by Timothy Ahrenholz

Published on January 30, 2019.

Picture this: you’ve been tagged to design the building envelope for the next national institution.  Maybe it’s an addition to the Smithsonian, or a presidential library.  In any case, you are building for posterity, and this thing has got to last.  What do you do?

The so-called “institutional wall” is the choice for you!  Start with a durable CMU wall, and protect it from erosion, moisture, and thermal cycling with continuous insulation, a water resistive barrier, an air barrier, and a vapor retarder on the outer surface.  Then guard those layers from UV, wind, and precipitation with cladding. While potentially more costly than alternative wall designs, this system provides the best long-term durability for important buildings.  To better understand the building science at work behind this system, browse through the resources available on this site.  Content is organized by user type, such as architect/engineer, building official, or builder/contractor.

A quick overview of the institutional wall is given in the following video, part of a series we are highlighting on effective wall design:

For additional information, review the following articles, as well as the previous videos in this series:

Perfect Wall Articles

  1. Creating the ‘Perfect Wall’: Simplifying Water Vapor Retarder Requirements to Control Moisture
  2. Perfect Walls are Perfect, and Hybrid Walls Perfectly Good
  3. Wood Framed Wall Insulation Calculator Explained
  4. New Wall Design Calculator for Commercial Energy Code Compliance
  5. Energy Code Math Lesson: Why an R-25 Wall is Not Equal to a R-20+5ci
  6. Continuous Insulation Solves Energy Code Math Problem

Video Series

  1. Fear Building Envelopes No More with This Website & Videos
  2. Video: Thermodynamics Simplified Heat Flows from Warm to Cold
  3. Video: Moisture Flow Drives Water Induced Problems
  4. Video: How the 'Perfect Wall' Solves Environmental Diversity
  5. Video: How Important Is Your WRB?
  6. Video: A Reliably Perfect Wall Anywhere
  7. Video: The Best Wall We Know How to Make 
  8. Video: How to Insulate with Steel Studs
  9. Video: Thermal Bridging and Steel Studs
  10. Video: Better Residential Energy Performance with Continuous Insulation
  11. Video: How to (Not) Ruin a Perfectly Good Wall
  12. Video: Tar Paper and Continuous Insulation? No Problem!
  13. Video: Do CI and WRBs Go Together?
  14. Video: Assess Your 'Perfect Wall' Using Control Layers
Originally published by: SBC Magazine