Jan Kosny and Jeffrey E. Christian
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
The enduring popularity of green architecture and energy efficient design ideas made attractive alternatives to dimensional wood-frame wall constructions. During the last decade, increased popularity was observed for insulating concrete forms, low-density concrete masonry, structural insulated core panels, engineered wood wall framing, concrete blocks with insulated cores, steel framing, and a variety of hybrid wall systems. The full market consideration of these wall systems is inhibited, in part, by the lack of an acceptable, scientifically valid, uniform thermal performance comparison procedure. Currently, most of the simplified calculation procedures readily available to decision makers for selecting building wall systems are based on the parallel path calculations used for conventional wood-frame systems. Also, whole building energy simulation programs (BLAST, DOE-2, ENERGY PLUS) require one-dimensional descriptions of the building envelope components. A great majority of designers and energy modelers utilize a framing factor (ratio of the stud area to the whole opaque exterior wall area) in their analytical work. The framing factor usually is estimated, seldom verified against actual site construction, and frequently underestimated. Framing factors vary from 15 to 40% of the opaque exterior wall area, yet lower values down to 0% are commonly used. Unfortunately, the wall energy efficiency usually is marketed solely by the misleading "clear wall" R-value (exterior wall area containing only insulation and necessary framing materials for a clear section with no fenestration, corners or connections between other envelope elements such as roofs, foundations and other walls). Sometimes, only "center-of-cavity" R-value (R-value estimation at a wall cross-sectional point containing the most insulation) is taken into account. This converts to a 0% framing factor and does not account for any of the thermal shorts through the insulation generated by framing members.
In 1994, ORNL BTC proposed for consideration as a nationally accepted consensus methodology a procedure for estimating the whole opaque wall R-value (whole-wall R-value), independent of system type and construction materials. The methodology was based on hot box test results and three-dimensional heat conduction simulations, which led to a "whole-wall" R-value.
Whole Wall R-value includes the thermal performance of not only the "clear wall" area, with insulation and structural elements, but also typical envelope interface details, including wall/wall (corners), wall /roof, wall/floor, wall/door, and wall/window connections. Results from these detailed computer simulations are combined into a single "whole-wall" R-value estimation and compared with simplified "center-of-cavity" and "clear wall" R-values.
Keywords: heat transfer, energy calculation, building code, load calculation, rating, walls, thermal performance,
The rising cost of dimensional lumber, declining framing lumber quality, fluctuating availability of structural wood, and consumers' confusion about the environmental correctness of harvesting "old growth" wood as a building material create a situation where a number of innovative wall technologies are gaining wide acceptance. One constraint to greater acceptance of advanced walls is that there is no nationally accepted method of comparing the whole-wall thermal performance of different systems to each other and to wood-frame construction.
The most commonly used calculation procedures for conventional residential wood-frame construction tend to overestimate the actual field thermal performance of many of today's popular housing designs, which feature large fenestration areas and floor plans with many exterior wall corners. This leads to the need for a thermal performance indicator to represent the whole wood-frame wall including thermal shorts created at wall interfaces with other envelope components. For this procedure to gain popular acceptance it must be accurate yet simple enough to be understood by home-buyers and builders, and permit thermal performance comparisons of alternative wall systems to wood frame walls.
Currently, in the typical thermal evaluation of wood-frame wall systems, the wood framing effect (percentage reduction of clear wall area R-value from that estimated at the center of cavity) is handled by conducting a simple parallel-path calculation for the cavity and stud area. The area ratio between framing and cavity is almost always suggested by an authoritative source, such as the ASHRAE Handbook of Fundamentals (ASHRAE 1993a). Then the resulting whole-wall thermal transmittance is compared to the desired value prescribed by either an enforced building energy code, volunteer home energy rating program, or standard. Sometimes only the center-of-cavity insulation material R-value is used for comparison to alternatives. With today's residential buildings increasingly constructed with materials such as steel, stress skin-insulated core panels, and novel composites, a more accurate rating is necessary.
