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How to Prevent Energy Efficiency Unintended Consequences

Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

In baseball, a backstop is defined as a wall or fence behind home plate that keeps the ball on the playing field. One baseball backstop supplier notes that it protects fans from stray or foul balls. In the realm of energy code compliance, a building envelope backstop is needed for similar reasons. It keeps the building envelope thermal performance levels in the “playing field” and it prevents buildings from becoming “foul balls” that stray into unintended consequences.

Now you might ask, how then does someone hit a “foul ball” in applying the energy code to a building such that an envelope backstop is needed?

Ever heard of “trade-offs”?

Example 1: Equipment Efficiency Trade-offs

One particularly problematic trade-off that some would like to use to weaken the building envelope (reduce insulation levels) is the use of HVAC equipment that is more efficient than that minimally required by the federal government. The kilowatt-hours of energy wasted by weakening building envelope insulation are being justified by using a more efficient HVAC system that uses less kilowatt-hours of energy. Unfortunately, this trade is not neutral in its consequences. 

In some significant cases, the federal equipment efficiency requirements are extremely out-dated and do not represent the common technology used in the market. In northern climates, 90% or greater efficiency gas furnaces are used at least 70% of the time in the market (see Table 1) and this usage increases in colder climates to more than 90% of the time (view source). But, the federal minimum has stagnated at 80% efficient equipment (old technology).  So, one could use a common 90% efficiency furnace that would likely be used regardless of the energy code requirements and claim that it saves 10% from the minimum 80% efficiency that could be legally used. This 10% claimed savings, in the so-called energy neutral scheme, can then be used to weaken the building envelope by the same amount.  Except, it is not just a 10% reduction in insulation levels. It is much greater because the 10% is not measured in units of insulation R-value but in units of annual energy use. This results in a potentially much larger decrease in the thermal performance (R-value) of the building envelope. For example, in many climate zones the insulation could be completely removed (i.e., 0 R-value) in the roof and walls, including use of single pane windows.

Please review the article “Energy Code Myths that Haunt Us” and the accompanying educational presentation.

Thus, without a backstop and where such a trade-off is permitted, the building envelope can be reduced to insulation practices that existed a century ago. This is not energy neutral and it represents a significant backsliding away from the energy savings that are possible simply by using a good thermal envelope and commonly used HVAC equipment which exceed out-dated federal minimum efficiency levels. For additional information on equipment efficiency trade-offs refer to the ICF international study “Review and Analysis of Equipment Trade-offs in Residential Energy Codes”.

TABLE 1: Market penetration of gas furnaces at various efficiency levels

Example 2:  On-site Renewable Energy Trade-offs

Another so-called “energy neutral” trade-off can occur when adding an on-site renewable energy system, such as roof top solar panels, to a building. Some propose to use renewable energy to trade-off building envelope insulation levels with similar performance impacts as discussed in Example 1.

Although the use of renewable energy is good and should be encouraged, it does not reduce the consumption of the building which is the role of energy conservation. The addition of renewables is not an excuse to weaken the thermal performance of the building envelope as it results in greater long term energy use. The appropriate application of renewable energy is as an additive measure after energy conservation (such as energy efficiency of the building envelope) has been achieved. This issue is addressed in more detail in two separate articles: "What Are the Pillars of a Sustainable Building Future?" and "Energy Efficiency or Trade-offs - Focus on What First?".

Implications

There are multiple ramifications of trading-off building envelope performance as demonstrated in the above two examples that necessitate having a backstop to prevent the building envelope from becoming a “foul ball”:

Permanence and Durability: The building envelope provides the most durable and lasting form of energy efficiency. It works 24-7 for 365 days a year over the life of a building.  It is the most permanent and reliable energy efficiency practice and requires essentially no maintenance or replacement. When done well, it also protects the durability of the structure and its contents. Unlike building envelope measures like insulation, HVAC equipment and renewable energy systems do not have a service life that is consistent with the life of the building. 

Cost-Effectiveness: The most cost-effective time to maximize efficiency of the building envelope is when it is newly constructed. It is very expensive to make significant improvements to the envelope after initial construction. It is imperative that building envelopes not be weakened at the time of construction.

Affordability: There is no free lunch! This is a matter of pay now or pay later. The new energy efficient buildings of today are the energy efficient affordable to own and operate existing buildings of tomorrow. Good building envelopes almost always allow you to decrease the needed size of your HVAC or renewable energy system making them more affordable as well.

Comfort:  Well insulated and air-sealed envelopes with mitigated thermal bridges provide a more comfortable and easier to control indoor environment. Occupants tend to offset uncomfortable conditions by increasing or lowering set point temperature, resulting in more energy use and also potentially increased risk of moisture problems.

For additional resources supporting reliable and robust building envelope design and construction, refer to www.continuousinsulation.org.

For additional information, please review the following articles and videos:

Articles

Videos

 

Energy Efficiency or Trade-offs - Focus on What First?

Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

In a companion article (please read “What Are the Pillars of a Sustainable Building Future?” first before reading on), the essence of energy conservation and renewable energy and their importance to achieve a common goal of a sustainable energy strategy were discussed. That companion article establishes some important background information and terminology for understanding this article, which addresses three important and related questions:

  • What is the common goal of a “sustainable energy strategy”?
  • How should energy conservation and renewable energy work together for this common goal?
  • What are the considerations and challenges that need to be assessed so that they work well together?

A major benchmark is net-zero energy ready performance. This is best achieved by creating a building that is very efficient in conserving energy first. Then we can add a reasonably sized on-site renewable energy system, such as roof-top solar panels, where the goal is to generate at least as much energy as the building uses on average. This also includes the need to use supplemental, conventionally-purchased non-renewable energy or provide for onsite renewable energy storage to fill in for periods of low on-site power generation or high energy demand. The ultimate goal is a building that meets its own annual energy demand with on-site renewable energy production and also has surplus renewable energy production to supply to other buildings and uses (net zero).

You will note that in the net-zero energy goal, as described above, the use of renewable energy supplements a building that that first has robust energy efficiency measures in place, including a well-insulated building envelope. This minimizes the size of renewable energy system (which may be limited by site or building space constraints or economics) needed to reach the net zero goal. In this manner, energy conservation and renewable energy are working together optimally to minimize net energy use and focus more dependency on renewable energy, like roof-top solar panels, and less on non-renewable energy. This “working together” approach provides the most value by first investing in energy conservation which then maximizes the value of renewable energy produced by using it to displace non-renewable energy use. This “two pillar” strategy leads to meeting a rational sustainable energy goal. It ensures that both “pillars” of a reasonable sustainable energy strategy are equally strong (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. Two Pillars of a Sustainable Energy Strategy

This positive strategy is being challenged by some who would trade off using renewable energy and energy efficiency. In these cases, renewable energy systems are used to trade-off measurable energy conservation improvements by weakening the building envelope (such as insulation or efficient windows), rather than to reduce the need for and dependency on non-renewable energy sources.

The first cost savings from a trade-off of the building’s energy efficiency measures may then be used to subsidize the first cost purchase of the on-site renewable energy system. This is illustrated in Figure 2, where there is a clear weakening of the energy conservation “pillar” of Figure 1.

Figure 2. Trading off energy conservation for renewable energy is not sustainable.

The inclusion of the renewable energy pillar is equal to the amount of energy efficiency taken away from the energy conservation pillar. This trade-off assumes that the source of energy used or conserved has no correlated consequence. In other words, renewable energy is no different from non-renewable energy and can simply be valued based on a so-called “neutral” energy trade-off. In effect, it assumes that energy conservation and renewable energy production are tradeable equivalents when they are not (see our “What Are the Pillars of a Sustainable Building Future?” article).

