Most Frequently Asked Questions about Breathing Wall Building Syndrome

1. What is meant by a breathing wall?
A breathing wall is one that allows outside cold winter air to mix with warm air inside the wall cavity providing an exchange of air to the interior space that is preheated by passing through the mass of the wall. In the summer a breathing wall allows outside warm, humid air to mix with dry cooler air of the inside wall, providing precooled fresh air to the interior.

2. Why are breathing walls important?

Most modern construction techniques advocate the use of vapor barriers which only allow between .2 and .5 air exchanges per hour. Medical sciences tell us that the human body requires between 1 and 2 air exchanges per hour for balance, registration of body cells and elimination of environmental toxins.
All our breathing wall systems typically provide between 1.5 and 3 exchanges per hour providing a nourishing, vital, living interior environment for healthy living.

3. How will I find a builder who can build with breathing wall systems?
Any professional, qualified builder can adapt to any or all of our building systems. Certain systems can be adapted with minimum levels of training. Others require more specialized skills. What is important is to adapt our building system to your locally available materials and skills. We offer full consulting services to provide a smooth link between your builder and our designs. Also, Swanson Associates are authorized representatives of Durisol and Hebel building systems and have traveling crews that can install either the “Durisol” or “Hebel” systems.
There may be some initial resistance from your local building professionals due to a general gap in information about Bau Biologie (the study of building materials to human health), and environmental building. For more information on Bau Biologie, call Helmut Ziehe at (813) 461-4371 (www.bau-biologieusa.com).

4. Will banks lend me money to build one of your breathing wall homes?
Yes, all systems can meet and exceed all code and bank requirements anywhere in the country. However, certain systems which have been pre-approved by state and federal building officials have proven to be much easier to obtain bank financing on. Notably the Durisol system with UL approval and Southern building code approval and Hebel with the National NER code approvals have been easiest to finance.

5. Can I get insurance for a breathing wall home?
Although all systems can be proven to be fully fire proof, only the Durisol and Hebel systems have been pre-approved by state and federal building officials. Other systems may require that the owner provide proof of fire safety to building officials. Call our office for details.

6.Will it cost me more to build a home with breathing walls?
The wall assembly of most homes represent between 7-12% of the entire building cost. Typically, the price of building walls is 20% higher than conventional construction. So the total increase is approximately 4% of the total construction cost. This amount is usually saved in lowering the total heating and cooling loads of the house and reducing or eliminating the need for central heating and cooling.

7. What are the energy advantages of a breathing wall home?
Through the combined effects of thermal insulation and mass storage in the floor, walls and roof systems, heating and cooling requirements can be substantially reduced or eliminated.

* Floors: A breathing floor provides a moisture free connection to the earth while storing vast amounts of preheating thermal mass to the interior. The earth’s stable temperature is 5 degrees at 36 inches; all our designs incorporate a minimum of 36 inch deep insulated foundation. What this means is that we are able to maintain a constant indoor temperature that is buffered by the earth’s temperature. In most cases, this will eliminate all need for air conditioning, and substantially reduce the heating requirement of the home.
* Walls: Breathing walls typically achieve between R34 and R55 insulation, compared to R11 and R30 in conventional construction. This means triple the resistance to cold entering the house. In addition, all the air that passes through breathing wall is preheated to between 70% and 90% of the indoor temperature. This means warm air all winter and a lower overall energy bill.
* Roofs: Although the roof itself does not breath, an air gap is always created below the roof to prevent moisture build-up. This gap can also provide a great amount of heat to the living space when a heat recovery and exhaust system is used. May of our designs incorporate such systems.

8.What do I need to get started?

1. Research all areas of environmental building, design, materials and systems. This will allow you to be a conscious participant in the creation of your ideal home. We can best sere you with a common platform of knowledge and respect of environmental building.
2. Put together a comprehensive environmental design/build team. The ideal team consists of a qualified environmental designer and/or consultant, builder, structural/civil engineer, landscape designer and others.
3. Secure Financing