Boston Zoning & Tax Assessor Information

Here are a few important links for doing projects in Boston and the Boston wards:

Tax Assessors Database:

Zoning Map Viewer (GIS)

Boston Zoning Code:

Wind Speed to Pressure (PSF)

Building code lists wind speed in MPH (Miles Per Hour). Oddly enough, building code also requires pressure (in PSF, Pounds per Square Foot) to determine wind loads on various building elements. Now, as an architect in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, we have some tremendous wind speeds, especially in our coastal areas. It’s not very useful, for an architect at least, to not have a handy conversion from MPH to PSF. But now you can.

rhode island architects need a wind speed map

Convert wind speed in miles per hour (MPH) to pounds per square foot of load (PSF) with these handy charts

And, even convert from PSF to N/m2 here:

Now, you can get on like a good coastal home architect and not worry that the lateral loads on your building haven’t been considered. Of course, you’ll still have to do the math to make sure you’ve prepared for the next hurricane that will visit the east coast or New England region. Best of luck with your wind speed! Note that you need these conversions for both residential and commercial buildings, and it’s a good check even if your structural engineer has calculated this for you. Building code is specific about increases in pressures and wind speed as well, depending on the area of the building (for example, the middle of the wall has a different pressure than the wall corner, roof edge, etc). Check the IBC, chapter 16.

coastal home architect in MA and RI designing hurricane proof homes

Duxxback – exterior decking that has built in gutters

Seems to always happen that someone wants to put a walkable deck above some enclosed space. Of course, this really does not work, roofing membranes aren’t meant to be walked on, and various ways of making a walkable roof are simply very expensive and probably will leak sooner rather than later. Duxxback is a plastic decking product (kinda like trex) that has a built in gutter, so water does not go through, it goes off the edge.

High performing wall, foundation and roof systems

Building Science has some amazing resources on how to design high r value wall, foundation and roof assemblies. Look under “popular topics”.

Building Science Corporation provides objective, high-quality information about commercial and residential buildings. The resources available here combine building physics, systems design concepts, and an awareness of sustainability to promote the design and construction of buildings that are more durable, healthier, more sustainable and more economical than most buildings built today.

Huber Zip System – insulated structural sheathing

I’m kinda in love with the Huber Zip System – it’s insulation bonded to OSB sheathing, with an added weather barrier face as a bonus. It solves the problem of requiring continuous exterior insulation AND having something you can nail stuff to – like windows, siding, trim…without requiring any fancy nailer details.




Golden Section

A nifty calculator for the golden section

Providence RI architectural firm designs beautiful modern houses


I think we architects often get confused when it comes to roof issues – IE: how to safely access a roof, and how building code applies to maintenance access to roofs. (This does not apply to promenades or roof decks that are accessible to the public.)

Building code does not really cover rooftop issues. They leave it up to OSHA.

OSHA considers it a working area. This means that the building owner needs to work with their maintenance staff to develop a safe work plan for any work on the roof. Conversely, they can leave it up to individual contractors to provide safe access to the roof during maintenance activities. Obviously, that could create liability issues for the building owner.


1) A tall building might require regular window washing. Thusly  workers need to often go to the roof, and over the edge to wash the windows. The building owner would then want to provide safe access to the roof (via a stair or alternating tread device, check the building code for that…), provide fall protection on the roof, and provide a davit system for window washing equipment. In this case, the architect should be involved to provide the fall protection.

2) A new church has a very steep roof and steeple. Usually, no one goes to the roof. After many years, the roof wears out and needs to be replaced. The building owner has provided no access to the roof (none is required per building code) and no fall protection on the roof. Then, the roofing contractor needs to provide safe working for the roofing workers. In this case, the architect would not provide anything.

Here’s an OSHA booklet on stairs and ladders:

Here’s the massive OSHA guide on fall protection:

here is the OSHA guide on fall protection:

Things you need to watch out for:

– fall protection when a worker may need to go closer than 6′ to a roof edge

– varying roof heights a worker may need to cross – greater than 19″ high

– window washing

– safely accessing roofs with ladders (either fixed or not)


I personally enjoyed the enlightening presentation given to us by Barnes & Cone the other day on the thermal performance of CMU walls. I wanted to post up some of the illuminating web links for future use.