To the extent that this trade-off scheme is used in the construction market, it effectively undermines the foundation supporting any reasonable sustainable energy strategy for all types of buildings. These conflicted trade-offs should be stopped by appropriate regulation and policies. 

There are additional reasons to support regulation to prevent the “trade-off” described above.  First, it could be considered deceptive if not transparently disclosed. Consider two buildings that look the same and have the same renewable energy systems but one building has reduced energy efficiency measures that are hidden to the naked eye. Buyers cannot readily see that their building has reduced insulation levels in the walls and roofs and that they will not be able to achieve the net gains promised by a renewable energy system. In addition, renewable energy systems are not as reliable or as permanent as insulation and air sealing measures that are integral to the building structure for its entire life.  Renewable energy systems generally:

  1. Degrade in performance every year
  2. May not be replaced or leases may not be renewed, and
  3. May not be maintained at intended levels of operational efficacy.

In conclusion, it is important that regulations support a common goal for a sustainable energy strategy. That strategy should support energy conservation and “clean” renewable energy in a way that does not sacrifice one for the other.  Energy conservation and renewable energy production can each stand on their own economic merits and one does not need to be traded-off to subsidize the other. Such a robust strategy will provide economic pay-back as well as environmental benefits by conserving energy and reducing future dependency on non-renewable energy sources.

 

What Are the Pillars of a Sustainable Building Future?

Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

It is well known that buildings consume more energy than the transportation or industry sectors, accounting for nearly 40 percent of total U.S. energy use. Therefore, energy efficiency in the building sector, representing about 120 million households and 5 million commercial buildings in the U.S., is the key to energy conservation. Energy conservation codes, such as the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) and ASHRAE 90.1, set minimum requirements for energy efficiency measures used to conserve energy in new buildings (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. Building Energy Efficiency measures that contribute to energy conservation.

In addition, various public- and private-sector activities seek to encourage greater energy efficiency through innovation and best practices. We are on the right track and need to continue down the path of energy conservation to provide economic pay-backs as well as environmental benefits to sustain us well into the future.

Of equal importance is the source of the energy produced that is then conservatively consumed in buildings having robust energy efficiency measures (Figure 1). Sources of energy for buildings can be divided into two categories:

  1. non-renewable energy (e.g., natural gas, coal, fuel oil, nuclear, etc.) and
  2. renewable energy (solar, wind, hydro-electric, etc.)

Use of non-renewable energy sources tend to generate pollutants to varying degrees whereas renewable sources are “cleaner” and better for the environment to varying degrees. Clearly, the nuances and implications of the energy source(s) used is as important as the conservation of energy.    

Whether you are concerned about the cost of heating and cooling your home, about the environmental impacts of your energy use, or about the national security implications of fossil fuels and nuclear power, energy conservation and increased use of renewable “clean” energy sources are the two pillars of any affordable, reasonable, and sustainable energy and environmental strategy (Figure 2). 

But:

  1. How should these “pillars” work together for this common goal?
  2. What are the considerations for achieving a greater energy efficiency goal?
  3. What are the challenges to achieving a sustainable energy strategy with energy conservation and renewable energy production?  For example, is it acceptable to permit energy efficiency to be traded-off for renewable energy production?

These important questions are addressed in a separate companion article.

Figure 2. Two Pillars of a Sustainable Energy Strategy

For additional information and commentary on the effects of insulation, please read the following articles:

 

Oregon Zero Energy Commercial Code Advances Insulation

Building CodesEnergy Efficiency

On October 1, the 2019 Oregon Zero Energy Ready Commercial Code became effective.

Two of the key provisions that will help advance energy efficiency include:

  1. E104.2 Energy efficiency information on the construction documents…… Details shall include but are not limited to, as applicable, insulation materials and their R-values; fenestration U-factors……
  2. E105.2 Energy efficiency inspections. Inspections shall be made to determine compliance with Chapter 13 and shall include, but not be limited to, inspections for: envelope air sealing, envelope insulation R-values and U-factors, fenestration U-factor……..

This code will be phased in over three months, wherein permit applicants will have the option to submit permits using either the current (2014) Oregon Structural Specialty Code, or the new 2019 code. Starting on January 1, 2020 all permits must meet the new requirements. The commercial construction provisions in Part I of the code are based on ANSI/ASHRAE/IES Standard 90.1-2016.

2019 Oregon Zero Energy Ready Commercial Code PDF

 

PIMA Delivers Polyiso CI Webinar to Code Officials

Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

PIMA partnered with SPEER (South-central Partnership for Energy Efficiency as a Resource) to deliver an educational webinar on the code requirements for Polyiso CI used in exterior residential wall construction. The presentation reached 80 code officials and consultants located throughout Texas and the U.S. central region. Look out for future notifications from PIMA on engagement opportunities with these key stakeholder groups. Many thanks to presenter Matt Stevens from Rmax.

More Polyiso CI educational programs available through AEC Daily.

For additional information, please review the following articles, as well as the previous videos in this series:

Perfect Wall Articles

  1. Creating the ‘Perfect Wall’: Simplifying Water Vapor Retarder Requirements to Control Moisture
  2. Perfect Walls are Perfect, and Hybrid Walls Perfectly Good
  3. Wood Framed Wall Insulation Calculator Explained
  4. New Wall Design Calculator for Commercial Energy Code Compliance
  5. Energy Code Math Lesson: Why an R-25 Wall is Not Equal to a R-20+5ci
  6. Continuous Insulation Solves Energy Code Math Problem

Video Series

  1. Fear Building Envelopes No More with This Website & Videos
  2. Thermodynamics Simplified Heat Flows from Warm to Cold
  3. Moisture Flow Drives Water Induced Problems
  4. Video: How the 'Perfect Wall' Solves Environmental Diversity
  5. Video: How Important Is Your WRB?
  6. Video: A Reliably Perfect Wall Anywhere
  7. Video: The Best Wall We Know How to Make 
  8. Video: How to Insulate with Steel Studs
  9. Video: Thermal Bridging and Steel Studs
  10. Video: Better Residential Energy Performance with Continuous Insulation
  11. Video: How to (Not) Ruin a Perfectly Good Wall
  12. Video: Tar Paper and Continuous Insulation? No Problem!
  13. Video: Do CI and WRBs Go Together?

Installed Building Products Buys 2 Spray-Foam Firms

Business

Installed Building Products, Inc. , an industry-leading installer of insulation and complementary building products, announced the acquisitions of Northeast Spray Insulation, Inc., and Minnesota Spray-Foam Insulation.

Northeast provides spray foam, fiberglass, and cellulose insulation installation services, as well as thermal barrier services for residential single- and multi-family customers throughout Maine and New Hampshire. Founded in 2001, Northeast has annual revenue of approximately $3.6 million.

MSI provides spray foam, fiberglass, and cellulose insulation installation services to residential customers throughout Minnesota. Founded in 2001, MSI has annual revenue of approximately $1.6 million.

“With combined trailing twelve-month revenue of $5.2 million, the acquisitions of Northeast and MSI enhance our presence in two compelling housing markets,” stated Jeff Edwards, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. “To date, we have acquired over $36 million of annual revenues, which primarily consists of insulation installers. Acquisitions remain a key component of our growth plan and we continue to have a robust pipeline of acquisition opportunities across multiple geographies, products and end markets.”

