Energy Efficiency and Building Science News

New American Home Foam Sheathing Reduces Thermal Bridging

Wed, 2019-02-20 16:34
Building Science

When it comes to building a home that meets the highest standards, well-appointed means energy efficient in addition to the latest style trends and that’s where plastics continue to play an invisible but important role.

Look no further than the 2019 model of the New American Home — this year distinguished by minimal decoration, abundant glass and a flat-sloping roof line — to put a spotlight on innovative products and green building techniques using polymers and other materials.

Built inside a gated community in Henderson, Nev., the 7,900-square foot house is this year’s showcase for the National Association of Home Builders, which is putting on the International Builders’ Show (IBS) that runs from Feb. 19-21 at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Tour buses are expected to take at least 15,000 IBS attendees high into the McCollough Range to the contemporary house, which boasts some eye-popping features starting with a four-car, glass-enclosed garage that runs alongside the front walkway. This air-conditioned man cave has large sliding glass doors for car connoisseurs to display vehicles and it doubles as an entertainment room with a pool table and bar.

At the back of the mountainside property, where the surrounding foothills and the Las Vegas strip provide the stunning view, this sprawling single-story dwelling has 16 feet of fireplace. Actually, two fireplaces divided by a sliding door, the combination puts eight feet of flame in the great room and eight feet outdoors.

Another sliding door — this one telescopic — separates the indoor and outdoor kitchen cabinets, also blurring the line of interior and exterior living space.

“When I stepped foot on this property, the first thing I thought was the view is fantastic. I have to get as many rooms as possible facing it and open up as many areas as we can to the outside,” Dan Colletti, president of Sun West Custom Homes, told reporters given a sneak peek on Monday.

Built on a lot that is roughly 110 feet wide, Colletti said he had a building envelope of about 90 feet.

“We have 80 feet facing the strip view,” he added. “We pretty much maximized every space we could to get the view for all the rooms. That’s how designs start. It was the catalyst.”

So, how do you build a house with that much glass and make it energy efficient?

It wasn’t an easy feat. To offset all the fenestration products of Western Windows System, the builders increased the R-value (capacity to resist heat flow) of the desert dwelling with Owens Corning insulation for roofs, ceilings, walls and even the slab. One of the products, Foamular, an extruded polystyrene that prevents thermal bridging from wall studs, can be used for basement walls, foundation walls and slabs, above-grade walls, and under vinyl siding.

Putting foam insulation around the slab perimeter prevents radiant heat penetration and enhances moisture control, according to Neil Freidberg, Owens Corning’s building science leader.

“To build a high-performance home with such a large footprint, you have to first understand each and every component — from windows to air sealing to the roof and [home’s] orientation. In doing so, we can identify and use the optimal materials in the right locations,” Freidberg said in a news release.

The insulation contributed to a Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index score of 45, according to Drew Smith, chief operating officers of Two Trails Inc., which evaluated the home’s performance.

“That’s remarkable for this size home,” Smith said. “It’s almost breaking records with this amount of square footage and the glass-to-wall ratio. This home tested well and we’re really pleased. We’re looking at annual energy savings of about $3000 for the future owner.”

With the HERS rating, lower is better. Smith said a score of 45 means The New American Home is about 55 percent more efficient than a standard code built home.

“Size doesn’t matter,” he added. “You can still be extremely energy efficient and sustainable no matter how big the house is.”

NAHB says homes built to the greener end of the construction continuum provide greater comfort, lower utility bills, reduced maintenance and increased value.

Every dollar invested in energy efficiency yields $1.24 to $4 in benefits, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. And, an analysis in North Carolina shows when it comes time to move on, high-performance homes have a 9.5 percent higher sale price.

By the way, the asking price for The New American Home is $6.49 million. Situated on a half-acre lot with five bedrooms and six bathrooms, the house also features a spa room, disappearing-edge pool, and innovative structural components, such as a shower with a glass barn door, a wet bar suspended by cables, and a master bed suspended by steel near a cozy corner fireplace.

“This home is the Super Bowl of home building. It’s the best of the best of innovation, energy efficiency and technology,” Ted Mahoney, president of Windjammer Construction in Boston and chairman of the New American Home program for the eight last years, told reporters. “…It’s ahead of the curve with all the latest bells and whistles.”

Other plastic products used in the construction include Dupont Tyvek housewrap and Sharkbite croslinked polyethylene pipe.

Could New Robot Revolutionize Spray Foam Application?

Wed, 2019-02-20 16:29
Building Science

SprayWorks Equipment Group is proud to announce its new invention, the Coaterbot. Created by long-time Polyurethanes equipment inventor and founder of a 4th generation company – James Davidson created the Coaterbot to cover a broader spectrum of material applications

The Coaterbot’s features include;

  • Application tolerances: +/- 2 mils coatings to +/- 1/16” SPF
  • Increased yields: Sustained theoretical loss of yield factors under 15% with SPF and 5% with coatings
  • Easily Customized: Utility model platform easily adapts for in plant and in situ applications
  • Upgrade option for SprayBot Ultra

Similar to its sister products, the Spraybot (designed in 2004) and the Spraybot Ultra (2011), the Coaterbot delivers a 78” wide pass with a variable height of 12-36” – while operating with a two-person crew. The Coaterbot was designed with thin and thick film coating applications in mind. The Coaterbot has the ability to apply a much broader range of materials including; foam, coatings, Polyurea, Roof CTG, Floor & Parking CTG, Primary & Secondary Containment – just to name a few. 

