Homes for Our Troops a Humbling Example of How American Manufacturing Can Change Lives

HFOT1A few months ago, I had the privilege of traveling to Wilmington, Ohio, to witness Cpl. Josh Sams receive the keys to his new home from Homes for Our Troops, an organization that builds mortgage-free, specially adapted, energy-efficient homes for severely injured veterans. Cpl. Sams was a Marine sniper who stepped on an IED while on patrol in Afghanistan in January of 2012, causing him to lose both of his legs just above the knees and part of his right arm and hand. Thanks to this remarkable organization, he now has a comfortable place to call home and live independently for years to come.

Since its founding in 2004, Homes for Our Troops has built more than 190 homes for qualified recipients. Seeing the opportunity to make a difference in these men’s lives, CertainTeed signed on a number of years ago to donate complete roofing systems for the homes. Last year, our corporate involvement grew to include interior wall systems, as well, including fiberglass batts, high performance wallboard and tile backer. In addition, each home’s attic is now insulated with premium blowing wool.

Perhaps even more important, our involvement with Homes For Our Troops has provided a terrific venue to honor the sacrifices of our veterans and strengthen bonds within our communities throughout the country.

HFOT2As a retired Army Lieutenant, I knew from the start I wanted to be involved with this project. When regional sales manager Mike Singleton asked me if I was able to attend the Saturday morning ceremony in Ohio, I eagerly volunteered to drive three hours to be there to witness the end results of this process. To say it was moving and emotional doesn’t quite do the experience justice.

Josh was an all-state fullback at Wilmington High School, and his high school coach was there to speak at the ceremony along with his best friend and fellow Marine, who also happened to be his quarterback. He stood up in front of Josh’s family and friends and told the story of driving 13 hours through the night with his wife to meet Josh at the front doors of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center outside Washington, D.C., after learning his best friend had been injured. Also at the ceremony were the two Marines who were first on the scene to bind up Josh’s legs and get him on the medevac chopper, who surprised him by making the trip for the event. There in front of his new home, Josh wiped away tears as he thanked everyone for their support. The love, friendship and sense of community was humbling, to say the least.

If I learned anything from the experience, it’s that the role of a U.S. manufacturing company like CertainTeed extends far beyond simply making the stuff that goes into constructing a well-built home. The technologies and expertise we offer have the power to help transform lives. Through projects like Homes for Our Troops, we have an opportunity—and responsibility—to truly impact the lives of our neighbors.

As I witnessed firsthand at this event, “home” is a powerful thing. It is, after all, where the heart is. If I can say we played even a small part in helping Cpl. Sams find his home, someone who has given so much for our country and our freedom, I’d say that’s something to be proud of.

For more information on Homes for Our Troops and CertainTeed’s involvements with the organization, visit www.certainteed.com/followtheproject.

Free net-zero webinar to provide ways to achieve energy efficiency goals in residential construction

Net Zero Demonstration HouseThanks to the pervasive use of sustainable building practices, the average homeowners’ ability to afford green homes and sustainable systems is finally within reach, as the cost of energy-efficient materials and renewable-energy equipment continues to fall. Case in point, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association the average price of an installed solar-power system has declined more than 50 percent since 2010.

Due to this attainable outlook, the U.S. Department of Energy says their ultimate vision is that by 2030, a consumer will have the opportunity to buy a cost-neutral, net-zero energy home (NZEH) anywhere in the United States — a grid-connected home that, over the course of a year, produces as much energy as it uses. However, this also represents a unique challenge for the architects and builders who will be tasked with creating, constructing and evaluating these climate-appropriate zero energy homes.

Enter CertainTeed’s newest free webinar, Net-Zero Energy Home: Design Strategies and System Optimization. The AIA-accredited online course takes place Tuesday, July 28 from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. ET.

houseJoin me as I explore Pennsylvania State University’s award-winning, LEED Platinum, GridSTAR Experience Center project, completed last year on the grounds of the historic Navy Yard in Philadelphia. During the course, I will cover all aspects of this net-zero modular building that was designed and constructed using a unique combination of building materials, construction methods, energy management strategies and renewable energy sources. Learning objectives include:

  • Design strategies for pursuing a net-zero energy home
  • Describe tools used to create, construct and evaluate a climate-appropriate zero energy home before and after construction
  • Understand how to manage and interpret hygrothermal and demand response data for a single family residential home
  • Learn how innovative public/private partnerships are being used to advance building science research

This one drew a big crowd when I first presented it at AIA a few months ago in Atlanta. Register now, right here for Net-Zero Energy Home: Design Strategies and System Optimization.

