The Greenbuild LivingHome Experience

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This year, I was fortunate to kick off my Greenbuild experience in New Orleans by touring the beautifully appointed LEED® Platinum net-zero modular demonstration home constructed earlier this week on the exhibit hall floor. Designed and developed by LivingHomes and in partnership with Make It Right, the 1,550 square foot modern home lived up to its sustainable promise, showcasing the latest in high-performance, healthy living practices. Three seemed to be the magic number – built in Austin, Texas in three weeks, it was shipped in three modules and only took three hours to assemble onsite. Then the LivingHomes design team took over to put the finishing touches on a modern masterpiece that included plenty of inviting outdoor living space.

No healthy and sustainable living detail was overlooked, from the Energy Star Rated Andersen windows composed of 40 percent reclaimed wood fiber, to the GREENGUARD-certified Kohler bath and shower plumbing. CertainTeed was also proud to be included in the stringent product specifications, which included AirRenew M2Tech Indoor Air Quality gypsum board, Diamondback tile backer, Sustainable Insulation, CertaSpray spray foam insulation, Forticel and InsulSafe blowing wool insulation.

In addition to featuring the latest in green construction, partners succeeded in creating a warm and welcoming feeling with the interior design elements, with calming paint colors, local artisan furniture accents and inviting, energy-efficient lighting. It was a place I would be proud to call home. And as it turns out, one Katrina-displaced family will do just that after the show, where the Make It Right organization will move it to its community in the lower 9th ward. Its permanent stop will be among 100 other LEED Platinum-certified and Cradle to Cradle-inspired homes in a beautiful lot across the street from a playground.

If you missed the home at Greenbuild, you can still take your own virtual tour by visiting livinghome.greenbuildexpo.com.

Greenbuild 2014 Erupts in New Orleans

DSCN3691Welcome to Greenbuild 2014 in New Orleans. The Big Easy is better than ever and a great place to show off the progress being made, through strategic partnerships, to bring sustainable living to a part of the city still recovering from Hurricane Katrina. The Saint-Gobain family of businesses has been involved in several projects here in New Orleans which will be discussed over the next few days in this blog.

CertainTeed (booth #1413), our parent company Saint-Gobain and our sister businesses SAGE Electrochromics and Saint-Gobain ADFORS are part of a ’village’ of exhibits. Products and expertise that inspires are at the core of what we have brought to Greenbuild this year and we are eager to share them with you.

Saint-Gobain North America and CertainTeed are in the process of building a new headquarters outside of Philadelphia, PA. Using products that we manufacture, we are building a LEED building that will address the challenges of acoustics, indoor environmental quality, and daylighting issues. We refer to our headquarters project as a ‘living lab.’

If you are attending Greenbuild you can see these products and systems and speak with our technical experts working on this project over the next few days.

If you are not attending Greenbuild come back to our blog to learn more about our initiatives and other cool products that are on display at the show.

Hoteliers Take Heed: LEED is Good for Business

BlogA recent study published by the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration provides empirical evidence that LEED-certified hotels make more money per room than non-certified competitors.

The U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system has guided the building industry’s turn toward sustainable design since 2000. From its inception, the question has never been is LEED good for the environment. That’s a given. The question has always been is LEED good for business. Certainly the hotel industry has already embraced sustainable design to varying degrees, but evidence supporting its business practicality will surely spur on future green efforts.

What Cornell researchers did for this study was compare the performance of 93 LEED-certified hotels to that of 514 comparable non-certified competitors and found that those certified had higher average daily rates and revenue per available room, at least for two years following the certification.

This is interesting news for the hotel industry. Until now there has been little data linking LEED certification to business performance. The Cornell University study’s findings mesh with McGraw-Hill’s 2013 Green Retail and Hospitality report, which looked at annual operating costs, asset value, and ROI. This data, coupled with USGBC’s new LEED scorecard specific to the hotel industry, could bring forth lasting change toward sustainably designed hotels.

As the manufacturer of a complete portfolio of gypsum board, insulation and finishing products, we share the responsibility to help hotels meet LEED credits. That’s why we offer building materials that allow hotels to effectively address important environmental issues like indoor air quality, thermal performance and acoustics.

