Basic BS: Physics eventually defeats Chemistry

Icyclene Foam Insulation and Plastic-lined Ducting

A recent story on national TV news pointed out that fires spread much more rapidly in newer than in older homes.  Building materials like OSB (Oriented Strand Board) roof, wall and floor panels burn more quickly than solid wood.  Hydrocarbon based products, in general, degrade more quickly than inert materials.  They burn faster and create more toxic gas.

Newer materials degrade faster when exposed to heat, ultraviolet light and moisture.  A friend who trained and worked with me inspecting homes commented that new homes started degrading before the sale had closed.

Certainly there are many benefits to using newer materials.  The photo shows icycylene foam applied to the underside of rafters.  The foam forms an airtight, insulated boundary between the attic and roof.  Ducting no longer subject to energy loss due to a hot or cold attic. 

Phelan Building Destroyed by 1906 San Francisco fire

I’ve learned through experience and study that “Physics Eventually Defeats Chemistry”.  Forces of nature:  heat, moisture, ultraviolet light, and pressure, overcome the chemically produced materials.  The hotter something is the faster it’s molecules move leading to disruption of the molecular bonds.  The more a material is subject to physical forces the greater the potential for damage.

We’re not likely to return to building with inert materials.  Stone houses last longer but present a different set of cost and comfort issues.  Sometimes chemical reactions (fire) destroy buildings.  What we can do is build smarter, better and with a greater understanding of how buildings work. 

Get educated:  Learn some good BS (Building Science)



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