“I designed the Coaterbot with a broader range of material applications in mind,” says Jim Davidson, Owner, SprayWorks Equipment Group “catering primarily to airless and conventional multi-component applications, it creates labor and material savings with unmatched precision.” 


Huber Adds 6 New Flashing Tapes to Zip System

Wed, 2019-02-20 16:27
Building Science

Huber Engineered Woods, manufacturer of ZIP System® building enclosure products, announced the expansion of its line of ZIP System® sealing solutions and enhanced flashing tape performance. The ZIP System brand is known for transforming structural exteriors as the creators of integrated sheathing that eliminates the need for housewrap and felt in wall and roof assemblies. The engineered-wood systems streamline installation with built-in air and water-resistive barriers and even exterior continuous insulation in its variety of integrated sheathing lines. As a reflection of its commitment to innovation for better building products and practices, Huber Engineered Woods announced the immediate availability of six new ZIP System flashing and stretch tapes.

ZIP System Sealing Solutions Product Line

ZIP System sealing solutions now include five ZIP System™ stretch tape options and five ZIP System flashing (straight) tapes. While developing tape options for new widths and lengths, the company reports it enhanced tape formula to provide even stronger performance in a broader range of temperatures.

"While builders and framers may not notice much of a visual difference to our flashing tapes, with this formula enhancement we now warrant application of ZIP System tapes down to 0-degree Fahrenheit," said ZIP System product director, Allen Sealock.

ZIP System sealing solutions also include ZIP System™ liquid flash – a fluid-applied flashing alternative to ZIP System flashing and stretch tape.

All ZIP System tapes:

  • Are backed by 180-Day Exposure Guarantee and a 30-Year Limited Warranty1
  • Feature a split-liner for easy application, on tapes 6 inches or wider  
  • Can be applied between 0 degrees and 120 degrees Fahrenheit2

"True to Huber Engineered Woods' innovation philosophy, these new products are a direct result of customer requests," said David Wescott, product director of accessories at Huber. "They have also been put through the rigorous R&D process our customers expect from our products."


TYPAR Drainable Wrap Helps Bulk Water Management

Wed, 2019-02-20 16:19
Building Science

The latest addition to the TYPAR Weather Protection System, TYPAR Drainable Wrap features a layer of multi-directional polypropylene fibers that is designed to divert bulk water from exterior wall cavities, creating an efficient drainage gap that is said to shed more bulk water than traditional house wraps. TYPAR Drainable Wrap comes with a lifetime limited warranty and meets code requirements for drainage efficiency. The product is designed to provide enhanced capabilities ideal for wet and coastal climates.



DowDuPont: Tyvek & STYROFOAM XPS Work 'Hand-in-Hand'

Wed, 2019-02-20 16:12
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

DuPont Performance Building Solutions (PBS) is promoting a combined, more robust portfolio for the marketplace across Dow and DuPont. The integration of Dow and DuPont now offers industry-leading brands such as DuPont™ Tyvek® Building Envelope and STYROFOAM™ Brand Extruded Polystyrene (XPS) as part of one offering. These brands will house a better customer and user experience by providing easy-to-install systems that work together to enhance the building envelope and meet the market’s increased performance expectations.

DuPont PBS knows how materials work together – Tyvek® and STYROFOAM™ work hand-in-hand to improve water management, energy efficiency and thermal performance, resulting in a durable and energy-efficient building envelope. Customers can now use both Tyvek® and STYROFOAM™ solutions to help manage bulk water, tighten the building enclosure, reduce the wall condensation potential, and enable appropriate drying within the wall cavity. Insulation, permeable weather resistive barriers, flashing, tapes and spray foams also can be used in different combinations to improve energy efficiency, thermal comfort and durability of the building envelope.

“The powerful heritage of DuPont and Dow give us a unique responsibility to the communities in which we work to build structures that foster a better, more resilient tomorrow,” said Alan Hubbell, Residential Market Manager, Performance Building Solutions, DuPont Safety & Construction. “As a newly combined company, DuPont Performance Building Solutions will lead the industry through performance, technology and innovation that go beyond simple product solutions to tackle issues like productivity, safety, durability and efficiency.”

Through leading products and proven tools and processes, DuPont PBS ensures the comfort and resilience of structures. The unrivaled portfolio from the foremost leaders in the building industry provides customers the freedom, flexibility and confidence to make every project seamless.

PBS solutions include:

DOE Awards 3 Energy Efficiency Funding Grants

Wed, 2019-02-13 22:28
Building Science

The Building Technologies Office announced it is investing up to $19.5 million in 19 projects that will drive innovation in early-stage research and development for advanced building technologies and systems that will serve as a foundation for future technological developments and reductions in building energy consumption. These technologies will improve the efficiency of our nation’s buildings and will help American consumers and businesses save energy and money on their utility bills.

“Technological innovations enable energy-efficiency advances in the buildings sector, providing a tremendous opportunity to reduce energy waste and costs – boosting the competitiveness of U.S. companies and easing energy bills for American families,” said David Nemtzow, director of the Building Technologies Office. “As buildings account for 40% of the energy consumption in the United States, these efficiency innovations allow us to further improve upon past progress.”