National Concrete Masonry Association (NCMA): Thermal Catalog of Concrete Masonry Assemblies

NCMA TEK guides: TEK from Barnes and Cone

NY Energy Code: 2010 Energy Conservation Construction Code of New York State

COMcheck: Commercial Compliance Using COMcheck

Masonry fire, energy and sound calculator: Fire Energy and Sound Calculator

Now, I know you’ve been waiting for the punchline. So here it is. Even more awesome masonry links you can use when designing efficient masonry buildings:

Oak Ridge National Laboratory Thermal Mass Calculator: ORNL Thermal Mass Calc

ASHRAE / ANSI / IESNA standard 90.1: ASHRAE 90.1

Movement and expansion joints in brickwork: Big joints

DOW’s Sealant joint width and design: DOW sealant joint design

Masonry Institute of Washington: Masonry Details Deluxe

Now don’t you feel good?


I know you wake up in the night, cold sweats, wondering what the differences between the IBC and NFPA 101 are. Never fear, this guide, by our friendly friends at the VA, will guide you through the differences.

Be aware that it’s referencing the 2006 IBC and 2006 NFPA 101, so you will need to read your specific portion of the 2010 BCNYS and flavor of the day of NFPA 101.

Thermal Bridging – designing structurally and energy efficient buildings

Thermal bridging – having uninsulated or thermally inefficient elements in your building’s structure – can kill the insulation value of your building. These problems are often found at the foundation/wall intersection, at the parapet/wall/roof detail & at any structural projection in the building (balcony, overhang, cantilever, brick ledge, building offset, etc).

Here is a great article (along with thermal calculator tool) on this subject.

here is the spreadsheet / calculator / tool:

Another brief article by Jim D’Aloisio on this topic:

a U-value to R-value calculator:

Common u values of building materials:


Flat Roofing Types

An interesting, if somewhat tilted toward PVC, look at the 3 major types of flat roofing membranes:


Collar Ties vs. Rafter Ties

Collar ties and rafter ties are both horizontal roof-framing members, each with different purposes and requirements.

Massachusetts Building Code

Massachusetts Mass uses 2009 IBC International Building Code with the Mass edits. Here are the links:

2009 IBC:

Mass edits (version 8 currently)

Mass also uses their own flavor of accessibility requirements. They do not use ANSI A117. Probably also need to review with ADA

Mass ADA:

Federal ADA:


Designing a switchback stair isn’t easy, and aligning the treads is critical for getting the rail to wrap correctly. This site shows how it’s done:

Stair landing railing switchback Jonathan Ochshorn


Exposed batt insulation

Batt insulation may not be exposed, either in exposed or concealed areas. Specifically, it is the vapor barrier that may not be exposed – it is flammable.

There are several types of batt insulation with a low flame spread foil facing that can be exposed. Here are a few:

keynotes: insulation, fire, flame spread, flamespread25, batt insulation, vapor barrier, exposed insulation

Rhode Island Building Code

Rhode Island uses the straight 2012 IBC, with the Rhode Island edits.

The RI edits are here:

2012 IBC is here:

International Building Code


Building Code Resources

International Building Code (and all other International Codes…) Including the BCNYS Building Code of New York State

building code

NFPA – all National Fire Protection Association codes are online for free. Go to the website at:

and search for the code you are interested (for example NFPA 101 – Life Safety Code). Then, you will click through to the individual code. Part way down the page it will say:


Click  and log in. It will launch in a “real read” window (you probably have to install the real read plug-in). This is especially useful for the more obscure NFPA codes & standards such as NFPA 37 – Standard for the Installation and Use of Stationary Combustion Engines and Gas Tubines.


UL Documents. UL Fire Resistance Directory. The famous orange book is online.

Walls, Roofs, floors:

fire rated joint systems:,ccnshorttitle:asc&query=XHBNCCN+and+not+GUIDEINFO

Also, the UL fire resistance wizard!


ICC/ANSI A-117 – what we commonly call ADA or accessibility code. Note that this is NOT the ADA code (that is federal). They also have the new, updated 2009 version.


Federal ADA manual (not to be confused with ANSI A-117).


FM Global Roof Selection Tool.

RoofNav is a complimentary tool from FM Approvals that provides access to the most up-to-date FM Approved roofing products and assemblies.

