Energy Efficiency and Building Science News

Selling the Benefits of Continuous Insulation using IR & Smart Phone Technology

Wed, 2019-07-10 13:20
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

In past articles, we have extensively covered the benefits that foam plastic continuous insulation provides for all types of construction in all climates. These products provide unparalleled thermal insulation, as well as enabling robust moisture control options to ensure structural resilience for the long-term. But as with any alternative technology, it takes more than an informative article or two to convince a builder or specifier to switch over to continuous insulation. Often what is needed is additional experiential or working knowledge of the product, rather than plain formulas and statistics, however accurate they may be. With insulation, this knowledge can be difficult to convey, since humans can’t actually see how heat behaves in specific installations. Or can they?

Imagine two structures side-by-side, identical in every way except for the insulation. The first uses typical batt-insulation between the studs, with all the thermal bridging problems which that approach entails. The second is encased in a continuous layer of foam plastic insulation, with windows and doors as the only gaps. If you could somehow visually compare the amount of heat emanating from each building, wouldn’t that go a long way towards making the intuitive case for continuous insulation? Fortunately, it is becoming increasingly simple to do just that with the proliferation of inexpensive, easy-to-operate thermographic (infrared, or IR) cameras.

The cost of IR cameras has traditionally been prohibitive, but recent years have seen several new models available at amazingly budget-friendly prices. FLIR and Fluke both offer models for under $1000 that can provide high-resolution thermal imaging for insulation comparison and evaluation, and some of which can even interface with a smartphone! IR cameras have plenty of other uses in the insulation industry, from assisting with proper insulation inspections during the building phase to pinpointing leaks in aging structures for retrofits.

To put it in a nutshell, purveyors of new insulating products can quickly make the case that their solution represents an improvement over current alternatives. Combine this with the calculators and knowledge found at and you will easily have a few real-world examples, backed by robust data, and conveniently available in the field on a mobile device.


Considering the Differences Between Closed & Open-Open Cell Spray Foam

Wed, 2019-07-10 12:58
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

In an article by Rob Yagid for Fine Homebuilding, which was sponsored by Versi-Foam Systems, the question addressed is what is open cell versus closed cell foam? Rob delves into the debate about the properties of open-cell versus closed cell with the following points:

Much of the information you’ll find about spray foam is dedicated to its R-value and its permeability.

These traits have an overarching impact on the performance of open-cell and closed-cell foams. In most closed-cell foams, an HFC blowing agent is captured in the foam’s cell structure. This gas has a better thermal performance than the air-filled open-cell foam and gives it a higher overall R-value.

However, while HFC-blown closed-cell foam might initially have an R-value as high as R-8 per in., as the blowing agent evaporates through the cell walls and is replaced by air, its R-value diminishes.

Click to enlarge.

Closed-cell foam’s “aged” R-value is roughly R-6 per in. Some manufacturers produce water-blown closed-cell foams. These foams have the same performance properties as HFC-blown foam, but slightly lower R-values at around R-5.5 per in.

Closed-cell foam’s greater density, 2 lb. per cu. ft. compared with open cell’s 1⁄2 lb. per cu. ft., also increases its R-value and offers it the rigidity that opencell foam lacks.

Structural testing, by a variety of spray foam manufacturers has confirmed that closed-cell foam increases the lateral shear and wind pressure strength of conventionally framed walls. Closedcell foam also has a low vaporpermeability rating (roughly 0.5 perms at a thickness of 3 in.) and is considered a class-II vapor retarder, meaning that it’s semiimpermeable.

Click to enlarge.

Open-cell foam has a greater expansion rate than closed-cell foam. It expands 100 times its initial volume (closed-cell foam expands only 30 times its initial volume), so less of the foam is needed to insulate a house.

Although both foams will dry if they ever get wet, open-cell foam is vapor permeable and dries much faster than closed-cell foam.

Open cell’s one major weakness is its lower R-value, roughly R-3.5 per in. This means that when used in a 2x4 exterior wall, it will create an assembly that’s approximately only R-12, which won’t meet code in most parts of the country.

Spray polyurethane-foam manufacturers can rely upon several facts when it comes to marketing their products. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, up to 30% of a home’s heating and cooling costs are attributed to air leakage. Spray polyurethane foam is an effective air barrier and significantly reduces energy loss. Combined with a higher thermal resistance (R-value) than most other forms of insulation, it’s no wonder spray foam is often relied on to help make houses ultra-efficient. The key to proper use is knowing your climate, construction practice, wall and roof assembly types and building code requirements with a particular focus on continuous insulation. For more resources on the value of spray foam, visit


U.S. Green Building Council Advances the Future of LEED

Tue, 2019-07-09 15:30
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) announced a call for proposals to solicit feedback and concepts for the next version of LEED. USGBC created the LEED green building program 20 years ago to measure and define green building and to provide a roadmap for developing sustainable buildings. LEED is updated through a continuous improvement process and with each new version USGBC is evolving LEED’s approach and challenging the building sector to be more resource efficient and sustainable.

In April 2019, USGBC officially released the complete suite of LEED v4.1 rating systems. LEED v4.1 emphasizes the human experience and pushes project teams to create spaces that not only reduce carbon emissions, energy, water use and waste, but also improve the health and well-being of the people who live, work, learn and play in these buildings, cities and communities every day.

“With LEED v4.1 we have fundamentally transformed our rating system development process,” said Mahesh Ramanujam, president & CEO, USGBC. “It has allowed us to become more agile and adaptable to incorporate real time feedback so that we can realistically raise the bar on the marketplace. We received an overwhelming response to our LEED v4.1 call for proposals, which has helped us to deliver on the market needs making LEED v4.1 successful and a market leader. Building on this success, we are excited to engage the market again to solicit ideas, proposals and feedback for improving LEED v4.1 and future versions of LEED. Together, we can continue the work we started with LEED v4.1 to ensure that LEED is not only the de facto leadership standard but also creating a better living standard.”

Cities around the world are mitigating climate risks by pledging to raise the bar to reduce carbon emissions. Investors are weighing their opportunities, consciously screening for projects that align with their values and prove winning ESG strategies. Building owners are pivoting focus to the occupants to reduce inequality, combat health concerns and deliver value to support the day-to-day needs of everyone and raise their living standard. The trajectory of LEED is to support these market changes by continuing to improve the performance throughout the lifecycle of buildings, advance net zero and net positive practices, and reward leaders based on their performance to enable building owners and city leaders to track progress toward environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals.

“There would be no LEED without the generous support of our members, advocates and stakeholders,” added Ramanujam. “I want to personally thank everyone who has supported us over the last 20 years and contributed to LEED’s development and growth. I am proud of what we’ve been able to do together this year with LEED v4.1, and I am excited and optimistic for what the future holds. I invite all members of the green building community to participate and help us define the vision for the next version of LEED as we work together to build a better future - because that future would not be possible without their leadership.

“Imagine a rating system adaptive and responsive to the ever-changing world around us. This is what we are working toward with LEED,” said Melissa Baker, senior vice president, LEED. “Now that LEED v4.1 is out and has been positively received by the community, we are exploring how we can strengthen LEED v4.1 and also plan what’s next for the rating system. We are working to ensure that LEED remains a global leadership standard, and we know that as we evolve LEED, industry feedback and support are critical.”

The USGBC community can participate in the call for LEED proposals session. Industry leaders can also join USGBC at the annual Greenbuild International Conference and Expo, taking place in Atlanta, Nov. 19-22, 2019, for the “Future of LEED” education session, which will review market feedback and provide updates on performance-based outcomes, transparency and continuous improvement to future versions of LEED.


