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.

Spring is a time of renewal, remodeling

Spring is most certainly in the air. Temperatures are warming, color is popping and the sense of renewal abounds. Those neighbors you haven’t seen since last October are out in their yards again. People are walking, kids are playing, and the sound of hammering fills the air as many folks renew via remodeling. It’s just that time of year.

RestorationSmooth_Landmark

It’s the remodeling part that gets me most excited, Based on a recent study conducted online by Harris Poll and commissioned by CertainTeed, when asked which one factor is most important to homeowners when completing an exterior home improvement project, 39 percent cited curb appeal, 26 percent cited return on investment, and 21 percent noted impact on outdoor living and lifestyle considerations.

The survey also supports what we at CertainTeed have known for some time, that color is every bit as exciting as it is confusing. In fact, 40 percent of U.S. homeowners admit they are not quite sure which colors would work best on the exterior of their homes. 11 percent admit to being color “clueless” and don’t know where to begin when selecting colors for their home. Having spent a lot of time and energy on color science, this is something we get. We’ve actually built an interactive design center so that homeowners can explore, get inspired and gain confidence in their color selection. The online tool allows users to play around with different design and color combinations of siding, roofing, trim and more. It’s a fun tool to check out even if you’re not in the market for remodeling.

Beyond exterior home improvement projects, however, the Harris Poll survey reveals some telling facts about those out-of-sight, out-of-mind renovations that tend to get brushed over. One in five U.S. house owners (19 percent) give little to no consideration to insulation when planning a kitchen remodel or home addition. Even more – one in four – say the same about drywall. This is interesting because, According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), we Americans spend 90 percent of our time indoors where thermal comfort and air quality matter quite a bit. The good news is by choosing high-performance insulation and formaldehyde-absorbing drywall, homeowners have more control over energy savings and indoor pollutants like mold and VOCs than they may think. It’s always advisable to work with qualified contractors who can speak to these issues and who stock quality brands and products.

While I’m on the topic of home remodeling, video entries are now being accepted for CertainTeed’s annual Living Spaces Home Makeover Contest.  It may just help you or someone you know undertake that remodeling project that is so desperately needed. The winner gets a $100,000 grand prize, which includes $75,000 worth of building products, including professional installation and $25,000 to help cover taxes. So get the family together, shoot a fun video and enter to win by May 31. For more information and complete contest details, visit www.CertainTeed.com/DesignCenter.

Happy springtime remodeling!

Breathe in, breathe out – do you know what’s in your building’s air?

RinaldiHomesDid you know that people spend up to 90 percent of their time indoors? While most people are aware that outdoor pollution can damage health, many do not know that indoor air pollutants can have the same effect. Awareness is growing among North American homebuilders and remodelers about the importance of indoor air quality in residential construction and remodeling. CertainTeed is making strides to build partnerships that support the sustainable, energy-efficient products that enhance indoor air quality.

One of those partnerships is with Mike Holmes, a trusted contractor and long-time advocate for healthy homes. CertainTeed’s AirRenew® Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Gypsum Board is one of a select few Holmes-Approved products, offering a solution for healthier interior environments in residential construction and remodeling projects. Volatile Organic compounds(VOCs) are often introduced into the home by the off-gassing of new furniture, paint, carpeting and even air fresheners. AirRenew proactively absorbs formaldehyde and converts it into safe, inert compounds. Made from recycled material, it’s also GREENGUARD® Gold certified and can contribute to recycled materials and innovation in design credits for green projects.

Rinaldi Homes, an official Holmes Approved Homes Partner Builder, recently initiated a program that implements Holmes’ mandate in new-home construction and sustainable building. The program includes using specific building products, installation methods and building practices to ensure enhanced durability, energy-efficiency, resistance, sound protection, and higher indoor air quality – without sacrificing beautiful home design.

