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?

AIA Trend Alert: Magical Color Technology

Valspar2While it’s the result of innovative technology — not magic — we were definitely wowed by a new mobile app for Valspar paint and architectural coatings. The app allows users to scroll through an infinite color palette to find the perfect hue. If you don’t find a color you like, pick up a node device and scan an item you’d like to match. Then, the app will identify similar colors or Valspar can custom match the color — an ideal solution when architects need to carefully match interior finishes with tile, wall coverings, textiles for furniture. Valspar is also showcasing its color-shifting Kameleon architectural coating. The product features pearlescent colors that appear to shift and morph when viewed from varied angles, creating a dazzling effect for the exterior of commercial buildings.

AIA Trend Alert: Artisan Doors

RusticaThe functionality of residential doors has long been the same — they’re installed on hinges and swing in or out. However, Rustica Hardware is redefining the functionality of doors through a broad selection of “barn doors” with exceptional performance and aesthetics. A newcomer to the AIA Expo, the company had a wide array of sliding track doors on display — from wood to glass to scrap metal —  along with unique, customizable hardware. The Utah-based company uses renewable or recycled USA grown materials, and its products are proudly manufactured in the USA.

Ready for Action: AIA 2014

aia_chicagoOn the eve of the American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) annual conference, we’re rearing to go and carefully compiling our “must see” list for day one of the show. We have a full schedule of activities at the CertainTeed booth, so be sure to stop by and say hello. If you aren’t in the Windy City for the big event, we’ll do our best to share interesting insights from the exhibit hall. Drop us a line and we’ll report back to you. In the mean time, here’s what’s on our radar.

  1. Architect magazine is hosting Chicago Tribune architectural critic, Blair Kamin for a live interview session on Thursday at 11 a.m. A Pulitzer-prize winning journalist, Kamin offers a unique perspective on the challenges and opportunities of urban development, public spaces and historic preservation.
  1. Bust a move at the YKK booth. The company will debut its “Do the Architect” video, offering a much-needed respite from a long day of strenuous, CEU courses.
  1. Sign the “Down with Decibels” petition to tackle unwanted noise in interior spaces. The petition was designed to rally attendees around the idea that acoustics profoundly impact the way people work, learn and heal in the built environment.
  1. Experience a whole new dimension of upcycling with Rail Yard Studios. The company transforms old railroad ties into coffee tables, bed frames and bookshelves that are design savvy and sustainable.
  1. Get schooled on classroom acoustics. ASSA ABLOY and CertainTeed will host a panel discussion at Learning Lounge #4067 at 1:20 p.m. From concept to installation to real-world testing, this team of experts has a compelling story to share about their work at a Pennsylvania elementary school.
  1. Ready to put your pedometer to the test? Take a walk to one of the many Chicago-area buildings designed by Perkins + Will. Check out their online map to get the scoop on all of the sites to see.

Looking ahead, there’s still two more days of exploration at AIA. What should we see and do next?

 

 

 

Vinyl Siding Webinar: Basics and Beyond

Kelton1By Brian Kirn, CertainTeed Siding

Since its introduction into the marketplace more than 50 years ago, vinyl siding has evolved significantly in terms of aesthetics, durability and sustainability. New manufacturing processes have paved the way for authentic wood grain textures. New technology has delivered dynamic, multi-dimensional color palettes. Recent life cycle analyses reveal strong environmental performance over the life of the product. It’s no wonder that, according to This Old House, vinyl siding continues to capture roughly 30 percent of the U.S. siding market for new homes.

To help architectural and building professionals stay up to speed on the latest developments in vinyl siding, we’re hosting a free online webinar, “Vinyl Siding: the Basics and Beyond” on Wednesday, June 18 from 3-4 p.m. EDT.

Specifically, the course will cover the:

  • Manufacturing process for vinyl siding
  • Use of vinyl siding styles to create architectural elements
  • Energy efficiency of insulated vinyl siding
  • Key environmental benefits of selecting vinyl siding as a contribution to sustainable design
  • Top tips and considerations for the installation of vinyl siding

Whether you are working with vinyl siding for the first time or have been using it for years, we encourage you to join us. Of course, questions and comments are always welcome — here on the blog and as part of the webinar.

 

MERV: Friend or Foe?

Simply put, the answer is both.

Between the impact of LEED and a more informed consumer base, healthy indoor environments are top of mind — and rightfully so. The average person spends 90 percent of their time indoors. And, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, indoor air pollutant levels can be 2 to 5 times higher than those outdoor — all the more reason to have clean, pollutant-free air at work and at home.

One of the solutions used to tackle pollutants indoors are Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value, or MERV-rated air filters. With ratings from 1 to 20, these filters are installed in heating and cooling equipment. The higher the rating; the greater percentage of particles are captured on each pass. For example, MERV 1-4 is designed to filter cockroaches and debris, while MERV 17-20 is designed to capture extremely minute particles, including smoke and viruses.

Given the incredible filtering capacity of a MERV 17-20, why not make this the standard? Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Your MERV-rated filter needs to be compatible with your HVAC system. If not, particles will clog the filer and airflow will slow down, requiring your HVAC systems fans and motor to work harder. The end result is that these fans and motor will burn out more quickly, putting a strain on maintenance budgets.

The lesson here is that before you jump on the bandwagon for high-rated MERV filters, be certain to consult an HVAC professional. Also, consider other complementary products and solutions that contribute to healthier indoor air quality, such as formaldehyde-scavenging drywall or low-VOC carpet and paint. Of course, you are always encouraged to chat with the CertainTeed team of building scientists as well — just drop us a note below.