Opaque envelopes can no longer be compared by frequently misleading "center-of-cavity" insulation material or clear wall R-values. The development of more accurate, consumer-understandable wall labels will spur greater market acceptance of energy-efficient envelope systems. The benefit of advanced systems with only a few thermal shorts will be clearly discernible by comparing whole-wall thermal performance ratings. The effect of extensive thermal shorts on performance is not accurately reflected in commonly used simplified energy calculations that are the current bases for consumer wall thermal comparisons. Major energy-consuming appliances and windows now have labels that tell consumers the energy cost implications of their purchase. However, when it comes to the walls, a dominant architectural feature of buildings, the consumer, along with designers, builders, and manufacturers, is uncertain at the least and misled at the worst about the energy implications of opaque wall systems. In addition to more representative R-values, opaque wall labels also have the potential to identify the impact of thermal mass, airtightness, and moisture tolerance (inherent moisture control attributes that minimize the potential for moisture problems).
New Terminology of the Whole Wall R-value Procedure
The following list of thermal performance terms is introduced below by ORNL BTC. The Whole Wall Procedure is proposed for consideration as a nationally accepted consensus methodology for estimating the whole opaque wall R-value (whole-wall R-value), independent of system type and construction materials. below throughout this paper.
R-value estimation at a point in the wall's cross-sectional R-value containing the most insulation.
Clear wall R-value:
R-value estimation for the exterior wall area containing only insulation and necessary framing materials for a clear section with no fenestration, corners, or connections between other envelope elements such as roofs, foundations, and other walls.
A set of common structural connections between the exterior wall and other envelope components, such as wall/wall (corners), wall /roof, wall/floor, window header, window sill, door jam, door header, and window jamb, that make up a representative residential whole-wall elevation.
R-value estimation for the whole opaque wall including the thermal performance of not only the "clear wall" area, with insulation and structural elements, but also typical envelope interface details, including wall/wall (corners), wall /roof, wall/floor, wall/door, and wall/window connections.
Why are the effects of interface details so important? First of all, they are needed to properly baseline the thermal performance of common residential wood-framing systems and to more comprehensively evaluate alternatives. Second, their inclusion creates incentives for alternative wall system manufacturers to focus on the whole-wall, including the critical connections to other parts of the building, not just the "clear wall."
Interface details make a difference. The consequences of poorly selected connections between envelope components are severe. Taking into account the interface details can have an impact on as much as 50% of the overall wall area. For some conventional wall systems, the whole-wall R-value can be as much as 40% less than what is measured for the clear wall section. When inaccurate wall R-values are used in whole building energy simulations serious errors in building load estimations. The first consequence of such situation is under-or-over estimation of the size of the HVAC equipment.
The whole wall procedure highlights the importance of using interface details that minimize thermal shorts. Local heat loss through some wall interface details may be twice that estimated by simplified design calculation procedures that focus only on the clear wall. Poor interface details may also cause excessive moisture condensation and lead to stains and dust markings on the interior finish, which reveal envelope thermal shorts in an unsightly manner
The individual wall system results from this procedure will help gain system-specific acceptance by code officials, building energy-rating programs such as HERS Home Energy Rating System and EPA Energy Star Buildings, building designers, and builders. In addition, each individual system evaluation will contribute toward a larger effort to build an easily accessible database of advanced wall systems.
As depicted on Figure 1, three walls with 20% framing factor were simulated. Three different framing materials were assumed for thermal modeling:
- wood - 0.116 Wm/K,
- concrete - 1.40 Wm/K, and
- steel - 46.20 Wm/K. EPS foam was served as wall insulation.
Thermal conductivity of EPS foam was 0.035 Wm/K. R-values for cases II and III were compared with the case I for all wall framing materials.
As shown in Table 1, differences in R-value estimations are strongly dependent on the ratio between thermal conductivities of framing and insulation materials and the number of framing material inserts in the wall section area. For the traditional method of describing wall in whole building modeling input files ( case I ), errors in R-value calculations may exceed 44% for steel framing, concrete framing - 27% and for wood framing the error is less than 2%.
