The Breathing Wall Mass Timber Research Project is part of a wider research project to investigate a more responsible building system, reducing environmental impact and energy usage through holistic design. Modern day building practices tend to abstract systems and materials into discrete categories—separating the building envelope (interior/exterior barrier) from ventilation systems, materials from energy costs. As a result, the embodied energy costs, from mining to manufacturing to shipping, are overlooked, and building systems don’t necessarily work well together.
The team is challenged to integrate these concerns into a comprehensive system. Their research into Breathing Walls, in partnership with McGill University, marries enclosure to ventilation, yielding more moderate everyday energy usage. Using mass timber—a local and renewable resource—they will reduce embodied energy costs as it allows for the enclosure to function as structure, insulation, and finish. By reducing both everyday energy usage and the embodied energy of the materials and construction processes, they hope to contribute to the conversation about how holistic design can minimize a building’s environmental impact.