Shedding Light on Fair, Affordable Housing

HFH 806 houseDay in and day out we’re consumed with the products aspect of building and remodeling homes at CertainTeed. As a building materials manufacturer, we are committed to helping create high-performing, energy-efficient comfortable homes for families.

 We take pride in the fact that we contribute to healthy, thriving communities — especially through our partnerships with YouthBuild, Habitat for Humanity and Homes for Our Troops.

 However, despite the number of available homes in our communities, the stark reality is that not everyone has access to quality, affordable housing. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), there are more than four million violations of fair housing laws each year. This means that discrimination based on race, disability, familial status, national origin or religion is a reality for many individuals that are attempting to rent an apartment or buy a home as well as securing a mortgage and home insurance.

 In terms of affordable housing, Habitat for Humanity reports that in the United States 48.5 million people are living in poverty, without stable, decent housing.

 There are only 30 affordable and available housing units available for every 100 low-income households. This is a very complex issue that organizations such as Make It Right — which is rethinking the design and construction of affordable housing — are tackling.

 There are dozens of organizations dedicated to fair, affordable housing issues and we encourage you to get involved. To learn more, check out this list of 101 resources that are helping to build better communities.

 

 

AIA Trend Alert: Smart Doors that Stay Open

ASSAABLOYIn visiting the ASSA ABLOY mobile showroom, you’ll quickly realize the astounding combination of technology and performance that goes into the company’s door opening solutions. With a specific emphasis on classroom settings, the showroom featured a real-life demonstration of its Safe Zone technology in a music room. The gist of Safe Zone is that the door will remain open as long as it detects motion, making it easier to carry large items in and out of rooms without wear-and-tear on the door. Furthermore, ASSA ABLOY doors demonstrated exceptional acoustical performance. In the on-site simulation, loud music was completely inaudible with a closed door. Now, that’s something to make some noise about.

Sights to See While at AIA 2014

PoetryFoundationWhile there are a myriad of noteworthy buildings and architectural tours in Chicago, we turned to architecture critic for the Chicago Tribune, Blair Kamin, for a curated list of sights to see while in town. A Pulitzer prize-winning journalist, Kamin was a featured speaker at the Architect Live exhibit at the 2014 AIA Expo. His top recommendations include:

  • The Poetry Foundation building by John Ronan Architects
  • The Aqua tower by Studio Gang Architects
  • The Modern Wing at the Art Institute of Chicago by Renzo Piano
  • The Sullivan Center, formerly referred to as the Carson Pirie Scott Building, by Louis Henri Sullivan

Other notable projects underway include plans by legendary film director George Lucas for a Star Wars museum and the Barack Obama presidential library. Seems like we should add another visit to Chicago in our travel plans. What are your favorite buildings in the Windy City?

Transparency and Green Labels for The Home

Product Life CycleWhile I was waiting for my coffee to brew this morning in the office, I started reading the ingredients on the back of the sweetener I planned to use. There was one ingredient that I didn’t recognize. Being a scientist, I am naturally curious so I looked it up. I was shocked to find out that the sweetener contained an ingredient that emits formaldehyde above 92 degrees Fahrenheit. So I chose a different sweetener.

How fortunate am I that I caught that and had the resources to understand what it was telling me. But how many people have no idea what some of this means? It made me think about the benefit and value of the emerging forms of transparency about the products that we buy and use in our homes. This information is very insightful and when we make it available in a form that people can digest and employ it has real value to customers and consumers.  An informed consumer is a better consumer and manufacturers are beginning to embrace the concept of transparency through Life Cycle Assessments, Environmental Product Declarations and Health Product Declarations. If you are interested in learning more about transparency in the building materials industry, I addressed this issue in a blog post.

For a more in depth and current discussion of the topic, please consider attending the webinar I am conducting on Tuesday, February 18 from 12:00 – 1:00 pm EST titled Publications for Product Life Cycle Assessment.  This course is accredited with the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI).

 

LEEDv4: Empowering Consumers through Greater Product Transparency?

HPDLogoThis week, I’m in downtown Philadelphia for Greenbuild 2013, which attracts more than 30,000 building and design professionals from around the world. The event also serves as the platform for the official launch of the U.S. Green Building Council’s new LEED®v4 standard, which calls for further environmental transparency in the built environment. While much of the buzz around LEEDv4 is within the green building community, I believe that the average consumer will benefit greatly from these new standards. Why? Because increased transparency translates into a more empowered consumer base.

Take the food industry as an example. For the most part, today’s consumers are label readers and are increasingly conscious of what is deemed healthy and what is not. They are demanding more disclosure of food ingredients such as trans fat. They are thinking twice about eating foods that are impossible to pronounce. They are the reason that most super markets have growing in-store real estate dedicated to organic foods.

How can we harness this energy and apply it to the physical environment where we live, work and play? I believe that Health Product Declarations (HPDs), which play a key role in LEEDv4, are a great start. HPDs comprehensively report information about the health impacts of each ingredient used to manufacture a building product. With this, architects, designers and contractors — as well as end users and consumers­— will be equipped with valuable information about their surroundings.

Not yet familiar with HPDs? Check out www.hpdcollaborative.org or visit www.ctpressroom.com to learn more about CertainTeed’s industry-first HPDs for its ceiling products.

 

Greenbuild 2013: Ready, Set, Schedule

greenbuild-nation-20x20Throughout the year, I crisscross the country for a wide array of meetings and events, and the Greenbuild International Conference and Expo is most definitely a highlight in my travels — even more so this year since it’s in my home town of Philadelphia.