The upscale development consists of 26 bungalow townhomes situated in a private cul-de-sac in Mississauga, Ontario. The community showcases Rinaldi’s expertise in creating enviable, sustainable living spaces.

So the question is – are you happy with the air you are breathing in your home?

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.

Better Sustainable Habitat -Canada a World Leader

CertainTeed is pleased to introduce Building Knowledge insights that are focused on the Canadian market.  This is the first of many blogs that we will publish with our Canadian experts.

Canada represents the highest gypsum use per capita in the world and contributes significantly to sustainable habitat.  With the implementation of Toronto’s Green Standard (TGS) on January 1, 2014 the game was changed for buildings in Toronto which is the 4th largest city in North America.  This Green Standard mandates energy efficiency that will move the needle significantly and make Toronto a leader in sustainability.

TGS is a two-tier set of performance measures with supporting guidelines related to sustainable site and building design for new private and public developments. Tier One is mandatory and requires an increase in energy efficiency by 15 percent.  Tier Two, which is voluntary, requires a 25 percent increase in energy efficiency above the Ontario Building Code for Part 3 large buildings which is the highest in North America.

Toronto skyline

TORONTO (HIGH-RISE CAPITAL OF NORTH AMERICA)
WHITE = the project has had preliminary renderings, but no application has been  submitted.
RED = the project has submitted an application to the city.
GREEN = the project has been approved, but has yet to start.
YELLOW = the project is currently in sales.
BLUE = the project is currently under construction

The challenge is to identify solutions at the pre-design stage.  This can be done with various gypsum wallboard products that deliver energy efficiency, improved indoor air quality, better acoustics, mould and moisture control and increased durability with a reasonable percent of window to walls which  significantly improves energy efficiency.

With the ultimate goal of providing superior comfort and health for building occupants manufacturers are solving critical interior problems in buildings and homes through new innovative wallboard solutions.

 

Tide Turns for Home Devastated by Hurricane Sandy

IMG_4853The Sunset Green Home, once a charming 1940s cottage resting five feet above sea level, was damaged by Hurricane Irene in 2011 and decimated by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. In 2015, however, the tide will turn as it will be rebuilt as a sustainable, energy-efficient home registered through the LEED® for Homes Green Building Program. The certification goal is actually LEED Platinum.

Kim Erle, the homeowner, also happens to be a LEED AP. She and her team of architects and designers recently identified CertainTeed as a company with a range of industry-leading products that would work well in her sustainably built home. We are pleased that AirRenew® Essential Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) gypsum board, FortiCel™ Mold Prevention System, SMARTBATT™ with MoistureSense™ Technology batt insulation, GlasRoc® Diamondback® Tile Backer, and CertaSpray® open and closed cell foam were all specified for this project.

IMG_4722These products are bringing Kim and her family peace of mind. She says mold was visibly rampant in the walls and floorboards when the remains of her cottage-style home were demolished. She’s convinced this mold was there before Hurricane Sandy took out the house. Many of the products she has chosen, including ours, are there to help mitigate her mold concerns. The specified FortiCel, for instance, is a protective coating that is sprayed into the wall cavity to help prevent mold growth on structural framing surfaces. SMARTBATT also helps reduce the potential for mold and mildew growth as it comes with a smart vapor retarder that changes its permeability with the ambient humidity condition. This means the wall can essentially breathe when SMARTBATT senses moisture that needs to be released from within the wall. To further improve indoor air quality, the AirRenew wallboard will actually clean the air in Kim’s house by capturing VOCs and converting them into safe, inert compounds that safely remain within the board for up to 75 years.

Her home will be under construction through June, at which time the family hopes to move in for the summer. Check out her blog for updates on the project. It’s a great study on residential LEED design and construction.