Table 1. Results of comparisons of R-values for cases II and III with case I .
|Wall framing material:||Ratio between thermal conductivities of framing and insulation materials:||Wall configuration:||Difference in R-value estimations (I-II or III)/I [%]:|
Today, in whole building energy simulations, simplified, one-dimensional, parallel path, descriptions of building envelope are in common use. Data presented above shows that for several structural and material configurations containing thermal bridges, parallel path R-value estimations using framing factors may generate serious errors in input files even before the energy simulations are started.
The procedure requires 1.) building a test wall in a hot-box frame; 2.) instrumenting the test wall; 3.) testing at steady state conditions; 4.) preparing a laboratory test data summary report, which includes a comparison to results of an uncalibrated model of the clear wall;. 5.) calibrating the model with "clear wall" hot-box results. 6.) modeling the eight details making up a typical residential wall elevation and determine the area of influence of each detail; 7.) calculating whole-wall R-value; 8.) conducting parametric thermal analysis to improve details and whole-wall R-value; 9.) preparing a paper report and an electronic report for the advanced wall database.
The guarded hot box (RGHB) is an envelope testing apparatus that is designed in accordance with ASTM C 236 (ASTM 1989) - see Figure 2. The RGHB accepts test specimens that are up to 13 ft by 10 ft ( 4m x 3m) with a metering chamber that is approximately 8 ft by 8 ft (2.4m x 2.4m). The RGHB can accommodate assemblies up to 24 in. (61 cm) thick, (2) and b used to conduct dynamic guarded hot-box tests on high-thermal mass wall systems. The RGHB climate chamber temperature can be controlled from -10F to 140F (-23C to 60C) and the air velocity from 0 mph to 15 mph (24 kph). The RGHB metering chamber temperature can be controlled from 70F to 140F (21C to 60C) and air velocity from 0 to 1 mph (1.6 kph). The instrumentation inventory available consists of 200 type-T thermocouple-temperature sensors, 10 thermopile-type heat flux transducers, twelve air velocity meters, two pressure transducers, and eight other voltage output-type sensors. The test apparatus is fully automated: the chamber temperatures and air velocities are computer controlled at steady conditions or in 200-step cycles. Data collection and processing are performed in real time. The system was designed for a precision of better than 3% and a bias of less than 5%. Estimates of the error bands are generated with all test results.
The whole-wall R-value was estimated for 18 wall systems listed in Table 2 along with the clear whole wall R-value. A reference building show in Fig. 3 was used to establish the location and area weighing of all the interface details. The comparison of these two values gives one a good overall perspective of the importance of wall interface details for both conventional wood, metal, masonry, and several high-performance wall systems. Frequently, the opaque wall thermal performance is simply described at the point of sale as the "clear wall" value. This means that the whole-wall R-value could be overstated from -3.3% to 26.5%, as shown by the last column in Table 1 "(R ww /R cw ) x 100%." Recognize that these differences can change by selecting different interface details with varying degrees of thermal shorts.
