The "Dean of North American Building Science" thinks there is much that Europeans can learn from Americans about home building, and vice versa.
Joseph Lstiburek, Ph.D., P.Eng., ASHRAE Fellow, Principal, Building Science Corporation won the NAHB Global Innovation Award for Research and Global at the 2022 International Builders' Show.
Although Lstiburek's work is centered in the United States and Canada, his reputation as the "Dean of North American Building Science" has led to projects all over the world.
Lstiburek said many Europeans haven’t learned relevant lessons that would help them combat their own issues with stucco, air conditioning and frame buildings.
"The difference that the Europeans didn’t understand was that they built out of masonry – three to four layers of brick, and stucco on the outside," he said. "Their stucco leaks, and the water gets reabsorbed into the brick. It is safely stored until it dries.
"With the transition to wood frame and insulation, things get wet that shouldn’t get wet, and stay wet longer," he said. "The U.S. invented air conditioning; the Europeans are just figuring air conditioning out. They are learning the hard way that air conditioning draws water to the inside, since the moisture flow is from warm to cold."
However, when it comes to retrofitting and rehabbing, Lstiburek said that Americans have a lot to learn from other countries. "The Brits and the Quebecois know more about old buildings than anybody else," he said, due to the number of older, historic homes in their inventory.
Lstiburek attributes the United States' relative success with building science to its climate diversity and mix of buildings. "We have everything from Fairbanks, Alaska to Miami, Florida – hot and humid to arctic and even sub arctic," he said. "Because we have everything, we’ve had to learn fast and that’s what makes America so special."