Structural Thermal Breaks: Benefits and Considerations for Engineers

In this episode, we talk to Alyson Hallander, a product engineer at Schöck, about structural thermal breaks, what it is, as well as some of the benefits and structural design considerations when working with it.

Engineering Quotes:

structural thermal breaks

structural thermal breaks
structural thermal breaks

Here Are Some of the Questions We Ask Alyson:

  • What is thermal bridging?
  • What are some of the benefits of using structural thermal breaks?
  • Is there research on structural thermal breaks helping prevent condensation from forming behind façade components?
  • What kinds of structural thermal breaks are available?
  • What structural design considerations are there when working with structural thermal breaks?
  • Do building codes require using structural thermal breaks?
  • Who takes design responsibility for the structural thermal break connections?
  • Do you have any final advice for engineers considering a career like yours?

Here Are Some of the Key Points Discussed About Structural Thermal Breaks and the Benefits and Considerations for Engineers:

  • Thermal bridging occurs at any penetration through the insulated building envelope. It creates a discontinuity of insulation and a low resistance path for heat transfer through the thermal bridge. A path of thermal transfer can cause significant heat loss and cold surfaces on the interior structure in the vicinity of the thermal bridge. A structural thermal break breaks the thermal bridge while contributing to the structural integrity in the connection. It is done by transferring the structural loads back into the interior reinforced concrete structure and maintaining a continuous insulation line along the building façade.
  • Structural thermal breaks benefit the building in thermal comfort and reduce thermostat energy use. They eliminate the risk of condensation and mold in interior portions of structures.
  • Structural thermal breaks should entirely mitigate condensation forming behind façade components by preventing them from reaching the dew point.
  • Concrete thermal bridges are structures like balconies, parapets, and exposed slab edges. The structural thermal break consists of a 3-inch wide neo pore insulation body that is 3 feet long. The body forms part of the wall assembly and is the same depth as the balcony concrete slab. Transferring of the structural loads is done by many stainless steel bars in different shapes and high-performance concrete. It also has two fire protection plates placed at the top and the bottom of the body.
  • When using structural thermal breaks, designing the concrete slab is different. You design things like balconies as completely exterior structures compared to the interior slab. It is not only a thermal break but also a structural break. When designing the interior slab, ensure that the edge connecting to the balcony via the structural thermal break is strong enough to receive the structural loads of the balcony.
  • There is an increase in code requirements in thermal bridging. New York and Seattle have recently begun to require things like thermal breaks at balconies and parapets. More regions will follow suit soon. Building codes are starting to incorporate and address thermal bridging as a requirement.
  • Young engineers must keep an open mind regarding where their engineering careers can go. You could end up enjoying a type of work that is entirely different from what you had planned for from the beginning of your career.

More Details in This Episode…

About the Guest: Alyson Hallander

SchöckAs a product engineer at Schöck, Alyson leads education efforts, designs structural thermal break connections for projects throughout North America, and regularly travels the country to provide design and installation guidance on projects. She has a B.S. in Structural Engineering from The Ohio State University. Before joining Schöck, Alyson spent a few years designing nuclear submarines for the U.S. Navy before refocusing her career on sustainable building solutions for the AEC field.

About the Hosts

Mathew Picardal, P.E.

Structural Engineering LifeMathew is a licensed engineer practicing on structural projects in California, with an undergraduate degree from Cal Poly Pomona and an M.S. in Structural Engineering from UC San Diego. He has designed and managed various building structures, including residential wood apartment buildings, commercial steel buildings, and concrete parking structures and towers. He also hosts the new YouTube channel “Structural Engineering Life,” where he promotes the structural engineering profession to engineering students who are not familiar with the industry perspective.

Cara Green, EIT

Hilti North AmericanCara Green, EIT, works in Hilti’s North American headquarters as the Structural Engineering Trade Manager for the U.S. and Canada. She is currently an EIT in Texas and received her bachelor’s in civil engineering from the University of Alabama in Huntsville.


ANSI/ASHRAE/IES Standard 90.1-2019
Connect with Alyson Hallander on LinkedIn

This Episode Is Brought to You by PPI

PPIPPI has helped engineers achieve their licensing goals since 1975. Passing the FE and PE exams can open doors to career advancement and new opportunities. Check out PPI’s wide range of prep options, including Live Online courses, OnDemand courses, and digital study tools to help prepare you to pass your licensing exam. Check out PPI today at to see all the options available for FE and PE exam prep.

Please leave your comments or questions in the section below on structural thermal breaks, the benefits, and considerations for engineers.

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To your success,

Mathew Picardal, P.E. & Cara Green, EIT
Hosts of The Structural Engineering Podcast

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