9 Smart Enclosure Assemblies

This is an inventory of the Smart Enclosure Assemblies for retrofits and new builds, each with an introductory overview. Determine which assembly best fits your goals, click to its homepage and access a wide array of assembly specific resources including DWG files, ebooks, construction photos, and videos.

(Note: the resources are in phased development and will be updated and made available as completed.)


If possible, chose renovation before new build, because it’s the smartest form of construction. Renovating and reoccupying old buildings is rightly considered an act of sustainability in itself. Using the existing structure can mean 50% to 75% less embodied carbon, on day one of occupancy, than a new building would generate.

The vast majority of the buildings that will exist in 2050 already exist today. Yet to fully bring these buildings into the 21st century, they need to also be made as operationally energy efficient and as comfortable as possible to help mitigate climate change. We can do this safely and robustly, and therefore, historic buildings shouldn’t be exempt from aggressively addressing efficiency.

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Masonry Retrofit

The approach to a retrofit project varies depending on whether or not the historic character of the building can be changed. They may be in a historic district or be specifically designated as historic landmarks, leaving little choice in design alterations. Does the exterior need to be preserved? Can the building be wrapped from the outside? What’s the condition of the exterior and/or interior details? No matter the case, we can still make these old building enclosures very robust and efficient. We can make them Smart Enclosures.

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Wood Retrofit

The millions of wood buildings that exist today cannot be demolished and end up in landfills. Instead, they should be upgraded and repurposed when necessary, and the exterior or interior existing construction should be conserved if it is desired or required. The Wood Retrofit dives into the details of what’s possible.


New construction, while bringing with it more embodied energy than a retrofit does, provides ample opportunities to provide a low embodied carbon solution with large amounts of carbon sequestration, at the highest level of performance.

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2x Framing

2x wood frame construction is very common and too often provides poor performance. With the 2x Framing Smart Enclosure, we transform common construction into high-performance results by focusing on the basics of building.

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I-Joist Outrigger

The I-joist outrigger assembly is a product of the search for better ways to make highly insulated enclosures. Gaining popularity among Passive House projects, this approach wraps what would otherwise be typical 2x framing construction in a parka of insulation.

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The double-stud assembly is another effort to transform common 2x framing into a highly insulated assembly. In this case by doubling up the 2x framing and providing a significant gap between the frames for abundant amounts of insulation. Where extreme insulation levels are required this is a compelling option.

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Mass Timber

Mass timber is a very exciting and fast emerging option in the North American construction scene. Mass timber has many performance benefits, including fire resistance, acoustic performance, material stability, and construction efficiency. The mass timber Smart Enclosure compliments the mass timber structure with wood fiber insulation, maximizing carbon sequestrations and negative carbon potential.

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Straw Bale

Straw bale would seem to be an anachronistic choice at first glance, but look closer. While an uncommon approach, straw bale may be the most effective carbon sink available to construction professionals today. Because straw is a rapidly renewable resource that is full of carbon drawn from the atmosphere, it can be even more effective than wood in our climate mitigation efforts.

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Metal Frame

Metal is problematic because it typically has high embodied energy and it doesn’t sequester carbon. However, metal can, and should, have high levels of recycled content, and the fact is, metal framing isn’t going away anytime soon. Consequently, we want to make these assemblies as smart as possible by limiting other materials with large embodied energy like foam plastic insulation; making the enclosure more durable and operationally efficient for 100+ years; maximize the use of wood and other natural materials in the overall design strategy.

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While there are many variables at play, concrete is often worse than metal because the embodied carbon of concrete, and particularly Portland cement, is just so damn high. Like metal, it’s not going away, and there are a number of things we can do to make it a smarter option.

A Multitude of Assemblies

While these nine assemblies cover a wide variety of buildings being built today, this list is admittedly far from comprehensive, particularly given the multitude of variations within each general assembly type. We hope that you find these approaches adaptable to a wider range of assembly types and their particulars.

The principles and tiers are similarly meant to be a foundation and provide direction for further study. We look forward to making our library of assemblies and supporting information more extensive going forward.

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