Installed Building Products, Inc. is one of the nation's largest new residential insulation installers and is a diversified installer of complementary building products, including waterproofing, fire-stopping, fireproofing, garage doors, rain gutters, window blinds, shower doors, closet shelving and mirrors and other products for residential and commercial builders located in the continental United States.

 

How Do OSB Prices Affect Sheathing Sales?

Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge. View source.

Despite its reputation for being one of the most volatile commodity wood products, OSB is on pace to record the smallest trading range in its history.

Through September, the OSB Composite Price has bounced between $212 ($6.78 per 4x8 sheet) and $255 ($8.16 per sheet). That $43 range would be the smallest since the composite was created in 1996, if it continues trading in that range through the end of the year.

Previously, the least volatile year in trading of OSB occurred during the Great Recession when prices were depressed. In 2009, the OSB Composite Price shifted in a $46 range, from $167 ($5.34) to $213 ($6.81). In 2011, it moved again in a $46 range, from $192 ($6.14) to $238 ($7.61).

That’s in stark contrast to 2018, when the OSB composite spanned a $261 range, from $241 ($7.71) to $502 ($16.06). Nothing can compare to the extreme volatility of OSB in 2003-04. The composite price shifted in a $352 range in 2003, and then backed it up with a $348 range in 2004, which featured the all-time high composite reading of $607 ($19.42).

Single-family housing is the dominant user of OSB, and that market has been relatively flat for most of 2019. To get a feel for the effect of single family starts on the commodity price of OSB see the graph immediately below the OSB Composite Price by Random Lengths above. Through August, actual single-family starts trail the same period of 2018 by 2.7%.

Traders say production curtailments are needed to jolt OSB out of its malaise. Two indefinite mill shutdowns were announced in Western Canada in late July and August when LP and Norbord announced plans to close mills in Peace Valley and 100 Mile House, B.C., respectively. Some say the full effect of those closures has yet to be felt, although production from the South is shipping farther north to supplement those markets.

Click to enlarge. View source.

Buyers have hesitated to increase purchasing with supplies readily available. “Why invest if you don’t perceive any upside?” said one buyer in the South.

Matt Layman of Layman’s Lumber Guide says the following about the OSB market: “Despite low prices and thinning mill profitability, the seasonal down trend is being manifested. We haven't seen sub $125 in over a decade but the new low cost facilities in the southwest along with declining log prices make that a 2019 possibility. Those rock bottom numbers tend to linger rather than snap back. That is why positions are longer term investments. Buy 7/16 $150 or lower, basis LLG print. Double down at $125 fob mill print.” As commentary for the graph below, Matt provides an OSB forecast where the blue squares are the actual price of OSB and the black are Matt’s forecast based on a proprietary algorithm.

 

Will Home Depot’s Chemical Strategy Affect You?

Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

The Home Depot recently reported that they will begin phasing out certain chemicals, used in carpets and rugs, on December 31, 2019 for both the U.S. and Canada markets. This is part of their on-going initiative to offer products that are not only innovative, but safer for the environment.

“[Our policy for the] carpets and rugs we sell is another example of our shared commitment to building a better future for our customers and the planet,” says Ron Jarvis, vice president of environmental innovation. 

The Home Depot first published its chemical strategy in 2017 and since then, has reduced many chemicals like formaldehyde and triclosan’s in everyday product categories. The company has also made important strides including: 

  • Paint – All interior and exterior paint sold in our U.S. stores is low or no VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) 
  • Flooring – Removed vinyl flooring products containing ortho-phthalates from product assortment 
  • Insulation - All fiberglass insulation carries a 100% GREENGUARD Gold certification 
  • Cleaning – Cleaning products within our Eco Options program obtained certifications from independent third-party testers such as EPA’s Safer Choice and Cradle to Cradle 
  • Gardening - All stores carry local, organic vegetables and herbs 

 Learn more about The Home Depot’s Chemical Strategy. For more information on environmental health and safety stewardship please visit:

 

Blower Door: Friend or Foe?

Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

Three previous articles in this series addressed the significance of air leakage control, various air barrier materials and methods, and installation and inspection practices. In this fourth and final article, we address blower door air-leakage testing.

Blower Doors and Code Requirements

At the most basic level, a blower door air-leakage test uses a door with a fan (blower) and instrumentation to monitor air flow and pressurization (or depressurization) of the building at standardized test conditions (see Figure 1). Based on the geometry of the building, the air flow rate is then converted to an ACH value (i.e., air changes per hour for the enclosed, conditioned volume of the building at a specified pressure differential) or CFM/ft2 value (cubic feet of air leakage per minute per square foot of exterior enclosure surface area).

Figure 1: Photo of a Blower Door

Source: https://www.energycodes.gov/building-energy-code-resource-guide-air-leakage-guide

Typically, these tests and the required calculations are performed by a blower door or envelope or energy rating consultant. Additional information on air-barriers, installation, and testing can be found at Resources for Air Barriers.

Blower door tests have become commonplace with the adoption of a requirement for air-leakage tests for one- and two-family dwellings in 2012 and later editions of the IECC residential energy code (see Table 1 and Figure 2). While air-leakage testing remains optional in the IECC commercial energy code provisions (even though the code does include a maximum air leakage target), air-leakage tests are increasingly used on a project-by-project basis to verify and deliver properly performing commercial buildings. Thus, air-leakage testing as required or used as good practice is being driven by a growing appreciation for the significance of air leakage control.

Table 1: 2009 vs. 2012/2015/2018 IECC - Residential Climate Zone 2009 IECC 2012/2015/2018 IECC 1-2 < 7 ACH ≤ 5 ACH @ 50 pascals 3-8 < 7 ACH @ 50 pascals ≤ 3 ACH @ 50 pascals Air sealing list & visual inspection Yes Yes Blower Door Test Not required Required

ACH = air changes per hour; a measure of building air tightness.

Figure 2: U.S. Climate Zones

Figure 3: Example Blower Door Test Report from Consultant

For those concerned with delivering a code-compliant and energy efficient building, the blower door air-leakage test is your friend. The blower-door test complements the application of any type of air barrier material and method. It also complements the effort to follow prescriptive practices for air barrier installation and inspection by helping to detect and correct missed leakage paths. This is typically done by use of tools like “smoke sticks” or even infrared cameras while the building is pressurized or depressurized by the blower door. It provides assurance that the target air leakage rates are met and this will also provide assurance that the building will perform with energy savings, comfort, and moisture-control performance as intended by the code or by design. 

In addition, if HVAC equipment are properly sized, then ensuring that air leakage rates are consistent with the assumed building air-leakage rate is very important to the performance of the HVAC system. Hence, there are many good reasons to perform a blower door test to demonstrate code compliance. 

Example Blower Door Results

Now that we have established what a blower door test is, how it is used, and its many benefits, it is time to put it into practice and look at some results. Figure 3 is an image of an actual blower door test consultant’s report to the builder. The test report indicates an ACH of 2.397 (rounded to 2.4) which is comfortably below the maximum allowed 3 ACH for the subject house in Climate Zone 4 (see Table 1 and Figure 2). 

Figure 4: Example “Energy Efficiency Certificate”

To readily convey this information to the building inspector and the home owner (including future home buyers), the result also is included on a code-required “energy efficiency certificate” placed on the home’s electric panel (Figure 4). This certificate is extremely important to the value of an energy efficient home as the information on this certificate is not easily seen or otherwise known. Clearly, the blower door is a valuable friend of the builder, inspector, and building owners or future buyers.

For more information on air-barriers and air-leakage control, refer to the Air Barrier Topical Library on Continuousinsulation.org.

For additional information, please review the following articles and videos:

Articles

Videos

 

Can a Building Official Deny Approval of an RDP's Work?

