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.

 

Thermal Control in Building Envelopes

Like so many things we encounter in our lives when it comes to thermal comfort in a building, it is not a one-size-fits-all scenario.  That is why it is so important to understand the thermal performance of materials but also their water vapor and air resistance properties and how they will interact in the wall assembly.

Whether specifying materials for a new construction or for a renovation it is important to have a thorough understanding of how all the components in a wall assembly will play together to get the desired outcomes for the building.

Indoor comfort is critical for human health and performance and so starting with a space that has been designed for optimal thermal performance is crucial.

Join me on Tuesday, June 3 at noon for a deep dive into Thermal Control in Building Envelopes.  After this 90 minute free webinar you will be able to:

  • Describe the three modes of heat transfer
  • Understand the thermal properties of building materials
  • Describe how to calculate the thermal performance of insulated wall assemblies
  • Describe how to insulate different types of wall assemblies
  • Describe ways to increase the thermal performance and moisture durability of roofing assemblies
  • Understand the thermal performance attributes of fenestration products – windows, curtain walls, and doors
  • Understand how thermal control in building envelopes can help earn points in the LEED rating systems

This course is GBCI approved and AIA approved for 1.5 LU.  Remember to bring your questions!

 

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.