Interesting comparisons can be made using the data in Table 2 to illustrate the importance of using a whole-wall R-value (R ww ) to select the most energy-efficient wall system. The difference between the clear wall and whole-wall R-value could be argued to be representative of the energy-savings potential of adopting the rating procedure proposed in this paper. With most building owners assuming they have the higher clear wall value rather than the more representative of reality, whole R-value. Systems 5 and 6 show two different high-performance masonry units. If one uses the clear-wall R-value to choose the one with highest R-value one would pick system 5, the low- density concrete multicore insulation unit, because its R-value is 19.2hft 2 F/Btu (3.38 m 2 K/W) compared to 15.22 hft 2 F/Btu (2.68 m 2 K/W) for system 6, EPS block-forms. However, if one uses the whole-wall R-value as the criterion for choosing the most efficient system, one would choose just the opposite because system 6 has the higher value [15.72 hft 2 F/Btu .77 m 2 K/W)] compared to 14.69 hft 2 F/Btu (2.59 m 2 K/W) . Another observation is that the whole-wall R-value of the foam-form system actually is higher than the clear wall values by more than 3%. This illustrates the effect of the high thermal resistance of the interface details. Systems 7, 8 and 9 are all conventional wood-frame systems. Note that the details impact the whole-wall R-value more for 2x6 walls than for 2x4 walls. The ratio of R ww /R cw is about 90% for the 2x4 walls and 84% for the 2x6 wall. Comparing System 11, the 6-in (15 cm) Structural-Insulated-Panel wall, to system 9, the conventional 2x6 wood-frame wall, shows that the Structural-Insulated-Panel clear-wall R-value [25 hft 2 F/Btu, (4.35 m 2 K/W)] is 51% higher than that of the 2x6 wall [16 hft2F/Btu, (2.88m 2 K/W)]. When details are included in the whole-wall R-value, the percentage improvement is even greater (-58%), 21.59 hft 2 F/Btu (3.8m 2 K/W) to 13.69 hft 2 F/Btu (2.41m 2 K/W). This is an example of how advanced systems will generally benefit from a performance criteria that reflects whole-wall rather than the commonly used simplified clear-wall values. Systems 12 through 18 listed in Table 2 are all steel. On average, the whole-wall R-value for these seven systems is 22% less than the clear-wall values. Light gage steel profiles can be used to build energy-efficient envelopes, but not by using techniques common to wood-frame construction. The conventional metal residential systems reflected in Table 2 do not fare as well when the whole-wall R-value is used as the reference compared to all other systems displayed in Table 2. For example, if one is considering either system 6 (EPS block forms) or System 12 (a 4 in. steel stud wall), the clear-wall R-value is about the same, 15 hft 2 F/Btu (2.64 m 2 K/W); however, if the comparison is made using the whole-wall R-value, the EPS foam-block system has a 45% higher value, 15.72 hft 2 F/Btu (2.77 m 2 K/W) to 10.86 hft 2 F/Btu ( 1.91 m 2 K/W).A detailed example showing all the details for the steel-framed system 15 can be found in the proceedings of the December 1995 ASHRAE Envelopes VI conference.21 In general, ASHRAE Handbook material properties and recommended details by the wall system manufacturer were selected. In the case of the steel-framed systems, the details come from the American Iron and Steel Institute 17 and other common sources 18, 19 .
Table 2. Whole wall R-value data base.
|No||System description:||Clear wall R-value||Whole wall R-value||(R ww / R cw ) x 100%|
|hft 2/ F/Btu||m 2/ K/W||hft 2/ F/Btu||m 2/ K/W|
|1.||12-in. (30-cm.) Two-core insul. units - concrete 120lb/ft 3 ( 1920 kg/m 3 ), EPS inserts - 1-7/8-in. (4.8-cm.) thick, grout fillings 24-in.(60-cm.) o.c.||3.7||0.64||3.6||0.63||97.3|
|2.||12-in. (30-cm.) Two-core insul units -wood concrete 40lb/ft 3 ( 640 kg/m 3 ), EPS inserts - 1-7/8-in. (4.8-cm.) thick, grout fillings 24-in.(60-cm.) o.c.||9.4||1.65||8.6||1.52||91.7||3.||12-in. (30-cm.) Cut-web insul. units - concrete 120lb/ft 3 ( 1920 kg/m 3 ), EPS inserts - 2-1/2-in. (6.4-cm.) thick, grout fillings 16-in.(40-cm.) o.c.||4.7||0.82||4.1||0.73||88.2|
|4.||12-in. (30-cm.) Cut-web insul. units -wood concrete 40lb/ft 3 ( 640 kg/m 3 ), EPS inserts - 2-1/2-in. (6.4-cm.) thick, grout fillings 16-in.(40-cm.) o.c.||10.7||1.88||9.2||1.61||85.6|
