Energy Efficiency and Building Science News

APA Member Plywood Producers Sue PFS-TECO & Timber Products

Tue, 2019-09-17 14:26
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.

 

Kingspan High R-value Phenolic Insulation for Basements

Tue, 2019-09-17 13:44
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

Kingspan recently introduced Kooltherm K9 Internal Insulation Board, a premium performance insulation product used for interior exposed application on basement, crawlspace, attic and habitable space walls. With an R-value of 8-1/2 per inch, it has a higher R-value per inch than any commonly used insulation.

Insulation Boards installed with glass fiber tissue facing the interior of the attic or crawl space may be used for walls and ceilings of attic or crawl spaces without an ignition barrier required by IBC Section 2603.4.1.6, or IRC Sections R316.5.3 or R316.5.4, when all of the following conditions are met:

  1. Entry to the attic or crawl space shall be only to service utilities and no storage is permitted. Utilities include, but are not limited to, mechanical equipment, electrical wiring, fans, and gas or electric hot water heaters and furnaces.
  2. There shall be no interconnected attic or basement areas.
  3. Air in the attic or crawl space shall not circulated to other parts of the building.
    1. Attic ventilation shall be provided when required by IBC Section 1202.2 or IRC Section R806, as applicable.
    2. Under-floor (crawl space) ventilation is provided that complies with IBC Sections 1202.4 or IRC Section R408.1, as applicable.
  4. Combustion air shall be provided in accordance with IMC (International Mechanical Code) Section 701.
  5. The insulation is limited to a maximum thickness of 4-3/4 inches (120 mm).

Finally, Kingspan K9 is NFPA 286 compliant, has a Class A flame spread rating and is easy to handle and install.

 

Kingspan High R-value Phenolic Insulation for Basements

Tue, 2019-09-17 13:44
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

Kingspan recently introduced Kooltherm K9 Internal Insulation Board, a premium performance insulation product used for interior exposed application on basement, crawlspace, attic and habitable space walls. With an R-value of 8-1/2 per inch, it has a higher R-value per inch than any commonly used insulation.

Insulation Boards installed with glass fiber tissue facing the interior of the attic or crawl space may be used for walls and ceilings of attic or crawl spaces without an ignition barrier required by IBC Section 2603.4.1.6, or IRC Sections R316.5.3 or R316.5.4, when all of the following conditions are met:

  1. Entry to the attic or crawl space shall be only to service utilities and no storage is permitted. Utilities include, but are not limited to, mechanical equipment, electrical wiring, fans, and gas or electric hot water heaters and furnaces.
  2. There shall be no interconnected attic or basement areas.
  3. Air in the attic or crawl space shall not circulated to other parts of the building.
    1. Attic ventilation shall be provided when required by IBC Section 1202.2 or IRC Section R806, as applicable.
    2. Under-floor (crawl space) ventilation is provided that complies with IBC Sections 1202.4 or IRC Section R408.1, as applicable.
  4. Combustion air shall be provided in accordance with IMC (International Mechanical Code) Section 701.
  5. The insulation is limited to a maximum thickness of 4-3/4 inches (120 mm).

Finally, Kingspan K9 is NFPA 286 compliant, has a Class A flame spread rating and is easy to handle and install.

 

EEBS Transitioning to New Delivery Schedule

Wed, 2019-08-28 21:18
Press Releases

A little over four years ago, SBC Magazine launched Energy Efficiency & Building Science News (EEBS), to reach readers interested in the science behind building envelope performance and the wide array of complicated issues surrounding the protection of buildings from the effects of water, the value energy efficiency and durability/resilience. This work has reached various groups associated with the building construction trades in an effort to put valuable and timely information in their hands. 

Each of the SBC Magazine news feeds, SBC Industry News, Framing News and Energy Efficiency & Building Science News, consistently reach up to 7,500 readers with each delivery. We are currently working on deepening our database with the goal of systematically increasing our reach to all the interested readers about advances and innovation in construction. It is also important to continue to freely provide a focus on the latest methods, products and materials used to achieve various building envelope performance goals.

Sponsorship support for SBC Industry News and Framing News has allowed us to invest the resources and staff focus needed to provide a weekly and two times per month news feed, respectively. We know that EEBS has developed a loyal readership and we wish to serve that readership through content that takes dedicated resources to create.

Given a recent evaluation of our SBC Magazine business resources, it has become clear that when looking to serve every group’s best interests, along with scarce resource allocation, transitioning EEBS from a weekly publication to a monthly publication is a decision that fits needs well. Therefore, from this point forward, EEBS will be sent out on the Wednesday of the third full week of each month, inserted between the weeks Framing News is published.

We’ll use the same email delivery system so look for the EEBS brand with the subject line, “Energy Efficiency & Building Science News,” starting Wednesday, September 18th.

Given our readership reach and feedback, there is great value in providing direct messages on building science and performance to an energy efficiency focused market. If any company sees value in working with SBC Magazine to expand knowledge about the value of your business, we would like to work your thoughts into our news delivery strategy. Please call Molly at 608-310-6741.

Thank you for reading EEBS and supporting our efforts to supply the building construction industry with reliable information regarding the science that goes into building durability and energy efficiency.

