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.

Free net-zero webinar to provide ways to achieve energy efficiency goals in residential construction

Net Zero Demonstration HouseThanks to the pervasive use of sustainable building practices, the average homeowners’ ability to afford green homes and sustainable systems is finally within reach, as the cost of energy-efficient materials and renewable-energy equipment continues to fall. Case in point, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association the average price of an installed solar-power system has declined more than 50 percent since 2010.

Due to this attainable outlook, the U.S. Department of Energy says their ultimate vision is that by 2030, a consumer will have the opportunity to buy a cost-neutral, net-zero energy home (NZEH) anywhere in the United States — a grid-connected home that, over the course of a year, produces as much energy as it uses. However, this also represents a unique challenge for the architects and builders who will be tasked with creating, constructing and evaluating these climate-appropriate zero energy homes.

Enter CertainTeed’s newest free webinar, Net-Zero Energy Home: Design Strategies and System Optimization. The AIA-accredited online course takes place Tuesday, July 28 from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. ET.

houseJoin me as I explore Pennsylvania State University’s award-winning, LEED Platinum, GridSTAR Experience Center project, completed last year on the grounds of the historic Navy Yard in Philadelphia. During the course, I will cover all aspects of this net-zero modular building that was designed and constructed using a unique combination of building materials, construction methods, energy management strategies and renewable energy sources. Learning objectives include:

  • Design strategies for pursuing a net-zero energy home
  • Describe tools used to create, construct and evaluate a climate-appropriate zero energy home before and after construction
  • Understand how to manage and interpret hygrothermal and demand response data for a single family residential home
  • Learn how innovative public/private partnerships are being used to advance building science research

This one drew a big crowd when I first presented it at AIA a few months ago in Atlanta. Register now, right here for Net-Zero Energy Home: Design Strategies and System Optimization.

Tips to Keep Your Cool All Summer Long

??????????????????????????????????Ah summertime, when the livin’ is easy. It seems like nothing can get you down except for maybe one thing – spiked electric bills. This summer, let’s beat the heat. See how you can help your family maximize fun without stressing your wallet.

Smart investments can help manage expenses in the summer, and for seasons to come. Achieve summer solace with an integrated solar roofing system. It’s an innovative, energy-efficient choice, and can generate most or all of the electricity a home uses during the day. In newer systems, unused power is transferred back to the power grid, which can reduce electric bills even further, and won’t compromise curb appeal.

My favorite features of summer are the long days and natural light. I love being greeted by sunlight in the morning so much, that I often find additional lighting unnecessary. I have discovered that switching out my incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent or LED bulbs decreases unwanted heat in the home and will save you money at the same time.

Whenever possible, get outdoors! Another great way to prevent rising temperatures in the home is to avoid using electrical appliances such as ovens. Instead grill outside; it’ll help reduce energy use.

Sometimes you need to cool off, and that’s when air conditioners can come in handy. When possible, use the AC sparingly, and never cool a vacant or unused room. I am a huge supporter of fans – ceiling or portable. Both create a healthy breeze and consume far less energy.

If you find fans can’t seem to keep your family comfortable, there may be a larger opportunity to find a sustainable solution. It might be time to add insulation to your attic or walls. Adequate insulation not only keeps your house warm, it can keep it cool, too. Insulated siding and housewrap can have the same effect. Combined, these products can help reduce energy bills and improve energy efficiency – making summer even sweeter.

Free webinar and expert panel to discuss strategies for optimizing workplace acoustics

SoloOfficeHow does noise affect the occupants of the buildings you design? A growing body of research shows that prolonged exposure to noisy office environments can negatively impact productivity and job satisfaction. Daily exposure to common noise levels in offices—50 to 60 decibels on average—can result in lower productivity and more missed work days. Did you know it can take up to 15 minutes for an office worker to regain concentration after being distracted by noise?

Even scarier, studies have linked high levels of office noise to increased stress, fatigue, accidents and illness. And statistics show that when noise hits 65 decibels, the risk of heart attack increases.

These are impactful figures, and they represent an opportunity for architects and designers to positively influence people’s lives during the design phase of an office project. CertainTeed Ceilings will gather an expert panel of leading architects, physicists and engineers in the field for a discussion on these topics during a free AIA-accredited webinar on Wednesday, June 17, from 12:30 to 2 p.m. ET.

During the AIA-accredited course, we will cover the primary acoustic issues in office environments and why acoustics matter, along with strategies for:

  • Designing flexible spaces that maximize sound containment and meet the privacy needs of conducting business
  • Address acoustics in environments in which sound quality is paramount, such as multi-media training spaces and conference rooms
  • Minimize noise intrusion in office spaces near or adjacent to high-noise areas or city traffic
  • Achieve acoustical quality, enhance productivity, and maximize the worker experience in open-concept office environments
  • Remedy sound problems in retrofit applications

CertainTeed’s Building Knowledge Academy of Continuing Education is the industry’s most extensive and engaging collection of CEU course content. Our courses provide AIA credits and help architects specify smarter. Register today.

Tips for Architects from the 2015 AIA Convention

Lucas Hamilton

Lucas Hamilton

I asked Lucas Hamilton, Manager, Building Science Applications for CertainTeed Corporation:

What is the most critical design element that Architects need to be aware of going forward in the built environment?