Tips to Keep Your Cool All Summer Long

??????????????????????????????????Ah summertime, when the livin’ is easy. It seems like nothing can get you down except for maybe one thing – spiked electric bills. This summer, let’s beat the heat. See how you can help your family maximize fun without stressing your wallet.

Smart investments can help manage expenses in the summer, and for seasons to come. Achieve summer solace with an integrated solar roofing system. It’s an innovative, energy-efficient choice, and can generate most or all of the electricity a home uses during the day. In newer systems, unused power is transferred back to the power grid, which can reduce electric bills even further, and won’t compromise curb appeal.

My favorite features of summer are the long days and natural light. I love being greeted by sunlight in the morning so much, that I often find additional lighting unnecessary. I have discovered that switching out my incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent or LED bulbs decreases unwanted heat in the home and will save you money at the same time.

Whenever possible, get outdoors! Another great way to prevent rising temperatures in the home is to avoid using electrical appliances such as ovens. Instead grill outside; it’ll help reduce energy use.

Sometimes you need to cool off, and that’s when air conditioners can come in handy. When possible, use the AC sparingly, and never cool a vacant or unused room. I am a huge supporter of fans – ceiling or portable. Both create a healthy breeze and consume far less energy.

If you find fans can’t seem to keep your family comfortable, there may be a larger opportunity to find a sustainable solution. It might be time to add insulation to your attic or walls. Adequate insulation not only keeps your house warm, it can keep it cool, too. Insulated siding and housewrap can have the same effect. Combined, these products can help reduce energy bills and improve energy efficiency – making summer even sweeter.

Free webinar and expert panel to discuss strategies for optimizing workplace acoustics

SoloOfficeHow does noise affect the occupants of the buildings you design? A growing body of research shows that prolonged exposure to noisy office environments can negatively impact productivity and job satisfaction. Daily exposure to common noise levels in offices—50 to 60 decibels on average—can result in lower productivity and more missed work days. Did you know it can take up to 15 minutes for an office worker to regain concentration after being distracted by noise?

Even scarier, studies have linked high levels of office noise to increased stress, fatigue, accidents and illness. And statistics show that when noise hits 65 decibels, the risk of heart attack increases.

These are impactful figures, and they represent an opportunity for architects and designers to positively influence people’s lives during the design phase of an office project. CertainTeed Ceilings will gather an expert panel of leading architects, physicists and engineers in the field for a discussion on these topics during a free AIA-accredited webinar on Wednesday, June 17, from 12:30 to 2 p.m. ET.

During the AIA-accredited course, we will cover the primary acoustic issues in office environments and why acoustics matter, along with strategies for:

  • Designing flexible spaces that maximize sound containment and meet the privacy needs of conducting business
  • Address acoustics in environments in which sound quality is paramount, such as multi-media training spaces and conference rooms
  • Minimize noise intrusion in office spaces near or adjacent to high-noise areas or city traffic
  • Achieve acoustical quality, enhance productivity, and maximize the worker experience in open-concept office environments
  • Remedy sound problems in retrofit applications

CertainTeed’s Building Knowledge Academy of Continuing Education is the industry’s most extensive and engaging collection of CEU course content. Our courses provide AIA credits and help architects specify smarter. Register today.

FEMA Flood Maps Can Provide Good Insight When You are Purchasing a Home

flood_insurance_01I recently saw a map of the New York City area as it would be after a sea level rise of 50 feet.  Some of the most expensive real estate in America would become an underwater attraction. It reminded me of the revised FEMA flood maps and the importance they can have for current and future home buyers.

If you are planning to purchase or build a new home, it would be wise to look at the revised flood maps to see if the area you are considering will be impacted by changes to local weather which affect all bodies of water.  You may have noticed that “the storm of the century” seems to be happening every few years. That little brook in the back of your property could become a raging river after such an event. As such, it is a good time to become oriented with the new “reality” and take actions to mitigate both your exposure and the potential damages from such events. Look soon because bad news early is good news.

