Snow Insulation and the Igloo
Written February 24, 2011 by John Hendricks, Architect AIA • Filed Under Energy Efficiency
, Mountain Architecture
If you were going to insulate a home, would snow be a consideration?
Believe it or not, snow is a great insulator. Snow has a low density with pockets of air between the flakes, which helps prevent heat from passing through. A recent Architect Magazine illustrated that while the average winter temperature north of the Arctic Circle is -30.5 degrees F (-1 C), the average interior temperature of an inhabited igloo is +60.5 F (+16 C).
1909 Frederick Cook Expedition igloo near North Pole (Library of Congress photo)
So how does this all relate to a mountain home? A negative perception by many people is to keep snow off your roof. It can leak and cause structural failures. Looking at it in a positive light, the negatives can easily be corrected in design, and keeping snow on a roof adds an additional insulation layer to your home. The snow helps keep warm air from escaping. In this aspect, flat roofs are actually more energy efficient that sloped roofs, though not as popular. The flat roof holds more snow, and thus, extra snow insulation. See our article Managing Snow On Roofs for more information.
Snow On Mountain Cabin Roof
Please note that while snow adds insulation value, no building department will allow the use of a roof that is insulated solely by snow. Otherwise, if it’s a low snow year, you’re out of luck.
John Hendricks, AIA Architect, NCARB
Hendricks Architecture, mountain architects in Sandpoint, Idaho. Subscribe to Hendricks Architecture’s Blog
Previous Post: Deconstruction vs. Demolition
Deconstruction vs. Demolition
Written February 3, 2011 by John Hendricks, Architect AIA • Filed Under Contractors
Recently I read an article in the Seattle Times Home and Garden section about deconstruction versus demolition, both of which I’ve had experience with as an architect. “On average, more than 75 percent of a home can be reused and recycled”, said writer Stacy Downs.
When you hear the term “tear down”, most homeowners simply have the contractor tear down a home, take it to the dump, and start a new home with new materials. The art of deconstruction, where a contractor takes the time to disassemble the light fixtures, cabinetry, doors, door handles, plumbing, and other parts of the house, is becoming more and more in vogue.
Some of your plumbing and light fixtures can be reused on your new home. Your original concrete foundation, garage floor, basement, patio, driveway and brick chimney could be crushed and used for your new home’s foundation backfill, potentially saving you thousands of dollars.
In the case of the mountain style homes we design, recycled timbers are extremely valuable. Not only are these rustic timbers physically beautiful, but they are also sometimes bigger and longer than those commercially available, not to mention the strength of the old-growth wood.
I designed a new home a few years ago in Bellevue, Washington where the old home was deconstructed. It was the homeowner’s idea, and at first I had thought they would lose money in the deal. Deconstruction is much more labor intensive and the costs of deconstruction are initially higher. However, if you’re willing to wait until after taxes, you could actually earn money if you have it appraised for the value of the salvageable structure.
Not only could you get tax benefits, you could also get extra LEED points, as well as help ease the minds of the environmentally conscious. More than 30% of waste that goes into landfills consists of building materials. For more info, or to purchase recycled goods, look up your local Habitat for Humanity ReStore resale outlet. Proceeds help your local Habitat affiliates fund the construction of Habitat homes within your community.
Previous Post: Negotiating with a Contractor
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