Below are the three award winners focused on using advanced building materials:

The University at Buffalo (Buffalo, NY): “Scalable and Cost-Effective Roll-to-Roll Additive Manufacturing of Highly Durable and Thermal Insulating Silica-Carbon Aerogel.” The research team will demonstrate a scalable roll-to-roll manufacturing process for producing an advanced aerogel insulation material.

Virginia Commonwealth University (Richmond, VA): “Inexpensive and durable aerogel-based VIP Cores.” The research team will investigate a manufacturing process that uses ambient rather than supercritical drying of aerogels to fabricate aerogel for vacuum insulated panels at much lower required vacuum levels.

The University of Alabama (Tuscaloosa, AL): “Cost-Effective Thermally Activated Building Systems to Support a Power Grid System With High Penetrations of As-Available Renewable Energy Resources.” The research team will develop a novel thermally activated building envelope system that integrates non-combustible phase change materials and hydronic activation into building envelope with a goal to reduce the energy cost for building operation as well as to support renewable energy sources (RES) for power grid reliability, quality, resilience, and dispatchability.


NY, VA & WA Seek Changes to the Building Envelope

Wed, 2019-02-13 22:18
Building Codes

State legislatures in New York, Virginia and Washington have recently introduced legislation that would could have an impact on the building envelope.  Summaries are below:

New York Looks to Favorably Update Building Codes

NY A 4460 would update the state fire prevention and building code and the state energy conservation construction code within 12 months of the publication of any updated or revised edition of the international and national codes.

NY A 4606 would authorize local governments to adopt local building code standards which are more stringent than those in the State Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code.

Virginia Proposed Legislation References ASHRAE's Advanced Energy Design Guide

The Commonwealth of Virginia is considering legislation that will update the Virginia Small Business Financing Act. The legislation (House Bill 2192, companion Senate Bill 1331), includes a new section, Section 22.1-141.1, standards for buildings and facilities, that would require that new public school buildings and facilities and improvements to existing public school buildings and existing facilities be Zero Energy buildings based on ASHRAE's Achieving Zero Energy – Advanced Design Guide for K–12 School Buildings. This legislation was engrossed by the House on February 4 and will go to the Senate. View the proposed language here.

Washington State Introduces Legislation to Update State's Energy Efficiency Policy

Legislation has been introduced in the State of Washington which would update its current energy efficiency policy. Senate Bill 5293 (companion House Bill 1257) adds new sections to the state's energy performance standards. Specifically, ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 100-2018 is adopted by reference as a model for standard development. Should this bill pass, the state Department of Commerce shall seek to maximize reductions of greenhouse gas emissions from the building sector. The standard must include energy use intensity targets by building type and methods of conditional compliance that include an energy management plan, operations and maintenance program, energy efficiency audits, and investment in energy efficiency measures designed to meet the targets.

Additionally, Standard 100-2018 is paired with EPA's Energy Star® for building occupancy classifications. The Department may consider building occupancy classifications from these two when developing energy use intensity targets. See the bills: SB 5293 and HB 1257.


2 Dow Building Envelope Products Receive Innovation Award

Wed, 2019-02-13 22:12
Building Science

Two innovative technologies from Dow, the world’s leading materials science company, as well as the company’s Coating Materials research division have won BIG Innovation Awards presented by the Business Intelligence Group. The annual awards program recognizes the organizations, products and people that bring new ideas to life.

“Creating materials and solutions that exceed customer needs, transform our world and deliver shareholder value is why we innovate,” said A.N. Sreeram, senior vice president, Research and Development, and chief technology officer for Dow. “We are grateful for this recognition from Business Intelligence Group of our talented Dow teams and breakthrough innovations.”

Nominations are judged by a select group of business leaders and executives who volunteer their time and expertise to score submissions.

“This year’s winners show just how deep a role innovation plays in nearly every aspect of business,” said Maria Jimenez, chief operating officer of the Business Intelligence Group. “We are thrilled to be honoring Dow as they are leading by example and making real progress on improving the daily lives of so many.”

Learn more about the Dow 2019 BIG Innovation Award winners:

Dow Coating Materials Research Division

Today’s modern coatings demand many, often conflicting qualities: energy efficiency, safety, durability, aesthetics and much more. These simultaneous requirements demand unique technologies and innovations. The research team from Dow Coating Materials is being recognized for its world-class expertise to bring inspired ideas to coating needs of all kinds, including market-defining technologies. Working hand-in-hand with customers and industry and academic partners alike, these scientists push the boundaries of chemistry to help understand and solve the world’s most critical challenges in coatings.

DOW SILASTIC™ 3335 Liquid Silicone Rubber

SILASTIC™ 3335 Liquid Silicone Rubber (LSR) is a groundbreaking silicone material formulated specifically to combine the performance benefits of silicone rubber with the design and processing advantages of liquid additive manufacturing 3D printing.

DOW SYL-OFF™ 7792 and SYL-OFF™ 7795 Fluorosilicone Release Coatings

To solve the pain point of ultra-low release force applications, Dow developed SYL-OFF™ 7792 FLUOROSILICONE RELEASE COATING and SYL-OFF™ 7795 FLUOROSILICONE RELEASE COATING for Silicone Pressure Sensitive Adhesive applications. The solution provides stable and lower release force and greater ease to peel off.

For more information about Dow’s innovation engine, visit Areas of Expertise and Awards on


Could AI Help Enforce Code, Avoid Cladding Fire Spread?

