LSU AgCenter Housing Seminar Focuses On Post-hurricane Construction

Claudette Reichel  |  12/20/2005 4:26:15 AM

Building expert Joe Lstiburek prepares for his presentations in an LSU AgCenter-sponsored seminar on Building for Extreme Climates. Lstiburek stressed the necessity of moisture control in structures and covered a variety of topics ranging from storms to construction materials that can contribute to mold and mildew damage.

News Release Distributed 12/19/05

"Where we are matters," said building expert Joseph Lstiburek during a recent seminar, stressing, "We need a Louisiana way of dealing with construction."

Lstiburek, a principal of Building Science Corp. of Westford, Mass., and an international expert on moisture-related building problems, recently led a two-part seminar on designing and building for extreme climates. Sponsored by the LSU AgCenter, the program was held in Baton Rouge last week (Dec. 15).

"We’re here to learn to build better, safer, stronger buildings," said Dr. Claudette Reichel, a housing specialist with the LSU AgCenter. "We’ll learn what works, what doesn’t and why."

Douglas Faulkner, acting assistant secretary in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy in the U.S. Department of Energy, called the seminar "a great idea and visionary concept."

Faulkner said proven disaster mitigation standards work and pointed out buildings constructed in Florida after some of the recent hurricanes have withstood damage from subsequent storms.

"Our goal is to give as much help to as many people as possible," Faulkner said, adding, "To give consumers information to make good choices."

Two factors in hurricane damage are wind and water.

Lstiburek said the building industry must design and build structures to keep out water. But water will always get in, so buildings must be designed to dry.

"The challenge is to retain and maintain the beauty of design," he said. "Don’t do stupid things."

Lstiburek’s morning session dealt with architectural and building design features and practices to prevent problems associated with moisture and moisture-related problems in buildings. The afternoon session looked at moisture, wind and energy management in residential and commercial building design for Louisiana following hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

"The information has been good," said Marc Dahlman, a construction consultant, contractor and building inspector from Metairie. "There’s so much misinformation floating around, especially from authoritative sources. It’s really useful to hear points of view that are realistic."

Dahlman, who also owns seven rental properties in New Orleans, said he attended because of curiosity and the opportunity to learn about mold and moisture from an expert who could help him make sense of conflicting information.

Bruce Smith attended to "bring home the things we need to be addressing in the future."

A member of the faculty of the Building Science Department at Auburn University, Smith said Auburn is considering a similar program in southern Alabama to focus on commercial buildings.

"Without building codes, it’s difficult to implement needed practices on a wide scale," Smith said. "But we also need enforcement."

Michael Greer, a builder and home inspector from Ferriday with 35 years’ experience, said he came to the seminar to get information and for continuing education.

"Common sense is not always used in the building trades," he said. "We need an ounce of prevention."

Lstiburek said the rising cost of energy will lead to more insulation, which will lead to more difficulty drying building components.

"With more insulation, we have less drying," Lstiburek said. "So we need to install floors and doors differently. Insulation has consequences."

If insulation decreases the rate of drying, architects and builders must compensate by being better at rain control, he said. For example, building wraps that don’t allow water to pass through can help keep rainwater out of a structure.

Turning to other examples, Lstiburek said more steel used in a building won’t absorb moisture from the air as lumber would. That means moisture could be more likely to condense on other surfaces and lead to mold and mildew problems.

On the other side, engineered wood products that absorb more water can create an environment for mold to grow.

"Mold is a water problem," Lstiburek said. "No water – no mold.

"Mold on framing material is a surface phenomenon," he added. "You can wash it off."

On the other hand, the expert said newer, engineered wood products are more mold sensitive, so it’s important to keep them dry.

In addition to Lstiburek’s presentations, seminar participants toured the Louisiana House Home and Landscape Resource Center – nicknamed LaHouse. A project of the LSU AgCenter, the house is under construction near the LSU campus in Baton Rouge and will serve as a model for durable, energy-efficient, resource-conservative, technology-savvy housing, Reichel said.

Projects such as LaHouse allow people "to see how it’s working in practice and bridge reality and theory," DOE’s Faulkner said.

Reichel said the seminar’s 170 registered participants came from at least five states, including extension educational specialists from Mississippi and Alabama.

"The participants were quite diverse, including a mix of architects, engineers, interior designers, builders, home inspectors, energy raters, building officials, green and affordable housing advocates, utility companies, State Farm Insurance, FEMA Mitigation, Louisiana State Fire Marshal’s office, university faculty, extension educators and others," she said.

For more information about the LSU AgCenter’s variety of programs related to storm preparation and recovery, including its LaHouse project, visit


Contact: Claudette Reichel at (225) 578-4440 or
Writer: Rick Bogren at (225) 578-5839 or

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