Timber frame house construction without vapour barrier. Summary. 1. Introduction

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1 Timber frame house construction without vapour barrier dr.ir. Faas MOONEN Associate professor Structural Design, Eindhoven University of Technology The Netherlands Faas Moonen defended his thesis developing an industrialised foundation in 2001 dr.ir. Henk SCHELLEN Assistant professor Building Physics, Eindhoven University of Technology The Netherlands Henk Schellen defended his thesis Heating monumental churches: indoor climate and preservation of cultural heritage in 2002 Summary Within the framework of developing industrialized wall panels for house building [6], the internal and external moisture exposure is studied. One of the objectives is to develop a construction that does not need a vapour barrier such as used in timber frame house construction. There normally a polyethylene sheet is applied as vapour barrier at the inside face of studs obstructing vapour passing through the wall thus preventing possible condensation at internal locations with lower temperature. However the framework of developing wall panels refers to a newly composed construction. Here, by gearing sequence, thickness and selection of materials used to one another, one can aim for a less risky structure to prevent condensation. To tailor materials can prevent condensation without the need of vapour dense foil. This paper describes results of simulations by which the permeability of moisture damp is studied regarding the newly developed load-bearing wall panel. Keywords: vapour barrier, industrialized house building, developing wall panels for timber frame house, building physics, internal condensation, insulation 1. Introduction Based on the principle of sideways supported studs under axial compression [4] a house building method is in the making designed for industrialized building (figure 1). The state of development is presented in a separate paper [6]. Fig. 1 Structural element (cross-section). Stud (28x148 mm 2 ) supported sideways for buckling by 3 mm hardboard sheets, glued to 70 mm rigid insulation. Within this concept dimensions and materials used can be geared to other requirements. In this paper results are presented of a specific study in the framework of developing wall panels regarding internal and external moisture exposure. Basis of the developed house building method is a wall panel with sideways supported studs, as shown in figure 1 and 2: the slender stud (1) is capable of bearing an extreme axial and horizontal (wind-)load since the stud cannot bent out sideways because of obstructing hardboard sheets (4) placed in longitudinal saw-cuts. A very thin hardboard sheet can put up a considerable in plane resistance if the sheet is glued to expanded polystyrene as rigid insulation (5). Structural tests to prove this principle are performed [2] [4]. From structural point of view the thickness of studs is overrated (12x148 mm 2 can do). But since an 8 mm deep longitudinal saw-cut is required at both sides to connect hardboard sheets, manufacturing requirements govern the dimensions of the studs.