Polyurethanes Generate Jobs

Tue, 2019-07-09 15:21
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

The Center for the Polyurethanes Industry (CPI) of the American Chemistry Council mission is to promote the growth of the North American polyurethanes industry through effective advocacy, delivery of compelling benefits messages demonstrating how polyurethanes deliver sustainable outcomes, and creation of robust safety education and product stewardship programs.

CPI’s members include the nation’s leading suppliers, producers and distributors of chemicals and equipment used to make polyurethane and manufactures of polyurethane products.

CPI helps build a stronger foundation for polyurethane chemistry by advocating for science-based research, reinforcing the industry’s commitment to environmental sustainability, fostering product health and safety and supporting outreach and education.

The polyurethanes industry supports research and initiatives that serve its communities and customers.

The business of polyurethane is an $86.6 billion enterprise and a key element of the U.S. economy. The industry directly employs nearly 270,000 Americans and operates in more than 1,000 locations across the United States. A major job creator in the United States, each job in the polyurethanes industry yields four more jobs indirectly.

Full report


Unique Details of a Net-Zero Green Home Project

Mon, 2019-07-08 19:14
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

The Net-Zero ABC Green Home 4.0 LUXE Project being developed on a Southern California mountain site by a consortium of designers, contractors and vendors will take the homebuilding industry a huge step forward in residential energy efficiency by incorporating a plethora of advanced systems and materials that will make the 3,900 square-foot luxury residence one of the most energy advanced homes in California.

The home was designed using Graphisoft ‘s BIM Program which was shared by the design and construction teams.

Sponsored by Newport Beach, CA–based Green Home Builder magazine under the leadership of owner and Publisher Nick Slevin, who serves as project developer, the super-efficient ABC (Affordable, Buildable, Certified) Green Home 4.0 is being built to Net-Zero, LEED Platinum standards and as such is a notable 34 percent above California’s current Title 24 CalGreen energy efficiency building code. The Craftsman styled home with distinctive mountain character is also Home Energy Rating System (HERS) rated and has been independently certified by eight separate agencies that it achieves the highest energy efficiency rating standards.

Adding to the remarkable nature of the five-bedroom home’s high energy rating is the fact that it is being built at an altitude of 6,000 feet in Crestline, which Slevin says makes it more challenging for the home’s energy systems to operate efficiently while still achieving Net-Zero energy levels. Crestline is a mountain resort town south of Lake Arrowhead in the San Bernardino mountains in Southern California.

Advanced framing design makes way for picture window.

This mountain environment has varying weather that can create large fluctuations in temperature from 30 degrees to 65 degrees in the same day. “This makes the house work harder to be energy efficient,” Slevin noted. “To compensate for these variations, the home’s energy efficiency systems and materials are finely tuned and well above the energy conservation standards for residential buildings.”

Superior Energy Efficiency

To achieve the high level of energy efficiency in this residential building – considerably higher than what would normally be the case with more standard energy conservation methodologies – the ABC Green Home 4.0 includes a wide range of advanced energy efficiency systems and materials. A key feature is the solar panel system that will generate 8.3 KW of power to the home, enough to offset the cost of gas, water and electricity and help achieve Net-Zero energy usage. Additionally, a state-of-the- art storage battery backup system will store excess electricity to power the home during extended period of cloudiness or in the event of a blackout.

Additionally, Slevin pointed out that the concrete roof tiles are treated with a smog eating chemical that consumes carbon dioxide, a major ingredient in greenhouse gas.

A mechanical room serves as the home’s energy monitoring and control center and houses the energy efficient HVAC equipment, tankless water heater, a combi boiler, the energy recovery ventilation system, and the room is also a workshop.

There are four Wi-Fi hubs, providing Alexa control and energy monitoring for all devices and appliances, as well as lighting, security, entertainment, doors, windows and gates.

Structural Integrity

Slevin pointed out that a key component of the home’s energy efficient profile is the structure itself. “We utilize an advanced framing system,” he explained. “This is a lesson from passive house design technology that pre-dates solar and which relies on natural ventilation lines, natural lighting and other elements of good, natural design to complement solid engineering principles.”

For maximum shielding against the mountain’s outdoor elements, the home features an advanced framing design that uses two-by-six studs, 24 inches on center, that provides a wider, deeper stud bay for more insulation. The construction team is the able to add two layers of one-inch thick, rigid foam insulation to the exterior of the building under the siding to keep air from passing in out or through the building. “The home’s exterior walls are nine inches thick,” Slevin said. “The air does not pass through the walls. Consequently, the house sips energy. This means the homeowner does not have to spend much for heating or cooling.”

The ABC Green Home project utilizes an advanced framing design which facilitates a higher HERS rating.

More than 160 yards of 3,500 PSI concrete were poured for the foundations and basement walls, staircases, sidewalks and forecourt. The framing crews installed additional strapping and over-engineered the framing to secure the building. Additionally, the LP FlameBlock OSB has a layer of magnesium oxide on the exterior to create a longer burn value to better protect the home from fire.

Green Home Builder Magazine will hold a grand opening for the ABC Green Home 4.0 in mid-June. The one-of-a-kind home will be used to educate and train builders, students, and industry groups about sustainable living and how to achieve Net Zero now. The home is expected to serve as a template for future housing.

Christine Rombouts is the former Editor for Green Home Builder and is the Publicist for the ABC Green Home Project. For more information, please visit


Building Envelope System Integration, Means What?

Mon, 2019-07-08 18:43
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

For increased thermal efficiency and design freedom, an integrated building envelope system can be an excellent solution for high-performing buildings. In our following discussion with Kim Snyder, Centria product manager, she explores how and why integrating windows with insulated metal panel systems (IMPs) creates design possibilities—and healthier buildings.

Exactly what is an IMP?
All IMPs, or insulated metal panels, include a metal face and liner, usually made from steel, and a rigid foam core consisting of polyisocyanurate (PIR) or polyurethane (PUR) insulation. The panels have horizontal and vertical panel joinery that interlock. Ideally, IMPs are offered in multiple thicknesses to achieve different levels of insulation, depending on the building performance needs. Centria Formawall insulation is Red List chemical free and contains no harmful halogens for a healthier built environment.

Jeff Veltman

What are some of the benefits to an advanced IMP system with integrated components?
First and foremost, this kind of system can maximize thermal and moisture protection if it is comprised of engineered, pressure-equalized joinery, concealed or redundant gaskets and sealants, and a built-in vapor barrier. Such an assembly can simplify and expedite construction in addition to offering greater aesthetic design freedom.

What makes a system advanced? 
An advanced system effectively consolidates up to six separate wall components into just one. Ideally, it will offer an air barrier, a built-in vapor barrier, robust outboard insulation, and a wide range of aesthetic options in a single, easy-to-install component. No separate or additional sheathing or extra air barrier is ever required. Formawall is an excellent example of this kind of advanced IMP system.

Additionally, an advanced system includes foamed-in-place insulation, rather than laminated—thereby creating an effective bond to steel skins, filling all voids, and producing superior panel flatness. It will feature a built-in thermal break at horizontal joints with space between the inner and outer metal skins for even greater thermal efficiency. Finally, an advanced system will have a full line of integrated components that are pre-engineered—like Formavue windows—to interface with IMP joinery and installation methodology seamlessly. These components include sunshades, louvers, and translucent daylighting systems.

Discover more at

- Kim Snyder
Kim Snyder, Centria product manager–insulated metal panels, oversees strategic product planning, sales strategy and market analysis for Formawall Red-list free foam, CENTRIA’s premier insulated metal panel system, as well as industrial/commercial IMP products.