 

EEBS Transitioning to New Delivery Schedule

Wed, 2019-08-28 21:18
Press Releases

A little over four years ago, SBC Magazine launched Energy Efficiency & Building Science News (EEBS), to reach readers interested in the science behind building envelope performance and the wide array of complicated issues surrounding the protection of buildings from the effects of water, the value energy efficiency and durability/resilience. This work has reached various groups associated with the building construction trades in an effort to put valuable and timely information in their hands. 

Each of the SBC Magazine news feeds, SBC Industry News, Framing News and Energy Efficiency & Building Science News, consistently reach up to 7,500 readers with each delivery. We are currently working on deepening our database with the goal of systematically increasing our reach to all the interested readers about advances and innovation in construction. It is also important to continue to freely provide a focus on the latest methods, products and materials used to achieve various building envelope performance goals.

Sponsorship support for SBC Industry News and Framing News has allowed us to invest the resources and staff focus needed to provide a weekly and two times per month news feed, respectively. We know that EEBS has developed a loyal readership and we wish to serve that readership through content that takes dedicated resources to create.

Given a recent evaluation of our SBC Magazine business resources, it has become clear that when looking to serve every group’s best interests, along with scarce resource allocation, transitioning EEBS from a weekly publication to a monthly publication is a decision that fits needs well. Therefore, from this point forward, EEBS will be sent out on the Wednesday of the third full week of each month, inserted between the weeks Framing News is published.

We’ll use the same email delivery system so look for the EEBS brand with the subject line, “Energy Efficiency & Building Science News,” starting Wednesday, September 18th.

Given our readership reach and feedback, there is great value in providing direct messages on building science and performance to an energy efficiency focused market. If any company sees value in working with SBC Magazine to expand knowledge about the value of your business, we would like to work your thoughts into our news delivery strategy. Please call Molly at 608-310-6741.

Thank you for reading EEBS and supporting our efforts to supply the building construction industry with reliable information regarding the science that goes into building durability and energy efficiency.

 

Air Barriers: Small Details Make Big Difference

Tue, 2019-08-27 13:22
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

In two previous articles, we explored the significance of air leakage control and the various materials and methods now available to achieve air leakage control. In this article we’ll present the two methods that work together to achieve compliance with modern energy code air leakage requirements (See Table 1 and Figure 1):

  • Air barrier installation and inspection criteria
  • Blower Door Testing
Table 1: 2009 vs. 2012/2015/2018 IECC - Residential Climate Zone 2009 IECC 2012/2015/2019 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 1: U.S. Climate Zones

Regardless of the many air barrier materials and methods available for air barrier installation (please see “What caused the air barrier industry to develop?”), one thing is common to all of these material options. Careful detailing and sealing at joints and intersections between assemblies and components is absolutely necessary to make the air barrier material effective in end use.  Consequently, this realization has given rise to the idea of an air-barrier assembly and then, more completely, the air barrier system. The system must provide a continuous air control layer across the entire building envelope, including interfaces between all exterior components and assemblies. This means, simply put, seal all the joints, cracks, holes and penetrations (see Figure 2). 

This is a pretty simple concept, but the complexity comes in making it happen in the field with real people and a real building. These small details make a big difference in air leakage performance (like proper flashing is to the prevention of rain water intrusion). Unfortunately, it is easy to overlook or skimp on this tedious task during the frenzied nature of construction, if not effectively managed, regulated and enforced.

Figure 2:  Air barrier installation and air sealing action items

Source: U.S. Department of Energy Air Leakage Guide. Click to enlarge.

Therefore, energy codes have adopted a laundry list of air leakage sealing requirements or criteria that also serve as a means of visually inspecting an air barrier system installation. This was a major step forward. But, a visual inspection only gets you so far. Many leaks may still be missed in a visual inspection (you just can’t see the air leaks under normal conditions).

Consequently, the capstone of air leakage control has been added to the 2012/2015/2018 editions of the IECC residential energy code for homes: blower door testing. Commercial construction, however, still just has to minimally do the “laundry list” and hope the visual inspection at least finds some of the bigger leaks with no confirmation that the intended air leakage targets are indeed met and this can have significant consequences (see “What’s the Big Deal with Air Leakage?”). But, this too may (or should) change soon.

What is a blower door? How does it work? What constitutes a pass or fail? What do you do if you fail the test? Can I use it to help find leaks? All of these questions will be addressed in the final and fourth article in this series on air leakage.  

For more information on air-barriers and air-leakage control, refer to https://www.continuousinsulation.org/air-barrier

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

Articles

Videos

 

Air Barrier Installation and Inspection: Is It Enough?

Tue, 2019-08-27 13:22
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

In two previous articles, we explored the significance of air leakage control and the various materials and methods now available to achieve air leakage control. In this article we’ll present the two methods that work together to achieve compliance with modern energy code air leakage requirements (See Table 1 and Figure 1):

  • Air barrier installation and inspection criteria
  • Blower Door Testing
Table 1: 2009 vs. 2012/2015/2018 IECC - Residential Climate Zone 2009 IECC 2012/2015/2019 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 1: U.S. Climate Zones

Regardless of the many air barrier materials and methods available for air barrier installation (please see “What’s the Big Deal with Air Leakage?”), one thing is common to all of these material options. Careful detailing and sealing at joints and intersections between assemblies and components is absolutely necessary to make the air barrier material effective in end use.  Consequently, this realization has given rise to the idea of an air-barrier assembly and then, more completely, the air barrier system. The system must provide a continuous air control layer across the entire building envelope, including interfaces between all exterior components and assemblies. This means, simply put, seal all the joints, cracks, holes and penetrations (see Figure 2). 

