foam has its place but like all materials, it's got to be installed properly.

Oct 11, 15 3:42 pm

+1 bowling_ball. Always should be installed in passes that are less than 2 inches. If you go any thicker, the foam on the surface sets up before the foam behind it has a chance to fully react. Since the reaction is exothermic, and the foam is insulation (duh), you've locked in a bunch of heat into a material that is also highly combustible. 

how do you hang your cladding 6" away from the wall? 

This is a big area of growth right now. Lots of new systems popping up from various manufacturers for various cladding types. Sorry Olaf, giving away information again ... this time less expensive, more realistic, options.

Those above are all brackets and girts, etc. You could also go with a system like Centria's Metal Wrap, or Kingspan's KarrierPanel (I'm sure there are others as well).

Oct 13, 15 12:17 pm

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