For more information on thermal performance, moisture protection and vapor barriers, visit


New Product: Vapor Permeable Tapes Provide Increased Productivity

Mon, 2019-07-08 18:30
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

IKO’s latest offering—the AquaBarrier Vapour Permeable Tapes (VP Tapes) are a durable, primerless, user-friendly solution ready to go to work—providing unmatched moisture protection.

VP Tapes are made of a polypropylene composite with low water-retention capacity, making them resistant to rain, wind, and outdoor air that can find a way into walls around windows and doors.

When the IKO VP Tapes are installed in conjunction with IKO AquaBarrier Vapour Permeable membrane, they provide superior performance in vulnerable flashing areas, ensuring that outside elements stay outside, while maintaining continuity as an air barrier, with vapour breathability.

“VP Tapes provide contractors the ability to take on a variety of projects with faster installation and increased productivity due to its self-adherence,” said Akif Amin, IKO vice-president, commercial division.

AquaBarrier VP Tapes are available in a variety of sizes and can be used on multiple commercial substrates such as gypsum, concrete masonry unit (CMU), concrete, or wood—without adhesives—in addition to specialized detail areas such as windows, doors, skylights, metal cladding systems, and under siding at inside and outside corners.

VP Tapes’ lightweight design means easy installation, with no mechanical attachments or primer required for standard application. Coated with a proprietary acrylic adhesive on the back surface, these tapes offer high-performance for common wall applications. The AquaBarrier Vapour Permeable Tapes are part of a full range of accessory products designed to fulfill contractors’ building envelope needs.


GAF Rebrand Q&A: Framing What Matters Most

Mon, 2019-07-08 18:22
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

GAF President Jim Schnepper talks to Roofing Contractor (RC) about the bold moves the industry’s largest materials manufacturer is making today to ensure a stronger tomorrow.

Each year, GAF sets out to not only highlight the latest product innovations and contractor-benefiting programs its international staff develops and brings to market, the company also looks to send a message.

The ‘message’ made abundantly clear at the 2019 International Roofing Expo in Nashville—and throughout the first quarter of the year—is that the industry is changing. While most companies are bracing for change and the rapid influx of technology driving it, the world’s largest building materials manufacturer is showing that it isn’t afraid to evolve.

With the company’s first large-scale rebranding effort in decades underway, a new product line-up aimed at improving efficiency on the rooftop, and a new, unprecedented foray into the solar energy market, 2019 is proving to be a landmark year for GAF under relatively new but dynamic leadership.

RC had a chance to sit down with GAF President Jim Schnepper and ask him all about it from the 2019 IRE show floor.

RC: What’s your impression of the roofing industry in 2019?

JS: It’s healthy, and I don’t expect that to change. Where is it heading? It’s a great question…

I do know that it’ll be different than it looks today. Technology drives a lot of it from everything like making it easier and reducing the labor side, to what it takes to be more efficient to run a business.

RC: What excites you about the influx of technology into the industry?

JS: Technology is going to change the products that we manufacture, it’s going to change the methods in how we manufacture, and the products we put on people’s houses. Whether it’s solar or something else, I think we just have to be wise to it. The products in 10 years will probably look a lot different than they do today.

RC: Tell us about the major rebranding effort.

JS: So the rebranding effort is really about solving two things. One is the internal connection to the organization. We have really not had an image internally of what GAF means for the company. And it certainly wasn’t there for anyone on the outside, except for the high-quality materials that we manufacture. So we thought it would be a good idea to really connect somewhere emotionally with people and what it is we’re doing and want to accomplish with our company.

Two, it’s an emotional connection that we’re able to make about what it is that we stand for.

RC: What’s the message behind the new company tagline?

JS: What’s important about ‘We protect what matters most’ — as subtle as it sounds — is that everyone has a different answer to that. And so it can work internally and externally for our customers and our property owners who buy our products. For that reason, I think it’s brilliant.

RC: Why is 2019 the right time?

JS: What I really love about the result is that it gives kind of a look back traditionally at our brand but does it in a real contemporized way.

Taking our box and turning it into a frame and then saying we protect what matters most, and then put what matters most to you in that frame was brilliant. And I love the idea, the concept, and like I said, it’s not forgetting the tradition of what we’ve stood for in the past.

2019 was year two of me heading the company and it was the right time because I felt the need to connect deeper really and give meaning to what we do as a company internally and what our customers could expect from us.

RC: Another announcement made before IRE is the GAF Energy initiative. Why is GAF in the energy business?

JS: We believe that solar has a place on every roof, and we would love to have that opportunity to present that idea to all the property owners out there in the U.S., and globally. That’s what we’re after, we think it’s just needs to be more democratized, easier to get and get your hands on, and easy for our contractors to install.

RC: Such a major move, what about the timing?

JS: The timing is a matter of feeling like it’s the right time. As you look at what our customers and property owners are saying, they’re all trying to find a way to see how solar could work for them, and if it would work for them. The interesting thing is that as old as solar is, there has to be a way for it to be easy for them to get, and it looks good on the properties and homes that they have.

You look across the number of rooftops across the U.S. it doesn’t take long to realize that ‘Wow! If you could actually generate power from that in a way that’s not intrusive into anyone’s life, that would be a great solution.”

RC: GAF stepped up in a big way in areas hardest hit by hurricanes in 2018. Tell us about the importance of storm response.

JS: We wanted to make sure we had a presence that said ‘here’s what we do, and we’re here if you need us. We’re a roofing manufacturer, and when hurricanes and devastation hits the U.S., and the markets where we live and operate and the people they live next to may be in need … we have to provide that need. We manufacture roofing, why wouldn’t it make sense that we provide those that can’t get it themselves and need it?

RC: How prepared do you feel for this storm season?

JS: I do believe we’re in a very healthy position to service the market from most major storms. We’ll probably service through the demand created by last year’s storms somewhere in the third quarter and I think we’re working those storm areas faster than we originally anticipated, and there should be sufficient capacity should there be another significant event in the industry.

RC: What are you personally hearing from roofing contractors about what keeps them up at night?

JS: It’s so funny, this hasn’t changed in the last three years and I could probably stretch it easily to five. But it’s labor and leads. The labor issue that you hear about in other industries as well is very real for the roofing industry. I think the path to solving labor is through all the manufacturers and the products that can install faster, quicker, easier and that reduces labor is something we have to consider. And then you have to consider technology and what technology can do to free up time for roofing contractors whether it’s on the front end of estimating what a roofing project will cost a homeowner or property owner, all the way up to how they’re paying their bills and collecting.

RC: How has GAF responded to the workforce challenge?

JS: We love training. We’ve had our Center for Advancement of Roofing Excellence (CARE) group for probably 10 years running. We love training contractors, and again, if you can help them do what they do, install better and faster, we’re in on that also. We’re a big proponent of it. We’ve had a certification program for over 20 years, which includes training, but the focus has been on training and helping our contractors. And to give them a certification level.

RC: Asphalt shingle sales for 2018 dipped or remained flat. Is there any concern?

JS: I think the natural roofing cycle is coming back to a normalized level. When I say that, I mean the industry on the product side for asphalt shingles, went from organic felt and strip shingles to inorganic glass felt and laminate shingles, and that extended the roofing life cycle. When that happened, we had this air in the pipeline so to speak that is just starting to clear.

So I think a normalized level of about 125-132 million squares of shingles sold a year is probably right and probably where the market settles in.

RC: What keeps someone in your position up at night?