This is a pretty simple concept, but the complexity comes in making it happen in the field with real people and a real building. These small details make a big difference in air leakage performance (like proper flashing is to prevention of rain water intrusion). Unfortunately, it is easy to overlook or skimp on this tedious task during the frenzied nature of construction, if not effectively managed, regulated and enforced.

Figure 2:  Air barrier installation and air sealing action items

Source: U.S. Department of Energy Air Leakage Guide. Click to enlarge.

Therefore, energy codes have adopted a laundry list of air leakage sealing requirements or criteria that also serve as a means of visually inspecting an air barrier system installation. This was a major step forward. But, a visual inspection only gets you so far. Many leaks may still be missed in a visual inspection (you just can’t see the air leaks under normal conditions).

Consequently, the capstone of air leakage control has been added to the 2012/2015/2018 editions of the IECC energy code for homes: blower door testing. Commercial construction still just has to minimally do the “laundry list” and hope the visual inspection at least finds some of the bigger leaks. But, this too may change soon.

What is a blower door? How does it work? What constitutes a pass or fail? What do you do if you fail the test? Can I use it to help find leaks? All of these questions will be addressed in the final and fourth article in this series on air leakage.  

For more information on air-barriers and air-leakage control, refer to https://www.continuousinsulation.org/air-barrier

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

Articles

Videos

 

Report: Zero-Energy Residence Inventories Grew in 2018

Tue, 2019-08-27 12:29
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

The market for residential zero-energy buildings grew 59 percent across the United States and Canada last year, according to a new report.

The Zero Energy Residential Buildings Study released by Team Zerodocuments 22,146 units that are either in design, construction, or operation. These include single and multifamily projects that are working to achieve zero energy or zero energy-ready performance.

Top 10 zero energy states/provinces by number of units. Click to enlarge. Image courtesy Team Zero

This study, now in its fourth year, works to answer questions about the viability of zero-energy homes in different markets, climates, and political jurisdictions. Team Zero is a coalition of organizations, manufacturers, and others working to grow the market share of zero energy and zero energy-ready homes and commercial buildings.

Other findings of the study include:

  • larger multifamily buildings are increasingly dominating the zero-energy housing stock;
  • more projects are seeking zero-energy performance with integrated renewables;
  • California is leading in the number of projects (6828) with New York in second place (3022);
  • in Canada, there was a 240 percent increase in the number of zero-energy units over 2017;
  • multifamily projects now represent 71 percent of the total zero energy residential stock; and
  • future trends to watch that were spotlighted in Team Zero’s findings include community micro-grids, electrification, grid integration and harmonization, and zero carbon.

For additional information, read the following articles: 

 

Report: Zero-Energy Residence Inventories Grew in 2018

Tue, 2019-08-27 12:29
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

The market for residential zero-energy buildings grew 59 percent across the United States and Canada last year, according to a new report.

The Zero Energy Residential Buildings Study released by Team Zerodocuments 22,146 units that are either in design, construction, or operation. These include single and multifamily projects that are working to achieve zero energy or zero energy-ready performance.

Top 10 zero energy states/provinces by number of units. Click to enlarge. Image courtesy Team Zero

This study, now in its fourth year, works to answer questions about the viability of zero-energy homes in different markets, climates, and political jurisdictions. Team Zero is a coalition of organizations, manufacturers, and others working to grow the market share of zero energy and zero energy-ready homes and commercial buildings.

Other findings of the study include:

  • larger multifamily buildings are increasingly dominating the zero-energy housing stock;
  • more projects are seeking zero-energy performance with integrated renewables;
  • California is leading in the number of projects (6828) with New York in second place (3022);
  • in Canada, there was a 240 percent increase in the number of zero-energy units over 2017;
  • multifamily projects now represent 71 percent of the total zero energy residential stock; and
  • future trends to watch that were spotlighted in Team Zero’s findings include community micro-grids, electrification, grid integration and harmonization, and zero carbon.

For additional information, read the following articles: 

 

CertainTeed Debuts One-Component Liquid Flashing

Tue, 2019-08-27 12:21
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

CertainTeed’s new SmartFlash ONE roof flashing resin is a one-component, UV-stable, fluid applied solution designed for both steep and low-slope roof flashing details and repairs. The resin may be applied without a primer and re-sealed for future use.

“SmartFlash ONE delivers one-part labor efficiency with two-part performance,” says Abby Feinstein, commercial roofing product manager for CertainTeed. “With no primer or component mixing, contractors can work quickly without fear of the product setting up too fast or going to waste. And CertainTeed is so confident in the stress resilience and UV stability of the formula that we’re supporting the product with up to 20 years of warranty coverage, which is in line with the coverage afforded to two-part solutions.”

