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    Credit: Eli Meir Kaplan


The age of one-off product development may be nearing an end. By 2020 we will see more integrated systems, especially those relating to building enclosures. Product assemblies that combine integrated components designed to work together to optimally manage heat and moisture flows and maintain good air quality will become increasingly available. These will likely carry warranties, as we’re already seeing in the commercial building market with some products, such as Tremco, which offers guaranteed water and air barrier performance on an integrated suite of moisture and energy management products for building assemblies.

By 2020 seat-of-the-pants design of building assemblies will be replaced by robust hygrothermal (moisture and thermal) analysis. This will be driven by liability concerns and publicity about premature building failures. The tool most likely to fill this need is a German modeling program called WUFI (Wärme und Feuchte instationär or “transient heat and moisture”).

While WUFI is a complex tool whose use will likely remain beyond the scope of many, if not most, building practitioners, it should not be beyond the reach of the technical and engineering staff of leading building product manufacturers.

We predict that by 2020 the leading manufacturers of building assembly products and systems will offer WUFI analysis for projects that are being designed with those manufacturers’ products.

Such work will be enhanced by a materials database being compiled in the United States through Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Manufacturers can submit hygrothermal performance data of their proprietary products, and that growing database is becoming a tremendous resource that by 2020 should be fully fleshed out.

And just as a systems approach will improve the products we use, efforts to control performance and costs will drive innovation in modular and panelized housing, perhaps finally challenging the dominance of stick-built, one-off, single-family homes. By 2020 look for significant optimization through integration of systems and material efficiencies. Properly approached, these areas hold tremendous growth opportunities for building product manufacturers.


And finally, one of the most important emerging forces driving change in our industry is signaled by the increasing frequency and intensity of storms and flooding, incidents of widespread wildfires, and more persistent droughts that all point to the need for increasing our resilience—defined as an ability to bounce back following a disturbance or interruption of power and/or services.

Power outages, in particular, are a looming concern. Few people realize that the vast majority of our power production (89%) is dependent on adequate water for cooling thermoelectric power plants; during the extended power outages of the future, we may see episodes where large numbers of power plants shut down for lack of cooling water during times of peak cooling demand.

Adapting to the realities of climate change will become increasingly important by the year 2020 as these trends continue. Resilient design offers a way not only to ensure safer homes and communities but, in so doing, also an important way to mitigate climate change by dramatically reducing energy consumption.

By 2020 resilience will not only be on the way to becoming common practice in home building, it will also begin appearing in residential building codes. Visionary builders will begin incorporating resilient design practices into their work, and innovative manufacturers will look for opportunities to introduce products reflecting this feature—from finish materials that can be flooded and dried out without growing mold to foundation insulation materials impervious to Formosan termites migrating north to toilets that can function without water.