|5.||12-in. (30-cm.) Multicore insul. units -polystyrene beads concrete 30lb/ft3 ( 480 kg/m3 ), EPS inserts in all cores.||19.2||3.38||14.7||2.59||76.6||6.||EPS block-forms poured in place with concrete, block walls 1-7/8-in. (4.8-cm.) thick.||15.2||2.68||15.7||2.77||103.3||7.||2x4 wood stud wall 16-in.( 40-cm.) o.c., R-11 batts, 0.5-in.(1.3-cm.) plywood -exterior., -in.(1.3-cm.) gypsum board -interior.||10.6||1.86||9.6||1.69||90.9||8.||2x4 wood stud wall 24-in.( 60-cm.) o.c., R-11 batts, 0.5-in.(1.3-cm.) plywood -exterior., -in.(1.3-cm.) gypsum board -interior.||10.8||1.91||9.9||1.74||91.2||9.||2x6 wood stud wall 24-in.( 60-cm.) o.c., R-19 batts, 0.5-in.(1.3-cm.) plywood -exterior., -in.(1.3-cm.) gypsum board -interior..||16.4||2.88||13.7||2.41||83.7||10.||Larsen Truss walls - 2x4 wood stud wall 16-in.(40-cm.) o.c., R-11 batts, + 8-in.( 20-c) thick Larsen trusses insulated by 8-in.(20-cm.) thick batts, 0.5-in.(1.3-cm.) plywood -exterior., -in.(1.3-cm.) gypsum board -interior||40.4||7.12||38.5||6.78||95.3||11.||Structural Insulated Panel Wall, 6-in. (15-cm.) thick foam core + 0.5-in. (1.3-cm.) OSB boards, 0.5-in.(1.3-cm.) Plywood cladding -exterior., 0.5-in.(1.3-cm.) gypsum board -interior.||24.7||4.35||21.6||3.80||87.5||12.||4-in. (10-cm.) Steel stud wall, 24-in. (60-cm.) o.c.,R-11 batts, 0.5-in.(1.3-cm.) plywood -exterior., + 1-in.(2.5-cm) EPS sheathing + 0.5-in. (1.3-cm.) wood siding, 0.5-in.(1.3-cm.) gypsum board -interior. NAHB Energy Consv. House Details.||14.8||2.60||10.9||1.91||73.5||13.||3-1/2-in. (8.9-cm.) Steel stud wall, 16-in. (40-cm.) o.c., R-11 batts, 0.5-in.(1.3-cm.) plywood -exterior.,. + 0.5-in. (1.3-cm.) wood siding, 0.5-in.(1.3-cm.) gypsum board -interior||7.4||1.31||6.1||1.08||82.6||14.||3-1/2-in. (8.9-cm.) Steel stud wall, 16-in. (40-cm.) o.c., R-11 batts, 0.5-in.(1.3-cm.) plywood -exterior.,+ 0.5-in.(1.3-cm) EPS sheathing + 0.5-in. (1.3-cm.) wood siding, 0.5-in.(1.3-cm.) gypsum board -interior. AISI Manual Details.||9.9||1.74||8.0||1.42||81.3||15.||3-1/2-in. (8.9-cm.) Steel stud wall, 16-in. (40-cm.) o.c., R-11 batts, 0.5-in.(1.3-cm.) plywood -exterior, + 1-in.(2.5-cm) EPS sheathing + 0.5-in. (1.3-cm.) wood siding, -in.(1.3-cm.) gypsum board -interior. AISI Manual Details.||11.8||2.07||9.5||1.67||80.5||16.||3-1/2-in. (8.9-cm.) Steel stud wall, 24-in. (60-cm.) o.c., R-11 batts, 0.5-in.(1.3-cm.) plywood -exterior, + 0.5-in. (1.3-cm.) wood siding, -in.(1.3-cm.) gypsum board -interior. AISI Manual Details.||9.4||1.66||7.1||1.24||74.8||17.||3-1/2-in. (8.9-cm.) Steel stud wall, 24-in. (60-cm.) o.c., R-11 batts, 0.5-in.(1.3-cm.) plywood -exterior., + 0.5-in.(1.3-cm) EPS sheathing + 0.5-in. (1.3-cm.) wood siding, 0.5-in.(1.3-cm.) gypsum board -interior. AISI Manual Details.||11.8||2.08||8.9||1.57||75.6||18.||3-1/2-in. (8.9-cm.) Steel stud wall, 24-in. (60-cm.) o.c., R-11 batts, 0.5-in.(1.3-cm.) plywood -exterior., + 1-in.(2.5-cm) EPS sheathing + 0.5-in. (1.3-cm.) wood siding, 0.5-in.(1.3-cm.) gypsum board -interior. AISI Manual Details.||13.3||2.35||10.2||1.80||76.5|
Table 3 shows a comparison of the center-of-cavity R-values instead of the clear wall R-values. This suggests that when the realtor responds to a potential home buyer by stating the R-value of insulation across the cavity, the whole-wall R-value actually may be overstated by 26.6 to 58.1%. If one is comparing the thermal performance differences between metal (system 13) and wood (system 7) frames using center-of-cavity R-values, one would conclude there is no difference because both have center-of-cavity R-values of about 14 hft 2 F/Btu, (2.5 m 2 K/W) . However, when the whole-wall R-value is used as the criterion for comparison, the 2x4 wood wall system is 56% better [9.58 hft 2 F/Btu (1.69 m 2 K/W)], compared to 6.14 hft 2 F/Btu (1.08 m 2 K/W) for the metal system. These comparisons are not meant to imply one type of construction is always better than other. They are all based on representative details. Whole-wall R-values could change if certain key interface details were changed. The intent of making these sample comparisons is simply to point out the importance of having the whole-wall R-value available in the marketplace for guiding wall designers, manufacturers, and buyers to more energy-efficient systems.
