The building envelope—the complex framework of materials that serves as the exterior and interior walls—is arguably the most important part of a structure. If the envelope is engineered and constructed properly, it will have a “tight” building envelope—one that is structurally sound, fire-resistant, energy-efficient, and quiet. Without a tight envelope, the building is doomed to a life of poor performance, experts warn.

“There's an emphasis on durability, so people are looking at making the building envelope very tight,” explains Barry Reid, product development marketing manager for Georgia Pacific. “You achieve this by thinking of the building as a system and using multiple layers of products.”

Apartment and condo developers and owners should always think about the four Ss of building envelopes: sound, safety, savings, and smell.

  • Sound: Noise is the No. 1 gripe of multifamily residents. Between the loud music and the occasional argument next door, peace and privacy can be hard to come by in an apartment or condo. The right mix of building materials can reduce noise.
  • Safety: From rain and wind to snow and ice, a building needs to be able to withstand the elements, keeping its residents safe and secure. And, buildings must be designed to protect residents from a variety of fire dangers, from a lightning strike to a neighbor who leaves candles burning near curtains.
  • Savings: Buildings that save energy end up saving money for both owners and residents. Installing the right heating and cooling system isn't the only way to achieve energy efficiency. A tight building envelope, built with the right kind of insulation, can keep cool air in and hot air out during the summer and will have the opposite effect in winter.
  • Smell: Good air quality that has just the right amount of humidity ensures a more comfortable environment for residents. Too much moisture can cause mold, which irritates residents and can damage the structure.

    SUPER TAPE: Used for decades in Europe, 3M's acrylic foam adhesive 3M VHB Structural Glazing Tape is now available in the United States. The tape, which is used for exterior curtain wall glazing, serves as both the adhesive and a secondary weather sealant, reducing waste and cleanup at the application site. It is an alternative to structural silicone for glazing and requires no curing time. For more information, call 3M at 888-364-3577 or visit drywall to building wraps, Reid says, the right mix of building materials can make the difference between a building that is quiet, saves money on electricity, and provides top-notch air quality and one that allows in moisture, wind, and noise.

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