Energy Efficiency and Building Science News
In California’s San Joaquin Valley, almost one in six children have asthma, according to the 2015 California Health Interview Survey. For households with affected members, air conditioning is a necessity, not a luxury, especially during the area’s sweltering summers, when temperatures can reach 115 F and air quality becomes unsafe. But energy costs in California are notoriously high and home utility bills can climb into the thousands during the summer. This leaves some residents sacrificing their health and comfort in order to keep costs down.
Fresno-based De Young Properties has long recognized the need for healthy, energy-efficient homes. The company launched its EnergySmart home program in 2008, not long after Brandon De Young, executive vice president and son of founders Jerry and Paula De Young, joined the family business.
“The focus on sustainable home building was going to be important for us, not just for us as a company as it relates to our core beliefs, but also for the home buyers here in our area,” says De Young.
De Young recognized that its buyers would be interested in new homes that would allow them to save on their energy bills and ensure a healthy home environment, especially for families with health issues.
“The air quality in the Central Valley is… some of the worst air quality in the country at times,” De Young says. “And we have some of the highest childhood asthma rates. So that’s a really big deal for our home buyers as well.”
Since the launch of the EnergySmart program, every De Young home has come standard with high-efficiency HVAC filters, low-VOC paints and formaldehyde-free insulation to ensure a healthy home air environment. The program also provides high-efficiency heating and cooling systems, low-Ewindows, extra fiberglass insulation in the walls and roof, and LED lighting, along with optional solar panels. The company has continually expanded and improved its energy-efficiency standards over the years – a process which led it to create its first net zero energy home in 2013.
Now, as the company gears up for California’s 2020 net zero energy goal, it has expanded its existing energy-efficient practices into a community of attainably priced zero-energy homes. The builder partnered with the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), and BIRAenergy to launch the EnVision community, the first grid-connected net zero energy home community to be developed in central California, and the largest in the state. (The next largest, Meritage Homes’ net-zero development Sierra Crest in Fontana, Calif., has 20 homes.)
The 36-unit community is located in Loma Vista, a 3,300-acre master-planned community in Clovis, Calif. The homes are available in one and two-story floor plans, ranging from 1,690 to 3,280 square feet in size with prices starting in the $300,000s. The community opened for pre-sales in September, and sold out 30% of its home sites in the opening weekend. De Young expects to deliver the first homes by the second quarter of 2018.
The individual net zero energy homes De Young built in 2013 and 2017 were the product of a pilot study conducted with Pacific Gas and Energy to determine the cost, design constraints, and challenges of a zero-energy home. The homes served as research and development centers for what would one day become the EnVision community.
“These homes gave us the opportunity to try a lot of new designs and new techniques, and refine and optimize the designs to make them as cost-effective as possible,” De Young says. “It wasn’t until we completed the second zero energy home earlier this year that we finally felt comfortable with all the designs and products that we’ve been trying out over the years.”
While De Young’s standard homes contain 80% LED fixtures, the EnVision homes will have LED lighting throughout, and many of its fixtures and appliances will be Energy Star certified and EPA WaterSense certified. At 16 SEER and 9.5 HSPF, the high-efficiency Lennox HVAC systems used in the EnVision project are a higher grade than those in the EnergySmart home. The houses will also utilize Rheem heat pump water heaters.
The walls use 2x6 wall studs instead of standard 2x4 wall studs, which provides extra space for densely-packed R-21 Owens Corning fiberglass insulation batts. This move required a lot of design work on the part of the structural engineer, as he had to redesign DeYoung’s current floor plans to account for this extra space while still keeping to local building codes.
One of the partnership’s biggest challenges – and accomplishments – was its use of insulation in the attic. In the Central Valley, most attics use loosefill insulation with some vents on the top side of the roof to allow air to circulate. HVAC equipment is usually installed above this thermal boundary, where air temperatures can soar and equipment can overheat. This leads to lower HVAC performance and higher energy bills, DeYoung says. Over four years of research and development, the partnership figured out a way to bring all of the HVAC equipment and ductwork within the thermal envelope by sealing off the attic and insulating under the roof with Owens Corning’s R-38 fiberglass loose-fill insulation, creating a quasi-interior conditioned space.
“We call it our preferred performance-sealed attic,” De Young says.
Historically, one of the biggest obstacles to zero energy at scale has been affordability. De Young Properties and its partners have tackled this issue over almost a decade of testing various products and designs in their prototype Zero Energy homes. “We really spent a lot of time, almost a decade really, of research, developing, and improving to get to this point,” Brandon De Young says. “You could easily get there without doing the R+D, but it would just be really, really costly.”
For example, EnVision’s research and development team decided that the energy benefits of triple-pane glass windows were not worth their high cost. Other component upgrades, including improvements to the thermal envelope and HVAC system, could provide greater energy-efficiency benefits at a lower cost. The community’s solar lease financing structure also saves prospective homeowners from the need to make a massive upfront cash payment for their solar panel systems.
There are also practical challenges to net zero energy communities, such as solar access for homes of varying heights and designs. For instance, a two-story home could block the solar panels of a single-story home next door. To prevent this, DeYoung is only offering certain plans in certain areas of the community in order to optimize the community’s exposure to sunlight.
As a side benefit, while some of the building methods and products used in EnVision may not be common in the Fresno area, De Young predicts that they will become more accessible over time as they become more commonly used.
“The heat pump [water heater] is not common around here, so manufacturers and plumbers have to special order these advanced products. However, the more that this type of home design is built, the more that that product becomes commonplace. And therefore the manufacturers are able to bring their pricing down because of scale.”
Over the next several years, De Young intends to improve on its initial community model with more grid-friendly strategies and improvements in new home designs. While there are no official plans for another De Young net zero community, he has no doubt that EnVision’s model is reproducible on a wide scale, and that other builders will follow in the community’s footsteps – especially as California’s building codes creep closer to requiring net zero energy--at every price point.
This week, thousands of building industry professionals converged at Greenbuild 2017 to share their excitement and progress toward advancing green buildings. But while the number of green buildings has grown dramatically over the last decade, the pace of construction still falls far short of what is needed to make a meaningful difference in reducing carbon emissions from the building sector or take full advantage of what the energy efficiency industry has to offer.