JS: That someone else comes up with another product before I do that starts to replace the fatter part of the market, which is the asphalt shingle.

That’s got to be what keeps all of the asphalt manufacturers up at night. Right now it is still the most efficient way to waterproof your house, and it’s aesthetically pleasing, which is accepted. There’s nothing you can do that’s less expensive and looks as good as an asphalt roof today for that money. But something may come up and that’s what we worry about, and think about every day.

I think it’ll be some iteration based of the asphalt shingle: it may be a modifier that reduces the asphalt content, who knows what that looks like? We’re fervently looking for things and I know the industry overall is too.


Atlas Brings Sustainability to NoHo West

Wed, 2019-06-26 14:55
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

Atlas is providing its EnergyShield® Pro wall insulation to NoHo West, a new mixed-use community in North Hollywood, California. The polyiso insulation is being used as a water-resistive barrier and to meet an impending 2020 California building code requiring continuous insulation in all new construction.

Project Challenge

Built in 1955, Laurel Plaza in North Hollywood, California, has had quite a history – and is now entering the next phase of its story. The building transitioned from its original May Co. store to a bustling shopping center with Macy’s as its anchor before suffering significant earthquake damage a few years ago. The forgotten and dilapidated shopping center is now well on its way to revitalization thanks to new developers with a vision.

The former Laurel Plaza will soon become NoHo West, a mixed-use community complete with creative office space, apartments and retail. The project will include a variety of environmentally friendly features, like electric car charging stations, bicycle parking and a solar energy canopy above the parking garage. Due to the progressive and forward-thinking nature of this project, it was decided to design and build the new development to comply with impending 2020 California code that will require continuous insulation in all new constructions. Additionally, new design needs and costs required valuing engineering to cut down on budget and construction schedule.


The building owner, Merlone Geier Partners, and Los Angeles-based STIR Architects called for continuous insulation as the backbone for new exterior wall systems that would become the standard of 21st century construction. The building’s original design called for continuous insulation to be applied with the water resistive barrier (WRB) membrane adhered to the face of the continuous insulation. After additional budget and scheduling needs were considered, the design and construction team needed to find ways not only to reduce the construction cost and timeline, but also to reduce the project’s overall carbon footprint. Tim O’Conner, with Superior Wall Systems (SWS), the subcontractor responsible for exterior wall systems on this project, worked closely with insulation manufacturer Atlas Roofing Corporation to alter the wall assembly for better performance and reduced labor and cost. SWS decided to use the exterior wall insulation as the WRB as well. This new assembly allowed the removal of the adhered sheet WRB in favor of taping the joints of Atlas EnergyShield® Pro. EnergyShield Pro is a foil faced continuous insulation and, when an approved tape is properly adhered, can fulfill the needs of a WRB. Additionally, EnergyShield Pro is a versatile insulation and is compatible with the multiple types of cladding used on this project.

SWS and Atlas were able to provide a solution to the architect and building owner that not only met these specific design needs, but also ensures long-term energy efficiency and reduced the project’s carbon footprint and construction schedule by eliminating construction materials. With the pending 2020 California code changes on the horizon requiring exterior wall systems to include continuous insulation, the team had to choose the right materials for regulatory compliance with the design flexibility needed to support the vision of the project. As an expert in polyiso manufacturing with more than 30 years of experience improving building envelope performance, Atlas EnergyShield Pro became the ideal choice.

Tim O’Connor, SWS’ Pre-Con Director and Chief Estimator, worked closely with the Atlas team to find a system that would meet all the design and code requirements.

A third-party testing company performed an inspection to validate the use of EnergyShield Pro as the WRB in lieu of a peel and stick membrane on the project. Results of the testing determined the use of EnergyShield Pro as the WRB was acceptable and met all necessary requirements.


Because the team chose a solution that could serve as both continuous insulation and WRB, they were able to decrease material and labor costs while shortening the construction timeline. This multifunctional solution additionally reduced the environmental impact caused by excess construction materials and waste. Thanks to the high R-Value and energy efficiency of Atlas EnergyShield Pro, the exterior wall system will have fewer thermal breaks thereby saving on long-term energy costs. With less pressure placed on the building’s HVAC system, Atlas EnergyShield Pro, which is GREENGUARD Gold certified, also will reduce the building’s overall carbon footprint due to reduced heating and cooling needs. All visitors to the new NoHo West development will now enjoy a comfortable place to live, work and play in a revitalized – and green – neighborhood hub.


Atlas Changes EPS Division Name to Atlas Molded Products

Wed, 2019-06-26 14:49
Press Releases

Atlas Roofing Corporation announced today that it is changing its EPS division name to Atlas Molded Products. The name change reflects the company's recent acquisition of ACH Foam Technologies in August of 2018, making Atlas Molded Products the premier and now largest manufacturer of molded polystyrene in North America.

"The new name – Atlas Molded Products – allows us to highlight our greater coverage and broader molded polystyrene product offering, while emphasizing the fact we are a new organization," said Ken Farrish, President of Atlas Roofing Corporation. "As a company with its roots in roofing and insulation, we are committed to delivering innovative and value-added products and services that will help move the construction, packaging, and OEM industries forward." Farrish added, “The acquisition increases opportunities for supplier partners as well as for Atlas employees and the communities in which they live.”

Atlas Roofing Corporation has been providing industry leadership for more than three decades and has three other divisions outside of the Molded Products division, including the Shingles & Underlayment, Roof & Wall Insulation (Polyisocyanurate) and the Webtech division.

"We are very pleased to offer molded product solutions to a broader portion of North America and we are confident that our customers will appreciate our enhanced capabilities," said Farrish.  "To that end, we will continue to provide industry leading products and services and will continue to pursue further enhancements to Atlas Roofing Corporation’s offerings.”

The new name is effective immediately and will be implemented across the company's products and services throughout the 2019 calendar year.


Foamglas Insulation: A Great Option for Below Grade

Wed, 2019-06-26 14:40
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

Photo: Pittsburgh Corning. Foamglas is being applied here as exterior foundation insulation. Unlike XPS, Foamglas contains neither flame retardants nor high-GWP blowing agents.

For below-grade applications where moisture resistance and high compressive strength are needed, extruded polystyrene (XPS) and, to a lesser extent, expanded polystyrene (EPS) have long dominated the insulation market. But there are growing concerns both with the brominated flame retardant HBCD used in XPS and EPS and with the global warming potential of the blowing agent used in XPS (see “Polystyrene Insulation: Does It Belong in a Green Building,” EBN Aug. 2009, and “Avoiding the Global Warming Potential of Insulation,” EBN June 2010).

Foamglas building insulation has been made by Pittsburgh Corning since 1937 and is widely used in Europe. For over 60 years, however, it has only been actively marketed in North America for industrial applications. Now Pittsburgh Corning is actively marketing Foamglas for building applications.

What is Foamglas?

Foamglas is a rigid boardstock, cellular-glass insulation material that is impervious to moisture, inert, resistant to insects and vermin, strong, and fairly well-insulating. It can be used for insulating roofs, walls, and below-grade applications, including beneath slabs. The two most commonly used forms are an unfaced “T4+” product (also known as Foamglas One), and a faced form, Readyboard, with protective facings on both sides. The T4+ boards are available in 18" x 24" panels; Readyboard is sold in thicknesses from 1½" to 6", in ½" increments, both come in 2' x 4' panels.

