Warmer, Wetter, and Windier: Future Proofing Your Building Enclosure for Extreme Weather

David Altenhofen, RWDI

Long-term investments in research and equipment rely heavily on the building enclosure to moderate the outdoor environmental conditions and maintain an operational indoor environment. With the changing climate, the demand on laboratory buildings enclosures is evolving to mitigate more intense weather events. Climate variables such as increased rainfall, rising or falling temperatures, extreme winds, or more frequent intense storms can impact building enclosure design in different ways and require specific design strategies to reliably perform during extreme weather. Incorporating resiliency measures can help ensure laboratory buildings maintain their functional use and prevent losses during utility outages.

This presentation will begin with an overview of climate forecasting and adapting the project requirements to the future needs of the laboratory. The discussion will focus on the implementation of specific construction approaches from schematic design through construction and integration. Each approach will be considered with respect to reducing operational energy use through strategies such as increased insulation, increased air tightness, and optimal daylight design. Beginning in early design, building material and assembly selection must prioritize increased resiliency and durability, including redundant passive systems where necessary. Consideration for ongoing maintenance and adaptation of the existing building stock is crucial for a comprehensive enclosure design.

Learning Objectives

  • Identify changing climatic conditions that influence enclosure design of laboratory buildings;
  • Prioritize enclosure design strategies for durability, reduced maintenance, reuse, and resiliency;
  • Learn ways to optimize laboratory-specific enclosure design strategies associated with occupant comport; and
  • Understand the benefits of more resilient or redundant enclosure design for laboratory operations.


David W. Altenhofen, AIA, is a Technical Director with the Building Enclosure Practice of RWDI, a world-wide consultancy focusing on scientifically improving how buildings perform in their exact environment. David applies his 40 years of experience providing technical advice and quality assurance to a team of consultants bettering the building enclosure for a wide variety of projects. David has been involved in leadership roles in building enclosure performance for more than 20 years as the technical director/principle at several large international architecture firms and as an partner in enclosure consulting firms. In practice he applies his expertise in building science, materials, delivery methods, documentation, quality assurance, testing, and building enclosure commissioning.


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