Range Hoods with Fire Suppression Systems vs Residential Sprinklers

mElFRFhKH0pOoTU8RZfawHgThe 2009 International Residential Code (IRC) recommended the inclusion of residential sprinklers in all new home construction as added protection from fires.

However, according to a recent FEMA report, about 50 percent of the American home fires between 2002 and 2013 were cooking fires and contained to a specific area of the home.

Rather than requiring the installation of whole house sprinkler systems why don’t we evaluate the impact of range hoods with automatic fire suppression such as those used in commercial kitchens?  This technology is already available for residential kitchens and would not require as drastic a change to the building assembly.

To borrow a quote from Al Franken’s alter ego Stuart Smalley “it’s easier to put on slippers than to carpet the whole world”.

 

New Information on Code Changes Requiring Cover Up of Exposed Floor Framing

download (1)In a previous Blog I discussed the change to the Building Codes that requires manufactured wood floor framing to be covered with a 30 minute radiant barrier because they will burn quicker in a fire.  This means covering up those unfinished basement ceilings as a safety precaution.  And as I stated earlier, I strongly recommend that builders be aware of the codes and requirements around this.

However, there are new ways to protect exposed TJI floor framing for fire reasons.  Instead of installing an entire ceiling, you can also install boards along the exposed sides of the web. I have seen this done and while I haven’t done the calculations, this would probably use less material and be more cost efficient than installing the entire ceiling.

I have been following this topic and I urge you to research and make sure you are aware of the options available.

If anyone has found other solutions, please let me know so we can share them with others.

A Case for Spray Polyurethane Foams Contributing to Points in the LEED System

certasprayccappsmall409x237We are seeing an increase in the use of spray foam insulation in both commercial and residential construction both by itself and in combination with other insulations because it adds a new dimension to improving the energy efficiency of buildings especially when applying for LEED certification.

The proper use of spray foam will change your performance when you do energy modeling of your building with ASHRAE 90.1. It contributes in many ways in addition to good thermal resistance. It also has the potential for reducing whole building air leakage when installed where buildings leak air. The effect will show up in the energy modeling results.

There has been recent good news with regard to the spray polyurethane foams and LEED. The Spray Polyurethane Foam Alliance has completed Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) for both open and closed cell spray foams among its members. This is aggregated data across the members of the Alliance giving you the documentation for use with LEED v4. These EPDs are available from the members who participate.

I strongly urge all of you who haven’t yet to build a library of transparency documents for the products you like to use. There is no single source repository of this documentation across manufacturers and service providers so you’ll have to do much of the seeking yourself. Once you have created your own library, make sure someone gets the task of maintaining it to ensure all the documents you are curating are up to date and accurate.

Performance versus Prescriptive Compliance for Meeting Energy Codes

During some recent travels to work with builders, I spent time with a builder who was in the process of constructing walls and building envelopes with very little R value. These were thermal mass walls but with little R value. The builder was meeting the state energy building code through the performance path, which allows for more design freedom but involves more complex energy simulations and tradeoffs between systems, by using a highly engineered, very sophisticated, very expensive, high efficiency heating and air conditioning system.

The building when it’s completed will meet the code and the intent of the code which is to reduce energy consumption.  However, the weakness of this approach is that the equipment which is being used to meet the energy reduction goal codes will eventually wear out.  When that time comes, the owners of the building will be able to replace this high end equipment with a less expensive option since they are not under the jurisdiction or ‘watch’ of the building inspectors. This will decrease the energy efficiency of the building and possibly compromise its building code compliance.

This is one of the good things about the prescriptive path to the building code – that the elements that we choose, when properly installed, will meet the code and goals of energy reduction for the long term.  Things like thermal insulation when installed during the initial construction will always be in place, will always work and will never wear out. It will continue to perform over the life of the structure.

So while it is good to have options, remember not all options will give you the desired result over the life of the structure and that is worrisome.