Foamglas is made primarily from sand, limestone, and soda ash. Virgin raw materials are used in U.S. factories, while up to 66% recycled glass is used in European plants. These ingredients are melted into molten glass, which is cooled and crushed into a fine powder. The powdered glass is poured into molds and heated in a sintering process (below the melting point) that causes the particles to adhere to one another. Next, a small amount of finely ground carbon-black is added, and the material is heated in a cellulation process. The carbon reacts with oxygen, creating carbon dioxide, which forms the insulating bubbles in the Foamglas. This CO2 accounts for more than 99% of the gas in the cellular spaces, and it is permanently trapped there.

If you scratch a piece of Foamglas with your fingernail, you will detect a rotten-egg smell from hydrogen sulfide, which is produced in small quantities in the manufacturing process. While hydrogen sulfide is hazardous at high concentrations, there is very little in Foamglas, and it’s locked tightly into the cellular glass. Even after 30 years in place, scratching Foamglas produces the same smell. “It’s proof that the cells are absolutely airtight,” says Axel Rebel, vice president and general manager of Pittsburgh Corning’s North American buildings division. Even during landfill disposal, the glass cells are unlikely to degrade as quickly as cells of foam plastics, and any release of hydrogen sulfide would be dwarfed by the production of this gas from anaerobic decomposition of organic matter.

Environmental attributes Foamglas T4+ Technical Performance Properties

Foamglas has a number of important environmental and human health advantages over other insulation materials. It has no blowing agents that deplete ozone or contribute to global warming. Being noncombustible and inorganic, it has no flame retardants or other additives needed to improve fire resistance.

While the domestically produced Foamglas does not (currently) contain recycled content, the materials going into it are abundant and extracted with relatively low environmental impact. Fossil-fuel energy is used in manufacturing, but there is no hydrocarbon material in the finished product.

Foamglas is also highly durable. A West Virginia reader of a blog I recently wrote on the material said there was “absolutely no apparent deterioration” of Foamglas that his father had used under the floor slab and on exterior foundation walls in the 1950s—nearly 60 years ago.

Key performance attributes

High compressive strength.Foamglas T4+ will fully support almost any concrete slab—and may even reduce the necessary thickness of a concrete slab in some situations.

Waterproof and impervious. Foamglas is waterproof and impervious to water vapor. Foamglas panels are typically installed using an adhesive and asphalt sealer between the panels to ensure a continuous seal, making it airtight and thus a highly effective radon barrier. While neither moisture nor freezing in itself damages Foamglas, moisture exposure in areas with freeze-thaw cycles will gradually degrade Foamglas. In below-grade applications in those climates it should be protected to below frost depth, and Foamglas should not be used in an “inverted roof membrane” application in which the insulation is installed on top of the membrane.

Fireproof. Foamglas has exceptional heat and fire resistance, with a maximum service temperature of 900°F (500°C) and a melting point of over 1,800°F (1,000°C). There are no binders to burn, so virtually no smoke is produced in a fire.

Rot-proof and vermin-resistant. Being inorganic, Foamglas will not decompose and is not a food source. Termites, carpenter ants, mice, and rats will not tunnel through it; Foamglas is sometimes used as a termite shield when other below-grade insulation materials are being used.

Reasonable R-Value. Foamglas T4+ insulates to R-3.44 per inch with no degradation of thermal performance. This is a lower R-value than extruded polystyrene and most expanded polystyrene, which means that greater thickness will be required to provide comparable performance. A 6" layer will provide slightly over R-20. Foamglas is often used in Europe in buildings that achieve Passive House performance, with multiple layers used to achieve very high R-values.

Working with Foamglas

Photo: Pittsburgh Corning. Foamglas Readyboard being used in a sub-slab application..

Foamglas is typically adhered directly to a substrate, though mechanical fasteners can also be used. In most applications, an asphalt-based sealer is used between the boards, and in roofing applications hot asphalt is often used directly on it. The integral bitumen (asphalt) facings on Foamglas Readyboard simplify roof installations by allowing the membrane to be melted in-situ with a torch.

For environmental builders otherwise attracted to Foamglas, use of asphalt sealant will likely be the greatest concern. According to Rebel, when there is no need to have the installation be vapor tight, sealant can be left out or a mineral adhesive (similar to mortar) can be used. Or a separate vapor retarder membrane can be used—though this option leaves a risk of penetrations. Pittsburgh Corning also offers a range of adhesive options, including low-VOC materials, but Rebel says that an organic layer is required with any insulation material if a continuous, truly impermeable layer is called for.

Cost and availability

Foamglas is significantly more expensive than the other commonly used rigid insulation materials. The typical cost of Foamglas T4+ is about $1.00 per board-foot, depending on quantities, according to Rebel—roughly two-and-a-half times the cost of XPS. On a cost-per-R-value basis, that difference is even greater. Rebel admits that if you’re comparing insulation materials simply on cost and insulation value, you’re not going to choose Foamglas. “We have to add another value,” he says. That value can come from replacing other layers in the construction system (vapor retarders, moisture barriers, radon-control layers, termite-proofing), from greater durability, and from environmental attributes. Rebel also notes, “We can reduce the thickness of the concrete slab because Foamglas is so rigid.”

Foamglas is manufactured at two U.S. factories (in Texas and Missouri) and can be shipped anywhere. Rebel told EBN that it’s no problem to supply it for individual houses—though shipping may increase the cost and result in some additional lead time.

User experience

Foamglas has a long history of use, especially in Europe—where there tends to be a willingness to spend more money for highly durable and top-performing construction materials. Building science expert John Straube, P.Eng., has used Foamglas on construction details that required high strength and decent insulation such as under footings and brick veneers, and he considers it a good insulation option. From a moisture management perspective and as a thermal break material, he says that it works very well.


Achieving Resiliency and Energy Efficiency With ICF Construction

Wed, 2019-06-26 14:29
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

One of the smartest decisions a home owner can make is to use Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF) as an innovative building envelope alternative to traditional light-wood frame or light-gauge steel. Consider structures that survived the wrath of Hurricane Katrina. Several ICF buildings not only withstood the tremendous wind gusts, but also the force of the storm surge. But, ironically, most builders or home owners don’t choose ICF systems for their disaster resiliency. The bigger draw is the well-known energy efficiencies of insulated concrete forms.


An insulated concrete form (ICF) system offers the best of both worlds: the strength and durability of reinforced concrete and the energy efficiency of expanded polystyrene (EPS) rigid insulation. It is clearly a synergistic partnership, producing a combined effect that is greater than the sum of the separate benefits of each building product.

The ICF system serves as a permanent interior and exterior substrate for walls, floors and roofs. To construct an ICF wall, two layers of rigid insulation are separated with recycled polypropylene webs to create an ICF block. These hollow blocks are interlocked (in dry-stack fashion) and the webs locate and hold reinforcing steel (rebar) before the cavities are filled with concrete. The end-result is a reinforced concrete wall in the center, encased in barrier insulation on each side. The materials work as a team, with the concrete and rebar providing an ideal load-bearing wall that carries vertical loads and resists lateral loads from wind and seismic motions. The entire ICF wall assembly with all the layers combined creates a secure air tight envelope with good acoustic properties.

In the case of ICF roof and floor systems, the EPS functions as a one-sided insulating form on the bottom surface. EPS panels up to 30 feet in span are placed between concrete walls, then fitted with reinforced steel and filled with concrete. Since ICF walls are concrete bearing walls, any traditional flooring or roofing system can be used in conjunction with ICF wall systems, including precast hollow-core plank, reinforced concrete slabs, metal deck/steel joists,cold-formed joists or wood joists.


Step 1: Stack
Place corner blocks, they lay straight blocks toward the center of each wall segment.  

