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Building scientist brings humor, expertise to CSI expo

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Joseph Lstiburek, founding principal, Building Science Corporation, (left), spoke Wednesday at the 39th annual CSI Expo in Breinigsville. Pictured with James Pudleiner, senior project manager, Alfred Benesch & Co., Allentown.
Joseph Lstiburek, founding principal, Building Science Corporation, (left), spoke Wednesday at the 39th annual CSI Expo in Breinigsville. Pictured with James Pudleiner, senior project manager, Alfred Benesch & Co., Allentown. - (Photo / )

Who knew lectures about building walls and roofs could be so amusing?

They are when they’re given by Joseph Lstiburek, founding principal of Building Science Corporation, who spoke Wednesday at the 39th annual CSI Expo at the Holiday Inn Conference Center in Breingsville.

The Construction Specifications Institute, based in Alexandria, Va., is a national member organization with more than 130 chapters whose mission brings together specifiers, architects, engineers, contractors and others involved in the building construction industry.

Lstiburek (“I can’t spell it either,” he quipped), who has been dubbed the “dean of North American building science” by the Wall Street Journal, is one of the foremost experts on energy efficient construction techniques. He is widely known for his “perfect wall” concept, and for delivering his widely sought talks with brio and humor.

“Nothing makes me more excited than talking about the Arrhenius Equation,” Lstiburek said at the start of his packed seminar on building the perfect wall. “I can see you’re not that excited.”

After presenting the arcane equation on a slide, Lstiburek said it basically boils down to: “The hotter things are the shorter their lifespan.”

Lstiburek noted that of three chief damaging elements--- water, heat and ultra-violet radiation--- the worst is water.

“If you want [a roof] to last a long time don’t let it get wet,” he said, and then added, “I get big bucks to say that.”

Phil Leinbach, an architect at AEM Architects in Reading, who chuckled throughout the seminars, said he appreciated Lstiburek’s humor and his “practical, common sense approach” because engineers and architects tend to over-think how they design building envelope systems.

Gary Lader, president of the American Institute of Architects Eastern Pennsylvania chapter, said the CSI expo is one of his favorite events because he learns about new products from vendors and connects with professionals in related fields.

“We’re all working together to build things in the community,” Lader said.

Lstiburek later told Lehigh Valley Business is impressed with the expertise available in the Lehigh Valley.

“Some of the most sophisticated building scientists in the world are right here,” he said.

He said the CSI Greater Lehigh Valley chapter’s expo was unusual because it brings together experts from multiple areas in the building industry in one room. “It doesn’t happen. They hate each other,” Lstiburek said. “They’re talking here. The industry isn’t usually this connected.”

He did admit that the CSI Expo in Seattle had better coffee.

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