Welcome Mats, Curtains and a Maze of Building Industry Statistics

Have you ever used Google Street View? It’s amazing how many images they’ve captured by driving andCollett_Park_Neighborhood_Historic_District photographing hundreds of thousands of streets and neighborhoods. From rural farms to big city restaurants, it seems they’ve documented every nook and cranny across the country. Believe it or not, they aren’t the only company that has a fleet of vehicles canvassing neighborhoods to collect valuable data — and in one specific case, they’re collecting data that benefits architects, builders and contractors alike.

Metrostudy, a subsidiary of Hanley Wood, hosted an event in Chicago last week to share some compelling insights on new housing starts, household formations, lot supplies, and other construction trends. The reason for their neighborhood drive-bys — as referenced above — is to collect the most accurate data possible that can help builders, architects, developers and manufactures design effective sales and distribution strategies. For example, the company verifies activity at construction sites to confirm actual starts. In regard to new home sales, their researchers look for signs of an actual move-in such as a welcome mat or curtains, which signal an occupied home. Without their team of more than 350 researchers who log 200,000-plus miles each quarter, this meaningful data would not exist.

Another outcome of Metrostudy’s diligent research and number crunching are detailed reports on projected areas of growth. While their data is available on a micro-level, here’s their overarching list of top new home markets for 2015:

  1. The Villages, Fla.
  2. Orlando, Fla.
  3. Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Fla.
  4. Raleigh, N.C.
  5. Denver, Colo.
  6. Naples-Marco Island, Fla.
  7. San Francisco-Oakland, Calif.
  8. Phoenix-Scottsdale, Ariz.
  9. Miami-Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Do you have plans to design or build in these areas in 2015? What are your projections for new construction activity in your neck of the woods?

A Sustainable Behemoth in the Making – The Saint-Gobain/CertainTeed New Headquarters

Image 01There is an old saying “You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.”  Well, that is exactly what Saint-Gobain and CertainTeed are doing at our new headquarters in Malvern, PA.

This is a very exciting time for our Company as we ‘walk the talk’ when it comes to sustainability and performance of our own products.  We are engaged in a full renovation of a building that was the former home of a large insurance company but has been vacant for a decade..  With our building products we are transforming the building – inside and out – to a state-of-the-art sustainable, living laboratory for our products and systems that should qualify as USGBC LEED Gold.

Because this is our building it gives us the opportunity to practice all the things that we preach on a daily basis to the market about our products. This is an opportunity to create our environment, live in it and monitor how our products perform. It is also an opportunity for all of our sister businesses to come together and address challenges such as indoor air quality, managing office acoustics, daylighting issues and overall comfort throughout the work day.

This project has generated a great deal of excitement for all our employees and we will have a great deal to talk about over the next year in our blogs because it is a living, breathing example of building sustainably with sustainable materials and with an eye on the future.

There is no other building on the planet that will have this unique suite of dynamic products all working together to make a material difference in how we work so we can help others change the places where they work.

I hope you will check back frequently, follow our journey, along with the pains and woes that all people go through when building a building sustainably.  It should be educational and fun!

 

Mold: The Unwelcome Houseguest

mold on ceilingMold is a frequent and unwelcome guest in homes across America. So much so that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has designated September as Mold Awareness Month.

We at CertainTeed agree that mold is an issue worth addressing. As a manufacturer, we are able to help reduce the threat of mold by developing products that discourage its growth. We also devote significant building science resources to keep building professionals apprised of new information on this complex issue. Perhaps it’s this education, which ultimately trickles down to the homeowner that has the largest impact on mold. After all, it’s not just good materials and proper construction that keep a home mold-free. Good home maintenance is a key defense against the pesky guest.

We often refer to mold as the four-legged stool. It grows easily because it only requires air, water, a food source like dust, paint or fabric, and for the temperature to be between 41 to 104 degrees. In a home, these elements come together frequently so mold has the potential to flourish. Flooded basements or attic space beneath a leaky roof are high-risk areas for mold proliferation, but so are less obvious spaces like carpet near a wet potted plant. Mold spores can also enter a home through open doors, windows, heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems with outdoor air intakes. Spores can even attach to pets and people who unknowingly bring them inside on their bodies, clothes, and bags.

Homeowners are often able to remediate small areas affected by mold. A solution of one cup of bleach to one gallon of water can remove the unwanted fungus from nonporous surfaces. It’s important, however, that homeowners know to be careful to not mix bleach with other household cleaners and to wear disposable gloves and a protective N95 respirator during the remediation process.

For larger mold removal projects, or those affecting porous surfaces like drywall or insulation, building professionals with a solid understanding of building science should be the ones to clean away the mold. These professionals will also be able to safely remove materials and replace them with mold-resistant materials like fiber glass insulation or mold-resistant gypsum wallboard.