Step 2: Brace
Install alignment bracing around the entire wall of the structure to ensure that the walls are straight and plumb, as well as to enable alignment adjustment.  

Step 3: Pour
Pour the concrete into the walls using a boom pump.  

Best Practices for a Successful ICF Install
  1. Hire a qualified installer – The installer on your project should be trained and certified in the particular ICF system specified. Some product manufacturers offer site visits at several points throughout the install.
  2. Account for wall thickness – Although ICF walls are thicker, the amount of “lost” space is only noticeable in a situation where the builder changes from ICF wall to wood framed construction in a knee wall scenario.
  3. Avoid inefficient wall sizes/shapes – Walls with bump-ins or bump-outs result in shorter walls (i.e., less useful living spaces) or shifting of window placement if these features are used around corners. Whenever possible, straighten bump-ins and bump-outs. This will not only add construction efficiency and living space, but reduce the need for more costly corner/ specialty blocks. If a bump-in/bump-out is a stylistic preference, check manufacturer recommended coursing charts—or accomplish the effect with a façade built of light guage steel, brick, block or lumber.
  4. Be aware of the right attachments – When securing items to the ICF, use the method recommended by the ICF supplier.
  5. Work efficiently with wall lengths – Your strategy for combining multiple ICF blocks and working with cuts/seams will have a major impact on project speed and quality. Select even-inch increments for wall lengths whenever possible since the connection pattern repeats every inch, thereby making stacking far easier. Work with block’s web spacing increments to ensure that all embedded attachment points are vertically aligned, allowing for smooth application of finishes. Do not take pains to achieve zero cuts in an ICF block—use of a common seam often eliminates layout problems, speeds up the process, and ensures the majority of plastic webs are aligned.
  6. Brace from the inside – Proper bracing is the key to ensuring that walls are straight and plumb, which is critical to structural integrity and accuracy for sub-contract finishing work. The higher the wall, the harder it is to reach the exterior with bracing, so brace from the inside. Rather than creating your own bracing system, go with the ICF manufacturer-recommended (OSHA approved) scaffolding/ bracing system that works best with their products.
  7. Strategically place a vertical or stack joint – In applications where a vertical or stack joint is required, place the joint over a door or window opening to minimize the required length of the joint and associated labor. Just be sure to properly brace and strap the joint at this critical juncture. Most importantly, maintain proper horizontal dimensions above and below openings.
  8. Don’t compromise the thermal envelope – Maintain continuity of insulation and avoid cantilevered concrete floors or exposed slab edges to prevent thermal breaks.
  9. Avoid heavy vibrating during concrete pour – ICF walls should be vibrated to remove voids in the concrete. Consider substituting with a small-diameter mechanical vibrator to allow concrete to spread evenly and maintain integrity.
  10. Make sure the concrete completely fills the form – To avoid holes and gaps in the concrete pour, be familiar with the structural requirements and the design of the webs. It is highly recommended for the structural engineer to be familiar with the ICF block to optimize the placement of rebar in webs in order to avoid voids and expedite stacking.
  11. Choose the proper mechanical system – Because ICF is so energy-efficient, mechanical engineers need to factor this in as they calculate HVAC requirements. In fact, if a unit is oversized, it can actually create humidity/moisture issues in the interior. The energy efficiency comes in two parts: added thermal resistance which reduce cooling/heating loads therefor allowing for reduction in the heating/cooling equipment and increased air tightness of the building due to the ICF construction. The increased air tightness usually requires for a dedicated fresh air intake to be present and properly sized. In the past, due to poor construction, the fresh air would enter via uncontrolled air leaks through the building envelope.  


“Resilience” is an integrative strategy that promotes sustainable building decisions that encompass disaster-mitigation, durability and environmental protection. While energy efficiency has been a huge motivator for selecting ICF materials to date, a building’s disaster mitigation capacities and durability are just as important as any LEED-certified standard in achieving a sustainable design.

In fact, all three priorities are so interlinked that a decision made in one sustainability arena positively impacts the others. For instance, making the decision to select a robust system like insulated concrete forms heightens a building’s durability and longevity in the face of normal wear and tear. If disaster does strike, these durable qualities minimize structural damage, which in turn conserves energy and reduces the need for additional natural resources during the recovery phase.

Adopting a resilient building strategy is not just the responsible thing to do, it is the most sustainable investment which will pay for itself many times over during the short-term build and long-term occupancy phases of a project.  

When you make the decision to install insulated concrete forms as the basis for your building’s structural system, you and your client will reap the rewards during the short-term construction and long-term occupancy phases of a build. These benefits influence virtually every facet of project decision-making, including construction cost/efficiency and building maintenance, durability and sustainability—in terms of both “green” building and disaster resilience.


Clark Pacific Unveils Complete Building Envelope System: Infinite Panel

Wed, 2019-06-26 14:15
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

Clark Pacific, a leading provider of prefabricated systems that are transforming building design and construction, has unveiled Infinite Panel, a complete building envelope system that redefines how owners and design teams approach façade systems. The Infinite Panel meets or exceeds Title 24, water, vapor, sound and fire code requirements while also giving architects and designers flexibility. The panel system paves the way for owners and design-build teams to take advantage of prefabricated systems for reduced costs, increased efficiency and less risk, without compromising design.

The building envelope is one of the most complex aspects of design due to code requirements and coordination with multiple trades. Infinite Panel solves these issues by meeting or exceeding code requirements with a standard frame and connections that give owners and design teams the freedom to focus on a project’s design. With a single source for the complete system, Clark Pacific eliminates the need for coordination across multiple trades and gives owners the simplicity of working with one provider to manage warranties. Infinite Panel is comprised of design categories that streamline the design and budgeting process, enabling rapid iterations that accelerate design and deliver budget certainty.

“In today’s construction environment, each building is typically treated as a custom project,” said Tom Anderson, general manager of facades at Clark Pacific. “Our goal is to develop and standardize façade products and systems so that owners and design teams can streamline design using a standard system and focus their attention on aesthetics. Infinite Panel offers an unlimited palette of shape and finish options, ranging from standard and premium to entirely custom, which will yield increased value to project stakeholders.”

Adding to its product portfolio, Clark Pacific will offer its own high performance windows designed specifically for Clark Pacific façade systems in late 2019. Clark Pacific will continue to evolve its complete envelope systems to provide added value to owners. Storefront and curtainwall systems will continue to be sourced from top manufacturers and local trade partners for clients requiring specialized solutions.


Dow and USGBC Launch Carbon Challenge

Wed, 2019-06-26 14:06
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

Dow and the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) announced a Carbon Challenge that looks to address the increasing built environment growth by encouraging reductions in the operational carbon footprint of buildings. The Carbon Challenge award will recognize office buildings and shopping centers in North Asia that have reduced their carbon emissions and improved energy efficiency beyond business as usual.


Taking the methodology of standardized rating systems even further, the Carbon Challenge evaluates merits based on Scope 1 – direct emissions from owned or controlled sources and Scope 2 – indirect emissions from the generation of purchased energy, during a one-year period. The Challenge is open to office buildings and shopping centers that are 20,000 square meters or larger situated in Japan, South Korea and Greater China – including mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau. All data will be verified by USGBC’s Arc system. Registration will close by August 31st, 2019.

 “USGBC’s deep knowledge of green building and sustainability practices and experience with third-party verification systems, along with Dow’s demonstrated technical expertise, creates the perfect foundation for catalyzing energy improvements in buildings worldwide,” says Mahesh Ramanujam, president and CEO of USGBC. “We are thrilled to continue to partner with Dow to build on that foundation through our first ever Carbon Challenge, which will recognize building owners and managers that are making carbon-savings an integral part of their projects.”

