What’s the Difference Between Insulation and Thermal Mass?

I just wrapped up an amazing first session of online instruction for a building envelope course at The Boston Architectural College’s Sustainable Design Institute. It was a very rewarding experience as I had the pleasure of interacting with a deeply knowledgeable international group of students at an advanced level on a very complicated topic.

Among other observations, over the course of the session it became clear to me that there is a prevalent misunderstanding about the fundamental differences between “insulation” and “thermally massive” materials. It is easy to convoluted the function of the two material types – especially in residential construction.

The following is a quick primer on the fundamental differences between them:

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