While his knowledge, expertise and experience in the industry are
difficult to capture in one interview, BCBEC Elements spoke with
Burnett about the highlights and insights from his impactful career.
ARE OFTEN VALUED BY THE FRUITS
BCBEC Elements: Why did you choose building enclosures as
THEY MEASURE MUST
Eric Burnett: a field that caught my attention many years ago.
When I started, apart from the excellent work being done at the
Division of Building Research (at the National Research Council of
Canada) in Ottawa, very little relevant research was being conducted
in Canada or in the U.S. at the time. For example, the significance
and the influence of new building materials on building enclosure
performance was not widely understood. As well, the enclosures
of large and small buildings were failing, and the health and cost
impacts of those failures on residents and owners were forcing engineers, architects and builders (to) sit up and pay attention.
BE: What specific areas of building enclosures did you focus
EB: Moisture, or the control of water and water vapour, within walls
was initially most critical.
BE: How would you characterize the growth of the building
enclosures field throughout your career?
EB: It was initially slow and somewhat hit and miss, but in more
recent years its expansion has been phenomenal especially in
Canada and the U.S. Although the building enclosure field is still
not recognized professionally as a distinct specialty area, we now
have the infrastructure in place to support related research and
work. We also have the Building Envelope Councils (BECs) in
Canada and the Building Enclosure Councils in the U.S., which have
become much larger and more influential than ever before.
THEY PRODUCE; ACADEMICS BY THE PAPERS
APPLY TO DR. BURNETT. THE HARVEST OFFERED
TO US BY DR. BURNETT CONSISTS OF RELEVANT
RESEARCH AND SOME OF THE GREATEST MINDS
IN BUILDING SCIENCE TODAY. BY EDUCATING
OUR YOUTH, DR. BURNETT HAS COMMUNICATED
HIS VISION TO A NEW GENERATION THAT IS
MAKING OUR WORLD A BETTER
PIERRE-MICHEL BUSQUE, PRESIDENT, BUSQUE ENGINEERING
committee that provides guidance and advice. Unfortunately, none
of universities has made a significant contribution. However,
(BCBEC) is stepping up to the plate by hosting the 2017 Conference
of BECs from Canada and the U.S. with DOE.
BE: Where does Canada stand?
EB: Canada is at the leading edge of enclosure performance
because of all the people who are involved. The Canadian climate
helps. Europe may be better with the building science (or physics)
largely because they have been studying it for longer and also at the
university level. However, with regard to current building-enclosure
performance, the U.S. is right up there and Canada is not far behind.
BE: What about the technolog y? How has that evolved?
EB: also come a very long way, especially with regard to
advances in materials and building design. Greater use is being
made of climate maps. NIBS has a number of projects in place
that address related topics such as WBDG Whole Building Design
Guide), BIM (Building Information Management), etc. You now see
buildings that are energy- or LEED-rated; and below-grade construction has been improved by design and with the use of insulation.
Roof design has also improved, with attention paid to airflow,
control of water and water vapour flow, ventilation or not, etc. Walls
are outfitted with window controls and other systems that greatly
improve the performance of enclosures, and the whole management
process for energy, water runoff, sun use and shading, etc., has
become much more important.
There has been a significant evolution and far from complete.
We are going to see enormous change in the next 20 years given the
emerging effects of climate change. still a lot to be done.
BE: spent some time within the B.C. building science
community. How have you seen that evolve?
EB: B.C. is very fortunate in that it is home to a number of design
and remediation firms. I moved to B.C. 10 years ago, and I found
it to be one of the places in Canada where I could continue my
work. BCIT is playing a role with courses and a laboratory facility
for Building Science and Enclosures. It has an active research
BE: Where do you see the in the field?
EB: Generally, the gaps are in the education and training of
members of the building industry. Some engineers, some architects,
and others who work in the building industry pay enough
attention to issues affecting building enclosures. There are, however,
many local firms in B.C. seeking to turn that around; just that
building enclosures and the related science does not have as high a
profile as the study of structural engineering.
BE: Reflecting on your own career, what do you consider your
EB: proudest of the success of my former students, especially
my graduate students in Canada, the U.S., and China. Working
with them to find and solve problems has been most gratifying.
also proud of the contribution I made in providing training to the
building industry in Pennsylvania. I have felt proud of many of the
projects in which been involved, but generally teaching that
has been the most rewarding facet of my career.
BE: What is keeping you busy these days?
EB: I retired about 10 years ago (following a stroke) so not that
involved in the industry anymore. Now, about spending time
with my family and pursuing personal interests such as playing
bridge and doing some travelling.