For the majority of structures that are built outside of green building circles — where there is little incentive and guidance for constructing energy-efficient, sustainable buildings — the main driver of energy performance is the local building energy code. While national model codes, which provide the basis for local codes, have advanced in recent years, many places mandating earlier versions of the code don’t follow best practices in energy efficiency, leaving millions of dollars on the table in lost energy savings and business opportunities.
Increasingly, states, cities and businesses are ramping up commitments to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the building sector and accelerate building energy efficiency.
To date, hundreds of entities across the country have adopted goals to reduce carbon emissions from the building sector to meet the 2030 Challenge, which aims to make all new buildings and major renovations carbon-neutral by 2030, or the COP21 Paris Accord, which targets an 80 percent reduction in carbon emissions from the building sector by 2050. For these jurisdictions to reach their goals, they need more aggressive building policies than what’s defined in national building code requirements. Adopting more aggressive policies also would give a real boost to the energy efficiency industry by increasing demand for energy-saving products and services used in new construction and major renovations.
Stretch codes allow jurisdictions to set a vision for greater energy savings in buildings.
Stretch codes have emerged as a promising solution that jurisdictions can use to drive better energy performance in the built environment and set a long-term vision for efficiency stringency in buildings further into the future.
They offer a critical lever for cities and states that understand their approach to developing local energy codes must change. Stretch codes accelerate the pace of national code development of incremental improvements every three years. Instead, stretch codes allow jurisdictions to set a vision for greater energy savings in buildings and plan to realize that vision over a series of code development cycles.
This is great news for the energy efficiency industry, as well as green-minded business and building owners, as the stretch codes offer a view into the future of building code requirements that isn’t available under the current iterative process. Businesses can look ahead 10 or even 20 years to understand what will be required of the buildings they own and lease and plan ahead for what is to come, gain access to technology and operational needs well before they are mandated. Incentive programs likely will track future code requirements, giving business greater opportunities to receive financial help.
This week, New Buildings Institute released a model stretch energy code that targets 20 percent better efficiency than current national building energy codes. The new 20 percent Stretch Code offers jurisdictions a set of energy-saving building strategies that cover design aspects such as envelope, mechanical, water heating, lighting and plug loads. These measures also provide a potent recipe that developers and building owners can use to future-proof current building designs and construction practices.
The 20 percent Stretch Code is one of a set of building codes being developed by NBI that provide increasing stringency. They give cities and states the basis for maximizing energy savings in both commercial and residential projects over the course of several code development cycles, allowing the market to prepare for and deploy new efficiency practices and technologies.
Businesses can look ahead 10 or even 20 years to understand what will be required of the buildings they own and lease and plan ahead for what is to come.
Several cities and states already use stretch codes, such as the states of Massachusetts and New York and the cities of Boulder, Colorado, and Santa Monica and Palo Alto in California. In Boston, where Greenbuild took place this year, the city participates in Massachusetts’ Green Communities program — a statewide initiative that provides technical and financial assistance to cities that commit to following the state’s stretch code for new construction. Massachusetts was one of the first states in the United States to implement a stretch code, and to date, more than 180 Massachusetts cities and towns, including Boston, are participating in the program.
As more cities and states begin to adopt stretch codes, the faster they can reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the building sector, resulting in greater energy savings for businesses, a more robust energy efficiency industry and a healthier environment for all.
Kooltherm K17 Insulated Plasterboard from Kingspan Insulation was used extensively in a new aged care project in Moolap, Victoria to achieve significant time and labour savings in construction.
Located in Moolap, east of Geelong, this stunning new aged care facility was designed by renowned urban architects Jackson Teese. The Moolap Aged Care Facility boasts a 108-bed capacity with features including an onsite hairdressing area, laundry areas, dining hall, kitchens, bathrooms, staff facilities, and more.
Kingspan’s onsite team offered Kooltherm K17 Insulated Plasterboard as an alternative to the traditional clip and channel, or stud and track methods, with both the contractor and architect agreeing that the ease and speed of the product's installation would provide huge labour savings to the project. About 550 square metres of Kingspan’s K17 Insulated Plasterboard were installed in the project, with the installation completed at three and a half times the speed of the originally specified method. Additionally, the lightweight nature of the boards allowed simple installation.
Kingspan K17 Insulated Plasterboard is fixed directly to a masonry wall using an adhesive bonding method combined with mechanical fixing.
Contractor Caldow Plastering said the use of Kingspan’s product instead of the traditional methods, meant the project tracked well ahead of schedule. He noted that they were able to achieve significant savings purely by reducing the time the trades were onsite.
Being an aged care facility, there were a lot of services on the external walls that had to be accommodated. According to the contractor, chasing the Kooltherm K17 Insulated Plasterboard to house these services was a remarkably easy process.
Kingspan K17 Insulated Plasterboard provides continuous insulation to the building, reducing the facility’s dependence on cooling and heating systems, which leads to savings on energy costs. Residents of the aged care facility will be able to enjoy stable temperatures through extreme weather changes, allowing them to live comfortably regardless of the time of the year.
So far as sustainable construction materials go, tomato stems and seaweed would seem to belong at the weaker end of the spectrum. But the team behind the conceptual Biological House are showing what's possible when you apply some innovative thinking and advanced upcycling techniques.
The Biological House was created by a multidisciplinary team involving more than 40 partners, including Copenhagen-based design firm Een TIl Een, sustainable architecture firm GXN, wood-treatment company Kebony and the Danish Ministry of Environment.
To begin, GXN teamed up with partners from the Danish farming sector to gather biomaterials that would otherwise be burned for energy, things like grass, straw, tomato stems and seaweed. These were then combined into composites to maximize their strength and pressed into boards for cladding.
Kebony then treated these softwoods by applying heat and a bio-based liquid. This polymerizes the cell walls within the wooden material, causing it to take on the properties of tropical hardwood along with a pleasant rich-brown color, which develops a silver-gray patina after exposure to the sun and rain. The performance of these boards was tested by the Danish Technological Institute, and according to the powers that be, help form a structure that rivals the strength of a regular home.
"It sounds like science fiction that you can build a house from things such as tomato stems, straw and seaweed, which is just as durable as normal buildings and at the time has a healthy economy and complies with the rules," says Danish Environmental Minister Kirsten Brosbøl. "However, the Biological House shows that it is possible here and now. I appreciate that way we really get some value from materials that otherwise would end up at an incineration plant."