 

A Sustainable Behemoth Part II – Quantifying the Recycling of Removed Materials During Deconstruction

DSCN3647This is the second blog in a series I am doing about the construction of our new headquarters which will be a ‘living lab’ for our products.

Work on our new headquarters in Malvern, PA is moving extremely fast.  I would say faster than any of us thought possible. The exterior glass is being installed on the building and the goal of being ‘under roof’ before winter is certainly within our reach.

But before we could install the new exterior with Saint-Gobain glass products, the deconstruction of the building needed to take place and all of the materials coming off the building that can be recycled needed to be cataloged.

The building is being built to several different sustainability standards, including LEED, most of which require that we make an accurate accounting of the recycling efforts going into the deconstruction phase.  All the glass and steel, as it comes off the building, needs to be quantified and accounted for.  This information will be used for validation of our goals for recycling the existing building.

The speed, accuracy and the accounting for all the materials that can be recycled was simply amazing given the size of the building. This was not only done quickly but cleanly.

Phase I complete!

If you are attending Greenbuild this week stop by our booth #1413 and see this project, the products and speak to the architects and technical staff working on the building.

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.

 

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!

 

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.

Thermal Control in Building Envelopes

Like so many things we encounter in our lives when it comes to thermal comfort in a building, it is not a one-size-fits-all scenario.  That is why it is so important to understand the thermal performance of materials but also their water vapor and air resistance properties and how they will interact in the wall assembly.

Whether specifying materials for a new construction or for a renovation it is important to have a thorough understanding of how all the components in a wall assembly will play together to get the desired outcomes for the building.

Indoor comfort is critical for human health and performance and so starting with a space that has been designed for optimal thermal performance is crucial.

Join me on Tuesday, June 3 at noon for a deep dive into Thermal Control in Building Envelopes.  After this 90 minute free webinar you will be able to:

  • Describe the three modes of heat transfer
  • Understand the thermal properties of building materials
  • Describe how to calculate the thermal performance of insulated wall assemblies
  • Describe how to insulate different types of wall assemblies
  • Describe ways to increase the thermal performance and moisture durability of roofing assemblies
  • Understand the thermal performance attributes of fenestration products – windows, curtain walls, and doors
  • Understand how thermal control in building envelopes can help earn points in the LEED rating systems

This course is GBCI approved and AIA approved for 1.5 LU.  Remember to bring your questions!

 

Don’t Confuse Product R-value with Assembly R-value

Martin Holliday

Martin Holliday

In his Blog, Musings of an Energy Nerd , in the Green Building Advisor Martin Holliday, who has been in the industry for a very long time, revisits an old topic regarding the performance claims of a certain type of insulation that we call bubble wrap. The performance claims are greatly misunderstood by most people due to the ignorance of even semi-professionals to the specifics upon which these claims are based.

The bubble wrap claim of an R-value of 8 is usually based upon its performance in an assembly not as a material by itself. They do not usually describe the assembly in which this rating is achieved when they state that performance. These products have a radiant barrier component to them and if you attend my webinars where we discuss heat flow, air flow and moisture flow – this is one of three modes of heat flow – you know that radiant barriers only work when installed adjacent to an air space. When you look at a project where they say that the product has a R-value of 8 they may have failed to mention that it was installed over spacers over a 2 inch air space when it was tested. You may not have that same scenario in your assembly.

In his article, Martin provides examples of claims that have been proven false. What was insightful to me regarding these claims is that the false claims are being repeated or made by the big box retailers who carry significant weight with consumers and DIYers. This is problematic because claims being made by a large influencer means consumers are being misled and installing a product that they think is an R-8 material when it is really an R-1 material. When their energy bills skyrocket, they are forced to redo the work and pay again to make it right.

The manufacturers have been held accountable for false claims, but who is monitoring or holding accountable, outside of Martin, when false claims or misleading information is being given to consumers at a retailer?

That is one of the reasons that using a professional contractor or installer is money well spent.