Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Florida Building Science

It can be argued that Central-Florida may not have ever developed without Disney and the invention of air-conditioning. The hot, humid climate makes life without AC nearly unbearable.  Our unique environment creates demands on buildings that are unlike anywhere else in the country. Actually, some requirements within the national building code are incorrect as they apply to homes built in Florida.

Until the recent interest in “Green”, residential construction materials and methods have advanced little since the advent of air-conditioning and insulation. Roof trusses, plywood and PVC piping are some of the only significant changes prior to green awareness. In the last decade we’ve seen advances in building science, but not without some potential negative consequences.

Unknown to many consumers and even some building professionals, there are common construction techniques that can damage the structure and even create an unhealthy environment for its occupants. Climate conditions that are unique to Florida necessitate a strong understanding of building performance and the role that each material plays in the overall building system. Building science has improved because of the realization that all the components must function together as an integrated building system design.

Some science definitions and a little history lesson may provide an understanding of why a complete building system design is necessary.

The “Greenhouse Effect” is responsible for keeping our planet warm. Solar radiation warms the surface of the earth and our atmosphere keeps the heat from escaping. Upset the delicate balance and global warming or climate change may ensue. This is the same process that heats a greenhouse or makes the inside of our automobile hot on a sunny day. This process is also the reason why a typical attic gets so hot in the summer.

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