Further using of sustainable construction materials, the Biological House negates the carbon emissions that would arise from burning them. It also sits on a ground anchoring system known as screw piles rather than a foundation made from concrete, a notoriously carbon-intensive material. On top of all that, the house is designed to be modular, which means it can be tailored to meet a customer's needs, be put up quickly and then disassembled without leaving a trace.
The Biological House, which opened its doors to the public this week, is the first construction to be completed at Biotope in the Danish town of Middlefart, an exhibition park for sustainable construction.
"It's been a long project, and we have all certainly learnt a great deal over the course of planning and construction," said Kim Christofte CEO of Een til Een. "It has been a pleasure to watch the team find so many clever solutions to the problems encountered along the way and we are delighted to finally open the doors to share this unique house with the public."
As sustainability becomes an increasing component of real estate decision making, some stakeholders have tried to push for a return to the era of structural wood construction in midrise commercial buildings. While centuries of experience with the challenges of building and maintaining midrise wood structures mean we need little education on why we long ago turned to steel construction, the wood industry’s environmental claims require some skeptical investigation. Here are six questions to ask when looking at a “sustainable” wood-framed building:
What do we know about the “new wood?”
This isn’t traditional wood construction -- the latest trend is building from manufactured cross-laminated timber (CLT) and other manufactured wood structural products, which their producers tout as the “future” of construction. Unfortunately, the use of CLT in midrise construction is new enough that real-world long-term durability and safety data are also still in the future.
What about upkeep?
Wood structures require more upkeep, inspection and maintenance than those built from steel. If left unchecked, problems such as termites and dry rot can create significant issues that aren’t readily apparent until too late. Potential owners of existing wood-framed structures will need to ensure that inspections are especially thorough and performed by inspectors with expertise in the many challenges of wood building upkeep.
What does wood construction do to our forests?
While the wood industry touts that “total forest cover” in the United States has been steady or increasing over time, that’s only true when they count artificial tree plantations the same as actual forests. Academic and government researchers agree that logging plantations have lower biodiversity, lower productivity, capture less carbon and are generally no substitute for the forests cut down to be turned into “green” building products.
How much of your “green” building material was wasted?
A significant amount of wood is wasted long before it makes it to the construction site. Once a tree is harvested, only about half of its mass will become sawn wood products. Much of what remains is often burned as furnace fuel at the sawmill to support the claim that these facilities are “powered by renewable energy.” Eventually planting a tiny tree to replace the mature tree that was cut down doesn’t make it “renewable” and “sustainable,” especially when you’d burned much of the mature tree to generate the energy to convert the other half into a building product.
Does materials choice impact insurance costs?
The cost of builder’s insurance for a midrise wood structure is generally higher than for a comparable steel building due to increased risks before fire suppression and management systems are installed. Given the newness of CLT and other manufactured wood structural materials and the lack of long-term data on safety and durability in these applications, it’s impossible to say how underwriters will view today’s wood buildings in the future.
What happens at the end of my building’s service life?
It may seem like a distant future, but end-of-life should be taken into account when considering sustainable structural materials. Wood used once as a structural material can only be “downcycled,” often becoming landscaping mulch, pallets that end up in landfills or wood pellets to be burned as fuel. Simply put, recycled wood can never be used to produce a new wood stud, while all steel products can be recycled into other steel products; a steel beam can become a new beam, or even a car or soup can or refrigerator. In the United States, more than 90 percent of structural steel is recycled at the end of a building’s life.
Simply because structural wood products were once part of a tree doesn’t mean that they’re a truly sustainable building material that makes sense for building owners or tenants. A century ago, structural steel revolutionized construction and the very nature of our cities and society – calling a return to the very material that steel replaced “sustainable” should make the real estate industry skeptical.
Mark A. Thimons, P.E. is vice president of sustainability with the Steel Market Development Institute, a business unit of the American Iron and Steel Institute. He is responsible for overseeing the Steel Recycling Institute as well as research projects that demonstrate the life cycle advantages of steel in all markets.
Editor’s Note: The article below underscores the fact building code development (whether it’s in the U.K. or the U.S.) is not a science-based process, but rather a relational, political one.
A Hadleigh company that supplied plastic insulation for Grenfell Tower, which caught fire earlier this year, had a role in lobbying the Government to help maximise sales, according to a new investigation.
A Sky News investigation has revealed that representatives from the insulation industry influenced building regulations, as part of a Department of Energy and Climate Chance (DECC) committee in 2011, so they could push more insulation into homes.
One of the firms involved was Hadleigh-based Celotex, an insulation manufacturer located on the Lady Lane Industrial Estate, which later supplied the cladding fitted to the outside of Grenfell Tower.
The high-rise public housing block in north Kensington, London, caught alight on June 14, resulting in the deaths of 71 people.
Sky’s investigation found that fire safety was rarely considered when personnel from the insulation industry, including Celotex, were working with the Government years earlier on the Green Deal, an initiative which sought to develop ways of getting more buildings to be insulated.
Simon Hay, a construction consultant who was part of the Green Deal committee, told Sky News: “The point from the insulation companies was that they were going to sell a lot more insulation.”
The investigation cited a Green Deal launch report from 2012, titled ‘Opportunities for Industry’, which it says mentioned ‘costs’ or ‘savings’ 245 times, but made no mention of fire safety.
It also pointed to statements by Rob Warren, the technical director of the Hadleigh company, on a now-deleted page on the Celotex website, where he reportedly said his work with the Government allowed him to “shape this critical policy, enabling the insulation industry to maximise the benefits”.
It is also claimed that Mr Warren told industry journal Urethanes Technology International in 2015 that changing regulations were the “greatest driver” for profits from plastic insulation sales.
Following the Grenfell Tower blaze, Celotex ceased supplying its RS5000 insulation, which was fitted on the exterior of Grenfell Tower, for rainscreen cladding on high-rise buildings, pending further inquiries.
In a statement issued last week, Celotex confirmed the suspension on its 5000 range will stay in place, as it carries out additional safety tests on its products and reviews its systems and processes.
“We recognise this will prompt many questions,” the statement read. “We are making this announcement so our customers have relevant information about these matters.
“We would like to reassure them that we will do everything we can to answer these questions.”
The firm said it was unable to provide further information on issues which fall within the remit of the Grenfell Tower inquiry, but is offering “full co-operation with the ongoing investigations”.