“As urbanization puts demand on the building industry, improving the planning and execution processes of construction and development becomes a vital piece of the sustainability puzzle,” said Nicoletta Piccolrovazzi, Dow’s circular economy market director and global technology & sustainability director for Olympic & Sports Solutions. “Across the built environment value chain, architects, builders, urban planners, developers and others are challenged at every step to create high-performing, resilient buildings and communities. With these partnerships, it is our goal to leverage one another’s relationships and distinctive expertise to take this challenge head-on and help the industry utilize the most sustainable solutions available.”

Dow and USGBC’s joint initiative not only looks to encourage carbon emissions reductions in the built environment sector – which accounts for 36 percent of final energy use and 39 percent of energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions1 globally – but also to present winners of the Carbon Challenge with an opportunity to contribute their carbon savings to the Official Carbon Partnership between Dow and the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

More details and the submission form can be found at

“Three of five North Asia markets where we are proudly launching the Carbon Challenge were included in this year’s top 10 countries and territories for LEED (or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) list,” said Andy To, managing director of USGBC North Asia. “These countries are prioritizing LEED, using it to conserve energy and water, reduce carbon emissions, save money for families and business, create healthier spaces for people and improve quality of life. I look forward to seeing buildings join us in the Carbon Challenge, and working together with Dow to help create a low-carbon future!”

“Solutions to enable a low-carbon future exist today and Dow has an extensive portfolio that can help building owners make sustainable decisions about their buildings’ embedded and operational carbon footprint,” said Jean-Paul Hautekeer, global marketing director high performance building at Dow. “Through this Carbon Challenge, we aim to share Dow’s experience and encourage building owners to make decisions for better built environments.”

The Dow-IOC Official Carbon Partnership was established in September 2017. Under the program, Dow is leveraging the Olympic brand to drive engagement and implement a series of impactful carbon mitigation projects around the world. These projects aim to balance the IOC’s operational carbon footprint while helping to drive the adoption of low-carbon innovations so as to catalyze changes in industry value chains and operational efficiencies. All carbon reductions under the Carbon Partnership are verified by third party experts.

“Sustainability is at the heart of the Olympic Movement and one of its working principles,” said Marie Sallois, director of sustainability with the IOC. “Partnering with a materials science and technology company like Dow, who is also the Official Chemistry Company of the Olympic Movement, presents strategic opportunities for us to use the power of sport to inspire the world outside of sport to join us in creating a more sustainable future.”


Disaster Resilience Symposium

Wed, 2019-06-26 14:01
Building Science

The Engineering Laboratory at NIST, Gaithersburg, will be hosting its second annual symposium, August 7-8, 2019, featuring the Disaster Resilience Grant Research Program recipients. Of the original 172 disaster resilience research proposals 12 were awarded totaling just over $6 million. Additionally, the 2018 Disaster Resilience Grant Research Program review process is currently underway and we hope to make the announcement of successful applicants in the near future. 

Credit: Dept. of Homeland Security Science & Technology Directorate

As in the previous symposium recipients will convene to share insights and findings based on the research topics funded under the 2016-NIST-DR-01. Recipients will present their research and findings from the first two years of their awards from topics that include Disaster and Failure StudiesNational Earthquake Hazards Reduction ProgramWind Impact Reduction, and Reduced Ignition of Building Components in Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI) Fires Project. Additionally, NIST researchers will present their work that supports advancement in U.S. Disaster Resilience. 

Keynote presentations by Prof. Albert Simeoni of Worcester Polytechnic Institute and Dr. James Harris of J.R. Harris and Company.

Learn More


Hebrew University of Jerusalem: 3D Printing with Wood as Alternative to Plastics

Wed, 2019-06-26 13:54
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

Researchers from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem are taking the study of 3D printing and materials one step further in creating a new ink made from wood. In their recently published paper, ‘Additive Manufacturing of 3D Structures Composed of Wood Materials,’ authors Dr. Michael Layani, Prof. Shlomo Magdassi, Prof. Oded Shoseyov, and PhD student Doron Kam expound on the benefits of this new material, used in both binder jetting and extrusion 3D printing technology, with an international patent currently in the process of being filed for the new technique.

This new ink is made up of wood flour particles which spread out in a cellulose nanocrystal and hemicellulose matrix. The ‘flour,’ referred to by the team as WF, also offers a way to recycle further, using reclaimed wood, or materials that have been ground finely. Added to that is a binder of cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs) and xyloglucan (XG)—materials that have previously been used (separately of one another) in creating hydrogels.

“The nanocomposite structure of wood consists of complementary materials and cellular structures, chemically bound to provide trees with the superior material properties, such as low density and the thermal resistance required to withstand extreme environmental conditions,” state the researchers. “At the plant cell wall dimension, cellulose crystallinity is the main strength-providing component in cellulose microfibrils and hemicelluloses, such as xyloglucan, glue the microfibrils together into a composite structure that is both strong and tough.”

A) Schematic illustration of the extrusion-based 3D printing technique. B) Direct ink writing (DIW) of mashrabiya, a wooden “harem window”. C) Multimaterial printing of two wood types into a chess board model. D) Direct cryo writing (DCW) of a nut and screw and E) cross-section of a DCW-printed sample.

3D printed wood is not exactly a new concept, with numerous techniques previously involving FDM 3D printing with plastic filaments. Other research teams have used materials such as wood chips blended with other powders like cement, silicone, and more (and often bound with toxic chemicals such as formaldehyde too, causing restrictions in use). In this new process, the authors explain that they used water-based inks—first optimizing the materials, and then optimizing ‘compositions in 3D printing.’

In extrusion, the researchers used both direct-ink writing and direct cryo-writing—with the process relying on the quality of the ink; ultimately, however, only some of the inks were suitable for use. Both techniques also required post-processing to dry the samples, resulting in volumetric decrease and ‘concurrent density increase’ in the DIW samples. The team noted that the end product, in either case, was so dense, it could be processed with tools that would normally be used on natural wood.

In using the direct cryo writing procedure, materials ranged in density—again, matching natural wood like balsa or even ebony. The team was able to create parts like a model chessboard, using both maple and eucalyptus-based inks.

“We noted that the object appeared homogenous, with no delamination between different parts, since the same binder composition was used for both inks,” stated the researchers.

In binder-jet printing, the research team 3D printed on a solid substrate, with CNC inklet droplets demonstrating a ‘uniform and repetitive’ pattern. They also experimented with a multi-color 3D printer, using WF with an XG/CNC binder.

Images of direct ink writing (DIW) printed wood and 3D scans of different predesigned lumber cut warping conditions. Arrows indicate printing pathway directions, corresponding to plant cell arrangement (scale bar: 10 mm).

“This setup enabled control of the ratio between the two binder components as well as the ratio of binder to WF powder by control of the number of printed droplets,” stated the research team.

“After printing, we quantified the physical properties of objects printed with ink containing varying rations of XG and CNC. Mold casting was achieved by either casting in a mold followed by drying at RT or freeze casting followed by lyophilization. Different ratios of XG:CNC in aqueous suspension were mixed with WF from Eucalyptus at a constant total solid mass. It was found that the compressive modulus and strength increased with increasing CNC concentrations, for samples obtained by drying at RT.”

In performing ‘unconfined’ compression tests, the researchers also found that both modulus and strength were increasing along with increases in the binder, like natural wood. Thermal conductivity of the 3D printed wood samples was low; in fact, the researchers stated that it was remarkably so. They also noted some disintegration upon immersion in water, but the samples reverted to their initial form upon drying.

