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.

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.

 

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.

 

Green Thought Leaders – Drew Brandt, vice president, Marketing for 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?

Drew Brandt 3When you look at sustainability you are looking at the structure itself – the longevity, the life, how it works – things are becoming systems. It’s not about individual products anymore so as you pull the systems together you have to understand how they operate together. Permeance is extremely important. As you look at air tightness with regard to moisture management, we now have to manage the moisture flow within that house. As moisture is generated inside and you need to get the moisture out of the house. You also have to make sure that moisture is not coming into the house from the outside.

Air tightness and moisture management are the most critical aspects of building design right now when it comes to sustainability. It affects everything from the products that are used to build the house, the comfort of the homeowners, and how the overall systems work.

Mold: The Unwelcome Houseguest

mold on ceilingMold is a frequent and unwelcome guest in homes across America. So much so that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has designated September as Mold Awareness Month.

We at CertainTeed agree that mold is an issue worth addressing. As a manufacturer, we are able to help reduce the threat of mold by developing products that discourage its growth. We also devote significant building science resources to keep building professionals apprised of new information on this complex issue. Perhaps it’s this education, which ultimately trickles down to the homeowner that has the largest impact on mold. After all, it’s not just good materials and proper construction that keep a home mold-free. Good home maintenance is a key defense against the pesky guest.

We often refer to mold as the four-legged stool. It grows easily because it only requires air, water, a food source like dust, paint or fabric, and for the temperature to be between 41 to 104 degrees. In a home, these elements come together frequently so mold has the potential to flourish. Flooded basements or attic space beneath a leaky roof are high-risk areas for mold proliferation, but so are less obvious spaces like carpet near a wet potted plant. Mold spores can also enter a home through open doors, windows, heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems with outdoor air intakes. Spores can even attach to pets and people who unknowingly bring them inside on their bodies, clothes, and bags.

Homeowners are often able to remediate small areas affected by mold. A solution of one cup of bleach to one gallon of water can remove the unwanted fungus from nonporous surfaces. It’s important, however, that homeowners know to be careful to not mix bleach with other household cleaners and to wear disposable gloves and a protective N95 respirator during the remediation process.

For larger mold removal projects, or those affecting porous surfaces like drywall or insulation, building professionals with a solid understanding of building science should be the ones to clean away the mold. These professionals will also be able to safely remove materials and replace them with mold-resistant materials like fiber glass insulation or mold-resistant gypsum wallboard.

The good news is mold does not have to happen. Our building scientists often tout the five Ds to controlling mold. De-leak fixtures and holes, de-bubble wallpaper, dehumidify the indoor air, dry wet furnishings within 24 to 48 hours, and de-odor or fix the source of musty smells.

For more information on mold or Mold Awareness Month, visit http://www.epa.gov/mold/preventionandcontrol.html.

 

Managing the Biggest Building Challenge – Moisture

We have reached the dessert portion of The Art of Building Science webinar series and it is definitely apple pie a la mode because it is jammed packed with information. A large portion of this session is focused on Moisture Management because that is the number one cause of premature service life in our built environment today. It is the one thing that we never, ever find a way to live with.

Moisture management is critical to everywhere we build because we build with water and water surrounds us. I have taken part in mold remediation projects in East Los Angeles so even in drought-ridden California you can experience excessive moisture at times. The only place on the planet that does not have moisture issues ever (at least for a very long time now) is the Atacama Desert in Chile.

Even if you haven’t been able to participate in the earlier sessions, join us Tuesday, May 6 at 5:30 pm EST. Of all the topics we cover in building science, moisture management seems to generate the most questions and the most confusion so it’s always a good time to refresh our memory and augment our knowledge. You can register right here for The Art of Building Science Part III – Moisture Flow. This course is AIA approved for 2 CEUs.

As we continue to see devastating weather systems throughout the US, designing and building to manage moisture is becoming increasingly important. Don’t miss this opportunity to learn more about controlling moisture in the built environment.

Tips for Checking for Mold Following a Wet Winter

Mold-in-basement2

Following this incredibly wet winter, it is a good idea to check to make sure that mold growth is not beginning inside or on your home. You may have noticed that the media has been talking about this on news programs of late.

Mold needs four things to thrive and liquid water is perhaps the most critical as it is the only one we have a chance of controlling. Having liquid water coupled with available oxygen, food and the temperature sweet spot, 41° to 104° F, is the perfect storm for mold growth. Here is what you should do:

  • Inspect your basement for damp walls or cracks where moisture can come in and seal them.
  • Fix plumbing leaks and other water problems as soon as possible. Dry all items completely. 
  • Scrub mold off hard non-porous surfaces with detergent and water, and dry completely.
  • On porous surfaces, in addition to surface cleaning you need to completely dry the material in order to prevent its reappearance. If that can’t be done, you may need to remove the material.
  • Inspect the exterior of your home at ground level. If water is collecting there, divert it away from the foundation.
  • If you find mold, make sure to cover your face and hands to minimize exposure when cleaning the area. It is also important to put a fan in a window and blow air from the room out of the house when you are working around the mold or you may disturb it. If it is a significant area affected or if you begin to feel “allergy type” symptoms when working around mold, call an expert to clean it out.

What humans typically react to are the mold spores which become airborne when it is in its “happy place” with food, water, and a cozy temp or when the mold is physically disturbed.  

We’ve made a lot of changes to how we build in recent years in order to conserve energy and live more sustainably. Many of the things we’ve done to improve our habitat have unfortunately created an ideal environment for mold to thrive. The only chance we have to keep mold from becoming a full-time member of our households is to eliminate the presence of liquid water in or on the materials we use to construct the dwellings.

 

IBS Insights: Water Damage Woes

NormAbramNorm Abram from This Old House made a special visit to the CertainTeed booth today and answered questions from IBS attendees, which included the question:

What is the number one downfall that destroys homes?

Water. And it’s not just homes that are built with wood. There are buildings that I have seen over the years that were made out of metal and because of moisture they are destroyed. In some ways, you really need to treat a house like a human being. It’s similar to the clothes we wear that keep us warm or the athletic wear that wicks water away. Why not learn from that?

We agree wholeheartedly with Norm, which is why CertainTeed had a dedicated building science team to tackle moisture management issues. And, there’s a host of resources at www.certainteed.com/buildingscience to help builders address the mayhem caused by unwanted moisture.