Wed, 2019-02-13 22:05
Building Science

fire at the Neo 200 apartment building in Spencer Street, Melbourne, on Monday highlighted the risk to human safety from flammable cladding and other non-conforming building products. Building quality and safety are compromised when there is no transparency about the products used.

Our experimental research project suggests a solution that uses sensor technology and artificial intelligence. Finding such a solution to ensure unsafe and substandard products are detected and prevented from being used in buildings is critical, given the scale of the problem in Australia.

In 2014, a similar cladding fire spread across multiple levels of the Lacrosse Tower in Melbourne’s Docklands. This led to an initial audit by the Victorian Building Authority.

In 2017, after 72 people died in the Grenfell cladding fire in London, the Victorian Cladding Taskforce conducted another audit. It found at least 1,400 buildings contained cladding that was non-conforming to Australian standards and/or non-compliant with government safety regulations. Its interim report concluded:

The Victorian Cladding Taskforce has found systems failures have led to major safety risks and widespread non-compliant use of combustible cladding in the building industry across the state.

How could this happen?

The taskforce noted 12 reasons for non-compliant use of cladding. From a systems perspective, these can be categorised as:

  1. incentive to substitute products driven by cost
  2. no reliable means of independently verifying product certification
  3. product labelling cannot be verified to detect fraudulent or misleading information
  4. products cannot reliably be verified as being the same as those approved (and used)
  5. on-site inspections are unreliable or do not take place.

Essentially, the taskforce identified a problem with the system of verifying products’ conformance to standards and compliance with government regulation.

Substandard products can be found across a range of materials used in the building sector. These include steel, copper, electrical products, glass, aluminium and engineered wood. For example, the Senate inquiry into non-conforming products found:

The ACCC [Australian Competition and Consumer Commission] advised that electrical retailers and wholesalers have recalled Infinity and Olsent-branded electrical cables, warning that ‘physical contact with the recalled cables could dislodge the insulation and lead to electric shock or fires’.

The taskforce estimated over 22,000 homes were affected. It estimated the cost of the recall and replacement at A$80 million.

So how can technology help?

Similar problems have existed in other industries. In the wine export industry, sensor technology has been used to detect fraudulent products in our biggest market, China. This involves scanning QR codes on bottle labels to identify the manufacturer, the batch and other product details that authenticate wine products.

Scanning technology, involving complex data-matching across different data platforms, is used daily – when we use credit cards, for example. The building industry has embraced some excellent systems to collect data of importance such as building information modelling (BIM). However, BIM does not verify authenticity of products.

In the the case of flammable cladding, data verification to solve the use of non-conforming products is housed across a number of authorities, manufacturers and industry associations. Collaboration is needed to design a system to solve the problem. The data should be collected and stored in a manner that enables secure access by a digital verification system.

What features does the system need to have?

Our research focus has been on designing a system based on criteria informed by industry innovators and stakeholders. The system must be able to:

  1. collect and match product data in real time
  2. verify non-conforming and non-compliant products in real time
  3. maintain integrity of labelling
  4. store data securely so all stakeholders can verify the status of the building, including architects, builders, site managers, inspectors, owners, investors, insurers and financiers
  5. trace data (and composition) throughout the product life-cycle, to predict maintenance, recovery and repurposing.

The system we suggest uses two elements, sensor technology and artificial intelligence, to do all this.

Technology to solve the problem of tracking and validating building product safety is being developed.



How does the system work?

A mobile app that can scan QR codes or “building material passports” is being developed in Europe. The label will hold relevant compliance data of the assembled product and its component parts. This includes building code compliance, and relevant assessments and certifications.

The product’s QR code can be scanned at any time along the supply chain and throughout the life of the building. This then enables its status to be verified via data matching.

Linking to a platform that uses artificial intelligence (AI) solves the problem of ensuring compliance with government regulation. CSIRO Data 61 has developed an AI software tool that enables regulation to be coded using AI algorithms to accurately determine compliance. We are working with Data 61 to test Australian regulation and ensure transparency for all.

The solution is designed to plug into existing technology solutions, such as BIM and Matrack, to trace the movement of products along the supply chain and throughout the building’s life-cycle.


Illinois to Update State Energy Code to 2018 IECC

Wed, 2019-02-13 21:59
Building Codes

The Illinois Register, published on December 7, 2018, gives notice of amendment to existing rules which will update the state's energy code from 2015 IECC to 2018 IECC. These changes are authorized by the Capital Development Board Act and the Energy Efficient Commercial Building Act, which requires the adoption of the latest published edition of the ICC's International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) as the energy code for Illinois.

Please note that the rules were also altered to revise the requirements for State funded facilities to comply with the IECC versus ASHRAE standards, remove the variance process for State funded facilities as this is covered in the IECC, add exemptions for State buildings that are allowed for private commercial buildings and to rearrange or reword a few sections to provide consistency.

Click here to view the rule in full. The rule runs from Register page 21491 to 21528.

Any interested parties may submit comments, data, views or arguments concerning this proposed rulemaking in writing for a period of 45 days following publication of this Notice.

Investors Expect Huntsman’s Polyurethanes to Rise 7.3%

Wed, 2019-02-13 21:55
Building ScienceBusiness

Huntsman Corporation swung to a net loss of $8 million or 5 cents per share in the third quarter from a net income of $179 million or 60 cents recorded a year ago. Adjusted earnings were 84 cents per share in the quarter, in line with the Zacks Consensus Estimate.