Engineering & Testing

Graphic 1: Click to enlarge. An example process for complaint about the practice of engineering. There is a similar process for architects. Learn more.

This is a common question, particularly when a building official does not approve work that is signed and sealed by a professional engineer (P.E.) or a professional architect (A.I.A). The short answer is no, not if a building official is following their state’s adopted law.

Why? Simply put, the legislature, of all states, has placed legal authority over registered design professionals (RDP) within the purview of a processional licensing board. This board determines who can and who cannot be a practicing RDP. Anyone denying an RDP’s ability to practice their profession, without going through proper state legal process to do so, denies due process of law.

Furthermore, the licensing boards for professional engineers are the only regulatory authority having jurisdiction over engineering. What does this mean in practical terms? A properly licensed professional engineer must be allowed to practice engineering without restraint, bias, discrimination, or arbitrary limitation. Engineering law is also clear that the engineering work needs to be in the engineer’s area of expertise.

As an example (see Graphic 1), the Florida Board of Professional Engineers has a process by which engineers, who are violating professional engineering laws, will be investigated. This is a legal process, which follows the standard rules for investigating evidence, assessing legal sufficiency and determining probable cause of a violation of any reported aspect of professional engineering law.

Graphic 2: Example sealed specialty engineered design document by a professional engineer as an approved source.

If any building official believes an RDP is practicing outside their area of expertise or otherwise violating architecture or engineering law, they need to follow the proper state law complaint process, which all licensing boards provide. In all other cases, the presumption of having proper expertise and innocence with respect to violating the law should be the norm, leading to immediate approval of an RDPs professional commerce.

Consequently, building officials with whom the Structural Building Components Association (SBCA) has discussed how the approval process for an RDP’s construction documents, research reports, and/or specialty engineered designs should work, provide the following step-by-step approach:

  1. The building official ensures that the RDP has signed and sealed their work, with a seal as stipulated by state law, the license number and date of the work.
  2. When completed the RDP is defined, by adopted state law, to be an approved source.
  3. This legal definition states who can be approved and also provides specific acceptance criteria -- “An independent person, firm or corporation, approved by the building official, who is competent and experienced in the application of engineering principles to materials, methods or systems analyses.”
  4. At this point the next step is to verify that the RDP is currently licensed to practice in a given jurisdiction by going to the state board’s website to check. An example validation site can be found here.
  5. Finally, the RDP’s work is approved by filing a copy for the public record. This includes but is not limited to all project related documentation.

In parallel with RDP approval, however, the legislature has assigned building officials legal authority over administering and enforcing legislatively written and legally adopted provisions of the model building code and/or alternative language and amendments.

Given this, RDP approval also includes building official peer review of all the submitted construction documents, research reports, and/or specialty engineered designs. If, during this peer review, a code compliance error is made. That error then needs to be brought to the attention of the RDP, along with the code section violated, so that the RDP can cure the error.  

SBCA members have built an industry based on taking responsibility for their scope of work. This is best demonstrated by the continuing use of sealed truss design drawings. When an engineer’s seal is on a document, any company using that document has visible assurance that an engineer takes responsibility for the work to which the seal is attached. Furthermore, the engineer will react professionally when working with building officials to provide structures that are safe and durable.

For additional information and commentary on the building code, please read the following articles:

 

How Can a Building Official Deny Approval of an RDP's Work?

Engineering & Testing

Graphic 1: Click to enlarge. An example process for complaint about the practice of engineering. There is a similar process for architects. Learn more.

This is a common question, particularly when a building official does not approve work that is signed and sealed by a professional engineer (P.E.) or a professional architect (A.I.A). The short answer is no, not if a building official is following their state’s adopted law.

Why? Simply put, the legislature, of all states, has placed legal authority over registered design professionals (RDP) within the purview of a processional licensing board. This board determines who can and who cannot be a practicing RDP. Anyone denying an RDP’s ability to practice their profession, without going through proper state legal process to do so, denies due process of law.

Furthermore, the licensing boards for professional engineers are the only regulatory authority having jurisdiction over engineering. What does this mean in practical terms? A properly licensed professional engineer must be allowed to practice engineering without restraint, bias, discrimination, or arbitrary limitation. Engineering law is also clear that the engineering work needs to be in the engineer’s area of expertise.

As an example (see Graphic 1), the Florida Board of Professional Engineers has a process by which engineers, who are violating professional engineering laws, will be investigated. This is a legal process, which follows the standard rules for investigating evidence, assessing legal sufficiency and determining probable cause of a violation of any reported aspect of professional engineering law.

Graphic 2: Example sealed specialty engineered design document by a professional engineer as an approved source.

If any building official believes an RDP is practicing outside their area of expertise or otherwise violating architecture or engineering law, they need to follow the proper state law complaint process, which all licensing boards provide. In all other cases, the presumption of having proper expertise and innocence with respect to violating the law should be the norm, leading to immediate approval of an RDPs professional commerce.

Consequently, building officials with whom the Structural Building Components Association (SBCA) has discussed how the approval process for an RDP’s construction documents, research reports, and/or specialty engineered designs should work, provide the following step-by-step approach:

  1. The building official ensures that the RDP has signed and sealed their work, with a seal as stipulated by state law, the license number and date of the work.
  2. When completed the RDP is defined, by adopted state law, to be an approved source.
  3. This legal definition states who can be approved and also provides specific acceptance criteria -- “An independent person, firm or corporation, approved by the building official, who is competent and experienced in the application of engineering principles to materials, methods or systems analyses.”
  4. At this point the next step is to verify that the RDP is currently licensed to practice in a given jurisdiction by going to the state board’s website to check. An example validation site can be found here.
  5. Finally, the RDP’s work is approved by filing a copy for the public record. This includes but is not limited to all project related documentation.

In parallel with RDP approval, however, the legislature has assigned building officials legal authority over administering and enforcing legislatively written and legally adopted provisions of the model building code and/or alternative language and amendments.

Given this, RDP approval also includes building official peer review of all the submitted construction documents, research reports, and/or specialty engineered designs. If, during this peer review, a code compliance error is made. That error then needs to be brought to the attention of the RDP, along with the code section violated, so that the RDP can cure the error.  

SBCA members have built an industry based on taking responsibility for their scope of work. This is best demonstrated by the continuing use of sealed truss design drawings. When an engineer’s seal is on a document, any company using that document has visible assurance that an engineer takes responsibility for the work to which the seal is attached. Furthermore, the engineer will react professionally when working with building officials to provide structures that are safe and durable.

For additional information and commentary on the building code, please read the following articles:

 

Two Questions by Oregon CBO on Code Compliance Approvals

Building Codes

SBCA and NFC sincerely appreciate all questions and feedback on articles written by our staff. Mr. Derrick Moon, CBO, a building services supervisor in Hillsboro, Oregon sent the following email based on an article (“Can a Building Official Deny Approval of a P.E.'s Work?”) that ran in the June 12 edition of the National Framing Council’s Framing News:

Hello,

I would like to thank you for this article, it was thorough and provided a lot of information.  There are just a couple of points that are confusing to me.  In the first part of the publication it states the following:

This is a common question, particularly when a building official does not approve work that is signed and sealed by a professional engineer (P.E.) or a professional architect (A.I.A). The short answer is no, not according to the law.

However you state later in the article there is a caveat:

The only caveat to this is if, during the review of the documents provided by the engineer, a code compliance error is made. That error then needs to be brought to the attention of the engineer, along with the code section violated, so that the engineer can cure the error.

