Energy Efficiency and Building Science News

LP Launches Product to Compete Against Zip Sheathing

Wed, 2019-02-06 20:05
Building Science

Among the many new LP Building Solutions products set to launch in 2019 is the LP WeatherLogic Air & Water Barrier, an integrated sheathing and structural board system.

“We are proud to bolster our portfolio of high-performance products with two new solutions that will prove beneficial in multiple phases of the design and construction process,” said Brad Southern, LP’s CEO. “We are constantly working to deliver better products for better results, and LP SmartSide Smooth Trim & Siding and the LP WeatherLogic Air & Water Barrier system are outcomes of our commitment to this.”

The WeatherLogic system incorporates two products – a 4 by 8 structural OSB with a weather-resistant overlay and LP’s WeatherLogic Seam & Flashing Tape, a specially-formulated acrylic tape. Taken together, the products serve as both exterior sheathing and structural paneling, forming a tight envelope that is vapor-permeable.

According to the manufacturer, the system protects the home during construction, improves energy efficiency, and promotes a clean jobsite.

“Efficiency – in all of its forms – is a priority for us at LP,” says Marcelle Lacy, LP’s senior corporate brand manager for OSB and EWP. “With our WeatherLogic Air & Water Barrier system, builders install protection they can count on in less time while enhancing the home or building’s energy efficiency. We are particularly proud of all this product has to offer as well as a 30-year warranty which is longer than the usual house wrap warranties.”


Video: How to Insulate with Steel Studs

Wed, 2019-02-06 20:00
Building Science

Humans aren’t good “talking” thermometers, because we “feel” thermal conductivity.  Want proof?  As my college physics prof often told us, you’d rather the outhouse had a wood seat than a porcelain one on a cold night (even though they’re the same temperature)! 

Well, just like porcelain, steel is a much better thermal conductor than wood, and sometimes that’s a disadvantage.  For example, if a 6” steel stud wall is filled with nominal R-21 cavity insulation, the effective R-value of the wall only increases by R-9.05 [see footnote 1].  That’s more than a 50% reduction, merely due to the thermal conductivity of the studs!  So rather than insulate the cavities of steel stud walls, it is much better to attach continuous insulation to the outside of hjgh conductivity framing.  An unbroken layer of insulation significantly reduces the problem of thermal bridging, which saves money both during construction and during the lifetime of the structure

Not only is the use of continuous insulation on steel stud walls a good idea, it is a requirement of the IBC and the IECC!  To learn more about this application, visit, where resources are available specifically for commercial buildings.  Use the steel wall calculator to see how much continuous insulation can improve your thermal performance

Please watch this short video, with in a series of videos we are highlighting, for a quick review of the concepts introduced above:



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

PIMA's Pazera Appointed to Key Building Code Committee

Wed, 2019-02-06 16:44
Building Science

Marcin Pazera (PIMA Technical Director) was recently appointed to serve as the Secretary for the National Institute of Building Sciences’ (NIBS) National Council on Building Codes and Standards (NCBCS). In this role, Mr. Pazera will contribute to the robust dialogue on codes and standards related to the building and construction industry. Mr. Pazera will ensure that positions on key advocacy topics related to energy efficiency, resiliency, and building enclosure performance are addressed and discussed. Mr. Pazera aims to collaborate with other NIBS Councils, including the Building Enclosure Technology and Environment Council (BETEC) to provide and deliver relevant and accurate information on polyiso product performance.




Icynene-Lapolla Releases Open-Cell, No-Mix Spray Foam

Wed, 2019-02-06 16:39
Energy Efficiency

Icynene-Lapolla, the global supplier and manufacturer of high performance, energy efficient building envelope solutions, today announced it’s all new Icynene OC No-Mix insulation. An open-cell spray foam solution for both homes and commercial structures, the high-performance material is notable for providing enhanced energy efficiency, long-tern energy cost savings and an easy no-mix application. Icynene OC No-Mix will be introduced this week at Sprayfoam Show 2019 in the Icynene-Lapolla booth #603. 

Icynene OC No-Mix is ideal for application in critical insulation areas within the structure including: cavity walls, crawl spaces and attics (both vented and unvented) as well as floor, ceiling and interior roof assemblies. The professionally-installed spray applied material seals the structure, providing a continuous air barrier, offering exceptional performance in the reduction of heat transfer. The product also significantly reduces unmanaged moisture. These performance characteristics enhance indoor comfort and air quality, maintain temperatures, and greatly reduce heating and cooling demands as well as the costs associated with them. The insulation offers the added benefit of noise attenuation.