Designed to help roofing professionals, RoofNav provides easy access to all roofing-related information from the FM Approvals – Approval Guide and related installation recommendations from relevant FM Global Property Loss Prevention Data Sheets.

roof nav

Masonry Fire Resistance Ratings. NCMA the National Concrete Masonry Association has published this short but very useful guide to the fire resistance of concrete masonry (blocks). Shows also how to detail fire rated joints in CMU.



And of course, the Gypsum Association Fire Resistance Design Manual. now 20th ed! (read only…)

Gypsum Association Fire Resistance Design Manual & Sound Control


Fireproofing systems:



Article about top of wall deflection and deflection track

this CSI article is a great discussion of the concerns regarding top of wall deflection and fire rating the top of wall deflection joint:

Fireproofing – thermally restrained vs unrestrained

ever wondered what UL is getting after when they say restrained versus unrestrained? read here:


Rigid insulation types

here’s a quick and dirty guide to different insulation types:


rigid insulation types

OSHA requirements for roof – maintenance acccess

Building code does not really cover rooftop issues. They leave it up to OSHA.

OSHA considers it a working area.

Here’s a booklet on stairs and ladders:

here’s one on fall protection:


Need to know the moment of inertia of a structural shape and compare it to other sizes? look here:

Steel tube, HSS info

TONS of literature on steel tubes, HSS, PIPE etc.

Hollow Structural Sections (HSS) Literature


Find the master list of CSI MasterFormat specifications (specs) sections here:

fire rated gyp board gypsum board walls gwb

… And you adore fire rated walls (including interior, movable partitions, exterior, shaft walls, ceilings, floors, roofs, beams…) made of gypsum board. Sometimes, these walls are sound-rated.

… and you do not adore digging through the orange UL book to find the UL system.

There is a FREE alternative – the Gypsum Association Fire Resistance Design Manual & Sound Control

This manual even cross-references UL, so you can quickly identify the UL system you may be looking for.

Thermal Barriers and Ignition Barriers Unconfused – spray foam insulation


  1. Thermal Barrier: 15-Minute, intumescent, water-based thermal barrier for brush, roller, or airless spray application over polyurethane foam insulation.  (Product: Subject to compliance with requirements provide DC315 by International Fireproof Technology, Inc

Thermal Barriers

Building codes require that foam plastic insulation, such as spray polyurethane foam (SPF), be covered with a thermal barrier to slow their involvement in fire situations. Thermal barriers are discussed in the International Building Code (IBC) in Section 2603 and in the International Residential Code (IRC) in Section R314.

½-inch thick gypsum board is one commonly used thermal barrier. It and other thermal barriers are designed to “limit the average temperature rise of the unexposed [foam plastic insulation] surface to no more than 250 oF (121 oC) after 15 minutes of fire exposure to the ASTM E 119 standard time temperature curve.” [IRC 2003, Section R314.1.2]

But, there are MANY exceptions to the thermal barrier requirement. For example:

  1. Building code authorities may approve coverings based on fire tests specific to the SPF application. For example, covering systems that successfully pass large scale tests (such as the small room corner test) may be approved by code authorities in lieu of a thermal barrier.
  2. SPF protected by a 25 mm (1-inch) thickness of masonry does not need a thermal barrier.
  3. Certain SPF roof covering systems do not require a thermal barrier between the SPF and the interior.

Ignition Barriers

Another exception to the thermal barrier requirement is in attics and crawl spaces where entry is made only for the service of utilities. In these cases, SPF must be protected from ignition by covering with 38 mm (1 1/2 inch) mineral fiber insulation, 6.4 mm (1/4 inch) wood structural panels, 9.5 mm (3/8 inch) gypsum board or other code prescribed material. These materials which offer protection from ignition are called “ignition barriers” (the building codes do not use the term “ignition barrier”; this term is a common vernacular used by the building trades to describe these and equivalent materials).

As with thermal barriers, code authorities may accept alternatives to the above prescribed based on fire tests specific to the SPF application.

In General

Materials which are not specifically prescribed by the building codes may be approved by building code authorities for use as a substitute or an exception to the requirement of a thermal barrier or ignition barrier when based on fire tests specific to the SPF application.

Just because a material is advertised as a “thermal barrier” or “ignition barrier” does not mean that it has been tested in conjunction with SPF and approved by a code agency or a local code official. Ask for test data and code body approvals, listings, or other written indications of acceptability under the code to be sure that the product selected offers the fire protection that the code demands.