Revenues rose around 13% year over year to $2,444 million on higher sales across all segments. It beat the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $2,239 million.

Huntsman has outpaced the Zacks Consensus Estimate in three of the trailing four quarters, delivering a positive average earnings surprise of roughly 14%.

The company’s shares have lost around 29.1% over a year, underperforming the industry's decline of 16.6%.

Factors to Watch For

Huntsman, in its third-quarter call, stated that it continues to strengthen its balance sheet and remains committed to a balanced approach to capital allocation by growing its downstream businesses portfolio while creating shareholder value.

Revenues for Huntsman for the fourth quarter is projected to fall roughly 3.6% year over year as the Zacks Consensus Estimate for the quarter is currently pegged at $2,123 million.

Revenues from Huntsman’s Polyurethanes segment is anticipated to witness a 7.3% rise year over year as the Zacks Consensus Estimate for the fourth quarter is pegged at $1,316 million.

Huntsman remains committed to grow its downstream specialty and formulation businesses. The company is seeing healthy demand for MDI (methylene diphenyl diisocyanate). Substitution of MDI for less effective materials remains a key driving factor.

Moreover, the acquisition of Demilec, a leading manufacturer and distributor of spray polyurethane foam (SPF) insulation systems in North America, is expected to contribute to volume growth in Polyurethanes in the December quarter.

However, the company expects its Polyurethanes business to be affected by seasonality in the fourth quarter as it is seeing customer destocking through the supply chain amid global trade tensions and a weaker growth picture in China. It expects this to offset the incremental benefits of its expansion actions in China. The company also does not expect any benefits of margin spike in its MDI Urethanes business in the fourth quarter. It envisions margins in its downstream Urethanes businesses to remain stable in the quarter.

Revenues for the company’s Performance Products unit are expected to remain flat year over year as the Zacks Consensus Estimate for the fourth quarter is $514 million.

While seasonality is also expected to affect the Performance Products segment, Huntsman expects improved results in amines and maleic anhydride and steady performance in surfactants to be offset by lower upstream margin in the fourth quarter.

Revenues for Huntsman’s Advanced Materials segment are projected to decline 3.9% from the year-ago quarter as the Zacks Consensus Estimate for the fourth quarter stands at $248 million.

Within this segment, Huntsman is seeing higher volumes in the specialty business. However, the company continues to face headwind from higher raw material costs. The company is also seeing weaker orders from certain customers, mostly in automotive markets in China. It expects this softness to contribute to the seasonality in this segment in the fourth quarter.


Harvard Studying How to Improve Upon Net-Zero

Wed, 2019-02-13 21:47
Building Science

The Harvard Center for Green Buildings and Cities (CGBC) at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) has completed an ambitious effort to retrofit a 1924 home in Cambridge, Mass., into a living laboratory that will serve as the organization's headquarters. Dubbed HouseZero, the energy-positive prototype for ultra-efficient architecture aims to demonstrate how existing structures can be modified to consume less energy.

Designed by renowned Norewegian firm Snøhetta as lead architect in collaboration with engineer Skanska Teknikk Norway, HouseZero's concepts are driven by radical performance goals, including nearly zero energy for heating and cooling, zero electric lighting during daytime, operating with 100% natural ventilation, and producing zero carbon emissions. Over its lifetime, the structure is intended to produce more energy than was used to renovate and operate it.

CGBC will also leverage HouseZero as a research tool, drawing data from hundreds of sensors embedded within each component of the home that monitor its performance. According to the university, this sensory data will also provide Harvard’s researchers with an unprecedented understanding of complex building behavior. In turn, the data will fuel research involving computational simulation, helping the CGBC develop new systems and data-driven learning algorithms that promote energy-efficiency, health, and sustainability.

“HouseZero’s flexible, data-driven infrastructure will allow us to further research that demystifies building behavior, and design the next generation of ultra-efficient structures,” says Ali Malkawi, founding director of the Harvard Center for Green Buildings and Cities and the creator and leader of the HouseZero project. “By creating both a prototype and an infrastructure for long-term research, we hope to raise interest in ultra-efficient retrofits and inspire substantial shifts in the design and operation of buildings.”

HouseZero's big-picture, prototype goal is to address one of the biggest energy problems in the world today—inefficient existing buildings. Harvard research has found that the U.S. building stock is responsible for around 40% of energy consumption, with housing claiming nearly a quarter of that use. Annually, property owners spend upwards of $230 billion to heat, cool, and power some 113.6 million homes. Addressing the inefficiencies locked into this problematic building stock offers opportunity for curbing its impact on climate change, and HouseZero's strategies could potentially create the blueprint for reducing the average American household's footprint.

The building is designed to continuously adjust itself to reach thermal comfort for its occupants. It combines innovative technologies such as software and sensor arrays with established architectural solutions, such as solar vents, concrete slabs that store thermal energy, and natural ventilation to automatically open and close windows to maintain a quality internal environment throughout the year. Rather than tightly sealing the building, the envelope and the materials that make up HouseZero were designed to interact with the seasons and the exterior environment in a more natural way. 


Demilec Releases High-Yield Heatlok Spray Foam

Wed, 2019-02-13 21:23
Energy Efficiency

Spray up to an R-49 in a single pass!