[Question #1] If the Building Official does not have the right to approve a P.E.’s work, why does he have the right to review it for code compliance?

[Answer #1] To use an analogy, a building official is similar to a policeman. The IBC definition states specifically that they are “the officer charged with the administration and enforcement of this code.” Section 105.3.1 defines more specifically what this means by saying that “the building official shall examine applications for permits and amendments thereto…. If the application or the construction documents do not conform to the requirements of pertinent laws, the building official shall reject such application in writing, stating the reasons therefore.”

Section 104.11 regarding alternative materials, design and methods of construction and equipment states similarly; “Where the alternative material, design or method of construction is not approved, the building official shall respond in writing, stating the reasons why the alternative was not approved.”

So the question becomes simply: What is the intent and purpose of this statement? Logic says that there needs to be a double check or peer review of the work of the registered design professional (RDP) because they are not, nor is anyone, infallible. This review can catch items, based on experience and using a second set of eyes approach, that will heal downstream pain given any non-compliance found at the site inspection stage of construction.

All professional building officials that we know take this a step further, whether with plan review or Section 104.11 alternative material approval. They point out any specific code section non-compliance issues and provide counsel on a way to resolve the non-compliance as they work through the issue with the RDP or ISO/IEC 17065 Accredited Third-Party Certification Body. This helps a project move ahead smoothly and in proper conformance with specific regulations.

[Question #2] Also can a Building Official review/ approve a P.E.’s work if he is not a licensed P.E.?

[Answer #2] Certainly. And when the process works collaboratively and professionally, that second set of eyes process will be sincerely appreciated and result in the best possible finished building. Not only that it is certain that the RDP will make the needed corrections and the building official will retain a new set of sealed and signed construction documents, research reports, and/or specialty engineered designs, for which the RDP will stand behind.

[Final thought #3] Thank you.

[Response] You are very welcome and your questions are very much appreciated.

Our goal is to provide perspective with respect to real discussions that are taking place in the market. Mr. Moon has provided us all with the ability to learn together because he took the time to ask for clarification. We look forward to any and all future questions that allow us to collaborate.

For additional information and commentary on the building code, please read the following articles:

 

Two Questions by Oregon CBO on Code Compliance Approvals

Building Codes

SBCA and NFC sincerely appreciate all questions and feedback on articles written by our staff. Mr. Derrick Moon, CBO, a building services supervisor in Hillsboro, Oregon sent the following email based on an article (“Can a Building Official Deny Approval of a P.E.'s Work?”) that ran in the June 12 edition of the National Framing Council’s Framing News:

Hello,

I would like to thank you for this article, it was thorough and provided a lot of information.  There are just a couple of points that are confusing to me.  In the first part of the publication it states the following:

This is a common question, particularly when a building official does not approve work that is signed and sealed by a professional engineer (P.E.) or a professional architect (A.I.A). The short answer is no, not according to the law.

However you state later in the article there is a caveat:

The only caveat to this is if, during the review of the documents provided by the engineer, a code compliance error is made. That error then needs to be brought to the attention of the engineer, along with the code section violated, so that the engineer can cure the error.

[Question #1] If the Building Official does not have the right to approve a P.E.’s work, why does he have the right to review it for code compliance?

[Answer #1] To use an analogy, a building official is similar to a policeman. The IBC definition states specifically that they are “the officer charged with the administration and enforcement of this code.” Section 105.3.1 defines more specifically what this means by saying that “the building official shall examine applications for permits and amendments thereto…. If the application or the construction documents do not conform to the requirements of pertinent laws, the building official shall reject such application in writing, stating the reasons therefore.”

Section 104.11 regarding alternative materials, design and methods of construction and equipment states similarly; “Where the alternative material, design or method of construction is not approved, the building official shall respond in writing, stating the reasons why the alternative was not approved.”

So the question becomes simply: What is the intent and purpose of this statement? Logic says that there needs to be a double check or peer review of the work of the registered design professional (RDP) because they are not, nor is anyone, infallible. This review can catch items, based on experience and using a second set of eyes approach, that will heal downstream pain given any non-compliance found at the site inspection stage of construction.

All professional building officials that we know take this a step further, whether with plan review or Section 104.11 alternative material approval. They point out any specific code section non-compliance issues and provide counsel on a way to resolve the non-compliance as they work through the issue with the RDP or ISO/IEC 17065 Accredited Third-Party Certification Body. This helps a project move ahead smoothly and in proper conformance with specific regulations.

[Question #2] Also can a Building Official review/ approve a P.E.’s work if he is not a licensed P.E.?

[Answer #2] Certainly. And when the process works collaboratively and professionally, that second set of eyes process will be sincerely appreciated and result in the best possible finished building. Not only that it is certain that the RDP will make the needed corrections and the building official will retain a new set of sealed and signed construction documents, research reports, and/or specialty engineered designs, for which the RDP will stand behind.

[Final thought #3] Thank you.

[Response] You are very welcome and your questions are very much appreciated.

Our goal is to provide perspective with respect to real discussions that are taking place in the market. Mr. Moon has provided us all with the ability to learn together because he took the time to ask for clarification. We look forward to any and all future questions that allow us to collaborate.

For additional information and commentary on the building code, please read the following articles:

 

State Law Regarding Process of Building Official Approval

Building CodesBuilding ScienceEnergy Efficiency

The article, “How Can a Building Official Deny Approval of an RDP's Work?,” asks an important due process of law question.

Fortunately, two states, Ohio and Minnesota, have statutes and commentary that address this very question. The Ohio Board of Building Standards has provided counsel and precedent with respect to the building official approval process in their white paper entitled “OHIO’S 'SEAL LAW' 19 YEARS LATER.” The paper specifically states:

Click to enlarge. Ohio’s “Seal Law” 19 years later.

“Building officials do not have the right to refuse to accept non-residential construction documents that do not bear the seal of a registered design professional. If documents are required to have a seal of a registered design professional and they do not have one, they still must be accepted for review…. Failure to approve or deny construction documents and issue a Certificate of Plans Approval is a denial of a "license."…. To be in compliance with Ohio law, construction documents required to be submitted for an approval must be accepted for review by the building department. A thorough and complete plan examination must then be performed. If the Building Official does not issue an approval of the construction documents, this denial and the reasons for it shall be indicated in an adjudication order. This process must be used for any item of noncompliance causing the denial of an approval, including the requirement for an Ohio design professional’s seal.”

2015 Minnesota Building Code Administration

Minnesota law provides great counsel with respect to the required interaction between a registered design professional (RDP) and a building official.

1300.0070 DEFINITIONS -- Subp. 19. Performance-based design.

An engineering approach to design elements of a building based on agreed upon performance goals and objectives, engineering analysis, and quantitative assessment of alternatives against the design goals and objectives, using accepted engineering tools, methodologies, and performance criteria

1300.0130  CONSTRUCTION DOCUMENTS -- Subpart 1. Submittal documents. 

The building official may require plans or other data be prepared according to the rules of the Board of Architecture, Engineering, Land Surveying, Landscape Architecture, Geoscience and Interior Design, Chapter 1800, and Minnesota Statutes, Sections 326.02 to 326.15, and other state laws relating to plan and specification preparation by occupational licenses. If special conditions exist, the building official may require additional construction documents to be prepared by a licensed design professional.

1300.0130 CONSTRUCTION DOCUMENTS -- Subp. 6. Approval of construction documents.

Any code deficiencies identified by the building official during the plan review process for construction documents that are prepared by a design professional who is licensed or certified under Minnesota Statutes, Sections 326.02 to 326.15, must be itemized by the building official through a comprehensive plan review letter only.