A) Schematic illustration of the inkjet-based 3D printing technique. B) 2D inkjetted CNC to form the HUJI symbol on a silicon wafer. C) AFM image of one inkjet droplet. D) Binder jet window model and E) binder jet cylinder model.

“The presented approaches for 3D printing of wood-based objects, enabled hierarchical structuring, and control over the macroproperties of the resulting objects. The ink components both bear a low environmental footprint and avoided usage of fossil oil-based resins that are commonly used in industrial engineered wood. We expect that the presented printing approaches and material compositions will open new directions in the field of additive manufacturing, overcome traditional wood industry barriers, and exploit woodwaste,” concluded the researchers.

3D printing draws many users who are extremely environmentally conscious, along with being concerned effects of plastics on the planet—and in regards to humans also, in biomedical applications; however, there are other worries too regarding toxicity and emissions. Researchers are achieving further success also with a variety of different materials that may prove to be better in the long run, along with enhancing products by using a growing variety of composites—including those with wood.


Bio Fiber-Polymer Composites Symposium

Wed, 2019-06-26 13:44
Press ReleasesHosted by: Forest Products Society & Forest Products Laboratory September 4-5, 2019 in Madison, Wisconsin

Madison Concourse Hotel
One West Dayton Street, Madison, WI 53703

Registration opens January 3, 2019, register online by August 20, 2019.
(Registration after August 20 must be completed onsite and will incur a $50 late fee.)

Abstract submission deadline is April 19, 2019
Notification of acceptance: May 6, 2019


Conference Overview

This symposium provides a forum for experts from scientific, technical, and industrial communications to exchange and disseminate information on the latest advances and future opportunities for fiber-polymer composites. Presentations covering wood fibers, natural fibers, and nanocellulose composites will be featured.


Register online through August 20th, 2019. After August 20th, registration must be completed onsite and will incur a $50 late fee.

Who Should Attend?
  • Researchers and educators
  • Producers and potential producers
  • Suppliers of wood and biofiber
  • Suppliers of equipment and services
  • Consultants and engineers

Learn More & Register


Exterior Envelope Continuous Insulation Solution

Wed, 2019-06-19 19:51
Press Releases

Icynene-Lapolla, the global supplier and manufacturer of high performance, energy efficient building envelope solutions, announced its all new Icynene X-Wall System. An all-in-one continuous insulation solution for the exterior envelope, Icynene X-Wall provides long term energy efficiency and savings and protects the structure from nature’s elements.

“Icynene X-Wall is designed to provide a solution to architects, specifiers and builders seeking an insulation solution that meets the new Continuous Insulation requirements at a reasonable installed cost,” said Doug Kramer, president and CEO of Icynene-Lapolla.

Icynene X-Wall is a system comprised of high performance, closed cell spray polyurethane foam and flashing. Incorporating Icynene’s ProSeal HFO spray applied insulation and liquid flashing, the complete system serves as thermal insulation, tightly sealed air barrier, class II vapor retarder, and water-resistant barrier. The innovative system is ideal for use across all climate zones and may be utilized on commercial and industrial, as well as on institutional buildings including schools and hospitals.

“This is an ideal alternative to rigid XPS foam insulation board,” adds Kramer. “It’s cost efficient and the closed cell spray foam is able to seal all cracks, seams and studs better than any other exterior insulation solution available.”

The Icynene ProSeal HFO spray foam insulation used in X-Wall is a low-VOC building material which has been developed with a fourth generation, environmentally friendly blowing agent with zero Ozone Depletion Potential. It also offers the lowest Global Warming Potential value, with a GWP of 1, for foam insulation products. The insulation is UL Greenguard Gold Certified.

The X-Wall liquid flashing is a high-quality, gun grade, elastomeric, polyether liquid-applied flashing and detailing membrane. Used for doors and windows, the material bonds to the majority of construction materials including aluminum, brick, concrete, wood, vinyl and exterior gypsum board.

Icynene X-Wall meets the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) which requires continuous insulation in the building envelope in most climate zones.

In addition to optimizing energy efficiency in the structure, Icynene X-Wall also helps to protect the structure from moisture damage. The system meets stringent ICC criteria for foam plastic insulation to qualify as a Water Resistive Barrier (WRB). The system also offers the spray foam industry’s first 15-year thermal warranty.


Johns Manville's Cavity-Shield Insulation Provides Fire Protection for Multifamily Projects

Wed, 2019-06-19 19:48
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

The JM Formaldehyde-free Cavity-SHIELD fiberglass batt, one of Johns Manville’s newest fiberglass insulation products, is specifically designed for insulating and fireproofing the spaces between floors in multifamily projects. When installed according to NFPA 13 guidelines, the batts obviate the need for sprinkler systems within concealed floor spaces, says the firm, saving time and money during construction and reducing the risk of leaks.

The JM Formaldehyde-free Cavity-SHIELD fiberglass batt, shown here installed in a floor space cavity. Courtesy of Johns Manville.

The noncombustible batts are made of long glass fibers bonded with thermosetting resin, which won't rot, mildew, or deteriorate over the life of the project, according to the manufacturer. Because the insulation contains no formaldehyde, it limits inhabitants’ VOC exposure and promotes healthier indoor air quality.

Each batt is designed to "friction-fit" into its cavity and requires no additional equipment to install. The product is available in many thicknesses and can be cut to fit with a utility knife.

“Johns Manville is committed to ensuring customers have the product options available matched to their specific needs, and we recognized an opportunity to create an alternative fire-protection product for customers with Cavity-SHIELD insulation batts,” says Mandy Schweitzer, senior product manager at Johns Manville. "Offering a batt product that combines passive fire protection with the high-quality standards customers expect from Johns Manville allows for flexibility in project options, ultimately saving both time and resources.”


Cameron Ashley Building Products Opens Distribution Center in Arizona

Wed, 2019-06-19 19:41

Distributor Cameron Ashley Building Products announced the opening of its latest distribution center in Phoenix, Ariz. The location will serve customers in Phoenix, Tuscon, Prescott, and Flagstaff, Ariz. and surrounding local markets.

The Phoenix distribution center will provide sales, marketing, merchandising, and local inventory for continued growth in roofing, insulation, and other building materials in a new market for Cameron Ashley, according to the company. TAMKO RoofingCertainTeed Roofing, Owens Corning, Knauf InsulationLomanco Ventilation, and Armstrong will be among the key suppliers for the distribution center.

“We are pleased to begin expanding our service westward to Phoenix and its surrounding markets,” Aaron Davis, regional vice president, said in a public statement. “In addition to new opportunities, this will also allow us to increase our service to our current customers located in the Southwest. Having substantial on-ground inventory close to our customers, while supporting their sell through of our products with sales, marketing, and merchandising is a win-win situation.”

The facility is the fourth distribution center Greensville, S.C.-based Cameron Ashley has opened in 2019. The distributor previously opened centers in Rocky Mount, N.C., and Macedonia, Ohio, in January, and an additional distribution center in Columbia, S.C., in February.

Cameron Ashley, a company of Pacific Avenue Capital Partners, is a distributor of roofing, insulation, gypsum, and other specialty building products with more than 35 distribution centers nationwide. In addition to the four distribution center openings in 2019, Cameron Ashley also announced its acquisition of St. Louis-based distributor Warrior Building Products in late January. Cameron Ashley has become active in expansions and acquisitions since Pacific Avenue has taken over ownership of the company in April 2018. The company changed its name from Guardian Building Products to Ashley Building Products at the beginning of the year.