Preliminary simulation was carried out using hygIRC and WUFI, both 1-D hygrothermal models, to analyze moisture performance of rainscreened wood-frame walls and cross-laminated timber (CLT) walls for the climates in Vancouver and Calgary. The major results are as follows.
In order to provide baseline knowledge, preliminary comparisons between hygIRC and WUFI were conducted to investigate the effects of climate data, wall orientations and rain intrusion on the performance of the rainscreened wood-frame walls based on Vancouver’s climate. hygIRC tended to produce almost constant moisture content (MC) of the plywood sheathing throughout a year but WUFI showed greater variations, particularly when the ventilation of the rainscreen cavity was neglected. Rainscreen cavity ventilation provided dramatic drying potentials for wall assemblies based on the WUFI simulation. hygIRC indicated that east-facing walls had the highest moisture load, but the differences between orientations seemed negligible in WUFI when the rainscreen cavity ventilation was taken into account. When 1% of wind-driven rain was simulated as an additional moisture load, hygIRC suggested that the rainscreen walls could not dry out in Vancouver, WUFI, however, indicated that they could dry to a safe MC level in the summer.
The discrepancies in material property data between the two models and between different databases in WUFI (even for the same wood species) were found to be very large. In terms of wood sorption data, large differences existed at near-saturated RH levels. This is a result of using pressure-plate/membrane methods for measuring material equilibrium moisture content (EMC) under high RH conditions. The EMC of wood at near-100% RH conditions measured with these methods can be higher than 200%, suggesting wood in construction would decay without liquid water intrusion or severe vapour condensation. The pressure-plate/membrane methods also appeared to be highly species-dependent, and have higher EMC at a certain RH level for less permeable species, from which it is relatively difficult to remove water during the measurement. The hygrothermal simulation in this work suggested that such a species bias caused by testing methods could put impermeable species (most Canadian species) at a disadvantage to permeable species like southern pine during related durability design of building assemblies.
In terms of using CLT for construction in Vancouver and Calgary, the WUFI simulations suggested that the use of less permeable materials such as EPS (expanded polystyrene insulation), XPS (extruded polystyrene insulation), self-adhered bituminous membrane and polyethylene in wall assemblies reduced the ability of the walls to dry. On the other hand, permeable assemblies such as those using relatively permeable insulation like semi-rigid mineral wool (rock wool) as exterior insulation, instead of less permeable exterior insulation materials, would help walls dry. The simulation also suggested that using CLT products with initially low MC would significantly reduce moisture-related risks, which indicated the importance of protecting CLT and avoiding wetting during transportation and construction.
In addition, the simulation found that indoor relative humidity (RH) conditions generated by the indoor RH prediction models included in hygIRC and WUFI varied greatly under the same basic climate and building conditions. The intermediate method specified in ASHRAE Standard 160 P resulted in long periods of saturated RH conditions throughout a year for the Vancouver climate, which may not be representative of ordinary residential buildings in Vancouver.
The simulation in this study is preliminary and exploratory. It would be arbitrary to recommend one model over the other based on this report or use the simulation results directly for CLT wall assembly design without consultation with building science specialists. However, this work revealed more opportunities for close collaborations between the wood science and the building science communities. More work should be carried out to develop appropriate testing methods and assemble material property data for hygrothermal simulation of wood-based building assemblies. Model improvement and field verification are also strongly recommended, particularly for new building systems such as CLT constructions.