1300.0130 CONSTRUCTION DOCUMENTS -- Subp. 9. Design professional in responsible charge.

The building official may require the owner to engage and designate on the building permit application a licensed design professional who shall act as the licensed design professional in responsible charge…….

The licensed design professional in responsible charge shall be responsible for reviewing and coordinating submittal documents prepared by others, including phased and deferred submittal items, for compatibility with the design of the building…….

Work regulated by the code shall be installed according to the reviewed construction documents, and any changes made during construction that are not in compliance with the approved construction documents shall be resubmitted for approval as an amended set of construction documents.

1300.0090 DEPARTMENT OF BUILDING SAFETY -- Subp. 13. Alternative materials, design, and methods of construction and equipment. 

The code is not intended to prevent the installation of any material or to prohibit any design or method of construction not specifically prescribed by the code, provided that any alternative has been approved. An alternative material, design, or method of construction shall be approved where the building official finds that the proposed design is satisfactory and complies with the intent of the code, and that the material, method, or work offered is, for the purpose intended, at least the equivalent of that prescribed in the code in quality, strength, effectiveness, fire resistance, durability, and safety…….

It is clear from the foregoing that RDP approval also includes building official peer review of all the submitted construction documents, research reports, and/or specialty engineered designs. If a code compliance error is made during this peer review, that error then needs to be brought to the attention of the RDP, along with the code section violated, so that the RDP can cure the error.  

SBCA members have built an industry based on taking responsibility for their scope of work. This is best demonstrated by the continuing use of sealed truss design drawings. When an engineer’s seal is on a document, any company using that document has visible assurance that an engineer takes responsibility for the work to which the seal is attached. Furthermore, the engineer will react professionally when working with building officials to provide structures that are safe and durable.

For additional information and commentary on the building code, please read the following articles:

 

State Law Regarding Process of Building Official Approval

Building CodesBuilding ScienceEnergy Efficiency

The article, “How Can a Building Official Deny Approval of an RDP's Work?,” asks an important due process of law question.

Fortunately, two states, Ohio and Minnesota, have statutes and commentary that address this very question. The Ohio Board of Building Standards has provided counsel and precedent with respect to the building official approval process in their white paper entitled “OHIO’S 'SEAL LAW' 19 YEARS LATER.” The paper specifically states:

Click to enlarge. Ohio’s “Seal Law” 19 years later.

“Building officials do not have the right to refuse to accept non-residential construction documents that do not bear the seal of a registered design professional. If documents are required to have a seal of a registered design professional and they do not have one, they still must be accepted for review…. Failure to approve or deny construction documents and issue a Certificate of Plans Approval is a denial of a "license."…. To be in compliance with Ohio law, construction documents required to be submitted for an approval must be accepted for review by the building department. A thorough and complete plan examination must then be performed. If the Building Official does not issue an approval of the construction documents, this denial and the reasons for it shall be indicated in an adjudication order. This process must be used for any item of noncompliance causing the denial of an approval, including the requirement for an Ohio design professional’s seal.”

2015 Minnesota Building Code Administration

Minnesota law provides great counsel with respect to the required interaction between a registered design professional (RDP) and a building official.

1300.0070 DEFINITIONS -- Subp. 19. Performance-based design.

An engineering approach to design elements of a building based on agreed upon performance goals and objectives, engineering analysis, and quantitative assessment of alternatives against the design goals and objectives, using accepted engineering tools, methodologies, and performance criteria

1300.0130  CONSTRUCTION DOCUMENTS -- Subpart 1. Submittal documents. 

The building official may require plans or other data be prepared according to the rules of the Board of Architecture, Engineering, Land Surveying, Landscape Architecture, Geoscience and Interior Design, Chapter 1800, and Minnesota Statutes, Sections 326.02 to 326.15, and other state laws relating to plan and specification preparation by occupational licenses. If special conditions exist, the building official may require additional construction documents to be prepared by a licensed design professional.

1300.0130 CONSTRUCTION DOCUMENTS -- Subp. 6. Approval of construction documents.

Any code deficiencies identified by the building official during the plan review process for construction documents that are prepared by a design professional who is licensed or certified under Minnesota Statutes, Sections 326.02 to 326.15, must be itemized by the building official through a comprehensive plan review letter only.

1300.0130 CONSTRUCTION DOCUMENTS -- Subp. 9. Design professional in responsible charge.

The building official may require the owner to engage and designate on the building permit application a licensed design professional who shall act as the licensed design professional in responsible charge.

The licensed design professional in responsible charge shall be responsible for reviewing and coordinating submittal documents prepared by others, including phased and deferred submittal items, for compatibility with the design of the building.

Work regulated by the code shall be installed according to the reviewed construction documents, and any changes made during construction that are not in compliance with the approved construction documents shall be resubmitted for approval as an amended set of construction documents.

1300.0090 DEPARTMENT OF BUILDING SAFETY -- Subp. 13. Alternative materials, design, and methods of construction and equipment. 

The code is not intended to prevent the installation of any material or to prohibit any design or method of construction not specifically prescribed by the code, provided that any alternative has been approved. An alternative material, design, or method of construction shall be approved where the building official finds that the proposed design is satisfactory and complies with the intent of the code, and that the material, method, or work offered is, for the purpose intended, at least the equivalent of that prescribed in the code in quality, strength, effectiveness, fire resistance, durability, and safety. The details of any action granting approval of an alternate shall be recorded and entered in the files of the Department of Building Safety. 

It is clear from the foregoing that RDP approval also includes building official peer review of all the submitted construction documents, research reports, and/or specialty engineered designs. If a code compliance error is made during this peer review, that error then needs to be brought to the attention of the RDP, along with the code section violated, so that the RDP can cure the error.  

SBCA members have built an industry based on taking responsibility for their scope of work. This is best demonstrated by the continuing use of sealed truss design drawings. When an engineer’s seal is on a document, any company using that document has visible assurance that an engineer takes responsibility for the work to which the seal is attached. Furthermore, the engineer will react professionally when working with building officials to provide structures that are safe and durable.

For additional information and commentary on the building code, please read the following articles:

 

Remodels Use Foam for More 'Energy Beautiful' Walls

Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

Remodels, new builds and add-ons are booming. In July alone, the City of Palo Alto issued about 200 building permits for various home upgrades, everything from simple lighting improvements and installation of electric car chargers, to kitchen and bathroom updates, to the full deconstruction and rebuilding of a home.

So what goes on behind those (brand-new) closed doors in the neighborhood? Sometimes what's not visible is what makes the biggest impact when renovating a home: whether it's literally hidden away in the walls and ceiling, or more figuratively in the careful choice of materials and finishes — even in prepping for the technology that will keep it all running smoothly.

We talked to three local architects about about some of the newer materials, ideas and practices they've been incorporating in their work.

Tali Hardonag: Build and finish sustainably

Palo Alto architect Tali Hardonag, who has worked extensively on green building projects, draws on sustainable practices in her work, which among other considerations, includes the sourcing of materials.

Many clients are interested in incorporating LEDs or solar panels into their remodel, Hardonag said. To get the maximum benefit of these energy-saving components, she emphasizes making the home itself energy efficient.

Higher-grade insulation — and the variety of systems for delivering it, from framing alternatives like structural insulated panels (SIPs) and other wall systems — play an important role in increasing energy efficiency. She said that more efficient insulation, such as spray foam, which is denser and creates a better air seal, also offers the opportunity for smaller framing. For example, she noted that previously, a vaulted ceiling would require framing out significant additional space just to accommodate traditional insulation but now she can build it with a shallower frame.

