Shining the spotlight on the building envelope

Maria Garcia
April 24, 2020

It’s been more than four weeks since New Zealand joined a growing list of countries that have asked their residents to remain home in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. While everyone’s experience of the lockdown has been different and everyone’s facing different challenges, one thing is true for all of us - our daily lives have changed radically and we are spending almost the entirety of our time at home. Most of the activities that normally take place throughout the city are now taking place inside our houses and apartments, turning our dwellings into multi-purpose buildings where our daily activities - work, education, recreation, etc - all happen in close proximity to each other.

With these extended periods of time spent indoors, and with shorter and cooler days, we are reminded of how important the quality of our indoor environment is. A home that is dry, warm and light will have positive impacts on our well-being, can reduce our chances of getting sick and could even make us more productive. The walls, floor and roof of our homes, typically known as the building envelope, play a key role in keeping us comfortable and healthy - especially if we want to do so without spending a fortune in heating or cooling. 

A home that is dry, warm and light will have positive impacts on our well-being, can reduce our chances of getting sick and could even make us more productive.

Creating a comfortable environment while being as energy efficient as possible were the two principles that guided the design of Camp Glenorchy Eco Retreat, which aims to become the world’s first Zero Energy accommodation. From the very early stages of the project, its design team was aware of the importance of the building envelope in achieving those outcomes. The envelope of the site’s various buildings became a central part of its design. 

This week at Sust we’ve published two articles that focus on the building envelope of Camp Glenorchy’s cabins and common areas. The first article, A building envelope design process for Zero Energy, explains in detail the steps taken during the design stage to define the elements of the building envelope. The second one, A building envelope for Zero Energy and comfort, discusses the materials and construction techniques chosen by the team to achieve the project’s initial outcomes. 

It is important to remember that the right building envelope will vary from project to project, and will depend on many different factors such as the climate, the site and your goals. However, Camp Glenorchy’s story highlights a number of steps that every project should follow to achieve a high-performing envelope. Some of the aspects that contributed to Camp Glenorchy’s successful approach are:

  • Clear and well-defined goals that were included in the project from its inception.
  • A collaborative process that approached the design of the building envelope early and from different angles.
  • Testing of the building envelope’s performance during design and construction.
  • A construction process that focused on quality.

If you’re starting a new build or renovation soon, once the lockdown is over, we hope you find this process and approach helpful. In the meantime make the most of this time with your family and keep safe.