The SmartFlash ONE resin is available in a five-gallon pail, which covers 125 square feet, or a one-gallon pail, which covers 25 square feet. The one-gallon pail is available on its own or as part of a Flash Pack, which includes resin, fleece, and application accessories. 

For additional information, read the following articles:

 

Webinar: What’s Coming Up in This Year’s ICC Code Development Cycle?

Tue, 2019-08-27 11:48
Building CodesEnergy Efficiency

Things are heating up for this November’s critical ICC ballot to update America’s Model Energy Code.  Local and state officials recognize the critical role buildings play in sound energy and climate policy, and are signaling their intent to vote. 

Notably, the U.S. Conference of Mayors unanimously adopted a resolution on July 1 encouraging cities to commit their full voting slate to vote for proposals that boost the efficiency of the 2021 IECC by at least 10%.  It’s their hope that by tackling the nation’s largest source of carbon – buildings – things will start cooling down, and fast!

EECC’s Bill Fay will discuss what’s ahead in this year’s ICC Code Development cycle:  the stakes, the challenge, the deadlines, and the players.

Learn More & Register

About the Presenter:

Over four decades in Washington DC, Bill Fay has led seven broad-based national issue campaigns that coordinate lobbying, media, communications, and grassroots advocacy, both independently and as Sr. Vice President for America’s largest public relations firm. He has recognized energy expertise, having worked complex energy issues on Capitol Hill relating to fossil fuels, nuclear, hydropower, and electricity generation and transmission. A coalition builder, he organized and led the nation’s premier coalitions on 1990 Clean Air Act reauthorization, product liability reform, multi-year highway legislation, and President Bush’s Clear Skies Initiative. He was recently one of GreenBuilder ® Media’s “2018 Eco-Leaders.”

Since 2007, he has led the Energy Efficient Codes Coalition (EECC), which has united a unique support base – from government, environmental groups, businesses, low-income housing and consumer groups, manufacturers, utilities, and labor – to advance the development and adoption of building energy codes that put America on a glide-path of dynamic building efficiency gains. EECC has helped boost the residential and commercial building efficiency of the America’s Model Energy Code (the International Energy Conservation Code) by 38% and 35%, respectively, and has worked with local and state jurisdictions to support its adoption.

From 1978-85, Fay and served as legislative director in the U.S. House and Senate, specializing in energy, environment, tax, transportation, & natural resource policy/regulation. He has testified before 11 congressional committees, worked for the Idaho Legislature, has degrees in accounting and political science, and successfully completed the Uniform CPA examination.

For additional information, read the following resources and articles:

 

Insulation Is Great Energy Efficiency Tax Policy

Tue, 2019-08-27 11:41
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

The United States has long had tax incentives encouraging domestic energy production, for everything from oil and gas to nuclear and wind power. We do this for many reasons: to ensure stable supplies of home-grown power, to make energy more affordable, and to incentivize cleaner, greener options.

It all makes sense, except that we’ve left behind the single best solution we have for meeting these goals: energy efficiency. As swaths of the country face unrelenting heat waves, we currently have no federal tax incentives encouraging consumers and businesses to use their energy more wisely, such as through buying a more efficient air conditioner or installing insulation in a home.

This is an egregious hole in federal policy. For all the talk of a Green New Deal or a Green Real Deal, fixing this gap in the tax code is one thing Congress could pass tomorrow, with bipartisan support, to significantly reduce carbon emissions while simultaneously stimulating economic activity.

Efficiency is an engine of economic growth and increased productivity. It is by far the largest job creator in the clean energy economy, supporting more than 2.3 million jobs nationwide — good-paying jobs such as retrofitting buildings or manufacturing high-efficiency components and equipment. And it saves consumers and businesses money, freeing up billions of dollars that can be invested elsewhere.

Any politicians who say they are looking for climate change solutions that protect American economic growth and competitiveness need to look no further than energy efficiency. Yet Congress is hardly giving these incentives the time of day.

Specifically, Congress allowed three key efficiency incentives for homes and buildings to expire at the end of 2017. One of these gives homeowners a tax credit for improving the efficiency of their home or buying high-efficiency equipment.

Another encourages home builders to build tighter, more efficient new homes. And a third encourages efficiency improvements in commercial buildings.

Homes and buildings alone account for 40 percent of U.S. energy consumption and nearly as large a share of carbon emissions. Many of them will be in use for 50 or 100 years, so by failing to encourage efficiency now, we are effectively locking in wasted energy and unnecessary carbon emissions for decades.

In addition to preventing waste, updated incentives would create tens of thousands of jobs. History has shown that home and building owners will change their behavior with meaningful incentives. They’ll install insulation or more efficient windows. They’ll buy a new high-efficiency air conditioner or water heater.

That not only stimulates manufacturing at factories across the United States, but it puts contractors and construction crews to work in residential and commercial buildings. In fact, 6 in 10 of the nearly 2.3 million energy efficiency jobs in the United States work in construction.

But these incentives must be modernized and reinstated. The expired incentives were largely written 15 years ago. What was an energy-efficient air conditioner or furnace then isn’t today, and we need to modernize the incentives to better reflect today’s technology and markets.