Opportunity Paths for Entrepreneurs: Winning Competitions And Win-Win Partnerships

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Changing the world is a tough job.  There’s so much to think about and it’s difficult to do on your own.  As entrepreneurs strive to move revolutionary ideas into reality, there are the usual partners to reach out to: friends and family, Venture Capital (VC) firms, government agencies, your old university professor, incubators and entrepreneurial networks that have expertise to help.  But finding alternative pathways, un-usual solutions, and the right alliances can help save your day.

Most people are familiar with VC.  But what about CV?  No, not curriculum vitae — I’m talking about corporate venturing, sometimes known as external venturing.

Large, global corporations like CertainTeed’s parent company Saint-Gobain have external venturing teams that foster open innovation, sharing, and strategic partnerships.  They have technical and testing expertise through their R&D teams and laboratories, marketing expertise and channels to market, and large- or small-scale manufacturing capabilities.

Saint-Gobain is a global corporation, celebrating their 350th anniversary this year after innovating flat glass design and manufacturing for King Louis XIV’s Hall of Mirrors in France.  Since then, the company has become a Top 100 Global Innovator with presence in 64 countries and Mars.  Yes, Mars!  Saint-Gobain specializes in building materials and high-performance materials like those used on the Mars Curiosity Rover in space.  In addition to internal R&D and innovation, the company looks to work with others for open innovation.

Saint-Gobain’s external venturing team, NOVA, and is comprised of people in North America, Europe, and Asia searching for start-up companies and new technologies that can make a difference in the world.  NOVA also hosts the NOVA Innovation Competition .  This competition provides entrepreneurs the opportunity to compete for cash prizes, free international publicity, feedback from external experts, fast-pitch competition format with a trip to the Greenbuild International Expo in Washington, DC, on November 18, 2015, and potential for a strategic partnership afterward.  Partnerships could take the form of commercialization agreements, joint development, testing, manufacturing, and other ways to help a new start-up company.

Winning isn’t everything.  Okay, yes it is.

The NOVA Innovation Competition is on!  Win a potential partnership with CertainTeed/Saint-Gobain, free international publicity, mentoring, and feedback from respected experts and thought leaders, visibility to investors, and cash prizes.

START. SCALE. SOAR.  Apply to the NOVA Innovation Competition by June 19, 2015 at www.nova-saint-gobain.com.

Smarter Skins 2 for Higher Performance Buildings

CertainTeed is pleased to introduce Building Knowledge insights that are focused on the Canadian market.  This is the second blog published by one of our Canadian experts.

There is a push globally for all building codes, including at the international level, towards net-zero construction by 2030.  Europe, which is somewhat ahead of the rest of the world in energy efficiency, in pushing for mandatory zero energy requirements by 2018.

Canadians are experts in adapting to cold extremes, developing performance codes and innovative Building Skins solutions and, therefore, have many insights when it comes to achieving this goal. Accordingly, Toronto (See my previous Blog) and Vancouver are two of the top energy efficiency leaders in buildings in North America.

I had the opportunity to share building science insights to several hundred architects at Building Industry events in Vancouver and Toronto. In Toronto, the Ontario Association of Architects (OAA) are leaders with their own OAA+2030 program and I had the chance to co-present with a leading Architect, Contractor and University Team; the Smarter Skins 2 sequel in 2015 (SS 2015).  We know it was successful; as Smarter Skins 3 is already planned for 2016! What are some of the smarter building skin solutions from SS 2015 that contribute to higher performance and most important provide sustainable habitat for building occupants?

Halifax libraryIt is crucial to assess sustainable innovations at the design phase. You can’t change the window/wall ratio, air barrier system, insulation, or gypsum wall assemblies during or after construction, so it is critical to get it right!

SS 2015 presented the key principals for building smarter skin solutions including a case study from the CNN eye-popping and award winning New Halifax Library.

Halifax drawing

 

What is the principal lesson learned for large glass buildings if we also want to achieve higher performance?  It is the need for better architectural design that includes Building Science principles.  In the case of the Halifax Library, behind the glass skin veneer 54 percent of the walls are opaque walls constructed with insulation and drywall (See sample detail).  Therefore, by focusing on smarter wall and window assemblies, you can have inspirational views to the harbor and higher building envelope performance at lower cost.

In summary, design and build with smarter skins and your customers will come.  The recently opened Halifax Library has been experiencing Community usage approximately two times greater than expected and patrons are being inspired by the views to advance their knowledge.  Blog readers can also benefit from more Smarter Skins Higher Performance Buildings insights by following My Blog and attending CertainTeed’s  Architectural Insights Symposiums and Industry Partner Events that share smarter skins knowledge.