Table 3. Whole wall R-values compared to center-of-cavity R-values.
|No||System description:||Center-of-Cavity R-value||Whole wall R-value||(R ww /R cc) x 100%|
|hft 2/ F/Btu||m 2/ K/W||hft 2/ F/Btu||m 2/ K/W|
|7.||2x4 wood stud wall 16-in.( 40-cm.) o.c., R-11 batts, 0.5-in.(1.3-cm.) plywood -exterior., -in.(1.3-cm.) gypsum board -interior.||13.6||2.40||9.6||1.69||70.2|
|8.||2x4 wood stud wall 24-in.( 60-cm.) o.c., R-11 batts, 0.5-in.(1.3-cm.) plywood -exterior., -in.(1.3-cm.) gypsum board -interior.||13.6||2.40||9.9||1.74||73.4|
|12.||4-in. (10-cm.) Steel stud wall, 24-in. (60-cm.) o.c.,R-11 batts, 0.5-in.(1.3-cm.) plywood -exterior., + 1-in.(2.5-cm) EPS sheathing + 0.5-in. (1.3-cm.) wood siding, 0.5-in.(1.3-cm.) gypsum board -interior. NAHB Energy Consv. House Details.||19.6||3.46||10.9||1.91||55.3|
|13.||3-1/2-in. (8.9-cm.) Steel stud wall, 16-in. (40-cm.) o.c., R-11 batts, 0.5-in.(1.3-cm.) plywood -exterior.,. + 0.5-in. (1.3-cm.) wood siding, 0.5-in.(1.3-cm.) gypsum board -interior||14.6||2.58||6.1||1.08||41.9|
|15.||3-1/2-in. (8.9-cm.) Steel stud wall, 16-in. (40-cm.) o.c., R-11 batts, 0.5-in.(1.3-cm.) plywood -exterior, + 1-in.(2.5-cm) EPS sheathing + 0.5-in. (1.3-cm.) wood siding, -in.(1.3-cm.) gypsum board -interior. AISI Manual Details.||18.6||3.28||9.5||1.67||50.8|
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|17.||AISI (American Iron and Steel Institute) Residential Steel Framing Manual for Architects, Engineers and Builders, Low-Rise Residential Construction Details RG-934 American Iron and Steel Institute, 1101 17th St. N.W. Suite 1300, Washington D.C., June 1993.|
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|FIGURE 1||Three configurations of simulated wall containing 20% of framing material.|
|FIGURE 2||The ORNL BTC Guarded Hot Box (RGHB).|
|FIGURE 3||Floor plan and elevation for a one-story ranch house.|
|TABLE 1||Results of comparisons of R-values for cases II and III with case I.|
|TABLE 2||Whole wall R-value data base.|
|TABLE 3||Whole wall R-values compared to center-of-cavity R-values.|
© 2001 Oak Ridge National Labs
Updated July 27, 2001 by Diane McKnight