The benefits to consumers, businesses and the planet would be significant. A Department of Energy analysis published in 2018 looking at just five product categories under the expired homeowner incentive (central air conditioners, gas and electric water heaters, gas furnaces, and electric heat pumps) found that increasing the incentives and extending them for 10 years would increase sales by 278 percent. That would translate to $52 billion in energy savings — equivalent to eliminating the electricity use of nearly half of all U.S. households for a year.

The direct impact on both energy efficiency, lower energy costs and improved economic activity is why the incentives have broad support from the environmental community as well as manufacturers, contractors, engineers and architects. It’s also why this should be an easy win for Congress.

For additional information, read the following articles:

 

Presentation: What Is the Value of Continuous Insulation?

Tue, 2019-08-27 11:16
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

Continuous insulation is used on foundations, exterior walls, and roofs. In addition, continuous insulation provides maximum thermal performance by minimizing thermal bridging. It provides optimal assemblies that dry and also minimize seasonal moisture variations, creating a stable and durable environment for the building structure and interior. Continuous insulation products can also provide products that serve multiple functions including thermal insulation, water-resistive barrier, and air barrier (some composites even add a wall-bracing function or roof ventilation function).

Jay Crandell, P.E., addresses these topics in his “Continuous Insulation: Research, Applications, and Resources for Walls, Roofs, and Foundations” presentation, originally given at the 2019 RCI International Convention and Trade Show.

While the options and opportunities continuous insulation presents are significant, the application must also accommodate cladding installation, fire performance requirements, and other matters important to overall constructability and code compliance.

Crandell’s presentation provides an excellent primer on the many applications of continuous insulation based on a comprehensive body of building science knowledge. This work has resulted in recent key building code and energy code advancements. Review the presentation and more and many more technical resources found at www.continuousinsulation.org

 

How Do WRBs & Drying Concepts Work in Exterior Walls?

Wed, 2019-08-21 14:17
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

Illustration by Hunter Lane, Applied Building Technology Group

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 easily handled on the interior side by use of a small bilge pump or bailer.

Exterior walls of buildings are a bit trickier, but similar in principle. 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, doors, and other penetrations.

Any reasonable approach to or amount of drying potential will not offset major water-resistance defects that result in excessive wetting potential from rain water intrusion. For example, if a boat has holes in the hull the approach of installing a larger bilge pump (aka, more drying potential) to remove the water may in some cases keep the boat afloat temporarily, but it is not going to make it seaworthy. Fix the holes. Similarly, trying to rely on high drying potential (rather than focusing on fixing the holes or water leaks) can lead to increased wetting potential from inward water-vapor movement for reasons given earlier. The three stooges make some fun of this point. Don’t be a stooge

Figure 1. The Drying Potential Balancing Act

For drying potential of a building’s walls, one must be careful to allow adequate vapor movement out of the assembly, but not in a way that allows a lot of vapor movement back into the assembly under changing seasonal conditions. This can be a challenging balancing act (see Figure 1) that depends on a number of factors, including the cladding material used, the climate zone where the building is located and the vapor permeance of building material and insulation layers making up the wall assembly. 

Consequently, a safe and simple design approach for building a sound wall assembly is to use a moderate- to low- vapor permeance material layer on the exterior of the 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 a “smart” vapor retarder. This approach works well because the water-sensitive interior portions of a wall become influenced by a more stable indoor environment and are protected from the variable outdoor conditions that otherwise create episodes of wetting and drying. 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.  This is good for durability. This is good for water sensitive materials within walls such as wood-based or gypsum sheathings. This is simple, but it must be done right…

While the above inward-drying approach can work in any climate, in colder climates the wall must be “tricked” into thinking it is in a warm climate to control humidity levels with the assembly and prevent condensation or moisture accumulation within the wall during the winter months. This beneficial effect is easily and reliably achieved by using a sufficient amount of continuous insulation, like foam sheathing, on the exterior of the building as is often required to comply with modern energy codes. 

In fact, a wall calculator tool and educational aids have been developed for this purpose. 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 boat hull). With these moisture control and durability benefits, energy savings are also obtained by envelope insulation of the entire exterior of a structure, including all the thermal bridges created by wood and, to a much greater extent, steel framing members.

Conversely, walls with no exterior continuous insulation result in cold materials within the wall (such as wood-based or gypsum sheathing) and this tends to create high humidity or condensation conditions that increase the moisture content of these materials during the winter, which can lead to moisture related and durability issues. Even with high exterior drying potential leading to drying in the Spring and Summer, the moisture cycling in the winter may lead to potential moisture damage unless a low-perm interior vapor barrier is used and careful air-sealing applied to prevent vapor diffusion and warm indoor air leakage into the wall. Also, in warm-humid climates, a high outward drying potential really means that during much of the year there is high inward wetting potential due to inward vapor diffusion. In this case, focusing instead on inward drying and avoiding high vapor permeance materials on the exterior is a favorable practice.    

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 provide appropriately balanced and inwardly directed drying potential for a durable and energy efficient wall assembly suited for any climate.

