Building Envelope Characteristics in Cold Climates

Lyle Axelarris, Aaron Cooke, Craig Fredeen, Robbin Garber-Slaght, Emmett Leffel, Lorne Ricketts, William Rose, John Zarling, Alexander Zhivov

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

3 Scopus Citations


Prescriptive guidelines for thermal insulation in the design of buildings in cold climates have traditionally been derived by a holistic consideration of climatic factors, energy policy, environmental policy, and economics. The differences in thermal barrier requirements in buildings across the arctic and subarctic regions of the world are influenced as much by the differing priorities of the governing bodies that set these requirements as by actual physical demands and conditions. Usually, national requirements for building envelope characteristics such as thermal insulation values, building envelope air tightness, vapor permeability, building mass, and detailing are based on economics, durability, and environmental considerations. Consideration of thermal energy system resilience provides a new paradigm through which to view the optimization of these parameters. The paper describes specifics of construction in cold climates; summarizes best practice requirements for the building envelope characteristics for buildings located in cold and arctic climate of the United States, Canada, and Scandinavian countries; provides some details illustrating how to implement these requirements; and compares the effects of different levels of building envelope efficiency and building mass on indoor air temperature decay when heat supply is interrupted. The paper also presents results from experts' discussions during the consultation forum “Thermal Energy Systems Resilience in Cold/Arctic Climates” (ERDC 2020) and research conducted under the IEA EBC Annex 73, the Environmental Security Technology Certification Program (ESTCP) Project “Technologies Integration to Achieve Resilient, Low-Energy Military Installations,” and U.S. Army Program project 633734T1500 under Military Engineering Technology Demonstration. The paper complements the Cold-Climate Design Guide (ASHRAE 2015) with a focus on the resilience of thermal energy systems.

Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages18
StatePublished - 2021
Event2021 ASHRAE Virtual Annual Conference, ASHRAE 2021 - Virtual, Online
Duration: 28 Jun 202130 Jun 2021


Conference2021 ASHRAE Virtual Annual Conference, ASHRAE 2021
CityVirtual, Online

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 ASHRAE.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/CP-5600-80327


  • Arctic
  • building science
  • walls


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