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.

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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.

 

3 Reasons to be Optimistic about the Housing Market in 2015

As we usher in the 2015 National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) International Builders’ Show (IBS) we can be optimistic that the housing market will continue to pick-up based on some emerging trends.

CertainTeed was honored recently to present a manufacturer’s perspective to the Federal Reserve on the state of the construction industry and what changes need to take place to improve existing home sales and pave the way for new construction.

2014 did not turn out to be as robust a recovery as we hoped.  I think we can all agree that, even though it was the best year in housing starts in recent memory, it fell short of expectations.  Tight mortgage credit significantly crimped first-time home buyers.  According to the National Association of Realtors  first-time home buyers accounted for 33 percent of the nation’s housing market in 2014 – the smallest share since 1987 and down from 38 percent in 2013. The lack of first-timers makes it difficult for trade-up buyers to sell their homes creating a domino effect hurting new home sales and single-family construction.

So why do I feel that we will see resurgence in the housing market in 2015?

  1. JOBS – Payroll employment rose by 252,000 in December, and the unemployment rate declined to 5.6 percent. Job gains occurred in professional and business services, construction, food services and drinking places, health care, and manufacturing. Jobs and income growth usually boost consumer confidence and positive feelings about home ownership.
  1. MILLENNIALS - With more than three million 19 to 34 year olds living with their parents until they are gainfully employed and able to begin looking for that starter home, the uptick in job creation is good news. Once employed they will make plans for marriage, first home and family.
  1. LENDING - Mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac recently signaled a willingness to lend by lowering their minimum down payment requirement from 5 to 3 percent.

Industry experts suggest a more steady growth year of 16 percent, driven more by growth in single-family starts which is expected to grow 21 percent.

Let’s hope they are right.

If you are attending IBS, stop by and visit our booth at Central Hall C2127.

 

 

 

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.

 

Free Continuing Education Webinar: Acoustical Ceilings for the Eye, the Ear and the Mind

CTC_TCH_case study_409x240Unwanted noise in interior spaces can profoundly impact the way people work, learn and heal in the built environment. Well-designed interior spaces are key to combating this serious problem. Choosing the right ceiling panel material for a project makes a huge difference in managing the acoustical response of a room.

Studies also show that natural light that is more evenly distributed in a room can increase productivity. Ceilings manufactured with light reflectance properties can have a positive impact on the comfort of a room and decrease electrical costs.

To learn more, join our Building Knowledge Academy of Continuing Education (ACE) this Tuesday, December 16, from 1 – 2 p.m. ET, for a free educational webinar on acoustical ceilings. The course provides an overview of the principles of sound attenuation and light reflectance and can count toward CEU credits.

Robert Marshall, Manager for Marketing Technical Services for CertainTeed Ceilings, who has extensive experience with acoustical ceilings as a private contractor and now in the manufacturing sector, will lead the webinar. During this engaging discussion, you will learn:

  • The main properties of acoustical ceilings, their function and performance, and how they are tied to positive outcomes in healthcare facilities, schools and places of business.
  • How to calculate the Noise Reduction Coefficient (NRC) when determining the acoustical performance of a product and compare acoustical materials as they relate to sound absorption and frequency.
  • The Luminous Reflectance Factor of acoustical materials as it relates to sustainable work environments.

Click here to register.

The CertainTeed Building Knowledge ACE program offers the industry’s most extensive and engaging collection of CEU courses available. Its breadth of educational courses provides architects, specifiers and others in the building industry with knowledge and skills needed to specify products smarter.

We hope you will join us for this informative session.

A Sustainable Behemoth in the Making – The Saint-Gobain/CertainTeed New Headquarters

Image 01There is an old saying “You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.”  Well, that is exactly what Saint-Gobain and CertainTeed are doing at our new headquarters in Malvern, PA.

This is a very exciting time for our Company as we ‘walk the talk’ when it comes to sustainability and performance of our own products.  We are engaged in a full renovation of a building that was the former home of a large insurance company but has been vacant for a decade..  With our building products we are transforming the building – inside and out – to a state-of-the-art sustainable, living laboratory for our products and systems that should qualify as USGBC LEED Gold.

Because this is our building it gives us the opportunity to practice all the things that we preach on a daily basis to the market about our products. This is an opportunity to create our environment, live in it and monitor how our products perform. It is also an opportunity for all of our sister businesses to come together and address challenges such as indoor air quality, managing office acoustics, daylighting issues and overall comfort throughout the work day.

This project has generated a great deal of excitement for all our employees and we will have a great deal to talk about over the next year in our blogs because it is a living, breathing example of building sustainably with sustainable materials and with an eye on the future.

There is no other building on the planet that will have this unique suite of dynamic products all working together to make a material difference in how we work so we can help others change the places where they work.

I hope you will check back frequently, follow our journey, along with the pains and woes that all people go through when building a building sustainably.  It should be educational and fun!