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

Water Resistant Barriers Topical Library on Continuousinsulation.org

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?
  14. Video: Assess Your 'Perfect Wall' Using Control Layers

 

How Exterior Walls Breathe

Wed, 2019-08-21 13:06
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

Illustration by Hunter Lane, Applied Building Technology Group

Unlike boats, a building’s walls must have some capability to “breathe” instead of being totally impervious to all forms of water. However, a misguided reliance on “breathing” or drying potential as the primary means to make a building’s wall work, without proper consideration of variations in conditions of use, can lead to the problem of wetting potential being too high when conditions of use change.

What you end up with is a wall that dries fast in one condition of use and then wets just as fast in another condition of use – just like the boat in the cartoon. Water or water vapor that leaves in one direction can also enter in the opposite direction when conditions change. For the boat illustration, the rate and direction of water movement depends on the size of the hole and the water pressure difference (which changes depending on whether the boat is in the water or dry-docked). Similarly, water vapor movement depends on the vapor permeability of material layers and the vapor pressure difference across those layers (which changes direction seasonally).

Because walls in buildings dry by means of water vapor movement, use of a high vapor permeance water-resistive barrier layer on the outside of the wall is often considered to be universally good.  In some circumstances this may be true and is helpful.  In many others, it is not. The problem is that vapor drives are not always in the outward direction.  In fact, they are often in an inward direction.  Furthermore, just focusing the vapor permeance of one layer does not fully address how the assembly will behave under changing circumstances.

The direction and amount of water vapor movement into or out of the wall depends on the time of year, the climate, the indoor conditions (temperature and relative humidity), the vapor permeance of the material layers that make up the wall assembly, and the type of cladding. In particular, moisture reservoir claddings like stucco or adhered masonry veneers can significantly increase inward vapor drives when not adequately back-ventilated.  So, having high drying potential on the exterior side of a wall assembly can be good at one time of the year in some climates and for some cladding types, but not for all times of the year in all climates for all cladding types.  This seems complicated and it is.

There are resources should you want to take a deep-dive into this subject.

The Applied Building Technology Group has created two calculators to help evaluate energy code thermal insulation compliance and building code water vapor control compliance.

It performs the following two design checks for a user inputted wall assembly:

  1. Computes the assembly U-factor (and effective R-value) and compares it to code minimum thermal performance requirements (maximum U-factors)  found in 2015 IECC Tables C402.1.4 and R402.1.4 (IRC Table N1102.1.4)  which are climate dependent. An R-value of 0.17 and 0.68 are assumed for exterior and interior air films, respectively.
  2. Conducts a water vapor control check as an aid to help determine if the proposed wall assembly also complies with minimum building code requirements associated with various interior vapor retarder options which are dependent on climate and other factors such as insulation amount and location or sheathing type/permeance and cladding ventilation.

For further information or assistance, please email us at editor@sbcmag.info.

For additional information, 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?
  14. Video: Assess Your 'Perfect Wall' Using Control Layers

 

Installed Building Products Announces Acquisition of Therm-Con, LLC and Foamtech, Inc.

Wed, 2019-08-21 12:35
Business

Installed Building Products, Inc., an industry-leading installer of insulation and complementary building products, announced the acquisition of Therm-Con, LLCand Foamtech, Inc. (collectively, “Therm-Con”). Founded in 2005, Therm-Con primarily serves the Tennessee market, as well as the Georgia and Alabama markets through a branch location in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The company provides insulation, fireplace, shower doors, closet shelving, and mirror installation services primarily for residential customers.

“With trailing twelve-month revenue of $4.7 million, Therm-Con enhances our presence in attractive markets throughout Tennessee and its surrounding states,” stated Jeff Edwards, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. “To date, we have acquired over $30 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.”

 

Air-Sealing the Lid: Spray Foam and Cellulose Team Up for a High Performance Solution

Wed, 2019-08-21 12:18
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

I’m a second-generation home builder working in northeastern Connecticut, and I’ve been building net-zero energy homes for about 10 years. In my early years doing this, I experimented with structural insulated panels (SIPs) and other methods, but these days, I have settled down to a formula based on a cellulose-insulated double stud wall sheathed with plywood on the outside, and a flat attic with deep blown cellulose. I shoot for a HERS rating of about 40 without solar, and I get the rest of the way to a HERS zero rating by installing photovoltaics on the roof.

The author protects can lights in the attic using Tenmat mineral-wool hats.

The spray-foam contractor then seals the hats down to the attic floor with a flash coat of high-density closed-cell polyurethane foam.

In 2010, I was trained and certified as a Passive House consultant, although I’ve never actually built a certified Passive House. Because of client budgets and performance expectations, I typically take a step back from Passive House in terms of insulation levels and window performance. This allows me more freedom to use a variety of building forms and gives customers more choice around things like window placement.

At the same time, the spray-foam contractor seals the gaps at the outside edge of the ceiling.

Partitions also create potential air leaks, both where the ceiling drywall butts to the wall and through wiring penetrations. So this location also gets a flash coat of spray foam.

However, my company does routinely reach the Passive House metric for airtightness. We blower-door test all our houses for Energy Star certification, and they typically measure tighter than 0.6 ACH50—usually, somewhere between 0.3 and 0.5. One way we reach that level of airtightness is by focusing on the attic, including the critical juncture between the walls and the roof.

