Q and A at International Builders’ Show (IBS) with CertainTeed Expert Lucas Hamilton

Lucas and TedDuring IBS our Meet the Experts sessions gave show attendees the opportunity to get their questions answered.  Our MC, Ted Brunson(right) pitches the following question to Building Scientist Lucas Hamilton

What is CertainTeed doing to control the way moisture is entering and leaving the home?

We use a variety of different kinds of materials and technique in our products – including passive materials – that can change their properties from being vapor closed to vapor open to address this issue.  In a situation when a wall gets wet, the physical materials that make up that wall change and promote the removal of the moisture from that wall to dry it out before biological contaminants can take hold and compromise the indoor air quality.

We have always had moisture intruding in our built assemblies but as we have increased our efforts to conserve energy over the last 40 years we have reduced our tolerance for that moisture and drying potential.  If you can pump heat and energy into a wall you can dry it out. But if you bottle up that energy you reduce your tolerance for those intrusions.

 

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.

 

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 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.

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.

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.

 

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.

Managing the Biggest Building Challenge – Moisture

We have reached the dessert portion of The Art of Building Science webinar series and it is definitely apple pie a la mode because it is jammed packed with information. A large portion of this session is focused on Moisture Management because that is the number one cause of premature service life in our built environment today. It is the one thing that we never, ever find a way to live with.

Moisture management is critical to everywhere we build because we build with water and water surrounds us. I have taken part in mold remediation projects in East Los Angeles so even in drought-ridden California you can experience excessive moisture at times. The only place on the planet that does not have moisture issues ever (at least for a very long time now) is the Atacama Desert in Chile.

Even if you haven’t been able to participate in the earlier sessions, join us Tuesday, May 6 at 5:30 pm EST. Of all the topics we cover in building science, moisture management seems to generate the most questions and the most confusion so it’s always a good time to refresh our memory and augment our knowledge. You can register right here for The Art of Building Science Part III – Moisture Flow. This course is AIA approved for 2 CEUs.

As we continue to see devastating weather systems throughout the US, designing and building to manage moisture is becoming increasingly important. Don’t miss this opportunity to learn more about controlling moisture in the built environment.