2 2. Wall panel specially developed for industrialized production Elaborated upon the structural core of figure 1 other elements are added for aesthetics, integrating service pipes, standardised manufacturing, simple construction, thermal and acoustic insulation, preventing condensation, fire-resistance, et cetera. Possible cross-sections to meet these interacting requirements are shown in figure 2. In the paper the left cross-section is discussed in detail. 2.1 Composition of wall panel The structural core in figure 2 consists of fir 28x148 mm 2 (1) at 0,4 m centres and 3 mm hardboard sheet (4) glued to 70 mm expanded polystyrene (5) as rigid material. On the inside 10 mm gypsum fibreboard (2) is added for aesthetic, acoustic insulation, fire resistance and to hang objects. Fig. 2 Possible horizontal cross-sections of industrialized wall panels for house building. The 30 mm cavity between gypsum fibreboard and hardboard (3) is used to locate service pipes such as water, heat, electricity, telecommunication and gas, and is fit for applying electric junction boxes. The remaining cavity is filled with vermiculite or mineral wool for fire resistance, acoustic insulation and thermal insulation. The 20 mm cavity at the other (outer) side (6) is used to locate service pipes too. Here 50 mm expanded polystyrene (7) is added as water-resistant layer for any water coming through the exterior finishing and as insulation to prevent condense in the fir stud (1) and in the service cavity (6). The ventilation cavity of mm (8) is intended to reduce moisture exposure by separating and ventilating. The outside finishing (9) is an aesthetic finishing, moisture screen and windscreen for which different materials such as brickwork, stucco, planks, boarding, singles can be used. Selection, dimensions and sequence of materials are among other aspects chosen to get vapour pressure not exceeding saturation pressure at different locations in the wall to prevent condensation. 2.2 Condensation in timber-frame-house construction Most building materials are permeable to water vapour. Thus vapour that is generated in the house by people s activities, laundering, cooking and other effects may pass through a wall by vapour diffusion. During cold weather this vapour may condense in the wall when encountering colder zones. Condensed vapour can eventually reduce insulation performances and/or damage interior finish or even cause decay in structural members. Therefore a vapour barrier, a material highly resistive to vapour diffusion, is applied on the warm side of exterior walls in timber frame housing. Usually a polyethylene film is applied but other materials such as specially coated papers or aluminium foil can also be used. The effectiveness of vapour barriers is merely depending on the vapour resistance of the complete membrane in a residence. However in practice the vapour barrier is often malfunctioning because of damaging during construction, i.e. by tearing of stapled connections. Also inadequate lapping of joints, incisions (for plumbing pipes, ventilation ducts, house wiring for electrical services, et cetera) causes leakage of the vapour barrier. Imperfections are usually unnoticed since internal lining blocks visual verification of the vapour barrier after construction. In spite of precaution taken one cannot ensure a leakage proof vapour barrier. So it is important to allow vapour to escape readily from the wall space to the outside. The waterproof layer on the outside of the wall should have relatively low vapour resistance, such as sheathing paper or minuscule perforated foil. Apart from likely leakage there is also a potential problem in a summer-situation. In this reversed case where air-conditioners create a cold indoor climate compared to a warm outdoor climate, vapour barriers might contribute to instead of prevent condensation.

3 2.3 Designing a vapour-open wall To improve reliability a vapour-open wall is studied within the framework of developing a wall panel for industrialized building. One of the objectives is to find a less risky solution regarding condensation. For this reason a spreadsheet is made to create simplified Glaser-diagrams, based on passing through vapour by diffusion (shown in figure 3, 4 and 5). In each graph a curve is drawn tracing vapour pressures in boundaries of different materials. A practical precondition is an interior temperature of i = 20 C with relative humidity 50%. The outside condition is taken the average Dutch temperature in January being e = 1,7 C with relative humidity 93%. Glaser-diagrams are used to determine locations of condensation. Therefore a second line is required. Fig. 3 Glaser-diagram for the wall panel in figure 2 (cross-section over insulation). Here a vapour barrier is applied behind gypsum fibreboard as a comparison to figure 4 (same cross-section without vapour barrier). The second line indicates the maximum vapour pressure (saturation) at all boundaries of different materials in a section. To draw this line the temperature at all boundaries must be calculated to determine the maximum vapour pressure. The two lines mark locations of condensation. And if the line of vapour pressure does not cross the line of saturation, then there will be no condensation in the considered cross-section under the given preconditions. Glaser-diagrams only determine the risk of condensation. They don t indicate the amount of condense (since condense itself affects calculation results) neither if condense will cause damage. The lines in figures 3, 4 and 5 give a distorted picture since the thickness of layers is not represented in this graph. If the thickness is converted on to the horizontal axis, it is not possible to take a close look at small layers (such as vapour barrier, hardboard). In the spreadsheet the vapour pressure p j in boundary j is calculated with: j1 p (1) i pe p j pe kdk d k k k 1 k: total layers in the section; p e : outside vapour pressure; p i : inside vapour pressure; p j : vapour pressure in boundary; : damp-diffusion-resistance; d: thickness of material. Fig. 4 Glaser diagram of wall in figure 2 ( cross-section over insulation) without any vapour barrier. 1003