For more information, refer to SPFA Document AY 126 Thermal Barriers for the Spray Polyurethane Foam Industry and API Document AX 230 Fire Safety Guidelines for Use of Rigid Polyurethane and Polyisocyanurate Foam Insulation in Building Construction.

fireproofing thermally restrained vs unrestrained

ever wondered what UL is getting after when they say restrained versus unrestrained? read here:

Building Envelope Program fact sheets and handbooks


These fact sheets and handbooks provide information about thermal barriers and energy conservation as related to the building envelope.  Additional handbooks will be added to this site upon completion.

view or download

Retrofit Best Practices Guide Retrofit Best Practices Guide Learn how to improve the energy efficiency of your home whenever you change your siding or replace your windows. Also find tips for other energy-saving opportunities in your attic or basement.
HTML Not Available PDF – 1.3 MB
Insulation Fact Sheet Insulation Fact Sheet Find the recommended insulation values for a new or existing home, and learn how to buy and install insulation.
Attic Radiant Barrier Fact Sheet Attic Radiant Barrier Fact Sheet Learn how radiant barriers can help reduce air conditioning loads and indoor heat loss.
HTML PDF Not Available


  Builder’s Foundation Handbook Contains construction details and critical design information to aid in the design and installation of energy efficient basement, crawl space, and slab-on-grade foundations.
HTML Not Available PDF – 1.9 MB


  Moisture Control Handbook Learn strategies for controlling moisture in building envelopes in order to minimize the risk of moisture problems in your building.
HTML Not Available PDF – 18.2 MB


Practical guidelines for the construction of residential attics and their efficient operation.
HTML Not Available PDF Not Available


Radiation Control
Fact Sheet
Learn about solar radiation control for low-slope roofs on commercial buildings and estimate annual energy cost savings with it for your situation.
HTML PDF Not Available


Radiation Control Calculator

Radiation Control Calculator   (Requires Java-enabled browser)
Estimate annual energy cost savings from the use of solar radiation control on low-slope roofs for commercial buildings.

Estimate annual energy cost savings from the use of solar radiation control on steep-slope roofs for residential buildings.

First-time users are encouraged to visit the Solar Radiation Control Fact Sheet first for essential background on use of the estimating tool.

ZIP-Code Insulation Program

The ZIP-Code Insulation Program will tell you the most economic insulation level for your new or existing house. To produce your insulation recommendations

Thermal Mass Calculator

The New Thermal Mass Calculator As A Part Of The ORNL Material Database For Whole Building Energy Simulations

The new Thermal Mass calculator is a part of the newly developed Interactive Envelope Materials Database for Whole-Building Energy Simulation Programs. It offers many new advancements including the capability of calculations for complex residential buildings (ten different climate scenarios, four types of base wall technologies, energy savings information, etc.).  The new material database will provide a direct link between existing hotbox testing results, advanced three-dimensional heat transfer simulations, and whole building energy analysis. Only hotbox tested wall systems will be represented in this new database.

ORNL Whole Wall R-value Calculator

New Whole Wall R-value Calculators As A Part Of The ORNL Material Database For Whole Building Energy Simulations

These calculators are replacing the old Whole Wall Thermal Performance calculator. These new versions of the calculator contain many new features and are part of the newly developed Interactive Envelope Materials Database for Whole-Building Energy Simulation Programs.

The simple version of the Whole Wall R-value calculator is now available
for use. This calculator is similar to the previous Whole Wall Thermal
Performance calculator and does not require any downloads from the user.
However, it was updated to allow calculations for fourteen wall details
instead of nine. It simply runs over the Internet. Use this calculator for
whole wall R-value calculations and for direct comparisons of different
wall technologies. This calculator uses a residential building containing a
rectangle slab-on-grade foundation with one floor containing a set amount
of windows and doors. A link is available for detailed specifications of
the example building.

Moisture Control in Low-Slope Roofing:

This calculator performs the calculations described in Moisture Control in Low-Slope Roofing: A New Design Requirement. This calculator allows the roofing practitioner to determine if a roofing system design requires a vapor retarder or if the system can be modified to enhance its tolerance for small leaks. To use the calculator, simply supply the following information and click on the “Check Roof” button at the bottom of the form.