The good news is mold does not have to happen. Our building scientists often tout the five Ds to controlling mold. De-leak fixtures and holes, de-bubble wallpaper, dehumidify the indoor air, dry wet furnishings within 24 to 48 hours, and de-odor or fix the source of musty smells.

For more information on mold or Mold Awareness Month, visit http://www.epa.gov/mold/preventionandcontrol.html.

 

Maximize home theater acoustics without compromising style

photo_HomeTheaterMost would consider the selection of state-of-the-art audio and video equipment as the most important factor in designing a home theater or media room. And, from a performance perspective, this is primarily true. However, if you do not think holistically about the design of other elements in the room, you are missing out on an even more dynamic experience.

One of the most common ways to better manage acoustics in a home media room is to install specially designed wall panels. These panels are attached to existing walls using screws or nails. Although these panels are available in a variety of sizes and colors, they can be cumbersome and are not conducive to a modern, monolithic design aesthetic.

As an alternative to these potentially unwieldy acoustic panels, many homeowners are now using noise-reducing drywall on interior ceilings and walls. This specialty drywall, which can reduce sound transmission between rooms by up to 90 percent, installs just like traditional drywall and can be finished with the paint color of your choice. Since the acoustical control technology is integrated into the drywall, you can create smooth, streamlined walls for a more sleek appearance.

Above and beyond the walls and ceilings of a home theater, it is also important to assess any noise “leaks” around electrical boxes and light fixtures. For these areas, homeowners should consider specially design noise-proofing sealants and tapes to help mask distracting noises, such as squeaking floors or foot traffic overhead.

Finally, it’s important to remember that hard surfaces can reduce sound clarity and result in echoes. Carpet, compared to tile or hardwood floors, creates a better acoustical environment. Also, glass windows can hinder both visual and audio quality. Blackout shades or heavy curtains can go along way in enhancing a blockbuster theater experience right at home.

 

 

 

Shedding Light on Fair, Affordable Housing

HFH 806 houseDay in and day out we’re consumed with the products aspect of building and remodeling homes at CertainTeed. As a building materials manufacturer, we are committed to helping create high-performing, energy-efficient comfortable homes for families.

 We take pride in the fact that we contribute to healthy, thriving communities — especially through our partnerships with YouthBuild, Habitat for Humanity and Homes for Our Troops.

 However, despite the number of available homes in our communities, the stark reality is that not everyone has access to quality, affordable housing. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), there are more than four million violations of fair housing laws each year. This means that discrimination based on race, disability, familial status, national origin or religion is a reality for many individuals that are attempting to rent an apartment or buy a home as well as securing a mortgage and home insurance.

 In terms of affordable housing, Habitat for Humanity reports that in the United States 48.5 million people are living in poverty, without stable, decent housing.

 There are only 30 affordable and available housing units available for every 100 low-income households. This is a very complex issue that organizations such as Make It Right — which is rethinking the design and construction of affordable housing — are tackling.

 There are dozens of organizations dedicated to fair, affordable housing issues and we encourage you to get involved. To learn more, check out this list of 101 resources that are helping to build better communities.

 

 

What Ferrari Knows Can Help With Insulating Homes to Reduce Utility Bills

ferrari_192319It makes sense to “lightweight” automobiles, even though it costs more to use premium materials such as aluminum or magnesium than to use steel. The general rule of thumb in the auto industry is that you save about seven percent fuel economy for every 10 percent vehicle weight that you reduce. Reducing vehicle weight impacts almost every other attribute in a positive manner:

  • it burns less fuel,
  • lowers emissions into the atmosphere,
  • accelerates and brakes better,
  • provides less “wear and tear” on load bearing parts in the suspension and brake systems and,
  • is more nimble in handling.

 The aluminum alloys in the automobile industry perform equal or better to steel in dent resistance. Finally, pound for pound, aluminum absorbs twice the crash energy as steel, helping the all-aluminum Audi A8 achieve 5-star crash performance levels.

 Despite this, mainstream automakers continue to address fuel economy issues by improving powertrains, shrinking vehicle size, or a host of other band-aid fixes. A lighter weight vehicle is more efficient (efficiency improvement per unit cost) than most of these other approaches and it improves the performance of these other approaches in the process!

 Traditionally, it was high price tag vehicles (Audi, Ferrari, etc.) that were made from lightweight materials. Later this year, the 2015 Ford F-150 will launch with an all-aluminum body structure. The F-150 is one of the highest production volume vehicles in the world, so this is a game changer not just for Ford, but for the global auto industry. For the above-cited performance reasons, Ford wants you to equate an aluminum F-150 with other aluminum vehicles like the Space Shuttle or the battle-tested Army Humvee, not a soda can.

