Henry Gifford is a plumber with a New York accent, working-class roots, and deep erudition. He’s also a well-known designer of heating, cooling, and ventilation systems.
Gifford is smart, provocative, funny, and ubiquitous. He’s been profiled in The New Yorker; he’s given a presentation at the Building Science Corporation Summer Camp; he was featured in the “Legends of Home Performance” series created by Home Energy magazine; he has published a guest blog on GBA; and he’s been the subject of a GBA interview.
Gifford’s latest accomplishment: he has published a 571-page hardback book called Buildings Don’t Lie. It’s an excellent book.
Many of the books I review for GBA (including, for example, Residential Energy by Krigger and Dorsi and Essential Building Science by Racusin) start the same way: with a discussion of how heat, moisture, and air move through building assemblies. Gifford’s book is no exception. You know the drill: the difference between conduction, convection, and radiation; how buildings become pressurized or depressurized; and a discussion of vapor diffusion.
After the obligatory “introduction to building science” chapters, Gifford gets down to the business at hand: teaching us how to look at buildings. His book includes dozens of photos of buildings with a variety of stains — stains caused by water, mold, dust, and efflorescence. The photo captions help train the reader’s eye, leading readers to understand how subtle clues reveal how buildings work — or don’t. Gifford has taken some great photos, and his explanations all ring true.
[Photo credit: Henry Gifford, Buildings Don’t Lie.]For example, Gifford noticed that the pattern of efflorescence on a brick parapet exhibited a “sine wave” shape, or what Gifford calls a “W pattern.” The stain was caused by water leaking through seams in the coping (the…