Babergh District Council said it had undertaken a full audit of its social housing, as well as fire safety checks, and has either completed or is in the process of conducting the necessary work identified by these assesments.
Cllr Jan Osborne, Babergh District Council’s cabinet member for housing, said: “The safety of our residents is always our top priority and, to guarantee that safety, we conducted a full audit of all its social housing following the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower.
“We can confirm that none of our housing includes insulation systems similar to those at Grenfell.
“We can reassure all residents that none of our properties include external insulation from the manufacturers of the cladding used on Grenfell Tower and, as building regulations are set at a national level, Babergh has not been approached by any such manufacturers to lobby the councils.”
The Polyisocyanurate Insulation Manufacturers Association (PIMA) is hosting a webinar today, December 12, 2017, at 2:00 PM EST entitled, “Harmonizing Fire Performance and Energy Efficiency in Exterior Wall Assemblies.”
After this course, attendees should be able to:
- Explain the development history of the NPFA 285 standard fire test procedure for exterior wall assemblies containing combustible materials.
- Identify the NFPA 285 related requirements in the 2012 and 2015 editions of the International Building Code.
- Explain how engineering analysis of NFPA 285 test assemblies may be used to specify alternative materials.
- Determine how Polyiso insulation can be used as an integral component of NFPA 285 tested and compliant wall assemblies.
The course offers one AIA LU and 0.1 IACET CEU
Commercial building codes have been modified to require the construction of more energy-efficient buildings. Improvements to the building envelope through the use of continuous insulation solutions incorporating polyisocyanurate (or Polyiso) insulation have played a major role in mainstreaming high-performance construction practices. To meet the demands of today’s builds, architectural and design professionals must balance energy efficiency with whole building performance considerations, including fire safety. With respect to wall assemblies in Type I-IV Construction, understanding and properly implementing NFPA 285 is a critical component for designing a compliant, high-performance building envelope.
Art Parker is a Senior Fire Protection Engineer at JENSEN HUGHES with over 25 years of experience conducting standard and non-standard fire tests on a wide variety of building materials and products. While working at Southwest Research Institute, Art assisted with and witnessed some of the last multi-story fire testing conducted in accordance with UBC 17-6/26-4 in addition to conducting testing of exterior walls in accordance with the then new NFPA 285 test standard. Since joining JENSEN HUGHES, he has been responsible for conducting numerous testing, analyses, and code compliance investigations involving exterior wall assemblies incorporating combustible exterior wall coverings, continuous insulation materials and air/vapor barrier products. Art is active with ASTM Committee E05 on Fire Standards and the NFPA Fire Test Committee, which developed and maintains the NFPA 285 test standard.
The Federal Trade Commission has proposed amendments to the R-value Rule, which governs ratings for home insulation, as part of its systematic review of all current FTC rules and guides.
Issued in 1979, the R-value Rule requires home insulation manufacturers, professional installers, new home sellers, and retailers to provide R-value information, based on the results of standard tests, to help inform consumers. The R-value rates a product’s ability to restrict heat flow and thus reduce energy costs.
The FTC sought comments on the Rule (formally, the “Trade Regulation Rule Concerning the Labeling and Advertising of Home Insulation”) in 2016. Based on comments received, the Commission proposes amendments that would:
- exempt space-constrained ads from required energy savings claims disclosures;
- clarify that commercial products sold for residential use are subject to the Rule;
- require R-value claims for non-insulation products to be substantiated by the Rule’s ASTM standards (commonly used tests for measuring R-value);
- update the Rule’s references to ASTM test procedures and revise Rule provisions for updating those tests;
- add information to fact sheets about the importance of air sealing and proper insulation installation; and
- direct online retailers to post labels and fact sheets for covered insulation products sold directly to consumers.
The Commission vote approving the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking was 2-0. The notice will be published in the Federal Register soon. Instructions for filing comments appear in the Federal Register Notice. Comments must be received by March 8, 2018; they will be posted at ftc.gov/policy/public-comments. (FTC File No. R811001; the staff contact is Hampton Newsome, Bureau of Consumer Protection, 202-326-2889).
by Jay Crandell, P.E.
While we all know that buildings are not boats, yet an over emphasis or reliance on drying potential as the primary means to make a building wall work in any use condition can lead to problems when the wetting potential is too high. Water that leaves in one direction can also enter in the opposite direction when conditions change. While the rate of water movement depends on the size of the opening and the water pressure difference, water vapor movement depends on the vapor permeability of material layers and the vapor pressure difference across those layers.
Because building walls dry by means of water vapor movement, use of high vapor permeance materials on the exterior of a wall, like a high-perm water-resistive barrier, is often considered to be universally good. The problem is this makes the false assumption that the vapor drives are always in the outward direction, not inward. The same problem applies to a boat with holes in the hull: it has great drying potential when the water pressure is from the inside out, but not when it’s from the outside in. For a building’s wall, this depends on the time of year and the type of cladding, particularly moisture reservoir claddings like stucco or adhered masonry veneers that can significantly increase inward vapor drives. Like the boat shown in the cartoon above, it all depends on whether it is in the water or dry-docked.
For a boat hull, it is best to essentially eliminate wetting potential with the use of a highly water- and vapor- resistive hull, or at least outer coating on the hull, right? In this case, drying potential is provided by a bilge pump or bailer (drying potential to the interior is an important back up plan for older wooden boats).
Building walls is a bit trickier. First and foremost, wetting potential from rain water must be minimized by proper use of a water-resistive barrier and best-practice flashing details at all windows and doors, penetrations, etc. Any reasonable approach to or amount of drying potential will not offset major defects resulting in excessive wetting potential from water intrusion.
For drying potential, one must be careful to allow vapor movement out of the assembly, but not in such a way that it allows a lot of vapor movement into the assembly under changing seasonal conditions. This can be greatly aggravated depending on the cladding material used and climate.
Consequently, the safest design approach for a building wall is to use a moderate- to low- vapor permeance material layer on the exterior of a wall and let the wall breathe to the interior by use of a moderate- to high- vapor permeance interior vapor retarder, such as a Class II (Kraft paper), Class III (latex paint) or “smart” vapor retarder. This approach works well because the water-sensitive interior portions of a wall become more influenced by the stable indoor environment rather than the outdoors. Also, the balance of wetting and drying potential with adequate inward drying minimizes moisture cycling of materials within the wall. This is good for the structure for its durability.
