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Joe Lstiburek’s book: “Builder’s Guide to Cold Climates”

Scott Wilson | Posted in General Questions on

I’ve read through his guide (published in 2000) and was wondering if there is an updated, current version and how to get it.

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  1. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #1

    It looks like the latest version of the printed book is from 2000:
    Builder's Guide - paper version

    However, it looks like a 2006 version is available as an eBook:
    Builder's Guide - eBook

  2. Tom May | | #2

    Well if he had to update it, I guess the original wasn't so one has to wonder if the new version is any good.

    1. Richard McGrath | | #3

      We all evolve Tom . New technologies become available , things that are not yet proven endure and become known successes . Later editions of many books do not mean the older ones sucked .

      1. Tom May | | #4

        "things that are not yet proven endure and become known successes:"...What? How can something that is not proven even exist? Never mind become a success. If I sell you a car that is not proven to run then how can you drive it for years without problems or have it run better the longer you have it ?
        The old phrase, "If it ain't broke don't fix it" seems to apply. If something needs fixin' then there was something wrong with it, despite technology. As with any technology, basic scientific principles should apply.
        And if those later editions of books, especially technical ones, have multiple changes, then yes the older ones sucked. Look at LEEDS as a prime example......

    2. Expert Member
      Malcolm Taylor | | #5

      I have a hard time thinking of a single seminal textbook in any field that wan't revised several times over the years. It's unclear you understand how humans acquire and transmit knowledge.

  3. Tom May | | #6

    I had a professor who wrote the book we used and never revised it because in his mind everything was correct, even though us students and other faculty found faults. Most textbooks are revised since the authors and schools make money from the sales of the books and force students to purchase the revised edition so older editions cannot be reused by future students......understand?

    1. Expert Member
      Zephyr7 | | #7

      I agree with you regarding well established fields at the lower levels. First year calculus textbooks are a good example — nothing new is happening at that low a level in mathematics, so new editions are just to sell stuff to students.

      In engineering though, that’s not the case — and building science is essentially applied physics just like engineering is. Vacuum tubes are not used much anymore, so electrical engineering textbooks don’t really talk about them anymore. Newer devices such as IGBTs and silicon carbide FETs are discussed now which didn’t exist several decades ago.

      At more advanced levels, our understanding sometimes changes. Things that were thought to be solid designs end up not working as expected after you’ve had a number of years to see the systems actually work in the field. Martin has written about this regarding passive solar for example, and basically says that extreme insulation beat out passive solar, but it took years for everyone to recognize all the advantages and disadvantages to each building method and for one to be recognized as superior overall. Other times materials change, such as newer blowing agents being used to make polyiso causing reduced cold weather performance where the older blowing agents did not exhibit that problem.

      Joe lstiburek is a recognized building science expert and researcher. He’s not going to publish stuff that he doesn’t think is accurate, and he’ll be able to explain why he believes his info is correct. After maybe 5-10 years of field experience though, he may find that what he initially thought doesn’t actually act as he expected and he’ll discover new issues which may change his understanding. He was never wrong, he just learned more over time allowing him a better understanding. Read about his views on vapor permeable basement insulation as an example. Other times, it really does take years to be able to accurately gauge the real-world long term performance of a building method or concept, so new information becomes available as the system is studied over time.

      It’s not as simple as saying that things based on sound principles don’t ever change. Complex systems are not always fully understood, or all ramifications anticipated. The added issue of old materials going out of production and new materials becoming available compounds the problem.


    2. Lance Peters | | #8

      Tom, you said: "...or have it run better the longer you have it ?"

      Cars don't run better the longer you have them. After a very short break-in period, much shorter than many people think, a car runs progressively worse with time and use and eventually parts fail. Wear and deterioration are inescapable realities. Newer, low mileage cars are worth more for a reason.

      As far as building science goes, new materials are constantly becoming available, and old ones are constantly evolving along with our knowledge of them, how they perform, and how to best use them. This is called Evolution, and books are not excluded.

      Scientists of all disciplines make educated decisions all the time with the best information they have, right now. As that information evolves, so do the decisions that they support as well as the books written about those decisions.

      1. Tom May | | #9

        Lance, yes I agree with what you say. Though it would have been appropriate to include my entire quote about a car not proven to run..... As I always say, design, build, test and adjust. All calculations based on scientific principles only give you a basic idea of what will happen so you have a starting point. So no theory is ever absolute and therefore not totally correct no matter how much you argue the point or how many revisions you make. Every situation is different and has different variables, especially with building science since temperatures, pressures etc vary throughout the day and year. So to design based on one or two parameters is not a sufficient model to go by.
        An example I gave in an earlier post, design two identical buildings, build one on top of Mt Washington and the other at the base. They are both in the same zone but the two houses will have totally different reactions to their environment even though they are only a few miles apart.
        And yes, Joe is still learning, so to take what he says or thinks as absolute for every situation is just as bad as believing that all theories are truth.

        1. Lance Peters | | #10

          Joe may still be learning, but his knowledge of building science is higher than most and when he makes a recommendation based on what he knows right now, there's a good chance his recommendation will be better than recommendations coming from people with lesser knowledge. He may still get things wrong, but the chances of that happening are lower when dealing with an expert compared to someone who just thinks they know stuff. ;-)

          In my opinion, the biggest hurdle the building industry has is time. The automotive industry benefits greatly from accelerated age testing, where they can test a part through its intended life very quickly with well known and easily controlled variables. While we can test some building materials in similar ways, the thermal, moisture and durability performance of wall assemblies is much more complicated to test and often requires years of field trials before any confident conclusions can be drawn. Add in climate, human behavior and construction quality control variables, and its no wonder something that works in the lab may or may not perform long term in the field.

          We don't know everything yet, but I get the feeling we're getting pretty good at designing decent structures.

          1. Tom May | | #11

            Once again, totally agree with what you say. Just had to make a comment on the automotive industry statement. When it comes to KIS, the automotive industry does just the opposite...testing one part alone doesn't show how it will react once hooked up to all the other components....(though I'm sure they test assembled engines) but hopefully you get my much crap to go wrong.

          2. Lance Peters | | #12

            In a previous life I spent 10 years in automotive/manufacturing, most of which with Tier 1 suppliers. Before I got immersed in automotive I used to wonder how they could justify charging so much for cars. Once in I quickly started wondering how they could make a profit.

            Development testing of cars takes an amount of investment and infrastructure that's almost literally unbelievable unless you've seen it first hand. The building industry just isn't anywhere close as far as investment and competition goes. The only time anything really changes is when it has to because codes get updated. If the automotive industry moved that slowly we'd still be giddy over the new fuel injected engines.

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