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.