In addition to better insulation, Hardonag draws on an array of materials and strategies to make homes more energy efficient, including "cool roofs, high-energy value windows and glass doors, appliances and light fixtures that are energy efficient."

Cool roofs deflect the sun's heat and can save energy. Materials used for cool roofing include some composition shingles, depending on their makeup, and metal. Roofs made of metal offer additional benefits in easily accommodating solar panels and in being recyclable, if homeowners ever want to remove the roof.

Davide Giannella: Choose the right materials

Thoughtful choice of materials can put workhorse elements like roofing, fixtures and climate control systems and insulation on the cutting edge of architectural trends.

"I'd say greener products, special synthetic woods, modern cabinetry from Europe, newer HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning), more sophisticated insulation, metal roofs, computerized appliances and perhaps acrylic panels (are the future of building)," said architect Davide Giannella, of Acadia Architecture in Los Gatos.

One of Giannella's recent projects, located off Embarcadero Road in Palo Alto, was a complete teardown and rebuild of the existing home. The five-bedroom house features imported cabinets, laser-cut metal panels for railings, and, to improve energy efficiency, rigid foam insulation and radiant ceiling panels for heating and cooling.

Giannella kept to the traditional roofline of the home's original colonial style, but modernized it with standing-seam metal roofing. "It lasts forever, it's fireproof, and it's sharp and modern. It's more expensive in the beginning, but it doesn't need to be repainted or refinished," he said.

Metal makes a sturdy roof, but it also provided this home with exterior railings that are both secure and striking. Laser cutting creates delicate, intricate patterns in metal panels that are thin, but still strong enough to be functional, Giannella said, noting that the process lends itself to customization. Powder-coating the metal means it won’t rust.

Please review any more energy efficiency technical resources found at www.continuousinsulation.org

For additional information, please review the following articles, as well as the previous videos in this series:

Energy Efficiency Calculators

  1. Wood Framed Wall Insulation Calculator Explained
  2. New Wall Design Calculator for Commercial Energy Code Compliance

Perfect Wall Articles

  1. Creating the ‘Perfect Wall’: Simplifying Water Vapor Retarder Requirements to Control Moisture
  2. Perfect Walls are Perfect, and Hybrid Walls Perfectly Good
  3. Energy Code Math Lesson: Why an R-25 Wall is Not Equal to a R-20+5ci
  4. Continuous Insulation Solves Energy Code Math Problem
  5. Presentation: What Is the Value of Continuous Insulation?

Videos

  1. Fear Building Envelopes No More with This Website & Videos
  2. Thermodynamics Simplified Heat Flows from Warm to Cold
  3. Moisture Flow Drives Water Induced Problems
  4. Video: How the 'Perfect Wall' Solves Environmental Diversity
  5. Video: How Important Is Your WRB?
  6. Video: A Reliably Perfect Wall Anywhere
  7. Video: The Best Wall We Know How to Make 
  8. Video: How to (Not) Ruin a Perfectly Good Wall
  9. Video: Tar Paper and Continuous Insulation? No Problem!
  10. Video: Do CI and WRBs Go Together?
  11. Video: Assess Your 'Perfect Wall' Using Control Layers

 

Remodels Use Foam for More 'Energy Beautiful' Walls

Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

Remodels, new builds and add-ons are booming. In July alone, the City of Palo Alto issued about 200 building permits for various home upgrades, everything from simple lighting improvements and installation of electric car chargers, to kitchen and bathroom updates, to the full deconstruction and rebuilding of a home.

So what goes on behind those (brand-new) closed doors in the neighborhood? Sometimes what's not visible is what makes the biggest impact when renovating a home: whether it's literally hidden away in the walls and ceiling, or more figuratively in the careful choice of materials and finishes — even in prepping for the technology that will keep it all running smoothly.

We talked to three local architects about about some of the newer materials, ideas and practices they've been incorporating in their work.

Tali Hardonag: Build and finish sustainably

Palo Alto architect Tali Hardonag, who has worked extensively on green building projects, draws on sustainable practices in her work, which among other considerations, includes the sourcing of materials.

Many clients are interested in incorporating LEDs or solar panels into their remodel, Hardonag said. To get the maximum benefit of these energy-saving components, she emphasizes making the home itself energy efficient.

Higher-grade insulation — and the variety of systems for delivering it, from framing alternatives like structural insulated panels (SIPs) and other wall systems — play an important role in increasing energy efficiency. She said that more efficient insulation, such as spray foam, which is denser and creates a better air seal, also offers the opportunity for smaller framing. For example, she noted that previously, a vaulted ceiling would require framing out significant additional space just to accommodate traditional insulation but now she can build it with a shallower frame.

In addition to better insulation, Hardonag draws on an array of materials and strategies to make homes more energy efficient, including "cool roofs, high-energy value windows and glass doors, appliances and light fixtures that are energy efficient."

Cool roofs deflect the sun's heat and can save energy. Materials used for cool roofing include some composition shingles, depending on their makeup, and metal. Roofs made of metal offer additional benefits in easily accommodating solar panels and in being recyclable, if homeowners ever want to remove the roof.

Davide Giannella: Choose the right materials

Thoughtful choice of materials can put workhorse elements like roofing, fixtures and climate control systems and insulation on the cutting edge of architectural trends.

"I'd say greener products, special synthetic woods, modern cabinetry from Europe, newer HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning), more sophisticated insulation, metal roofs, computerized appliances and perhaps acrylic panels (are the future of building)," said architect Davide Giannella, of Acadia Architecture in Los Gatos.

One of Giannella's recent projects, located off Embarcadero Road in Palo Alto, was a complete teardown and rebuild of the existing home. The five-bedroom house features imported cabinets, laser-cut metal panels for railings, and, to improve energy efficiency, rigid foam insulation and radiant ceiling panels for heating and cooling.

Giannella kept to the traditional roofline of the home's original colonial style, but modernized it with standing-seam metal roofing. "It lasts forever, it's fireproof, and it's sharp and modern. It's more expensive in the beginning, but it doesn't need to be repainted or refinished," he said.

Metal makes a sturdy roof, but it also provided this home with exterior railings that are both secure and striking. Laser cutting creates delicate, intricate patterns in metal panels that are thin, but still strong enough to be functional, Giannella said, noting that the process lends itself to customization. Powder-coating the metal means it won’t rust.

Please review any more energy efficiency technical resources found at www.continuousinsulation.org

For additional information, please review the following articles, as well as the previous videos in this series:

Energy Efficiency Calculators

  1. Wood Framed Wall Insulation Calculator Explained
  2. New Wall Design Calculator for Commercial Energy Code Compliance

Perfect Wall Articles

  1. Creating the ‘Perfect Wall’: Simplifying Water Vapor Retarder Requirements to Control Moisture
  2. Perfect Walls are Perfect, and Hybrid Walls Perfectly Good
  3. Energy Code Math Lesson: Why an R-25 Wall is Not Equal to a R-20+5ci
  4. Continuous Insulation Solves Energy Code Math Problem
  5. Presentation: What Is the Value of Continuous Insulation?