 So what does this have to do with insulation? We often hear homeowners being urged to switch to more efficient light bulbs, windows, doors, appliances, etc. to address utility bills. Yet millions of homes are under insulated.

 Like vehicle weight, insulation in a house is not very visible or exciting – at least not in the same way that a new stainless steel Energy Star refrigerator might be. Yet, like vehicle weight, improving insulation in a house is one of the smartest things you can do to lower your operating costs. Adding insulation helps improve the performance of things like high-efficiency HVAC equipment/systems, new appliances, or windows that are touted for their energy saving potential.

 We should all learn a lesson from the auto industry: it may not be as cool as an 8 speed transmission (new windows), but reducing vehicle weight (adding home insulation) is the smart move to make before you invest in other energy savers.

 

The Intricacies Behind Thermal Comfort

When you think about thermal comfort, what comes to mind? Insulation? Heating and cooling systems? The thermostat? Of course, these are all critical components to interior spaces that are conducive to happy, productive occupants. However, to truly master the science of thermal comfort, a more in-depth investigation can be beneficial.

While radiation, air speed, and humidity might be the most studied aspects of thermal performance, let’s shift our perspective to that of the end user. Specifically, how do activity, age and clothing affect comfort in interior environments?

Believe it or not, studies by ASHRAE indicate that clothing has very little impact on comfort. To reach this conclusion, ASHRAE used a unit of measure, clo, to determine the insulating capacity of clothing. Clo is based on the amount of insulation that allows a person at rest to maintain thermal equilibrium in an environment at 70 degrees Fahrenheit in a normally ventilated room. The difference in clo, which equates to 0.88 r-value, between summer and winter fashion selections is roughly 1.5 clos — a miniscule factor in terms of comfort.

However, when you consider the age of occupants it’s a different story. A 25-year-old employee bouncing off the walls and drinking a Red Bull experiences comfort much differently than a 50-year old manager who sits at a desk 8-plus hours a day.

Why? The rate of metabolism, which is influenced by age among other things, can create an awful lot of heat.  Since heat production varies from person to person, individual actions are taken to reach equilibrium that impact the entire space, such as opening a window, allowing more sunlight into the area or adjusting the thermostat.

The lesson here is that architectural professionals and building owners should be mindful of age in their designs to ensure long-lasting comfort for building occupants. For those of you that want to take a deep dive into the nuances of thermal comfort, check out ASHRAE 55-2013.

AIA Trend Alert: Smart Doors that Stay Open

ASSAABLOYIn visiting the ASSA ABLOY mobile showroom, you’ll quickly realize the astounding combination of technology and performance that goes into the company’s door opening solutions. With a specific emphasis on classroom settings, the showroom featured a real-life demonstration of its Safe Zone technology in a music room. The gist of Safe Zone is that the door will remain open as long as it detects motion, making it easier to carry large items in and out of rooms without wear-and-tear on the door. Furthermore, ASSA ABLOY doors demonstrated exceptional acoustical performance. In the on-site simulation, loud music was completely inaudible with a closed door. Now, that’s something to make some noise about.

AIA Trend Alert: Design Accents with LED Lighting

TrickHave you walked down a long, boring corridor with stark fluorescent lighting? A less than desirable experience — especially if it’s a route you take on a daily basis. Lighting manufacturer, iGuzzini showcased an interesting new product at the AIA Expo that can easily be incorporated into interior spaces to create a more inviting, memorable spaces. Its newest product, Trick, is a small, round LED light encapsulated in an extruded aluminum fixture. The product can be used to create designs that accent the wall and create a whole new movement with the light. Simply put, Trick offers endless design potential and a long-lasting, energy-efficient lighting fixture.

Sights to See While at AIA 2014

PoetryFoundationWhile there are a myriad of noteworthy buildings and architectural tours in Chicago, we turned to architecture critic for the Chicago Tribune, Blair Kamin, for a curated list of sights to see while in town. A Pulitzer prize-winning journalist, Kamin was a featured speaker at the Architect Live exhibit at the 2014 AIA Expo. His top recommendations include:

  • The Poetry Foundation building by John Ronan Architects
  • The Aqua tower by Studio Gang Architects
  • The Modern Wing at the Art Institute of Chicago by Renzo Piano
  • The Sullivan Center, formerly referred to as the Carson Pirie Scott Building, by Louis Henri Sullivan

Other notable projects underway include plans by legendary film director George Lucas for a Star Wars museum and the Barack Obama presidential library. Seems like we should add another visit to Chicago in our travel plans. What are your favorite buildings in the Windy City?