There are challenges in the new environment due to changes in the building codes but the most critical is indoor air quality – both with regard to building air tightness requirements and materials development.

This could be offset or decreased in importance if product transparency actually drives clear and better materials over time.

All that product transparency is showing us right now is just how bad the things we are using really are.  But that’s a starting point.  When we start looking at the transparency documents that are available in the market today, we realize that the things we are using are emitting a lot of materials and are not what we would start with in an ideal world.

One thing that transparency does drive is organic improvement in our building materials to be healthier for us.  But until that occurs, we have to take the information available to us which is so much more than we’ve ever had before and begin to address the issues.

The challenge has clearly been put before us.  Until materials improve, we have to pay very close attention to the materials we are currently using and how they work into our indoor air quality goals because the benefit of haphazard or uncontrolled natural ventilation has been removed from our future.

Free Webinar Tackles Optimum Energy Efficiency Performance for Low-Slope Roofing Systems

FlintBoard-Polyisocyanurate-Roof-Insulation-CertainTeed-Roofing--Low-Slope-L-Sweets-514613The right insulation product and application method is fundamental to a well-designed low-slope roof system. Thermal needs of a building, energy codes, cost savings and insurance criteria must also be considered. For these reasons polyisocyanurate, also referred to as PIR, polyiso, or ISO, is the most prevalent form of low slope roofing insulation, specified primarily for use in offices, health facilities, warehouses, retail and industrial manufacturing facilities and educational institutions.

Learn more by joining me for a free, hour-long lunchtime webinar, Low Slope Roofing Featuring Polyisocyanurate, on Wednesday, May 27 from 12:30 – 1:30 p.m. ET.

During this AIA accredited, Health, Safety and Welfare (HSW) course, I’ll cover the background and current best practices of insulation in low-slope roofing applications with specific focus on this closed-cell, rigid foam board insulation.

I’ll also go over the terminology and application basics of how and when it is used, including how to:

  • Define R-value in technical terms
  • Describe the two types of insulation based on R-value
  • Describe some of the features of polyisocyanurate as an insulating material
  • Explain what the industry is doing about ozone depleting substances
  • Describe some of the uses of polyiso insulation
  • Describe some of the physical properties of polyiso insulation
  • Describe tapered insulation and explain its function

CertainTeed’s Building Knowledge Academy of Continuing Education is the industry’s most extensive and engaging collection of CEU course content. Our courses provide AIA credits and help architects specify smarter. Register today.

Living in Trees is No Longer Just For the Birds Thanks to Treehouse Masters

 

TH2When we were children many of us dreamt about or did sleep outside under the stars. If you were really lucky, you might have even had a tent in your yard or better yet, a treehouse. But nothing I ever imagined as a child could have prepared me for what I saw in the backyard of a house in Jim Thorpe, PA.

Home improvement TV has climbed to new heights with Animal Planet’s Treehouse Masters series. The program turns treetops into private escapes for people with a passion for reconnecting with nature and their inner child. If you haven’t checked it out, I highly recommend it. Visionary Pete Nelson and his team of creative carpenters bring a whole new dimension to what we traditionally consider home improvement. They are constructing multi-room dream treehouses that come complete with functional plumbing and electricity.

TH1

We at CertainTeed consider ourselves home improvement experts with many innovative products that create comfort and efficiency and wanted to get in on this creative, unusual, and inspirational endeavor. So, we donated several high-performance building products including premium asphalt roofing shingles and waterproof underlayment, a weather-resistive barrier, and state-of-the-art insulation to Treehouse Masters.

 

TH3Nelson and crew used these top-of-the-line products to construct a home-away-from-home for a family in Pennsylvania. Nelson’s crew built a dream treehouse right in the family’s backyard. It’s a two-level structure that features a bedroom big enough to fit a queen-size bed, living room with a cozy stove fireplace, functional kitchen, bathroom with full plumbing, deck with outdoor grilling area and shower, and more. There’s nothing they did not think of.

For more on the show and to see behind the scenes footage from this build visit www.animalplanet.com/tv-shows/treehouse-masters/.

Warning: if you watch it once, you will be hooked.

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”.

 

Q and A at International Builders’ Show (IBS) with CertainTeed Expert Matt Gibson

???????????????????????????????During IBS our Meet the Experts sessions gave show attendees the opportunity to get their questions answered.  Our MC, Ted Brunson pitches the following question to Matt Gibson, Marketing Director, Siding

What New Options are Available with Regard to Creating Beautiful Living Spaces?

With exterior cladding there are endless possibilities with regard to color and texture available today to create a unique look to your home.  For us, it is about Freedom of Choice and aesthetics to create beautiful homes.  We can give you exactly what you want to make your home reflect your style and personality. We have several online tools that will enable homeowners and builders to test colors and styles on the home so that the most informed decisions can be made before ever putting a product on the house.

Colorview is a visualization tool that can take a picture of a specific home and allow homeowners and builders to put siding and roofing styles and colors directly on the house. This enables the homeowner to select the right style and color of siding and roofing that will provide a lifetime of satisfaction and curb appeal. Our ColorCoach and CurbAppeal applications take more generic styles of homes and allow you to  explore colors, styles and textures as well.

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.