The use of exterior insulation, such as foam plastic insulating sheathing, can allow this reliable approach to be used effectively in any climate zone. In fact, it’s necessary to do so in the more northern, mixed and cold climate zones. Foam plastic insulations, like plastics commonly used for boat hulls, also have a comparatively high level of durability when exposed to water, which can be further enhanced by facers (like the gel coat on a hull). With these moisture control and durability benefits, energy savings are also obtained by fully insulating the exterior of a structure, including all the thermal bridges created by wood and, to a greater extent, steel framing members.
So, don’t be fooled by narrowly focused claims that foam sheathing creates low drying potential without considering the fact it can significantly reduce and control wetting potential while, together with appropriate vapor retarder selections, also providing appropriately balanced and inwardly directed drying potential for a durable and energy efficient wall assembly suited for any climate.
The next (2019) version of NFPA 285, Standard Fire Test Method for Evaluation of Fire Propagation Characteristics of Exterior Non-Load-Bearing Wall Assemblies Containing Combustible Components, is currently in a second draft, and public comments are being accepted until December 8, 2017. This draft contains a change to the test setup requirements that would require all NFPA 285 testing to include a vertical joint in the assembly above the window opening. If this passes as proposed, all existing NFPA 285 tests would be invalidated if the original tests do not include this joint (which is unlikely). Click here if you would like to submit comments on this second draft.
In addition, a proposed tentative interim amendment (TIAs) has being published for public review and comment regarding the current (2012) version of NFPA 285. Anyone may submit a comment on this proposed TIA on or before December 21, 2017.
TIAs are amendments to an NFPA standard that are processed in accordance with Section 5 of the Regulations Governing the Development of NFPA Standards. If issued, TIAs become effective between editions of a standard. A TIA automatically becomes a Public Input for the next edition of the standard, then proceeds through the NFPA standards development process.
Below are the details of the amendment to the 2012 NFPA 285:
NFPA 285 - 2012 Edition
Standard Fire Test Method for Evaluation of Fire Propagation Characteristics of Exterior Non-Load-Bearing Wall Assemblies Containing Combustible Components
TIA Log No.: 1264R
Reference: 1.1.1, 1.2, and A.1.1.1
Comment Closing Date: December 21, 2017
Submitter: Marcelo Hirschler, GBH International, and Michael Schmeida, GYPSUM Association
1. Revise paragraph 1.1.1 to read as follows:
1.1.1* This standard provides a test method for determining the fire propagation characteristics of exterior non-load-bearing wall assemblies and panels used as components of curtain wall assemblies that are constructed using combustible materials or that incorporate combustible components, and that are intended to be installed on buildings required to have exterior walls of noncombustible construction.
2. Revise section 1.2 to read as follows:
1.2 Purpose. The purpose of this standard is to provide a standardized fire test procedure for evaluating the suitability of exterior non-load-bearing wall assemblies and panels used as components of curtain wall assemblies that are constructed using combustible materials or that incorporate combustible components for installation on buildings where the exterior walls are required to be noncombustible.
3. Revise annex material A.1.1.1 to read as follows:
A.1.1.1 The fire test method described is intended to evaluate the inclusion of combustible components within wall assemblies/panels of buildings that are required to have exterior walls of noncombustible construction.
The test apparatus described in this standard is commonly referred to as the intermediate-scale multistory test apparatus (ISMA).
Substantiation: In both NFPA 5000 and the IBC, NFPA 285 is being used to assess vertical and lateral flame propagation for exterior walls containing combustible components. The NFPA 285 test standard was originally developed for the evaluation of combustible materials installed on non-combustible buildings (Types I and II construction). The NFPA 285 test standard is now being used to assess the fire performance of combustible materials which can be installed in all types of buildings, irrespective of the Type of construction, including buildings constructed using combustible components (FRTW Wood framing). As the building codes are being actively revised to reflect current construction practices, such as podium construction, the use of FRTW wood in Type III Buildings, and the use of heavy timber/tall wooden building construction, a conflict between the scope of the standard and the common practice now exists. This conflict is preventing the use of the NFPA 285 test standard for the evaluation of combustible materials in these new construction arenas.
For example, NFPA 5000-2015 includes testing to NFPA 285 for exterior non-bearing walls of any type in 126.96.36.199.12.2, for exterior non-bearing walls of Type III construction without limitation in 188.8.131.52.3, for exterior non-bearing walls of Type IV construction without limitation in 184.108.40.206.8, for exterior walls of Types I, II, III and IV construction containing MCM materials in 37.4.4, for exterior walls of Type I, Type II, Type III, and Type IV buildings of any height containing foam plastics in 220.127.116.11.1. Similarly, the International Building Code (IBC-2015) also contains multiple requirements for use of NFPA 285 without any requirement that the wall (or the building) be of combustible construction. In NFPA 5000, a second revision also added NFPA 285 testing to section 37.1.5 for exterior non-bearing walls. The fire test standard itself should not differentiate between the type of wall construction materials. This precedent has been taken in many other fire performance test standards, including NFPA 252, NFPA 257, NFPA 268, NFPA 286, ASTM E119, and ASTM E814.
At the first revision stage, during the development of what was expected to be the 2018 edition of NFPA 285, the NFPA Fire Tests committee decided to make a change in the scope to clarify that NFPA 285 is applicable to any type of construction. That first revision received no public comments. However, during the second revision meeting it was argued that, if exceptions to the noncombustible requirement need to be made, they should be made within the building codes and not within the test method. The technical committee accepted that argument and reinstated the original scope.
Unfortunately, after the second revision was issued it was brought to the attention of the technical committee that the wording in the scope was being used (without adequate technical justification) by an ICC Ad-Hoc committee for the IBC (ICC Ad Hoc Committee for Tall Wood Buildings) for excluding NFPA 285 from use for new tall buildings composed of combustible exterior construction. The IBC committee was created by the ICC Board of directors to explore the building science of tall wood buildings with the scope being to investigate the feasibility of and take action on developing code changes for tall wood buildings. This is a multi-year effort with the objective of the submission of code changes for the 2018 Group A Cycle (IBC) in January/2018. So, in fact, the Fire Tests Committee was incorrect in their conclusion during the second revision meeting. This error needs to be corrected.
