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EEBA Builder's Guides: A 4-Volume Series for Cold, Mixed-Humid, Hot-Humid, and Hot-Dry & Mixed-Dry Climates

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by Joseph Lstiburek, P. Eng., 2000. Energy and Environmental Building Association, 10740 Lyndale Avenue South, Suite 10W, Bloomington, MN 55420-5615; www.eeba.org. Spiral-bound paperbacks, 328 to 473 pages, $30 (EEBA members), $40 (non-members)

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In 1997 (EBN Vol. 6, No. 5), we gave a pretty hearty thumbs-up to Joe Lstiburek’s Builder’s Guide: Cold Climates. It just gets better—that book has been updated and included in this new series from EEBA for the four climate zones covering North (and Central) America. Few building scientists are more qualified or more willing than Lstiburek to put into print the text and detailed illustrations needed for merging the worlds of building and science. Not everyone may appreciate the no-holds-barred Lstiburek writing style, but just about every builder and architect will appreciate the quality and number of schematics—for everything from wall assemblies to flashing, from foundation drainage to duct sealing.

Some significant changes have been made to the guides. Chapters on Insulated Concrete Form (ICF) and Structural Insulated Panel (SIP) systems have been added to the Cold Climate Guide, and a new section on alternatives to wood and masonry—SIP, ICF, and precast autoclaved aerated concrete (PAAC)—has been added to the Hot-Humid Guide. Those alternative systems plus straw-bale construction have been added to the Hot-Dry & Mixed-Dry Climate Guide. All the new material sections come with the same painstakingly rendered details and schematics that are now a trademark of these how-to guides. Lstiburek has also added a short section to each of the guides on proper handling of materials on the job site, in his inimitable way:

“Just-in-time delivery is more than a slogan, it should be a way of life.” “If you have to store materials at the job site, dumping them on the ground in a pond of water in everyone’s way is not generally a good idea.” “If you get more than you need, it’s never left over at the end of the job. It disappears.” “Materials that come to the job site ‘flat’ and that need to be ‘flat’ when installed should be stored ‘flat’.”

Eat your heart out, Yogi Berra, but it’s tough to argue with Lstiburek reasoning.

EBN sees an opportunity for even better EEBA/Lstiburek Builder’s Guides in the future. The split to four climate guides has led to a cycle of updates and ongoing modifications that can be distracting when discussing details, say between an architect and contractor. The sections on alternatives to wood and masonry should be part of all the guides, and figures on ventilation strategies should be made more explicitly climate-specific to match the excellent discussion in the accompanying text. There is a real opportunity for the guides to extend beyond the architect/builder realm and into the essential follow-up world of homeowner maintenance. Here’s the good news: Lstiburek revealed that he and indoor air quality expert Terry Brennan, of Camroden Associates, will be developing companion homeowner maintenance manuals for the Builder’s Guides with support from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The homeowner maintenance manuals are expected to be available by year’s end. Finally, Building Science Corporation and EEBA are getting green. The change in EEBA’s name to the Energy and Environmental Building Association—although the copies of the Builder’s Guides that EBN received still bore the Energy Efficient Building Association name on their covers—and the added sections on alternative materials, the house as a system, and discussion of environmental priorities all reflect this. But make no mistake about it—these guides are heart and soul about building science: energy-efficiency, indoor air quality, and durability. You won’t find other green design and construction issues—site development, landscaping, renewable energy systems, domestic and waste water management systems—beyond a passing reference. All green architects and green builders should have one or more of these guides for the following reason—you can’t really design or build a truly green home without sound building science, and there is no better building science resource available than the EEBA Builder’s Guides.

Note: The complete series of Builder’s Guides is also available directly from Building Science Corporation, and some of the guides (although not the most up-to-date) are available from Taunton Press.

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March 1, 2001