If you are working on creating smarter skins for all types of sustainable buildings, I would be interested in hearing about your projects and the materials and system skins you are using. For example, smarter skins are essential for more affordable mid-rise wood buildings now permitted in most Canadian Codes. Together, with Smarter Insights, we will achieve higher performance buildings today for our customers and move toward the goal of Net-Zero Energy.

Tips for Architects from the 2015 AIA Convention

Lucas Hamilton

Lucas Hamilton

I asked Lucas Hamilton, Manager, Building Science Applications for CertainTeed Corporation:

What is the most critical design element that Architects need to be aware of going forward in the built environment?

There are challenges in the new environment due to changes in the building codes but the most critical is indoor air quality – both with regard to building air tightness requirements and materials development.

This could be offset or decreased in importance if product transparency actually drives clear and better materials over time.

All that product transparency is showing us right now is just how bad the things we are using really are.  But that’s a starting point.  When we start looking at the transparency documents that are available in the market today, we realize that the things we are using are emitting a lot of materials and are not what we would start with in an ideal world.

One thing that transparency does drive is organic improvement in our building materials to be healthier for us.  But until that occurs, we have to take the information available to us which is so much more than we’ve ever had before and begin to address the issues.

The challenge has clearly been put before us.  Until materials improve, we have to pay very close attention to the materials we are currently using and how they work into our indoor air quality goals because the benefit of haphazard or uncontrolled natural ventilation has been removed from our future.

Free Webinar Tackles Optimum Energy Efficiency Performance for Low-Slope Roofing Systems

FlintBoard-Polyisocyanurate-Roof-Insulation-CertainTeed-Roofing--Low-Slope-L-Sweets-514613The right insulation product and application method is fundamental to a well-designed low-slope roof system. Thermal needs of a building, energy codes, cost savings and insurance criteria must also be considered. For these reasons polyisocyanurate, also referred to as PIR, polyiso, or ISO, is the most prevalent form of low slope roofing insulation, specified primarily for use in offices, health facilities, warehouses, retail and industrial manufacturing facilities and educational institutions.

Learn more by joining me for a free, hour-long lunchtime webinar, Low Slope Roofing Featuring Polyisocyanurate, on Wednesday, May 27 from 12:30 – 1:30 p.m. ET.

During this AIA accredited, Health, Safety and Welfare (HSW) course, I’ll cover the background and current best practices of insulation in low-slope roofing applications with specific focus on this closed-cell, rigid foam board insulation.

I’ll also go over the terminology and application basics of how and when it is used, including how to:

  • Define R-value in technical terms
  • Describe the two types of insulation based on R-value
  • Describe some of the features of polyisocyanurate as an insulating material
  • Explain what the industry is doing about ozone depleting substances
  • Describe some of the uses of polyiso insulation
  • Describe some of the physical properties of polyiso insulation
  • Describe tapered insulation and explain its function

CertainTeed’s Building Knowledge Academy of Continuing Education is the industry’s most extensive and engaging collection of CEU course content. Our courses provide AIA credits and help architects specify smarter. Register today.

Tips for Celebrating Memorial Day in Your Own Backyard

CB_SpringLake_house_morning_FlagMemorial Day presents an opportunity to remember those who have served our country. Remembering that service
and sacrifice is often symbolized by hanging a flag from a porch or patio.

It also marks the unofficial beginning of summer. We at CertainTeed love to take advantage of outdoor living
spaces and we want you to get the most out of yours. Usually when a household is expecting guests, the rule of thumb is to start with cleaning. This includes your outdoor living space. Power washing a patio, deck or siding is an effective way to remove dirt and debris – leaving the intended area ready for enjoyment.

And it may just be time to take on that major renovation project you’ve been putting off. Choosing new, fresh siding or trim can give your home a much-needed face-lift. If you’re unsure how a certain style, profile or color may appear, online design tools are available that can assist with the visualization process. While exploring the different options, you might also start dreaming about stretching the budget for a new roof, deck or railing that suits your home’s unique look.

Warmer weather drives the desire to enjoy the outdoors without reservation – so embrace it! Take full advantage of your yard by installing a privacy fence. String lights around your extended living space; gather around a fire pit and you have the perfect additions for entertaining or just kicking back and relaxing.