Insulation calculator at steel studs

So you want to calculate an accurate R-value in a steel stud wall. Use this calcultor:


The Modified Zone Method was developed in 1994 by Dr. Jan Kosny as a part of the NAHB/ORNL project. It was designed to help in calculations of clear-wall R-values for light-gage steel-framed walls with insulated
cavities containing 2×4 and 2×6 C-shape steel studs with solid webs. The Modified Zone Method is recommended for R-value calculations in steel stud walls by the 1997 ASHRAE Handbook of Fundamentals [ASHRAE 1997].

The Modified Zone Method is similar to the Parallel Path Method and the ASHRAE Zone Method. All three methods are based on parallel-path calculations – the difference being how the metal stud thermal bridge zone of influence (w in the figure below) is estimated. In the Parallel Path Method w is assumed to be equal to the length of the stud flange – L. In the ASHRAE Zone Method w is assumed to be equal to the length of stud flange plus twice the total thickness of all finish material layers on the thicker side (can be exterior or interior). In the Modified Zone Method w is determined by the equation

w = L + zf * (total thickness of all finish material layers on thicker side)

where zf is dependent on the ratio between thermal resistivity of finish material and cavity insulation, size (depth) of stud, and thickness of finish material layers.

The accuracy of the Modified Zone Method was verified by detailed finite-difference computer modeling of over 200 metal frame walls with insulated cavities [Kosny 1995]. The Modified Zone Method results were within +/- 2 percent of the detailed computer modeling results for all cases.For six 3.5 and 6-in. stud steel-framed wall assemblies tested by ORNL R-values calculated by the Modified Zone Method were compared with values calculated with most popular calculation methods. The Modified Zone Method gave the most accurate R-value predictions. In addition, R-value results for 15 metal stud walls tested by Holometrix [Barbour 1994] and Modified Zone Method calculations [Kosny 1995, ASHRAE Research Project 785-TRP-1996] differ by an average of 6.5 percent. This technique was found to be the simplest and most accurate R-value calculation method for calculating clear-wall R-values for light-gage steel stud walls with insulated cavities.To estimate the R-value for a steel-stud wall using the Modified Zone Method fill out the form below. If you want to examine an option that is not available in the predefined lists in this form there is another version of this form that allows you to enter your own dimensions and resistivity values.


ASHRAE / ANSI / IESNA standard 90.1 is online at

Energy Standard for Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings

Here is an explanation of what 90.1 means when insulating metal buildings table A2.3 and table A3.2

Incentives for clean energy

If you are intersted in getting tax rebates, or money for installing solar or utility rebates – green power, LEED, Check out this website that covers all federal and state incentive programs, tax breaks, loans, etc.

Calculate output of rooftop solar array

Use this nifty widget to calculate the output of a conventional solar array

Resilient Channel

One of the most cost-effective acoustical products for improving the sound transmission loss of a wall or floor/ceiling system is the resilient channel. Resilient channels are commonly used in multi-family housing projects, especially projects with wood frame construction, but they can be used in any application where sound transmission is a concern. Most resilient channels are ½” thick and have a cross-section shape similar to ½ of a hat channel, with only one leg attached to the supporting structure and the other edge floating freely. They are typically constructed from 25-gauge sheet steel, and they contain holes in the web of the channel to provide flexibility. The fundamental purpose of the resilient channel is to provide a means for attaching gypsum board to the supporting structure without actually permitting the gypsum board to directly contact the supporting structure. It is the de-coupling of the gypsum board from the framing that provides the improved sound transmission loss.

ICC codes site

Great site for ICC Codes


NY state Building Code

Legacy Codes

International Building Code
International Residential Code for One- and Two-Family Dwellings
International Existing Building Code
International Fire Code
International Plumbing Code
International Mechanical Code
International Fuel Gas Code
International Energy Conservation Code
International Property Maintenance Code
International Zoning Code
ICC Performance Code for Buildings and Facilities
International Wildland-Urban Interface Code
International Private Sewage Disposal Code
ICC Electrical Administrative Provisions
International One- and Two-Family Dwelling Code
International Model Energy Code


Concrete Footing Fundamentals

Under every house is a foundation, and under most foundations are footings. Most of the time we take footings for granted, and usually we can: For typical soils, a common 16- or 20-inch-wide footing can more than handle the relatively light weight of an ordinary house.

Footings Introduction
Why Soils Matter
Footing Dimensions
Fixes for Misplaced Footings
Spanning over a Soft Spot
Water in the Excavation
Changes in Elevation

Porcelain or Ceramic: What Is the Difference?