It starts with the double stud wall. As I mentioned, we sheathe the exterior walls with plywood. Then we cover the sheathing with Henry Blueskin to provide an airtight drainage plane. The outer stud wall and the inner stud wall are connected at the top with a continuous gusset of 3/4-inch plywood that is glued to the wall top plates. That stops any air leakage from outside those walls.

Click for enlargeTim Healey

But this still leaves a leak point where the ceiling drywall butts up against the edge of the plywood gusset joining the wall plates. We address that joint from above. The spray-foam insulation contractor goes up into the attic and applies a flash coat of foam to that joint between the drywall and the exterior walls. He does the same thing at all the interior partitions.

We also spray-foam any penetrations in the ceiling. Where we have can lights, we install Tenmat mineral-wool hats over the lights (tenmatusa.com) and then cover the hats with spray foam. With all the joints and penetrations sealed with foam, we can now proceed to insulate the attic using 20 inches of loose-fill cellulose.

When all the leak points have been sealed with spray foam, the author’s crew installs 20 inches of blown-in cellulose insulation to complete the insulated attic assembly.

This method is simple but effective. I just received the finalized HERS rating for a house we completed a few months ago, built with the same methods I’m showing here. The house had a HERS score of -14 (37 before PV). The blower-door test came in at 0.53 ACH50.

Photos by Ted Cushman

For additional information regarding air-sealing, read the following articles:

 

Water-Resistive Foam Board Insulation

Wed, 2019-08-21 09:54
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

Halo Exterra, a foam board insulation for above-grade exterior insulation applications is also designed to be a water-resistive barrier (which means that no building paper needs to be used).

How is this possible and what do installers have to say about it?

This blog post will show you exactly how Halo Exterra was constructed to be a water-resistive barrier and what builder Anthony Dew of Stalwood Homes thinks about it.

How Exterra is Constructed to be a Water-Resistive Barrier

There are two components that contribute to the water-resistive barrier capabilities of Exterra:

  • its foam core thickness; and
  • the use of laminates.

First and foremost, Exterra is made with a graphite polystyrene (GPS) foam core. GPS is a graphite-enhanced expanded polystyrene foam that provides superior R-value, and it’s this component that makes Exterra a unique foam board insulation product. For Exterra to act as a water-resistive barrier, its GPS foam core must be 9/16” or thicker.

Secondly, Exterra is also laminated on both sides with a polypropylene film (which adds durability and flexibility). The laminate layers of Exterra are precision-perforated, allowing air and moisture to escape and therefore resulting in another key benefit: its breathability. You can read more about the science here.

The key is to have breathable micro perforations and to still qualify as a water-resistive barrier, which is the unique balance that Halo Exterra achieves.

Exterra has also undergone rain penetration testing.

What’s the result of the unique design and construction of Halo Exterra?

The result is a foam board insulation product with a built-in water-resistive barrier that also provides high R-value and breathability. This combination of performance benefits is what makes Halo Exterra truly unique. Check out this short video clip: https://youtube.com/watch?v=E_MXrFzN60k%3Frel%3D0

Installation Steps to Maintain the Water-Resistive Barrier Capabilities of Halo Exterra

Here are the installation steps to maintain the water-resistive barrier capabilities of Halo Exterra:

  • Choose a thickness of 9/16” or greater.
  • Tape over all fasteners.
  • Tape over all joints.
  • Tape over all penetrations.
  • Use both tape and spray foam for larger gaps.
  • Avoid damaging the laminate on Exterra.
  • Tape over any sections of damaged/cracked laminate.
What Installers Say About Halo Exterra as a Water-Resistive Barrier

Since August of 2018, Anthony Dew of Stalwood Homes has built 42 custom units with Exterra ranging from 900 sq. ft. to 7,500 sq. ft. in Cobourg, Grafton, Brighton and Baltimore.

He originally met a Logix Brands team member at the Cobourg Rona Show (he always buys from Northumberland Building Supplies). According to Anthony, “Exterra is his singular go-to exterior sheathing.” He’s also a big believer in offering a wall assembly with a layer of continuous insulation.

Anthony also uses a 3M double-sided 4” wide sheathing tape with 2” peel off sections for easy overlap.

Here’s why Anthony builds with Halo Exterra:

  • UV Resistant Coating = Added Convenience

Scheduling delays always happen, and the UV resistant coating makes it possible for Exterra to remain exposed. While you can tape it right away, you can also tape three weeks later or whenever it’s convenient for you.

The problem with XPS, for example, is that it gets flaky when exposed to UV rays, which makes taping difficult. In this way, Anthony says XPS is “not real-world friendly” like Exterra is. It simply doesn’t work as well in normal working conditions.

  • Price Competitive

Anthony also likes that Exterra is competitive with other options on the market.

  • Canadian-Made and Local

As a Canadian himself, Anthony likes that Exterra is not only Canadian-made, but also local.

(Halo products are manufactured in six locations across Canada and the USA.)

Wrapping it Up

Halo Exterra is designed as a water-resistive barrier due to its thickness and laminate.

However, Exterra is not only a water-resistive barrier. It’s also breathable, while still offering a high R-value, and this is what makes it a unique product on the market (while still being price-competitive).

But that’s not the only reason why installers love Halo Exterra. Anthony Dew of Stalwood Homes loves its UV-resistant coating and price competitiveness as well.