Heatlok® HFO High Lift, Demilec’s first product to leverage ultra-low global warming potential blowing agent, combines an R-value of 7.5 with a 6.5” lift to achieve an R-49 in a single pass. Spray IRC ceiling insulation code in less time than ever before.

What makes it unique?

Heatlok® HFO High Lift leverages Honeywell’s Solstice® Liquid Blowing Agent technology, which has a GWP of 1, 99.9% lower than traditional blowing agents. In compliance with the Montreal Protocol designed to lower the use of global warming potential gasses, Heatlok® HFO High Lift combines all of the benefits of Heatlok with the industries fourth generation of blowing agent.

Who is the product made for?

Heatlok HFO High Lift was developed for contractors looking to achieve the IRC Ceiling Insulation Code by spraying an R-49 in one pass. Heatlok HFO High Lift has superior yield, sprayability, and adhesion.


Video: Thermal Bridging and Steel Studs

Wed, 2019-02-13 21:19
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

In our previous article, we looked at the issue of thermal bridging inherent in the use of cold-formed steel framing members.  Cavity insulation in a steel wall is less than half as effective as equivalently rated continuous insulation.  So is there any use for it at all?  Yes, but it might not be what you think.  Most cavity insulation products are very effective at minimizing sound transmission.  Therefore, use continuous insulation to keep warm and insulate the cavities to reduce noise!

Continuous insulation has many applications beyond preventing thermal bridging, however.  Get the details about using continuous insulation as a WRB, air barrier, or vapor control layer at!

While you’re here, take a few minutes to watch Joe Lstiburek, Ph.D., P.Eng, talk about insulation and steel framing:



For additional information, please review the previous videos in this series:

  1. Fear Building Envelopes No More with This Website & Videos
  2. Thermodynamics Simplified Heat Flows from Warm to Cold
  3. Moisture Flow Drives Water Induced Problems
  4. Video: How the 'Perfect Wall' Solves Environmental Diversity
  5. Video: How Important Is Your WRB?
  6. Video: A Reliably Perfect Wall Anywhere
  7. Video: The Best Wall We Know How to Make 
  8. Video: How to Insulate with Steel Studs

Investment in Latest Building Codes Yields Big Return

Wed, 2019-02-06 21:04
Building CodesBuilding Science

An update of a National Institute of Building Sciences study on benefit-to-cost ratios of hazard-mitigation investments has determined an 11:1 BCR over time for jurisdictions that have adopted model building code updates versus those that still use codes from the 1990s. The study also found a 4:1 BCR for investments to improve hazard resistance in utility and transportation infrastructure.

The 11:1 BCR for communities that adopt the latest model codes is “remarkable and represents a huge return on investment,” says Keith A. Porter, a research professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and the principal investigator for the NIBS study, “Natural Hazard Mitigation Saves: 2018 Interim Report.” NIBS released  the report on Jan. 8 at its Building Innovation 2019 Conference & Expo, held Jan. 7-10 in Washington, D.C., and attended by 330 people.

NIBS and the International Code Council are trying to make a case for states and local jurisdictions to adopt the latest model codes, developed by ICC. “Communities that lag the rest of the country in code adoption will ultimately pay in terms of the health, safety and welfare of the public, of businesses, of visitors and of the community’s future vitality,” chorus NIBS and ICC in a joint statement. “Strengthening codes for natural hazard disaster mitigation makes economic sense,” the groups maintain.

“We knew there was a benefit to invest  in mitigation but, prior to the study, we didn’t have a way to quantify it at a national level,” says Ryan Colker, until December a NIBS vice president and currently executive director of ICC’s Alliance for National Community and Resilience.

The 498-page report expands on a 344-page 2017 report. Primarily funded by the Federal Emergency and Management Agency, both reports examine hazard mitigation investment strategies for earthquakes, wind, hurricanes, river floods and wildfires at the urban interface. The 2017 study found a 4:1 BCR for investments that exceed select provisions of ICC’s 2015 International Residential Code (IRC) and International Building Code (IBC) and a 6:1 BCR for dollars spent through mitigation grants funded through federal agencies (ENR 1/22/18 p. 8).

Implementing those two sets of mitigation strategies would prevent 600 deaths, 1 million nonfatal injuries and 4,000 cases of post-traumatic stress disorder in the long term, says NIBS.

In addition, designing new buildings to exceed the 2015 IRC and IBC would result in 87,000 new, long-term jobs, adds NIBS.

The report offers data on the varying benefits to lenders, communities, tenants, title holders and developers. “The benefits are spread over the community and a whole set of stakeholders,” says Philip Schneider, NIBS Multihazard Mitigation Council director.

This spring, NIBS expects to release BCRs for housing mitigation retrofits. Work is funded by the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development. That will add up to $2 million spent on the study, which is a sequel to one released in 2005.

NIBS is seeking several hundred thousand dollars more. Plans call for BCR analyses on mitigation investments in tornado resistance—based on maps expected soon—non-construction business continuity measures and federal programs such as the National Weather Service, the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“We have never quantified the BCRs of the federal activities and as a consequence, Congress has under-invested in them,” says Porter.


Senators Call on DOE to Fund Energy Efficiency Retrofits

Wed, 2019-02-06 20:56
Energy EfficiencyLegislative

U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Susan Collins (R-ME), Chris Coons (D-DE) and Jack Reed (D-RI) reintroduced bipartisan legislation to encourage state-driven energy efficiency and renewable energy initiatives that reduce energy costs for low-income households, spur private sector energy innovation and improve emergency planning and response. The Investing in State Energy Act would prevent undue delay in distributing grants through the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) and the State Energy Program (SEP) to state agencies and local partners that implement energy initiatives.