Homes for Our Troops, A Cause to Celebrate

During this busy time of year let’s pause and focus on that for which we are grateful. I am grateful for the blessings that come with working for a company with compassion.  As a manufacturer of building materials, CertainTeed donates to several charitable organizations at the regional and corporate level. This year, CertainTeed proudly made a multi-year commitment to Homes for Our Troops.HFOTlogo_RGB_url2014-291x300

Homes for Our Troops is a national non-profit organization dedicated to building specially adapted homes for severely injured Veterans across the nation. The organization is committed to helping American heroes rebuild their lives. Our involvement is through product donation; however, there are many ways individuals can help, too.

This holiday season 10 Veterans are receiving their own specially adapted home. When you stop to think about what this means for these individuals and their families, it is humbling. The homes are provided mortgage-free to these soldiers who have returned home with life-altering injuries. Surely this is something for which we can all be thankful.

Homes for Our Troops raises money and provides building materials and professional labor to coordinate the construction of state-of-the-art homes so Veterans can live more independently. The specially adapted homes help empower these Veterans so they each can focus on their recovery and returning to their life’s work. Read more about these heroes and their post-war journeys at www.hfotusa.org.

So yes, this holiday I give thanks to Homes for Our Troops, American soldiers, and working for a company that allows me to be a small part of this generous and necessary effort.

 

Green Thought Leader Bob Marshall, manager, Building Science, CertainTeed Gypsum Canada

While at Greenbuild 2014, we asked our technical thought leaders the following question:

What is the most compelling thing happening in your universe with regard to sustainability?

Bob MarshallIn Canada, we have a much different view on energy efficiency and zero energy for buildings. Targeting energy efficiency is not only a priority but a regulatory requirement in Canada. The government is not waiting for people to take the 3 percent of the buildings that are LEED to a higher energy efficiency, they are mandating it in regulation.

Toronto, where I am from, is the fourth largest city in North America and has the highest energy efficiency standard for buildings in North America. It is 25 percent higher than the Ontario building code which is quite high in comparison to other parts of North America. We are following the course that Europe has taken and making it law to implement this for all buildings.

We will be the first jurisdiction in North America to mandate the maximum energy use intensity in a building and we are doing this for all buildings. It will be part of the next building code requirements.

We need to change the game with regard to the goals for energy efficient buildings and mandate it.

Greenbuild Attendees to Get an Inside Look at Designing and Constructing a Productive, Healthy Workplace

HQ_LabImagine. You’re the world’s largest building product’s manufacturer. You’ve been in your existing offices for more than a quarter of a century. You’ve identified new real estate and are charged with retrofitting more than 320,000 square feet of office space to create a living lab, model and showcase of your extensive portfolio of industry-leading, sustainable building products.

Want to get an inside look behind the reinvention of the world’s largest building products company’s North American headquarters? Then stop by the Saint Gobain (Powered by CertainTeed and SAGE) Education Lab (Booth #1523) for “Balancing Act: Sustainable office design from multiple viewpoints,” this morning at 10:30 a.m.

The exterior renovations and lobby of the new headquarters are being designed by Bernardon Haber Holloway with the interiors being designed by Jacobs. By leveraging the full range of Saint-Gobain’s portfolio of sustainable products and technologies, the headquarters is expected to achieve the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Gold Certification. The goal is to create a workplace that is energy-efficient, has superior air-quality and moisture management, and makes a material difference in the comfort and health of employees.

Ultimately, Saint-Gobain selected a suburban campus along the Philadelphia corridor that could provide integrated, mixed-use space with significant room for expansion. At the same time, the new Malvern campus remains accessible to the company’s expert employee base, many of whom reside in Chester and Montgomery Counties.

The panel includes:

Lucas Hamilton, manager, building science applications for CertainTeed

Shawn Puccio, senior vice president of finance at Saint Gobain North America

Neil Liebman, principal at Bernardon Haber Holloway Architects PC

Maureen Byrne, manager of projects at Jacobs

Tad Radzinski, consultant, Sustainable Solutions Corporation

The Greenbuild LivingHome Experience

GB_LivingHome

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.