 

New Owens Corning High-Performance Exterior Wall System

Wed, 2019-08-21 09:50
Energy Efficiency

Sto Corp., the innovative world leader in full system facades, prefabrication, air barriers, coatings, and restoration solutions, has recently introduced StoTherm ci Mineral, the only U.S. decorative and protective high-performance exterior wall system with the unique advantages of mineral wool. Developed by Sto Corp. in collaboration with Owens Corning, the StoTherm ci Mineral system combines the fire and thermal advantages of mineral wool with the design flexibility and performance of Sto exterior wall systems.

StoTherm ci Mineral goes well beyond the NFPA 285 standard with enhanced fire protection for improved occupant safety. With a continuous exterior thermal control layer that resists fire and temperatures in excess of 2000 degrees for more than five hours, StoTherm ci Mineral easily passes as a two-hour fire rated assembly. The StoTherm ci Mineral system has outstanding heat-transfer characteristics for occupant comfort and is the only non-combustible insulation EIFS in the U.S.

“Every element in the StoTherm ci Mineral system has been engineered to fully capitalize on the unique characteristics of mineral wool,” said Karine Galla, Product Manager for Sto Corp. “We worked with a global supplier to create the dowels, which are made of low thermal conductivity material designed to minimize or eliminate thermal bridging.”

Because mineral wool can handle much higher internal temperatures, there are no limitations on the Light Reflectance Values (LRVs) of exterior surfaces, allowing for an abundant choice from a wide range of colors, shades and textures for the exterior, giving more design flexibility. The base coat and meshes available with the system also extend a wide range of options for impact resistance.  And the system offers easy installation and a tight fit.

StoTherm ci Mineral has a fully integrated seamless air and moisture barrier and is a complete, engineered façade system with all control layers. In fact, all StoTherm ci systems, including Mineral, XPS and EPS, have comprehensive control layers including thermal, air, vapor, and water.  Durability and water-shedding control layers are also available.

For more information on how the StoTherm ci Mineral system can enhance the performance of a building project, visit www.StoCorp.com.

 

What Caused the Air Barrier Industry to Develop?

Tue, 2019-08-20 14:59
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

Editor's Note:  A previous EEBS article addressed the significance of air leakage control by answering the question: What’s the big deal with air leakage?

In the U.S., our understanding of air leakage through building envelopes has evolved over the course of 100 years or more. In the first application of tarred felt paper installed over 1x board sheathing in the early 1900s, it was applied to cut down on “draftiness” of conventional wood frame construction, due to gaps between board sheathing on walls and wood floor boards. This was an obvious practical matter. Since that time, things have gotten simpler and also more complex, but we are heading in the right direction. Let me explain…and this will take us through some history...

In the not so distant past, there were no air leakage provisions for buildings and this resulted in a building stock with excessive air leakage rates resulting in wasted energy, poor comfort, and other building performance issues (see previous article). With recently increased levels of insulation to improve energy efficiency and changes in building materials in relation to their moisture tolerance, the need for better air leakage control became necessary to prevent moisture problems. We’ll leave the high-moisture content and rain-water intrusion issue for another time.

It also became obvious that a proper functioning water vapor retarder was needed as buildings became better insulated, but we soon learned that a vapor retarder could not control water vapor movement if the moist air itself was bypassing the vapor retarder and getting into and through the assembly causing moisture accumulation or condensation along the way – essentially defeating the purpose of the vapor retarder. 

Eventually, this progression of practical building science knowledge and the need for better air-leakage control birthed the concept of an air barrier (or air control layer) that we now find present in our modern energy codes (but is also important for the building code from a durability standpoint). This soon begged the question of what material(s) to use and where to put it (necessity is the mother of invention). This question was answered and now we have a multitude of choices for air barrier materials, methods, and locations on the assembly. A short list of options include:

  • Building wraps
  • Sheathing materials with sealed joints (e.g., insulating sheathing, structural sheathing, etc.)
  • Fluid-applied coatings
  • Spray foam
  • Gypsum wall board
  • Film-type vapor retarders

Some of these materials are typically located on the outside of the assembly (and may also be used as the water-resistive barrier layer). Others are located on the interior side (and may also be used as a vapor retarder). Two examples for locating the air barrier (or air control layer) are shown in Figure 1. Some are even “smart” vapor retarders that hold back water vapor (and moist air) but open up when water vapor needs to pass through or get out of the assembly (ever heard of drying potential?).  So, our air barrier tool box has been greatly expanded in recent years. 

Figure 1. Interior (drywall shown) and exterior (foam plastic insulating sheathing shown) air barrier locations on a building envelope.  Both are tied to the ceiling (drywall) and foundation wall for a complete air-barrier system. Source: U.S. Department of Energy Air Leakage Guide 

We now have plenty of tools and no excuse for not meeting or exceeding the minimum air leakage control requirements in the current model energy code. The next article will address air barrier installation requirements (a prescriptive laundry list of action items). The final and fourth article will cap the series with the blower door test as the ultimate objective means to verify compliance. It’s also a cool tool to help find those pesky and costly leaks. 

For more information on air-barriers and air-leakage control, refer to https://www.continuousinsulation.org/air-barrier.

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

Articles

Videos