One of the things we are frequently asked about when helping clients select flooring materials for kitchens and baths is the difference between porcelain and ceramic tile.

Read here:

door hardware finishes

General Information

There are many common finishes found on builder’s hardware manufactured in the United States. In prior years the letters US typically preceded the older hardware finish designations. Many finish designations currently use the more popular BHMA number equivalent. In the chart below the first column indicates the BHMA number, the second column the old US standard number, and the third column indicates the finish and base metal to which the finish is applied. Base metal differences may cause some finishes with the same name to appear slightly different.

Anodized Finishes
The three (3) common anodized finishes which are designated for aluminum storefront are: 628 (aluminum), 335 (black), and 313 (duranodic dark bronze).

BHMA Old US Finish / Base Metal
600 USP Primed for painting – steel
602 US2C Cadmium on steel
603 US2G Zinc on steel
604 Zinc dichromate on steel
605 US3 Bright brass on brass
606 US4 Satin brass on brass
609 US5 Satin brass blackened (antique) on brass
610 US7 Satin brass blackened (bright) on brass
611 US9 Bright bronze on bronze
612 US10 Satin bronze on bronze
613 US10B Oil rubbed bronze on bronze
616 US11 Satin bronze blackened on bronze
618 US14 Bright nickel on brass or bronze
619 US15 Satin nickel on brass or bronze
622 US19 Flat black coated on brass or bronze
623 US20 Oxidized bright bronze on bronze
624 US20A Dark bronze (statuary) on brass or bronze
625 US26 Bright chromium on brass or bronze
626 US26D Satin chromium on brass or bronze
627 US27 Satin aluminum-aluminum
628 US28 Satin aluminum (anodized) – aluminum
629 US32 Bright stainless steel-stainless steel
630 US32D Satin stainless steel-stainless steel
631 US19 Flat black coated steel
632 US3 Bright brass plated steel
633 US4 Satin brass plated, clear coated
637 US9 Bright bronze plated steel
639 US10 Satin bronze plated steel
640 US10B Oil rubbed bronze plated steel
645 US14 Bright nickel-plated steel
646 US15 Satin nickel-plated steel
651 US26 Bright chromium plated steel
652 US26D Satin chromium plated steel
666 US3 Bright brass plated aluminum
667 US4 Satin brass plated aluminum
668 US10 Satin bronze plated aluminum
669 US14 Bright nickel-plated aluminum
677 US3 Bright brass plated zinc
678 US4 Satin brass plated zinc
680 US10 Satin bronze plated zinc
682 US26D Satin chromium plated zinc
684 Black chromium on brass or bronze
688 US4 Satin gold anodized aluminum
689 US28 Aluminum painted on any material
690 US20 Dark bronze painted on any material
691 US10 Light bronze painted on any material
692 Tan painted on any material
693 Black painted on any material
694 Medium bronze painted on any material
695 Dark bronze painted on any material
696 US4 Satin brass painted on any material

article about top of wall deflection and deflection track

this CSI article is a great discussion of the concerns regarding top of wall deflection and fire rating the top of wall deflection joint:

Where is safety glass required?

Safety glass or glazing is required by building code at certain locations. The IBC is a bit difficult to understand, sometimes a picture is worth a thousand…code references. See this handy pdf for the required locations:

Movement and expansion joints in brickwork

good tech note on locating expansion, movement & control joints in brick and masonry walls.

PPG glass calculator

Great online calculator from PPG that allows you to test different glass and coating options to see what your glass assembly will get you for U value, SHGC (Solar Heat Gain Coefficient), Shading Coefficient (SC) etc.

PPG glass Configurator

PPG Energy Modeling of Architectural Glazings

PPG Thermal Stress Analysis Tool

Building Information and Modeling (BIM)

Building Information files for PPG Architectural Glass Products are available for download as Revit(®) Architecture files on and Reed Construction/SmartBIM.

Sealant joint width and design

Here are some guidelines from DOW regarding sealant joint design, and the width of joints:

dow building envelope weatherproofing manual

dri design wall panels

These metal wall panels install very quickly and lock together to form a dry joint system. The system works to take water away from the wall with gutters – there is no sealant to fail. It installs simply to plywood backer or to girts and can be used in any size building. It comes in many different natural metals or painted (kynar). They also have a cool system to punch the panels to form pictures, or they can do perforated or even add materials to the face of it. They have different depth panels, and can do custom colors fairly affordably. It is not really a rain screen system, but is pressure equalized – I suppose it does operate as a rain screen system, but is designed such that VERY little water gets behind it.

