Building Monitoring for Straw Bale Buildings, Part 1

by Jacob Deva Racusin

Building monitoring helps us to understand how the invisible elements of heat and moisture move through our buildings. This IR image of a straw bale building shows likely moisture spotting in the exterior plaster, as revealed by a difference in surface temperature (photo courtesy of  Brad Cook)

Building monitoring helps us to understand how the invisible elements of heat and moisture move through our buildings. This IR image of a straw bale building shows likely moisture spotting in the exterior plaster, as revealed by a difference in surface temperature
(photo courtesy of Brad Cook)

Within the last couple of decades, a few things (among many) have dramatically increased within the world of design and construction: 1) buildings are getting much tighter and more heavily insulated; 2) there have been more building moisture problems relating to these increases in envelope thermal performance; 3) our collective understanding of the principles of applied physics in buildings (“building science”) has developed, and; 4) our access to technology – including high-speed Internet, affordable cloud storage, and inexpensive hardware and software – has greatly increased. Stir all of this together, and we see both an increased need, as well as an increased opportunity, for monitoring the performance of our buildings, especially the parts of the buildings we can’t readily access – namely, the inside of our envelope assemblies (i.e. walls, ceilings, roofs).

In this article we’ll take a brief look at why monitoring building performance (defined for the sake of this article as hygro-thermal performance – heat and moisture) is important, some basic types of building monitoring, and important considerations when deciding what type of monitoring to install in your next building project.

Why Monitor Our Buildings?
The vast majority of all buildings, especially single-family residences, have never had any monitoring conducted inside their walls and roofs. So why is this important all of a sudden? We eluded to this point in the introductory paragraph: a combination of higher-risk assemblies, coupled with increased access to technology and understanding of how buildings work, have lead us to both the need and the ability to understand more clearly how our buildings operate.

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