Just last month, Shaheen led a bipartisan letter with Senators Collins, Coons, Reed, Murkowski and Cantwell to Secretary of Energy Rick Perry regarding delayed guidance and documentation for the WAP. Their letter was in response to the Department of Energy (DOE) missing an important deadline to deliver information concerning state allocations to WAP grantees. Because of the Senators’ efforts, this guidance was later released to allow states to plan for the upcoming year. 

“This bipartisan legislation will cut through bureaucratic red tape to speed up federal investments in Granite State clean energy projects, helping to lower energy costs for New Hampshire businesses, low-income families and seniors,” said Shaheen. “For New Hampshire to compete in a 21st century economy, our state needs to be at the forefront of energy efficiency and renewable energy initiatives, which are critical to our economy, environment and working families. This bill will help ensure federal resources are delivered to New Hampshire energy programs in a timely and efficient manner, benefitting residents and companies across the state.”  

For more than 40 years, the DOE assistance programs, WAP and SEP, have provided technical and financial assistance to states, tribal governments and U.S. territories to encourage the adoption of clean energy and energy efficiency practices and technologies.

The Weatherization Assistance Program enables families, seniors, veterans and individuals with disabilities to improve the energy efficiency of their homes, freeing up limited resources for other essentials like food and medicine. The State Energy Program provides cost-shared resources directly to the states for allocations by the governor-designated State Energy Office to support energy projects, such as energy emergency planning and response, private sector innovation in clean energy and state-driven energy infrastructure modernization. Both WAP and SEP were proposed to be eliminated in President Trump’s budget request for Fiscal Year 2018 and 2019.

The Investing in State Energy Act would direct the DOE to distribute the full annual award amount of WAP and SEP funds to states, tribes and other direct grantees no later than 60 days after funds are appropriated by Congress. By establishing these mandatory deadlines, the Investing in State Energy Act encourages local high-impact projects that serve families in need and ensures that states continue to receive critical resources to meet their energy goals. 

The text of the Investing in State Energy Act can be read here. The bill is supported by the National Association of State Energy Officials, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the National Consumer Law Center on behalf of its low-income consumers, the National Community Action Foundation and several additional organizations listed here.


Webinar: How Energy Efficient is Wood Fibre Insulation?

Wed, 2019-02-06 20:44
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

FPInnovations, in collaboration with 475 High Performance Building Supply and the Canadian Wood Council, engaged in a project to introduce wood fibre insulation products into Canadian construction through a series of high profile demonstration buildings. The objective of the work was to expose wood fibre insulation products through these demonstration buildings to accelerate their acceptance into Canadian and other North American markets.

As part of this project, FPInnovations would like to invite all interested parties to attend the following webinar:

Wood Fibre Insulation in High Performance Construction: Canadian Demonstration Buildings

Date: February 13, 2019
Time: 10:00 (PT) / 13:00 (ET)
Presented by: Bob Knudson

Dry process wood fibre insulation products have been used in a variety of structures throughout Europe for more than 25 years, where the market is developed and growing. Wood fibre insulation was installed into three different buildings in three different climate regions of Canada, a single family residence near Collingwood, ON, a co-op multi-family housing project in Saskatoon, SK, and a laneway house in Gibsons, BC. All three buildings were designed to meet or approach Passive House standards. Wood fibre insulation products were readily adapted into wall and roof systems that had originally called for other insulation products. Performance monitoring of each building is to be carried out for at least one year.

To join the meeting:
Adobe Connect link:
Phone number: 1-888-518-2098
Participant code: 30653884#


Spray Polyurethane Foam Alliance Outlines 2019 Focus

Wed, 2019-02-06 20:35
Energy Efficiency

Here is a quick snapshot of Spray Polyurethane Foam Alliance's (SPFA) recent efforts:

Life Cycle Assessment & Environmental Product Declarations Now Completed

 The SPFA recently completed a 5-year update to its ISO-compliant Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) for three generic Spray Polyurethane Foam product formulations that include open-cell, closed-cell, and roofing foams. Completed in conjunction with thinkstep (formerly PE International), the 2018 updates also include a fourth product type: low-pressure two-component closed-cell insulation and sealant foams. Additionally, two, rather than one, separate EPDs have been published, aligning with the Spray Polyurethane Foam industry’s move toward the integration of blowing agents with low Global Warming Potential (GWP). One EPD includes HFC-based blowing agents for closed-cell foams, while the second EPD includes HFO-based (low-GWP) blowing agents. These work products represent the most credible and influential resources for sustainability and industry professionals to measure sprayfoam’s cradle-to-grave footprint and see the quantified benefits over other technologies.

The newly updated LCA is available on The EPD covering open-cell SPF and closed-cell, roofing and low-pressure SPF using HFC blowing agents, as well as the EPD covering open-cell SPF and closed-cell, roofing and low-pressure SPF using low-GWP HFO blowing agents can be found on the ASTM EPD website, linked from SPFA’s website.