NFPA 285 is a multi-story test of an exterior wall construction that contains a window and is unique in being able to assess the upwards flame spread, the potential for window penetration from exterior fires and the flame spread (vertical and horizontal) within the combustibles contained in the assembly. No other fire test that is in use today contains that unique feature. However, if the scope is not changed the ICC committee will encounter serious difficulties for proposing the use of NFPA 285 to assess upwards flame spread and flame penetration for buildings of combustible construction and other, less appropriate, tests will be used. In fact, it is an almost certainty that NFPA 285 would not be able to be used for the next edition of the IBC, with proposals due January 2018, since the next NFPA edition, following the traditional development process, would not issue until too late in the development process of the code. This time line became even more critical with the return of the proposed 2018 edition of NFPA 285 to committee by standards council.
Similarly, the same arguments would prevent NFPA 285 from being able to be used in similar applications in the next edition of NFPA 5000.
As an example of the need to avoid placing restrictions on the use of the appropriate fire tests, I want to quote from Jim Pauley’s recent alert to the fire safety community following the Grenfell fire, in the United Kingdom (and other high-profile fires). He stated (among other comments) the following: “These tragic fires entirety, they are a collective example of how, either intentionally or accidentally, the fire prevention and protection system has been broken. A system that the public believes exists and counts on for their safety - through complacency, bad policy and placing economics of construction over safety - has let them down.” He addressed the vital roles that government; policy makers; codes and standards users; professionals involved in design, installation, enforcement and maintenance; and community jurisdictions play in ensuring the public’s safety. He stated: “When any of those groups becomes complicit or lax in properly executing their roles and responsibilities, the consequences can be – and have been – catastrophic”. He noted the following potential contributing factors)
– The use of outdated codes and standards
– The use of outdated codes and standards
– The use of outdated codes and standards
– Ignoring referenced standards within a code
– Lack of education around the application of the codes and standards
– Reduced enforcement
– A public unaware of the dangers of fire
This TIA proposes the same changes in the text of NFPA 285 as was proposed by TIA 1264 on this document. The results of the voting on TIA 1264 was 19 in favor and 5 opposed with 2 abstentions (on technical merit) and 18 in favor and 7 opposed with 1 abstention (on emergency nature). TIA 1264 was on the proposed 2018 edition of NFPA 285, which was returned to committee and Standards Council had no choice but to nullify the TIA because the proposed 2018 edition of NFPA 285 does not exist. The attached decision of Standards Council on the issuance of the TIA (following my appeal) includes the following statement: “Additionally, the appellant or any other interested party may choose to initiate a TIA on the existing (2012) edition of NFPA 285. Should such a proposed TIA come before the Council for processing, the Council will consider it promptly and in accordance with the Regs.”
Therefore, this TIA is being proposed on the 2012 edition of NFPA 285, which contains the same language and concerns
Emergency Nature: The standard contains an error or an omission that was overlooked during the regular revision process. The proposed TIA intends to correct a previously unknown existing hazard. The proposed TIA intends to offer to the public a benefit that would lessen a recognized (known) hazard or ameliorate a continuing dangerous condition or situation. The proposed TIA intends to accomplish a recognition of an advance in the art of safeguarding property or life where an alternative method is not in current use or is unavailable to the public. The proposed TIA intends to correct a circumstance in which the revised NFPA Standard has resulted in an adverse impact on a product or method that was inadvertently overlooked in the total revision process or was without adequate technical (safety) justification of the action.
The timing of this TIA is such that changes to the 2012 edition of NFPA 285 can be made in order for NFPA 285 to be able to be used in this new application for tall wood buildings in the next edition of the International Building Code (and in the next edition of NFPA 5000). Following the traditional revision process for NFPA 285 will make it impossible for this to apply in the ICC for Tall Wood Buildings, particularly since the proposed 2018 edition has been returned to committee. In turn, this could even jeopardize the entire effort of including these buildings in the code. The current edition of NFPA 285 was dated 2012 and the next one will be dated 2023 or 2024.
We’re witnessing an explosion in the number of Internet-connected devices and “smart” technologies that offer consumers a new level of function, fun, and convenience: every hour more than 200,000 new devices get connected to the Internet globally, and the U.S. market for these devices is the world’s biggest by fourfold – and growing 20% annually or more. At DOE we’re interested in the energy opportunities these new devices represent, starting with how they enable consumers and their buildings to provide valuable new services to utilities – from reducing peak demand to integrating renewables – potentially generating big savings for end-users, the utility system, and the country.
At the Building Technologies Office (BTO), we’re conducting Grid-interactive Efficient Buildings (GEB) research to help bring connectedness – and the related energy savings – across the entire building sector, commercial and residential alike. GEB research will allow American businesses and families to save energy and reduce their utility bills automatically and without impacting comfort or productivity.
The GEB vision is more than just saving energy and money inside buildings. Increased Internet connections for building equipment can also enable buildings to be more responsive to electric grid conditions. This helps avert system stress, enhancing the reliability of the entire grid. Grid-interactive water heaters, for example, know exactly when to turn on or off the electric heating elements to reduce power use during moments when the utility system reaches peak demand … or to shift power consumption to when the utility system has excess capacity.
BTO envisions a future where grid-responsive equipment grows in popularity and helps defer the need to construct expensive new transmission and distribution facilities. This can defer spending and thus mitigate rate increases for utilities and their customers, and also introduce new sources of revenue for participating customers. A recent BTO-sponsored study from the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab found that some of the largest utility benefits from energy efficiency comes from the deferral of transmission and distribution system infrastructure upgrades. Which means that when electricity is saved is just as important as how much is saved.
Helping buildings become responsive and dispatchable in response to grid needs is at the core of BTO’s GEB research. In the rapidly approaching GEB future, buildings will not only demand power from the grid but can also adjust their own demand up or down, earlier or later, in response to fluctuating grid conditions. BTO’s research will support the technologies and practices that enable this two-way interaction between buildings and the electric system.
Helping make homes and other buildings smarter and better connected is certainly not without significant challenges. Many in the building sector (including owners, managers, and tenants) are not aware of the energy-savings opportunities from connected devices. And even for those who are aware, the time and effort spent to learn about and install these devices may be too daunting – especially given that most have electric rates that do not vary by time, and thus don’t reward consumers for time-shifting their power use. Furthermore, once installed there is no guarantee that different equipment will work together to make the building itself grid-responsive – without interoperability, utilities can’t fully engage with buildings and their occupants.