No picture yet, but visit their website.

Details for wood framed construction & engineered wood’s newly redesigned website features more than 200 CAD details from APA – The Engineered Wood Association’s most popular publications. (New details are added regularly, so check back soon for the latest CAD designs.) Sorted by product and construction category, CAD (computer-aided design) designs are available in four different formats — DWG, DWF, DXF and PDF — that can be quickly downloaded and inserted into your building plans


OK, here are a couple more cool excel files / calculators that I made:

1) it’s an average R-value insulation calculator, for roofs with tapered insulation. Really good for getting the minimum insulation, but still meeting energy code:


2) Just a conversion chart for feet to inches / fractions of an inch, but also shows what feet/inches are in decimal. Cool for figuring out what the civil engineer or surveyor means when they do feet in decimal:


Weight of sheet metal

Here’s a handy chart to convert the thickness of steel or aluminum sheet metal to the weight per square foot:

common errors and omissions – ADA

download the federal ADA common errors file here:

Lock Function Chart

Ever wondered the difference between passage, classroom, storeroom, etc? Now there is a handy lock function chart, to help you. Lock locks, entry



Here’s another handy chart from Rigidized Metals – showing sheet metal thicknesses, and also some information on textured metal sheets. Cool.


metal z clips and hat channels and roll formed metal

found a couple of good sites for z clips to hang wall panels with:

and a company that makes many many roll formed metal channels including hat channels U channels, H channels, etc.

CAD blocks – objects and fasteners

McMaster-Carr has many CAD blocks (2d and 3d) of their products. This is useful for fasteners, screws, bolts, washers and other building products.

Temperature, Relative Humidity, the Psychometric Chart, and you

Here’s a psychometric chart, a page describing how to use it. Now, you can calculate where the water vapor will condense in your wall assembly.


how to use psychometric chart.pdf

A good calculator can be found at:

find weather data at: (choose Monthly Weather Summary)

Thermal Expansion Calculator

Maybe you are working on detailing your building, and wonder how much the materials will move based on thermal expansion. This little spreadsheet does some of the work for you, calculating the amount of thermal expansion based on inputted nominal length and expected temperature change.


Masonry Details

The Masonry Institute of Washington has put together a great site for…masonry details.

“This website is intended to provide quality masonry construction details. The development of this site is an outgrowth of many requests from the design community for quality details that are constructable using the best building material available, masonry! Details found on this website may be available from other sources, however, all of the details on this website have been reviewed and endorsed by mason contractors. This site’s goal is to be an ever-expanding resource for quality construction details to aid design and construction professionals in the completion of construction documents.”


keywords: masonry, brick, block, CMU, cavity wall, veneer.

Big generators

So, today I’m doing a very big diesel generator plant, as standby power for a hospital. I’m required to put in day tanks, to have 2 hours of run time for each of the generators. Each generator uses 150 gallons an hour, and so, for the 4 generators, I need 4 tanks, each 300 gallons or larger.

This means that I need 1200 gallons of fuel (actually, #2 fuel oil, which is a “combustible liquid” under the code) inside my building.

Reading the IBC, Table 307.1(1), I realize, that even with sprinklers, I am only allowed 480 gallons per control area (120 x 2 x 2) but note i tells me that I can only have 660 gallons total inside of the building.

What gives?

Based on a phone call for code interpretation, note i is an “exception” rather than a rule. IE: it’s supposed to show you that if you have more than 660 gallons, you are required to rate the room that the fuel is in.  (I believe that the implication is that you can have 660 gallons in a control area, and keep it as base occupancy, but I haven’t gotten confirmation on this & my AHJ disagreed with me.)

The jury is out as to if this also means that the fuel room becomes an H3 occupancy or not. (In my case, the AHJ required that it be H3).

Code commentary points you to NFPA 31, which covers oil burning equipment, however, this is not correct for generators, as they do not “burn” oil per-se, but rather you use NFPA 37 – which is for Stationary Combustion Engines.

