Why There Are So Few Green Buildings


Thermograph of balconies losing heat, acting like "radiator fins."

In our post Big Steps in Building: Get Rid Of Those Radiator Fins, I wondered why we still permit balconies that act like radiator fins, losing heat from the interior because they are installed without without thermal breaks that separate the concrete inside from the balcony outside. There are (expensive) systems available, but they are rarely used in North America, because residential builders don't pay operating costs, and have no incentive to put in expensive things like thermal breaks that purchasers can't see and don't understand. We received an interesting comment from Alexander Krenczik, who is trying to introduce a European system here, and finding it a bit of a slog. It is worth reading. (slightly modified as English is clearly not his first language)

"I'm currently introducing the original balcony insulator from Schöck in Canada . The biggest obstacle I face is that the builders sell the apartments before the high-rise is even built. There is high demand for apartments as investments, and people don't look into the details of the execution of the structure. The customer wants hardwood flooring and a granite kitchen counter and for that they pay. No one is interested in the R-value for windows or the balcony. I thought that LEED would favour our systems, but in fact it seems to be only paperwork. As long as the energy prices are so low in North America and the clients buy what the market provides, it is doubtful that there will be a change in thinking about energy efficiency. "


"Another neglected issue is well-being and comfort. Imagine standing bare foot in front of a non-insulated balcony in Chicago in a harsh winter- you will definitely need to wear boots in your apartment.

In Europe the question is not whether I should insulate the balcony or not, it is a question of which supplier to use."

It is time to change our codes so that thermal breaks are the law, since it is clear that very few developers will do it out of concern for the environment or their customer's comfort.

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