BTO’s GEB portfolio is working to:
Leverage enhanced data from advancements and cost reductions of sensors and sub-metering – BTO is investing in replacing “handcrafted,” rule-based building control routines for fault detection and diagnostics and model-predictive control. Our goal is to enable fully autonomous and distributed controls that effectively integrate grid operations with occupant comfort and energy savings.
Enable interoperability – BTO is working with stakeholders to develop a roadmap for the seamless communication between building devices and systems, regardless of manufacturer, allowing easier control of devices, equipment, and appliances.
Ensure integration with other distributed energy resources – buildings can increase a utility’s ability to host renewables such as wind and solar, energy storage, and electrification of vehicles. BTO is examining how buildings and campuses can serve as “virtual storage” – going beyond batteries with transaction-based communicative systems that help balance supply and demand on the grid by shifting the time that power is consumed.
Accurately value GEB performance – traditional energy efficiency examines how much energy is saved, but not when. BTO is analyzing how time and location affect the value of efficiency, as well as the value of connectivity and smartness.
Develop cyber-secure transaction-based energy systems – we’re developing transaction-based controls (that inherently value the consumer and utility engagement) as a method to help facilitate GEB transactions. For example, one BTO effort, done with the Pacific Northwest National Lab, has been to develop a cyber-secure and highly interoperable platform for distributed control and sensing called VOLTTRON, designed to support modern control strategies, including use of agent-based controls.
BTO’s GEB portfolio works hand in glove with DOE’s broader Grid Modernization Initiative (GMI), a comprehensive effort of different DOE offices and national laboratories with public and private partners to help shape the future of our nation’s grid. GMI is developing new utility architectural concepts and technologies that can better measure, predict, and protect the grid, and identifying the institutional changes needed so American consumers and business can best take advantage of a modernized grid.
Too cold out? Too hot out? Regardless, “out” is the best place to keep that weather. It belongs outdoors, not indoors.
How do you keep it there? That’s where the “building envelope” comes in.
Imagine an open envelope. Its contents can move in and out, subject to theft and loss. Now imagine a sealed envelope. Much harder for anything to get in or out.
Now imagine a house with ill-fitting doors and windows, poorly sealed walls and roofs, leaky spaces around hose bibs and electrical outlets. Just like an open envelope, all that comfy air on the inside is subject to theft and loss. The weather steals your indoor air and replaces it with outdoor air.
So just like an envelope, we should seal our house. Unfortunately, that can be really hard to do. Hot or cold weather has a way of insinuating itself through tiny, unseen spaces and even transferring through building materials. That causes you to spend lots of energy (and money) to keep replacing the air in your house.
That’s why sealing the building envelope is so important. But what exactly is that and what is a building envelope?
The building envelope is the term for the physical barriers that separate the inside conditioned space from the outside unconditioned area. The building envelope provides barriers to heat/cold, air, water, light, and noise. From an energy efficiency standpoint, the barriers to temperature and air are the big ones—the idea is to “seal” the envelope from the outdoors just like that envelope carrying a letter in the mail.
This is important not only for homeowners but our country, as well. Did you know it’s estimated that nearly 40 percent of our country’s energy is consumed in our homes and buildings, and that heating and cooling account for most of the energy use in a typical home? Sadly, much of it is wasted due to outdated building practices. The building envelope in some of our housing can be poor. Think porous roof, mold and mildew, drafty rooms, rotted wood…
So what does this have to do with plastics?
Home energy efficiency.
It’s really hard to properly seal the building envelope without advanced, modern plastic building materials. To maximize a home’s energy-efficiency, multiple plastic materials such as foam insulation and sealants can be combined to help create a more continuous sealed barrier that is tight and resists air movement. Some of these products do not simply insulate well, they also reduce leaks and air loss. Compared to outdated construction techniques, less of the home’s climate-controlled air escapes, and outside air is less likely to penetrate the home’s living spaces.
What kinds of plastics are used in many of these energy efficient home?
Here are some examples:
- Sheets of foam polystyrene under and around the foundation;
- “Insulated concrete forms,” typically expanded polystyrene blocks that stack and are filled with concrete and rebar to create walls;
- “Structural insulated panels” that sandwich large sheets of expanded polystyrene foam between wall boards;
- Polyiso or polyurethane foam installed under the roof (instead of insulating the attic floor);
- Plastic foam insulation on the outside of the home, not just in the wall cavities;
- Foam plastic insulated window frames clad in vinyl;
- Plastic house wrap that significantly reduces the infiltration of outside air;
- Vinyl siding and trim that provides an additional barrier between indoors and out, and
- Plastic sealants (caulks, mastics, foams, tape) in remaining gaps that may exist between floors, walls, roofs, and windows, as well as around ductwork joints.
By combining many of these plastic building materials, the house’s building envelope behaves more like an efficient system, with all of the parts working together to create something much greater than what any building component would achieve by itself.
The result? Dramatically reduced air flow between indoors and out and dramatically reduced energy use and expense.
So… sealing the building envelope helps keep the weather where it belongs: outside.
Today's intelligent plastics are vital to the modern world. These materials enhance our lifestyles, our economy and the environment. For more information visit www.intelligentplastics.ca
What is it?
Staycell ONE STEP 255 is a two-part, closed-cell, intumescent, spray polyurethane foam product used to insulate roof decks, ceilings, walls, siding or structural steel and to provide an integral air barrier / insulation / vapor retarder for building envelope assemblies.
What makes it unique?
Staycell ONE STEP 255 offers superior fire-resistance and qualifies as an Alternative Thermal Barrier Assembly when installed exposed without thermal barriers, ignition barriers or other fire protective surfaces - a first for the spray foam industry. Staycell ONE STEP’s patented intumescent technology makes the foam fire-resistant – the fire resistance is built right into the foam itself. It’s less expensive to install because it does not require the addition of fire barrier coatings.
Who is the product made for?
Commercial and residential spray foam professionals.
Many large low-slope commercial-industrial and cold storage buildings are built using traditional steel roof deck assemblies. This type of roof is comprised of a roll-formed steel substrate under multiple layers of rigid foam insulation which is then covered with a single-ply membrane roof sheet. To Bill Lowery, president of All Weather Insulated Panels, roofs constructed in this traditional manner are obsolete.