The USGBC posted the full schedule for the conference, which features a healthy roster of thought-provoking, forward-thinking sessions. I know that sessions fill up fast, so I was quick to plan out my itinerary. Here’s a few sessions that caught my attention:

Philadelphia Eagles – Go Green Program Overview

Last year, I was fortunate to take part in a behind-the-scenes tour of Lincoln Financial Field and was wowed by their sustainable achievements — operating a nearly net zero waste facility and leveraging renewable energy sources. Regardless of your NFL team of choice, the story behind the facility will offer valuable insights and lessons in establishing an environmentally responsible business operation.

Biophilia: Moving from Theory to Reality

In my opinion, biophila is one of the most fascinating design trends in the green building industry. Based on the instinctive connection between humans and nature, biophila tends to excite at a philosophical level, but can be challenging to implement in the built environment. In this session, a team of esteemed architectural and building industry experts will outline specific project requirements, design guidelines and performance metrics for real-life biophilic applications.

Atriums: Challenge or Asset to High Performance?

As a building scientist, I enjoy digging in to the technical nuisances of even the most granular aspects of a structure. While daylighting, aesthetics and pathways for natural ventilation often drive the decision to incorporate atriums into building design, these spaces can also offer a passive solution for smoke control that is energy efficient and cost effective.

The Navy Yard as a Sustainable Business Campus

The Navy Yard in Philadelphia has become a hotbed of sustainable construction, research and development. Through a robust team of public and private sector entities, the campus features LEED-certified buildings, innovative stormwater management practices, and industry-leading design and research projects for smart-grid technologies. CertainTeed has been involved in the GridSTAR project, one of the components of the campus focused on net zero energy in residential construction and alternative energy training, and look forward to getting a more holistic view of the initiative.

Life Cycle Safety: How it Supports Social Equity Goals

As a building products manufacturer, “life cycle” is a part of our daily vernacular. However, the overall health of a building goes beyond its physical components and occupants. While fewer in number, employees who construct, operate, renovate, repair and eventually dismantle green buildings typically face disproportionately higher risks from building hazards. Led by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, this session will demonstrate how these risks can be proactively minimized in the design phase.

Greenbuild is shaping up to be an incredibly hectic, but invigorating week. Headed to the show? Let us know what’s on your “must see” list.

 

AIA Convention Takes on the Mile-High City

AIA2013Welcome to Denver! The 2013 American Institute of Architects (AIA) Convention is ready to go.  Each year exhibitors look for ways to entice attendees to their booth.  This year, the Saint-Gobain family of businesses – led by CertainTeed — is taking a new approach by bringing technical and building knowledge, and solution-based insights such as indoor environmental quality, acoustics and moisture management to our booth that can have a positive impact on the design of buildings in general.

Over the past year, we have offered accredited building science courses via webinar and our online continuing education platform to builders, designers and architects.  This practice is helping to shape sustainable building.  This year we are bringing some of these courses to the AIA Convention through our Learning Lounge.  To complement this effort, the Saint-Gobain booth (2108) is staffed with technical experts across our companies who can offer building knowledge and systems expertise unequaled in the industry.

You can still talk about products, but our Building Knowledge Bar with our experts can take the conversations to a new level. You can also tweet us questions @certainteed and we can hook you up with the right expert to answer your question.

Although our courses are sold-out, we will be blogging and tweeting questions and observations that are raised in the sessions that could apply to a problem or issue you are facing. Just follow #AIA2013.

We hope to see you over the next few days at booth 2108 to share what new innovations are taking place within the Saint-Gobain family of businesses and to be your premier resource for building knowledge.

Changing the Sustainability Game in Philadelphia

GridSTARHouseBackPhiladelphia is making great strides when it comes to sustainability. The world’s largest green building event — Greenbuild 2013 — will attract more than 30,000 building industry leaders to Philadelphia in November. The city has received national recognition for its recycling programs. New codes and tax credits are fostering more sustainable building practices. And, there’s a hotbed of research and innovation underway at The Navy Yard in Philadelphia.

With our North American headquarters just outside of Philadelphia and as a sustainable manufacturer, we fully embrace the city’s push to become “America’s Greenest City”. We have invested time and resources into a game-changing, smart-grid project that can move the needle on Net Zero Energy in construction.

Led by a collaboration of researchers, manufacturers and economic development officials, the GridSTAR Center will roll out in three phases — the GridSTAR Net Zero Energy Demonstration Structure, a solar training center and an electric vehicle (EV) charging station. These buildings are powered by an energy storage system that captures the power and disperses it as needed.

For more than a year, I have been involved in the planning and construction of the Net Zero Energy Demonstration Structure, which will be a hub for CertainTeed Building Science testing and research on energy efficiency and indoor environmental quality. The structure also offers a valuable platform to further understand and optimize how our products work together — including photovoltaic roofing, solar reflective roofing, fiberglass and spray foam insulation, foundation drainage and waterproofing systems, insulated vinyl siding, water resistive barrier and gypsum board.

From a broader perspective, the GridSTAR project is a testament to the power of public-private partnerships. In this case, the project includes a consortium of representatives from Penn State, the U.S. Department of Energy, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation, DTE Energy and five leading building product manufacturers.

This truly is a landmark project that will influence how we build and power our homes in the future. If you plan to attend GreenBuild 2013 in Philadelphia, I recommend that you take the tour of the Navy Yard which includes this project. It is truly changing the sustainability game in Philadelphia.

Watch for future blogs on this project as we begin performance testing of the systems.