Pest Industry Challenges to SPFA 

Over the past 18 months, the pest management industry has increased criticism of spray foam insulation, making the product a divisive issue among the respective industries and customers. The pest industry in the southeastern U.S. claims SPF inhibits their ability to perform structural inspections, with some even voiding long-term warranties for customers with SPF. Media coverage of this issue has exacerbated the situation, however, it is important to note not all pest management companies embrace this negative SPF approach and wish to work with our industry. At a joint SPF-pest industries meeting in January, some reasonable discussion between both parties occurred. Expect this to result in some consensus on future cooperation and guidance.

Additionally, the fumigant-side of the pest industry has also levied claims against SPF, but SPFA has asserted that the issues raised are not SPF-specific, rather the result of modern energy efficient construction and increasingly demanding building codes which promote unvented attics made with numerous technologies including SPF. The fumigant industry claims that unvented attics with SPF impact ventilation of their deadly poison from homes. The crux of the problem is their reliance on 1970s era leaky house and vented attic design to aerate. Because SPF is prevalent in attics, this contingent has assigned blame for this dangerous, life-safety problem on spray foam. SPFA is addressing this issue individually and through industry partnerships with the intention of correcting the record and public understanding. Offers of assistance, building science education, ventilation design and more from SPFA to the fumigant companies have been made, but are yet to be accepted. Keep watch for more on this ongoing issue.

SPFA Professional Certification Continues to Grow

The SPFA launched its Professional Certification Program (PCP) in 2013 to increase the quality of SPF installations. It is the first SPF certification program in the U.S. which is ISO 17024 compliant, standards-driven and internationally recognized. PCP establishes a set of criteria through which individuals can demonstrate their knowledge, skills and abilities in working safely, efficiently and professionally. The value of the PCP is in its promotion of SPF applications that ensure highest possible performance, as well as the health and safety of the contractor, occupants and other trades on the project.

The PCP is continually improving and adapting to the needs of the industry. Currently under development is a new certification for an SPF Consultant—a program which will be launched this year. The SPFA PCP Certified Consultant is the person who enhances the value and function of SPF installations by providing expertise and specialized knowledge of spray polyurethane foam (SPF) to other interested parties. SPF is also working with ICAA to produce an industry-first testing program for new professionals in the industry, the SPF Entry Point Program. For more information on the PCP and to start your own certification process, visit or contact today.


Video: Local Experts Share Insulation Retrofit Tips

Wed, 2019-02-06 20:25
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

"All homes need a certain amount of fresh air," said Keith Saunders, a Home Comfort Specialist with Larry Janesky's Dr. Energy Saver of Connecticut. "But we usually find most homes, especially older homes, leak more than two to three times what they should."

Saunders should know. He teaches technicians at the country's largest energy conservation training center in Seymour.

That pink fiberglass insulation you've seen for years is not really that good, according to Saunders. Professionals like Dr. Energy Saver use cellulose insulation, which is basically ground up newspaper, and pump that into attics.

Of course, it's not just the top of the house. Drafts can come through any hole in the wall for light switches and outlets, and from the basement, too.

"So, if you're sitting up here and you feel cold air coming up from the basement or cold floors, it's oftentimes because the rim joist, the piece of wood that attaches to the foundation, is not insulated," Saunders said.

Spray foam insulation can solve that problem. Ironically, even your chimney can be making your house colder with gaps between it and the rest of the house.

Carlisle Launches Spray Foam Insulation Unit

Wed, 2019-02-06 20:11
Building ScienceBusiness

Carlisle Companies Incorporated, a global leader in commercial and industrial building envelope products through its Carlisle Construction Materials (CCM) operating segment, is pleased to announce the creation of a new business unit: Carlisle Spray Foam Insulation.

In November 2017, Carlisle Companies acquired Accella Performance Materials, the premier specialty polyurethane platform. At that time, Accella's portfolio of spray foam brands included three well-known spray foam competitors: Premium Spray Products, QuadFoam, and BaySeal. The Carlisle and Accella teams conducted interviews to determine if a total rebrand would help to clarify and define the overall spray foam brand.

To that end, Accella Polyurethane Systems' spray foam business unit is being rebranded as Carlisle Spray Foam Insulation (CSFI). Additionally, products previously designed and marketed by Accella (BaySeal®, Foamsulate™, and QuadFoam®) will be consolidated under CSFI's new SealTite family of products. These changes are intended to help reduce market confusion, simplify product identification and selection, and communicate to customers that they can feel confident in choosing CSFI's SealTite products.

Al Restaino, Vice President of Marketing for Accella's portfolio of businesses says, "We looked at either rebranding to Carlisle or consolidating products into something new. Not surprising there were many opinions on the strategy. We started the brand strategy process in May of 2018 leveraging a high profile outside agency and conducting more than 600 interviews including contractors, distribution, architects, and consumers. The results were overwhelmingly positive that we should simplify our message of who we are and leverage the Carlisle name. The brand strategy being unveiled during the SPFA show in Daytona Beach is the result of those interviews and leverages the enormous value and impact our customers have on the positioning of the brand strategy."

Mike McAuley, Carlisle Construction Materials' Executive Vice President of Diversified Products and General Manager of Accella, says, "This new branding platform will help differentiate our company and our products and will improve the customer experience. The journey will take some time, but will ultimately provide needed leadership for the industry."

Moody Ozier, the Marketing Director for Accella's spray foam business unit says, "We are especially excited to offer the most comprehensive, complete product portfolio under the SealTite name as we sunset our other legacy brands."