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.

 

Green Thought Leader Ted Winslow, brand product manager, CertainTeed Insulation

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? Ted Winslow, Brand Product Manager – Building Science, Systems & Technical Marketing, Insulation

???????????????????????????????The most compelling thing for me in regards to sustainability is seeing the evolution of how people are thinking of sustainability and energy efficiency. It is not just a one-stop solution and it is not about specific products. They want to have a holistic, systems approach to solving problems and want to know and understand how systems will impact the habitat as a whole. For example, if you increase the insulation in a building and make it tighter, how does that impact other things like moisture management? People are starting to realize that no matter how tight or impenetrable you build a building – moisture, for instance, will still potentially find a way in and what will need to be done to resolve the problem?

When you are dealing with a systems approach, each system created will be different depending on the needs for the structure. The possibilities are endless.

 

Green Thought Leaders – Drew Brandt, vice president, Marketing for CertainTeed Insulation

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?

Drew Brandt 3When you look at sustainability you are looking at the structure itself – the longevity, the life, how it works – things are becoming systems. It’s not about individual products anymore so as you pull the systems together you have to understand how they operate together. Permeance is extremely important. As you look at air tightness with regard to moisture management, we now have to manage the moisture flow within that house. As moisture is generated inside and you need to get the moisture out of the house. You also have to make sure that moisture is not coming into the house from the outside.

Air tightness and moisture management are the most critical aspects of building design right now when it comes to sustainability. It affects everything from the products that are used to build the house, the comfort of the homeowners, and how the overall systems work.

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.

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.

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.

 

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.

Home Remodeling Month: A Time to Shine

Home-Remodeling-Projects-wpckiPinterest, Houzz, Facebook, Twitter — each and every day I see amazing home transformations that delight and inspire. I’m constantly in awe of the skill and craftsmanship behind these remodeling projects. And, while smaller scale projects are suitable for ambitious DIYers, there’s something to be said for hiring a professional remodeler and getting the job done right.

Both the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) issue a rally cry during the month of May to recognize the work of professional remodelers and encourage homeowners to tackle a long-awaited renovation or needed repair.

Coined “National Home Remodeling Month,” both NAHB and NARI offer a host of resources to help remodelers shine and boost their bottom line. From logos, to social media posts to press release templates, there’s a myriad of tools that remodelers can use in their local markets. All of these promotional materials offer a unique way for remodelers to sharpen their competitive edge.

Also, this is a great time for remodelers to revisit the annual Cost vs. Value Report published by Hanley Wood and share this valuable information with their customers. The report outlines the remodeling projects that result in the greatest return on investment. For example, here’s a rundown of a few high-ranking projects from the most recent report:

Type of Project Return on Investment
Entry Door Replacement 96.6%
Deck Addition 87.4%
Garage Door Replacement 83.7%
Attic Bedroom 83.4%
Vinyl Siding Replacement 78.2%

Overall, remodelers bring curb appeal, comfort and value to our homes and that’s certainly something to honor and recognize during the month of May. Do you have an interesting remodeling project currently underway? If so, share you story here!