4 The temperature at boundary j is calculated with the equation: j 1 i e j e Rk Rk k (2) j : temperature in boundary j; e : outside temperature i : inside temperature R: thermal resistance (R = d/) : coefficient of thermal conductivity d: thickness of material 2.4 Developing by tryouts With equations and material properties in a spreadsheet, it is possible to adapt type, width and sequence of materials in a section. In that way it is found that additional insulation at the inner side of the cavity can prevent condensation as a substitute of a traditional vapour barrier (resulting in the composition as shown in figure 2). Fig. 5 Glaser diagram of wall in figure 2 (cross-section over stud) without vapour barrier. There is no location where vapour pressure exceeds saturation. In figure 5 can be seen that there is no risk of condensation in the stud in a section whithout vapour barrier. This is not the case in figure 4 in a section in between studs. Here local vapour pressure exceeds local saturation under the given assumptions in both sides of the ventilation cavity and in brick. At these locations moisture damp can become condense. Adding a vapour barrier, as can be seen in figure 3, has little effect since the temperature is not influenced and the vapour pressure is already close to the outside condition. One can also take into account that condense on the surface of expanded polystyrene is likely removed in the well-ventilated cavity. And ventilation will also dry masonry, especially when outside temperature rises. Thus, in spite of condensation expected in the cross-section of figure 2, the detail without vapour barrier is considered acceptable and worthwhile examining with more sophisticated simulation programmes regarding building physics. 2.5 Regarding heat transfer One aspect is heat transfer. The different lines of saturation in figure 4 and 5 of two sections of figure 2 arise from different temperatures, being the result of quite different properties in thermal resistance. In [3] a calculation is made of the thermal resistance over the stud with R = 2,63 [m 2 K/W] and over insulation R = 4,93 [m 2 K/W]. The average is R = 4,77 [m 2 K/W]. This indicates that the effect of studs is modest regarding overall thermal resistance. However different temperatures close to each other will interfere therefore a more detailed temperature distribution is studied with the two-dimensional thermal bridge programme Kobru 86 Fig. 6 Temperature changes regarding two-dimensional heat transfer in the cross-section plane of figure 2.

5 Figure 6 shows that heat transfer smoothens the reduced thermal insulation over studs resulting in merely horizontal isotherms. Temperature in the section over insulation, close to the stud, slightly lowers nearby the gypsum fibreboard (less than 1 C) and somewhat rises nearby the service cavity (about 1 C). Temperature in the stud hardly changes, so the Glaser-diagram in figure 5 is still valid. Also findings based on figure 4 are valid, since a lower saturation value in the boundary mineral wool/gypsum fibreboard does not influence findings. Also slightly raising saturation in boundaries hardboard/rigid insulation up to EPS-insulation/service cavity just confirms the conclusions. Smoothening temperature is not only advantageous regarding condensation or heat flow, but also for reducing dust on surfacing. Variations in heat flow leading to variations in surface temperatures can cause dust patterns on walls. The lath marks noticeable on the plastered finish of uninsulated timber houses result from this. From figure 6 can be concluded that the inside and outside surface temperature is rather constant so dust patterns will be non-existent. Fig. 7 Water content in 10 years of materials in cross-section of figure 2 over insulation (without vapour barrier). Within one year a balance is attained in all materials. 2.6 Accumulated water contents in different materials In continuation of qualitative calculations also a quantitative analyse is made using a computer programme that processes non-stationary heat flow and moisture transfer, called WUFI: Wärme- und Feuchtetransports Instationär [7]. WUFI can calculate a one-dimensional section incorporating different phenomena in transferring heat, vapour and liquid moisture. Phenomena regarding the flow of heat that are taken into account are: - heat conduction; - vapour diffusion; - short wave-sunray; - long wave-radiation. The phenomenon to process vapour transmission is: - vapour diffusion. And the phenomenon to process moisture transmission is: - capillary transmission. These phenomena are elaborated by assigning properties to materials, such as density, porosity, heat capacity, capillary action, heat conduction, and also relations of heat conduction/ water contents, diffusion resistance/relative humidity, water contents/relative humidity. These required material properties are mostly found in a library that goes with the programme. WUFI also provides a library of climatic changes throughout one year (in Germany) regarding outside temperature, relative humidity, daily rainfall, daily sunray et cetera. To start initial properties are set, such as interior temperature and humidity, emission of heat radiation, absorption of sunray and coefficient of rainfall absorption. In [3] all specific data can be found regarding graphs presented in this paper. The accumulation of moisture is calculated in two sections using 10 equal yearly periods generating water content/time-graphs for each material in a section. A calculation over insulation (figure 7) is made as well as over the stud (figure 8). The two are also calculated with a polyethylene vapour barrier behind gypsum fibreboard. Since all graphs with vapour barrier are indistinguishable from graphs without vapour barrier, only the graphs in figure 7 and 8 are represented in the paper. All graphs calculated with WUFI set the same picture of materials that quickly find a balanced water content. Since there is no progressive accumulation of moisture, evaluation is restricted to assess the maximum value of each graph. 1005