Videos

  1. Fear Building Envelopes No More with This Website & Videos
  2. Thermodynamics Simplified Heat Flows from Warm to Cold
  3. Moisture Flow Drives Water Induced Problems
  4. Video: How the 'Perfect Wall' Solves Environmental Diversity
  5. Video: How Important Is Your WRB?
  6. Video: A Reliably Perfect Wall Anywhere
  7. Video: The Best Wall We Know How to Make 
  8. Video: How to (Not) Ruin a Perfectly Good Wall
  9. Video: Tar Paper and Continuous Insulation? No Problem!
  10. Video: Do CI and WRBs Go Together?
  11. Video: Assess Your 'Perfect Wall' Using Control Layers

 

Product Advisory: OSB Performance in the Bahamas

Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

APA-The Engineered Wood Association, often in the past, has used dramatic and traumatic photos to imply, without any direct evidence, that competing products are substandard in some manner. Please review the following slide show, and if inclined, please feedback any impressions that come to mind.

  Previous   Next

Source: News-Press

As has been written in all past articles dealing with tornado photos published by APA, these photos do not show an OSB performance problem at all. What they show is an occurrence that could happen to any building at any time when high wind or high seismic loads are applied. Use of photos as shown to make a case against any product type with respect to poor building performance is misleading.

Photos without an appropriate onsite damage assessment is a limiting method for determining the cause of a partial or total collapse. In most cases, engineers can point to one of several common weak links as the cause of structural failure. Structural failure following any type of high wind or seismic events is often due to a lack of adequate connections. A continuous load path and accurate connections, from the roofs to walls and floors to walls and then to the foundation, must be provided for reliable building performance.

The most commonly observed reasons for failure include:

  1. Inadequate roof-to-wall connections
  2. Improper anchor bolt connections attaching walls to the foundation
  3. Poor sheathing fastening including not meeting the code required 3/8” nail edge distance.
  4. Use of the wrong nail type
  5. Breaches due to failure of windows, garage doors, or cladding/wall systems that result in wind pressure induced failure

These observations make it obvious that proper construction implementation is key to satisfactory building material performance. Paying close attention to all connection systems that make up the load path is essential.

It’s critical to come together as an industry with the goal of fostering innovation, using accepted engineering practice, creating installation best practices, working closely with professional framers and assisting building departments to focus inspections on key load path elements. Education is the key and working together can significantly improve the built environment.   

For additional information on the performance of wood structural panels, please visit the following webpage on OSB as a Raw Material and the following articles on performance of building materials in high winds and as tested.

 

Product Advisory: OSB Performance in the Bahamas

Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

APA-The Engineered Wood Association, often in the past, has used dramatic and traumatic photos to imply, without any direct evidence, that competing products are substandard in some manner. Please review the following slide show, and if inclined, please feedback any impressions that come to mind.

  Previous   Next

As we have stated in the past, using photos without an appropriate onsite damage assessment is a poor and limiting method for determining the cause of a partial or total collapse. In most cases, engineers can point to one of several common weak links as the cause of structural failure. Structural failure following any type of high wind or seismic events is often due to a lack of adequate connections. A continuous load path and accurate connections, from the roofs to walls and floors to walls and then to the foundation, must be provided for reliable building performance.

The most commonly observed reasons for failure include:

  1. Inadequate roof-to-wall connections
  2. Improper anchor bolt connections attaching walls to the foundation
  3. Poor sheathing fastening including not meeting the code required 3/8” nail edge distance.
  4. Use of the wrong nail type
  5. Breaches due to failure of windows, garage doors, or cladding/wall systems that result in wind pressure induced failure

These observations make it obvious that proper construction implementation is key to satisfactory building material performance. Paying close attention to all connection systems that make up the load path is essential.

It’s critical to come together as an industry with the goal of fostering innovation, using accepted engineering practice, creating installation best practices, working closely with professional framers and assisting building departments to focus inspections on key load path elements. Education is the key and working together can significantly improve the built environment.   

For additional information on the performance of wood structural panels, please visit the following webpage on OSB as a Raw Material and the following articles on performance of building materials in high winds and as tested.

 

APA Member Plywood Producers Sue PFS-TECO & Timber Products

Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

A family prepares their home with plywood as a safeguard against Hurricane Dorian before it approached Florida. U.S. plywood producers now allege in a lawsuit that plywood imported from Brazil is falsely certified as being safe. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

U.S. plywood producers claim a competing product from Brazil has a high risk of failure in major hurricanes, but consumers can’t tell because the imported wood is falsely certified as structurally sound.

In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Fort Lauderdale, the companies allege that since 2016, two American inspection firms and an accreditation agency failed to perform their “quality control functions” when millions of square feet of plywood was imported into the U.S. Much of it arrived through Florida ports, including Broward County’s Port Everglades.

 “As a result, U.S. residents who live or work in buildings constructed with off-grade Brazilian plywood are exposed to significant risk of serious injury or death, particularly in the event of a hurricane or significant earthquake,” the suit alleges.

In a telephone interview, plaintiff attorney Michael Haglund, of Portland, Ore., said Friday that some of the plywood in question was used to help with rebuilding in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.

“The really unfortunate fact is that it is being passed off as structural plywood when it can’t meet that standard,” he said.

The suit was filed by a group of 10 plywood producers in the South and Pacific Northwest against inspection services PFS-TECO of Wisconsin and Timber Products Inspection Inc. of Georgia. A third defendant named in the suit is International Accreditation Service of California, which is the accrediting service for the two inspection firms.

Companies deny claims

Timber Products President Jay Moore denied the allegations Friday when the South Florida Sun Sentinel contacted his company Friday.

“We have reviewed the allegations of the complaint and believe that they are both misleading and totally without legal merit,” Moore said by email. “Timber Products will defend itself vigorously in court and is confident that the facts will show that its conduct and practices were in all respects consistent with its responsibilities and the standards applicable to this industry.”

Moore said he would offer a more detailed response to the allegations in the coming days.

PFS-TECO of Wisconsin said in a Sept. 10 statement that although it had yet to be served with the lawsuit, it denies the allegations outlined in a press release issued by the U.S. plywood producers.

“We intend to vigorously defend our reputation and look forward to doing so in due course,” the company said.

PFS-TECO said it “stands by its independent certification procedures as fully compliant with the relevant standards.” It said it has no relationship with Timber Products Inspection.

PFS-TECO questioned the testing approach used by the U.S. producers on the Brazilian plywood, saying it is “not consistent” with test requirements.

And it said it has more than 15 years of data showing the plywood from southern Brazil and produced by manufacturing facilities certified by the company “can meet” American testing requirements.

The California accrediting firm could not be reached for comment despite a telephone message.

The suit alleges that dating to Jan. 1, 2016, the inspection services “made false statements of fact through certifications that authorized 35 Brazilian plywood producers to export plywood into Florida" they either knew or should have known "did not meet” a voluntary industry standard.

Testing wood’s strength

The lawsuit said tests conducted by the American Plywood Association “showed that the Brazilian plywood panels produced in southern Brazil experience massive failure rates with respect to the stringent properties” of the standard, “specifically bending stiffness and deflection.”

The suit alleges that the Brazilian plywood mills source all of their veneer from fast-growing plantations of loblolly and slash pine. These species are native to North America. But both species grow so fast in southern Brazil that the wood density is not sufficient to reliably produce structural grade plywood.

In the complaint, the U.S. producers allege that 30 companies operating 35 plywood plants in Brazil “are falsely stamping millions of square feet of structural plywood panels imported into the United States” as meeting American standards.

The American producers, who also allege in their complaint that Brazilian plywood is driving down the prices and quality of plywood on the U.S. market, said they had a nonprofit lab in Washington state start testing samples of the imported plywood in 2017.

The U.S. producers’ suit, which alleges false advertising and negligence on the part of the inspection services, is seeking $300 million in damages and wants the court to direct PFS-TECO and TPI to “immediately revoke” the Brazilians’ licenses to make structural plywood.