“It’s time for the North American construction industry to undergo a paradigm shift,” Lowery said. “I see the way these roofs are installed and realized that there are superior, cost-effective solutions available simply by applying newer composite technologies.”
With that in mind, Lowery developed OneDek as a revolutionary insulated panel composite for low-slope and flat roof applications. OneDek, Lowery said, will save time and labor costs during construction while providing superior properties, including resistance to deflection, diaphragm shear, fire and higher R-values per inch compared with most insulation boards available on the market.
By producing the insulation and the steel substrate at the factory, OneDek panels eliminate the need to add insulation on the job site. This time-consuming step has installers manually staggering the insulation board layers and then securing them with thousands of long length mechanical fasteners to the steel deck substrate.
With the use of a “vacuum lifter,” OneDek panels are easily set in place over roof support steel and engaged via roll-formed tongue-and-groove joinery. Securing the panels to joists or purlins requires far fewer fasteners and takes less time.
The composite nature of the OneDek assembly allows for longer spans between supports and, unlike an insulation board substrate, OneDek panels are highly resistant to damage from foot traffic during and after construction. The ability to meet diaphragm shear requirements makes OneDek unique as a composite utilizing steel facings and a polyisocyanurate foam core. But the benefits of OneDek don’t stop there.
The panels can be produced in thicknesses ranging from 2 to 6 inches, offering an R value up to 50. The exterior coated steel provides an ideal substrate for either mechanically fastened or adhered white TPO and PVC membrane waterproofing. The interior steel facing of OneDek comes with a white factory-painted finish, which is easy to wash and highly reflective, thereby reducing lighting requirements. “Just another benefit that comes with OneDek,” said Lowery. “Fewer light fixtures alone provide only a portion of the savings for a 150,000-square-foot project, but then add that to all of the other advantages, including installation time and superior overall performance, OneDek really does makes a difference.”
Lowery is so confident about the integrity of the OneDek roof assembly that AWIP offers an industry-exclusive, 20-year, top-to-bottom Roof System Weathertight Warranty. This warranty covers the membrane roof. For building owners, that's a huge benefit.
“In the U.S. construction industry, we have to lead the horse to water and then entice it to drink,” said Lowery. “When it comes to OneDek™, they’ll be happy they did. It’s economical, faster and better.”
As the new product demonstrates, AWIP is an innovator in the design, construction and advancement of insulated metal panels. The company was founded by Lowery in 2004 and currently has two state-of-the-art, continuous-line manufacturing facilities. One is located in Vacaville, CA, with the second in Little Rock, AR.
New chemicals giant DowDuPont has realigned some of its businesses within two of the three intended independent companies: Materials Science, Specialty Products, and Agriculture.
The revised portfolio involves addition of several businesses to the Specialty Products unit. Those businesses are DuPont Performance Polymers, Dow Automotive Systems’ adhesives and fluids, Dow Building Solutions, Dow Water and Process Solutions, Dow Pharma and Food Solutions, Dow Microbial Control, Molykote brand lubricants for automotive and industrial equipment, thermoplastic compounder Multibase Inc., and several silicone-based businesses related to industrial LEDs, semiconductors, and medical products.
The future Materials Science company will maintain the Dow brand and will be headquartered in Midland, Mich. The vast majority of its sales is from Packaging & Specialty Plastics, Performance Materials & Coatings, and Industrial Intermediates & Infrastructure. The company’s plastics platforms include polyethylene, polyolefin elastomers, polyurethanes, silicones, acrylics, and cellulosics.
The Specialty Products company will be headquartered in Wilmington, Del., and will focus on Electronics & Imaging, Transportation & Advanced Polymers, Safety & Construction, and Nutrition & Biosciences.
Icynene U.S. Holding Corp. and Lapolla Industries Inc. today announced the completion of their previously announced merger. The combined company is a leading manufacturer and distributor of spray foam polyurethane foam insulation products.
Going forward the two companies will operate as Icynene-Lapolla. Together, the combined business will have offices in Canada and the U.S.
“We are excited about the completion of the merger. The two businesses have complementary SPF products and outstanding customer service, and both have a strong commitment to innovation,” said Mark Sarvary, Chief Executive Officer of Icynene-Lapolla.
Doug Kramer, President, Icynene-Lapolla, added, “It is an exciting time for Icynene-Lapolla. We look forward to expanding the use of our innovative products both regionally and worldwide.”
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf recently signed HB409, 'Legislation to Reform Uniform Construction Code Adoption Process.' This new statute modifies the process in which the Uniform Construction Code (UCC) of Pennsylvania is reviewed and adopted within that State. The review cycle for codes moves from 36 months to a 54-month review cycle from the publication of the base code (I-Codes) and allows for Technical Committees made up of industry stakeholders to be part of the process. The bill also modifies how sections of the code can be bundled into non-controversial and controversial categories to eliminate full rejection of a published code.
HB409 includes an opportunity for the City of Philadelphia to adopt the 2018 commercial codes, via local ordinance. The rest of the Commonwealth will reconsider 2015 codes through the Review and Advisory Council under this new adoption process. The adopted provisions from the re-review of 2015 codes will take effect on October 1, 2018.
On October 31, Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb approved the re-adoption of that state's energy code, which is ANSI/ASHRAE/IES Standard 90.1-2007.
The energy code almost lapsed at the end of last year with that state's sun setting provision regarding regulations. ASHRAE and many other organizations moved quickly to seek a one-year extension of the code to allow time for the code to be re-adopted. That process is now complete and the rule becomes effective 30 days after the approval. Learn more.
The 2015 IECC Task Force was to present the Final Report of the Georgia State Supplements and Amendments for approval of the State Codes Advisory Committee (SCAC) held on November 16. The final report was published on September 21, 2017.
A member of the SCAC motioned for a 3-month delay of approval to the February meeting (anticipated February 28, 2018) to allow for concerns/comments/suggestions to be submitted by February 1, 2018.
The Task Force Chair and Vice Chair pushed for adoption at the November meeting, as the trade associations had already worked out many compromises, and further delays make the path to full adoption on January 1, 2019 more difficult. Once approved by the SCAC, the Georgia State Supplements and Amendments must go before the Department of Community Affairs, and then the state legislature (the normal legislative session will close in late March 2018).
This delay could push back approval of the new codes for a least a year, depending on how quickly that can be reviewed by the Georgia Legislature. To watch for the announcement of the February meeting, go to the Department of Community Affairs website.