6 3. Conclusions and recommendations A vapour barrier is not required in newly developed walls (when adding insulation at the outside face of studs). Building physics calculation confirm the validity, however laboratory tests are still required to endorse this. Adding a vapour barrier in the performed calculations barely influences the results. Graphs of accumulated water content show no difference in sections with or without vapour barrier. The brick wall in figure 7 and 8 confirms observations in the Glaser-diagrams of figure 3, 4 and 5. This brick wall is getting rather wet in winter and is drying up in summer. The graph does not show moisture accumulation in 10 years. The values are normal for an outside layer acting as moisture screen. The stud reaches a maximum value of about 70 kg/m 3. In fir moisture contents must not exceed 86 kg/m 3 (21%) to prevent fungous decay. Adding a vapour barrier is no improvement because than a maximum value of 68 kg/m 3 is found. Since it takes several years for the fir stud to attain a balance one also can conclude that the stud is hardly affected by condensation. The water content of hardboard increases up to 85 kg/m 3 This is close to the critical value. If hardboard dries up quickly after reaching this value the maximum might be acceptable, but more research must prove this. And adding a vapour barrier doesn t help since this didn t change the water content. All other materials show a slight difference in water content in all calculations, without any risk regarding moisture. Fig. 8 Water content over fir stud (without vapour barrier). It may be worthwhile studying the principle (adding insulation in the cavity to create a more solid moisture behaviour) related to traditional timber frame construction. Since requirements for heat flow will increase in near future the thickness of insulation will extent to about mm. From structural point of view there is no need to increase dimensions of studs of 48x98 mm 2. Therefore it might be worthwhile to consider a continue insulation layer at the outside face of studs to get a system that is also solid in a reversed summer-situation. However this paper does not handle details regarding traditional timber frame construction so specific research is absolute required. 3.1 References [1] Moonen S.P.G., Integral building concept using sandwich panels, 5 th World Conference on Timber Engineering, Vol.1, Montreux, Switzerland, August 1998, pp [2] Moonen, S.P.G., Fiege, M.A., New method for timber-frame houses, 6 th World Conference on Timber Engineering, Whistler, Canada, 31 July-3 August 2000, pp [3] Moonen, S.P.G., Tan, M.N., Moisture resistance of an experimental wall panel, intern report in Dutch TUE/CCO/00-14, pp. 36. [4] Moonen, S.P.G., Tan, M.N., Extremely light and solid wall panels, 7 th World Conference on Timber Engineering, vol. 2, Shah Alam, Malaysia, August 2002, pp [5] Moonen S.P.G., Wall panels for industrialized housing, ISEC-02 Second International Structural Engineering and Construction Conference, Vol 1, Rome, Italy, pp [6] Moonen S.P.G., Industrialized wall panels for house-building, 8 th World Conference on Timber Engineering, Lahti, Finland, June [7] Künzel H.M., Verfahren zur ein- und zweidimensionalen Berechnung des gekoppelten Wärme- und Feuchtetransports in Bauteilen mit einfachen Kennwerten, thesis University of Stuttgart, Germany, 1994.

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