It’s our perspective that the Cornell study will serve as a catalyst for hoteliers to support the construction of sustainably built hotels. The proof is in the Cornell report, the guidance is in the LEED scorecard, and the products are on the market. Seems like now is a good time for hotels to go green.

Specifiers Unite: Free Webinar on Comfortable Environments through Sustainable Design

Sustainable design, indoor air quality, controlled ventilation and thermal comfort are the topics du jour for a free webinar led by building scientist Lucas Hamilton on October 1 at 2 p.m. EST. While many of CertainTeed’s courses are offered through the Academy of Continuing Education, we are delighted to team up with the Construction Specification Institute (CSI) for this webinar, titled “Commercial Building Design: Comfortable Environments Through Sustainable Design.”

The presentation will review core principles of sustainable design and describe green building concepts and rating systems. Participants will learn ways to improve indoor air quality through controlled ventilation and material selection and how to create superior acoustical environments through sound control design practices.

More specifically, the learning objectives include:

  • Explain the concepts of green building through sustainable design and describe the three principles of sustainable design.
  • Understand credit categories for a green building rating system.
  • Describe several factors affecting thermal comfort.
  • Understand ways to improve indoor air quality through controlled ventilation and material selection.
  • Explain how to create superior acoustical environments through sound control design practices.
  • Review design strategies that help create a high quality visual environment.

To join the conversation, register here.

Builder Beware: Code Changes Require Cover Up of Exposed Beams

download (1)Recently at an event where I was giving a continuing education presentation, I sat in on a presentation given by a manufacturer of wood framing materials. We usually talk in terms of dimensional framing (2×4 or 2×12) lumber as opposed to manufactured wood framing materials.

Today it is common practice to use manufactured wood products such as TJI’s (Truss Joist I-Beams–) These have become very common and popular because they are straight and flat while a 2 x 12 is a natural piece of wood that can warp and twist and then needs to be straightened out at the jobsite. Manufactured wood has gained in popularity because of these properties and others.

However, in fires, manufactured wood burns differently than traditional dimensional framing products. This can be a problem because very often, at the homeowner’s request, builders will leave the basement unfinished for the homeowner to complete at a later time. What is happening is that in these scenarios, if there is a fire in the basement, firemen can fall through the unprotected floors because the exposed manufactured wood joists and beams may be burning faster than traditional framing materials.

For that reason, a code change, Section 501.3 of the 2012 International Residential Code (IRC), has been developed mandating that all manufactured wood floor framing be covered by a 30 minute radiant barrier. That means that all those basements with unfinished ceilings will need to be finished.

I strongly recommend that builders and contractors contact your building code officials to make sure you know what you are required to do to cover the exposed beams for safety. Installing and finishing a gypsum ceiling may be one of the most affordable and practical ways of providing our emergency responders with the protection they deserve.

 

New Webinar Hones in on Superior Classroom Acoustics, Evidence-based Design

7403731050_9a1ee480deWhen classrooms are too noisy, learning is significantly impacted. There’s a compelling body of research that supports this notion. I’ve also had the opportunity to witness it first hand through our work at Slatington Elementary.

The good news is that there are readily accessible, achievable solutions that support high-performance classroom acoustics and meet applicable code requirements. In a new webinar, “Creating Superior Acoustic Environments in Schools with Evidence-Based Design”, I will outline specific recommendations on remediation techniques along with specific wall design and installation solutions.

The webinar, scheduled for Tuesday, September 24 from Noon – 1 p.m. EST, will also include the following learning objectives:

  • Identify the benefits of evidence-based acoustical design and distinguish key acoustic performance criteria necessary to create a superior acoustic environment
  • Understand the major factors affecting acoustics and speech intelligibility in classroom spaces
  • Examine the results of an elementary school classroom acoustics case study
  • Identify relevant code requirements and detail how to specify construction materials and methods for sound control

To join this free webinar, which is eligible for AIA continuing education credits, click here to register.

 

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.