Spring is a time of renewal, remodeling

Spring is most certainly in the air. Temperatures are warming, color is popping and the sense of renewal abounds. Those neighbors you haven’t seen since last October are out in their yards again. People are walking, kids are playing, and the sound of hammering fills the air as many folks renew via remodeling. It’s just that time of year.

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It’s the remodeling part that gets me most excited, Based on a recent study conducted online by Harris Poll and commissioned by CertainTeed, when asked which one factor is most important to homeowners when completing an exterior home improvement project, 39 percent cited curb appeal, 26 percent cited return on investment, and 21 percent noted impact on outdoor living and lifestyle considerations.

The survey also supports what we at CertainTeed have known for some time, that color is every bit as exciting as it is confusing. In fact, 40 percent of U.S. homeowners admit they are not quite sure which colors would work best on the exterior of their homes. 11 percent admit to being color “clueless” and don’t know where to begin when selecting colors for their home. Having spent a lot of time and energy on color science, this is something we get. We’ve actually built an interactive design center so that homeowners can explore, get inspired and gain confidence in their color selection. The online tool allows users to play around with different design and color combinations of siding, roofing, trim and more. It’s a fun tool to check out even if you’re not in the market for remodeling.

Beyond exterior home improvement projects, however, the Harris Poll survey reveals some telling facts about those out-of-sight, out-of-mind renovations that tend to get brushed over. One in five U.S. house owners (19 percent) give little to no consideration to insulation when planning a kitchen remodel or home addition. Even more – one in four – say the same about drywall. This is interesting because, According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), we Americans spend 90 percent of our time indoors where thermal comfort and air quality matter quite a bit. The good news is by choosing high-performance insulation and formaldehyde-absorbing drywall, homeowners have more control over energy savings and indoor pollutants like mold and VOCs than they may think. It’s always advisable to work with qualified contractors who can speak to these issues and who stock quality brands and products.

While I’m on the topic of home remodeling, video entries are now being accepted for CertainTeed’s annual Living Spaces Home Makeover Contest.  It may just help you or someone you know undertake that remodeling project that is so desperately needed. The winner gets a $100,000 grand prize, which includes $75,000 worth of building products, including professional installation and $25,000 to help cover taxes. So get the family together, shoot a fun video and enter to win by May 31. For more information and complete contest details, visit www.CertainTeed.com/DesignCenter.

Happy springtime remodeling!

Tax Day Preparedness: Investing in Smart Home Renovations

BathMI_D9_BnB_flatThere’s no doubt that filing taxes can be a daunting challenge, but a refund check from the IRS comes with a lot of exciting possibilities. Pursuing home improvement projects this spring will be a great way to revamp your home after enduring a long, dreary winter. Plus, there are tax credits available that offer financial incentives to make your house energy efficient – giving you even more reason to invest in your home this Tax Day.

According to the ENERGY STAR® program, renovations such as installing quality insulation or adding a solar reflective roof can help save money on utility bills. Pursuing these updates increase the beauty and curb appeal of your home and also enhance its value.

If a reroof is in your future, make sure to choose products that are designed for optimum performance that can withstand the elements. There are various roofing designs, styles and texture options that allow you to create a unique look.

Did you know the material surrounding the exterior and interior of your home can contribute to its efficiency and strength? Insulated vinyl siding provides thermal performance and protection against noise infiltration, and new insulation batt technology can help to manage the moisture found within a home. If that’s not enough, the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association says spending $1 on insulation will save $12 in energy costs.

Renovations don’t have to stop at the walls of a residence. In fact, there are many opportunities to develop your home’s outdoor living spaces. New curved railing and gate options offer a decorative design that will accentuate the beauty of a homeowner’s yard while providing complete privacy. By investing in vinyl decking or fence, you can enjoy the warm weather or entertain guests, without having to worry about the hassle of continuous repair.

Last minute filers should keep available tax credits in mind. The Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014 allows homeowners who upgraded their insulation last year to take a federal tax credit on their 2015 returns. The credit is up to 10 percent of the cost of the insulation with a maximum lifetime credit of $500. For information on other tax credits offered by the IRS, visit www.irs.gov.

 

Tide Turns for Home Devastated by Hurricane Sandy

IMG_4853The Sunset Green Home, once a charming 1940s cottage resting five feet above sea level, was damaged by Hurricane Irene in 2011 and decimated by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. In 2015, however, the tide will turn as it will be rebuilt as a sustainable, energy-efficient home registered through the LEED® for Homes Green Building Program. The certification goal is actually LEED Platinum.

Kim Erle, the homeowner, also happens to be a LEED AP. She and her team of architects and designers recently identified CertainTeed as a company with a range of industry-leading products that would work well in her sustainably built home. We are pleased that AirRenew® Essential Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) gypsum board, FortiCel™ Mold Prevention System, SMARTBATT™ with MoistureSense™ Technology batt insulation, GlasRoc® Diamondback® Tile Backer, and CertaSpray® open and closed cell foam were all specified for this project.

IMG_4722These products are bringing Kim and her family peace of mind. She says mold was visibly rampant in the walls and floorboards when the remains of her cottage-style home were demolished. She’s convinced this mold was there before Hurricane Sandy took out the house. Many of the products she has chosen, including ours, are there to help mitigate her mold concerns. The specified FortiCel, for instance, is a protective coating that is sprayed into the wall cavity to help prevent mold growth on structural framing surfaces. SMARTBATT also helps reduce the potential for mold and mildew growth as it comes with a smart vapor retarder that changes its permeability with the ambient humidity condition. This means the wall can essentially breathe when SMARTBATT senses moisture that needs to be released from within the wall. To further improve indoor air quality, the AirRenew wallboard will actually clean the air in Kim’s house by capturing VOCs and converting them into safe, inert compounds that safely remain within the board for up to 75 years.

Her home will be under construction through June, at which time the family hopes to move in for the summer. Check out her blog for updates on the project. It’s a great study on residential LEED design and construction.

Q and A at International Builders’ Show (IBS) with CertainTeed Expert Kelly Warren

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 Kelly Warren, Senior Product Manager, Insulation

Explain what SMARTBATT™ is and the technology behind it?

Kelly and TedSMARTBATT is a kraft-faced insulation product that has an integrated vapor retarder in the product.  Not only does it protect your home from moisture entering the cavity in the winter but it opens to become vapor permeability in the spring and summer to allow vapor to escape the cavity. It is the best way to avoid moisture and mold from building up within the walls. The product senses the changes in the relative humidity causing the spray-applied coating to change molecular structure allowing the product to open and close and breathe based on ambient temperatures.

It is more important now with the changes in the building codes and the movement toward an air tight envelope. When you get to this level of air tightness it becomes extremely important to manage the moisture vapor in the home.

Q and A at International Builders’ Show (IBS) with CertainTeed Expert Ted Winslow

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

???????????????????????????????With the Change in Building Codes, how is that impacting the Insulation World?

The focus on green building continues to grow and the building code changes reflect that. More and more questions are coming from consumers regarding what is inside the wall systems and what they can do to make their homes tighter and more efficient. Transparency is very important and in response to that we have created Environmental Product Declarations and Health Product Declarations for our wide array of products for all types of applications.  These documents are also needed for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification which is a standard for identifying more energy efficient buildings. The most critical areas are controlling the acoustics from room to room and managing moisture.  Insulation is about the complete comfort of a building.

As building codes continue to change, so do the options for insulating your walls – from fiberglass batts to spray foam to blowing wool and smart vapor retarders. It is important to find the right insulation to improve efficiency in any building.

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.

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.

 

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.

 

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.