NFPA 101 – Life Safety Code points you towards NFPA 30, which limits you to 480 gal, like the IBC. However, NFPA 30 in 1.5.4(7) indicates that compliance with NFPA 30 or 37 is deemed equivelent with compliance with NFPA 30.

NFPA 37 allows 1320 gallons in a 1 hour rated room.

free NFPA code access

Perhaps you’ve come across some obscure need to read a dark and gloomy section of the NFPA code, and don’t want to shell out the cash to buy it just to read a bit. Never fear. The good hearted folks at NFPA allow free read only access to many of the NFPA code sections (including NFPA 101 the Life Safety Code, and NFPA 5000 Building Construction and Safety Code)

Just go to and search for the code you want to read. Then, at the bottom, click on “View the…” You’ll be prompted to log in (free registration required) and then you can read the document on the screen.

What fun! Hours of entertainment!


Commercial Kitchen Hoods

Here’s a cheat sheet on mechanical code and it’s relation to commercial kitchens, kitchen equipment and vent hoods.


Masonry (CMU) fire resistance

For CMU walls – in IBC table 720.1(2) and table 721.3.2 you can calcuate the fire resistance of CMU walls. Here’s a cheat sheet. Note that your actual fire resistance may be higher – these are minimum values, based on calcareous or siliceous gravel aggregate:

Hollow CMU units

16″ = 6″ equivelent thickness = 3.75 hour
14″ = 5.5″ equivelent thickness = 3.25 hour
12″ = 5.1″ equivelent thickness = 2.75 hour
10″ = 4.5″ equivelent thickness = 2.25 hour
8″    = 4.0″ equivelent thickness = 1.75 hour
6″   = 3.1″ equivelent thickness = 1.00 hour
4″   = 2.7″ equivelent thickness = 0.75 hour

Fully grouted CMU units

16″ = 15.6″ equivelent thickness = 4.00 hour
14″ = 13.6″ equivelent thickness = 4.00 hour
12″ = 11.6″ equivelent thickness = 4.00 hour
10″ = 9.6″ equivelent thickness = 4.00 hour
8″    = 7.6″ equivelent thickness = 4.00 hour
6″   = 5.6″ equivelent thickness = 3.25 hour
4″   = 3.6″ equivelent thickness = 1.50 hour

Note that siliceous aggregate is common in the Seattle area.

Refrigerant R134a

International Fire Code section 606.16 – “ELECTRICAL EQUIPMENT. Where refrigerants of Groups A2, A3, B2 and B3 as defined in the International Mechanical Code, are used, refrigeration machinery rooms shall conform to the Class I, Division 2 hazardous location classification requirements of the ICC Electrical Code”

Refrigerant, R134a, is classified as Group A1.

Air duct calculator

so, you want to play HVAC engineer do ya? Well, try this handy air duct calculator:

uses: diameter, velocity, duct type, rate of friction loss, cfm, duct material (PVC/Alum. Sheet Metal Fibrous Flexible), roughness, length, rectangluar to round to flat oval equivalent, ovaled round

Corrugated perforated metal panels

You like corrugated, you like perforated. Now how about combining both those great tastes at the same time. These folks make pretty much any material, any perforation, into any corrugation you desire.


The only drawback is that they don’t have load tables, due to the custom nature of the work.

“Basically, our process when making the corrugated and perforated style panel is to take the traditional perforated sheet, in any of the materials we stock, such as a plain steel, aluminum, stainless steel, either pre-painted or powder coated, and or pre-galvanized or galvanized after perforating. Then, we will roll form or bend the perforated sheets into whatever corrugated profile or decking style panel you choose. The options in this particular option are almost limitless as far as the perforated hole patterns and corrugated styles.”

precast stone color and finish guide

The Precast Concrete Institute has a tool where you can get pictures of various precast concrete finishes such as this:


steel stud specifier

Dietrich Metal Framing has a cool online tool to pick steel stud sizes:

steel shapes

Triple S Steels has a great listing of available steel shapes with size data:


building code related websites

ADA manual:

FM Global roof selection tool:

Masonry fire resistance ratings:

masonry fire resistance ratings.pdf (90 KB)

City of Seattle building code collection:

UL fire resistance ratings:…

Washington State Building Codes:

2009 launch

Welcome to archiwiki – a wiki about architecture – post on any topic related to architecture, comment on posted topics. Feel free to upload images, pdfs, links to critical architecture websites