“The energy savings and application ease of Icynene OC No-Mix provide attractive advantages to both the contractor and the property owner,” said Doug Kramer, president and CEO of Icynene-Lapolla. “As the first no-mix spray foam solution to join the Icynene product line, we believe demand for this insulation will be high for use in new and retrofit home and commercial applications.”

Icynene OC No-Mix is ideal for use across climate zones and may be spray-applied in a wide range of temperatures. During application the insulation solution requires no mixing, providing additional ease to contractors, saving time and costs associated with installation. The insulation firmly adheres to framing members and substrates and can be used to fill stud wall construction. It has passed the AC 377 End Use Configuration Criteria meeting building code requirements for use with no additional ignition barrier required with limited-access attic and crawlspace applications and is approved in multiple fire rated constructions. Icynene OC No-Mix also meets Florida FBC 2017 building code energy requirements and complies with IBC, IRC, and IECC 2018, 2015 and 2012 requirements.

Johns Manville’s New Formaldehyde-Free Batt Insulation

Wed, 2019-01-30 22:59
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

Johns Manville, a Berkshire Hathaway company and leading building products manufacturer, announced today the launch of JM Formaldehyde-free™ Cavity-SHIELD™, a NFPA 13 compliant, fiberglass batt insulation for use in the concealed spaces of multifamily buildings. Cavity-SHIELD provides an alternative solution to sprinklers in the interstitial space and further increases the breadth of JM’s full line of insulation products. 

Cavity-SHIELD fiberglass batts are a noncombustible insulation product made up of long, resilient glass fibers bonded with thermosetting resin. The batts are designed for use in concealed spaces between floors, serving as a passive fire solution for limiting potential flame spread between and through floors. 

When installed per the NFPA 131, Cavity-SHIELD eliminates the need for sprinkler systems within concealed floor spaces, saving construction time and money and eliminating long-term maintenance and water leaks. 

Additional product advantages include:

  • Simple installation: Batts are friction-fit into cavities, without the need for special equipment, reducing the time and resources required for installers to complete the job
  • Smart engineering: Available in a wide range of thicknesses, Cavity-SHIELD can be easily cut with a standard utility knife to fit in any cavity size 
  • Cost-effective alternative: Cavity-SHIELD is another option for construction professionals looking for passive fire protection and a cost-effective alternative to blow-in or sprinklers in the interstitial space
  • Durability: Fiberglass has proven to withstand the life of the project and will not rot, mildew or deteriorate
  • Formaldehyde-free™: JM Formaldehyde-free™ insulation products promote higher indoor air quality and environments, while also limiting exposure to harmful volatile organic compounds, which could cause health problems
  • Sound control: Cavity-SHIELD offers the same acoustical reduction benefits between floors when compared to other JM insulation products

 “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,” said 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.”

Johns Manville Formaldehyde-free™ Cavity-SHIELD™ is available immediately. Visit or call 800-654-3103 to learn more. 


Busting Four Common Myths About Today’s Insulation

Wed, 2019-01-30 22:54
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

With fluffy insulation materials, air movement greatly lowers real-world insulation performance

Winter is the season when people think most about home insulation because winter is when we feel the greatest need — both physically and financially. The thing is, you have to think correctly about insulation if you want to make wise upgrade decisions. Break free of the four most popular insulation myths and you’ll be warmer and wealthier.

Myth#1: R values accurately reflect real-world energy performance

R value is the most common yardstick for measuring insulation performance in Canada, but there’s a problem. Lab analysis of R values is what you see on insulation packaging, but it’s based on testing that completely eliminates air movement from results. This matters a lot with fluffy insulation materials because air movement greatly lowers real-world insulation performance. Drafts and air currents often happen within wall cavities and attics and this is why real-world insulation performance can be significantly lower than advertised values.

On the other hand, insulation products that don’t allow air movement through them (spray foams and rigid foams, for instance) have real-world insulation values almost identical to what you see on packaging and advertising. Their performance doesn’t decline. Air-impervious insulations can be more than twice as effective as air-porous insulations of the same R value under real-world conditions.

Myth#2: Vapour barriers trap moisture

The purpose of a vapour barrier is to stop warm, moist, indoor air from infiltrating fibre-type insulation during cold weather and condensing. Visible moisture or frost on the inside of a vapour barrier is either caused by a leaky vapour barrier or moisture migrating into the wall cavity from the outside. Leaky siding can cause this, and it often happens in basements that are apparently leak free. Vapour barriers are essential for any kind of insulation that air can pass through. Never do the really foolish thing of slashing a vapour barrier that you find has moisture behind it or forgetting to install a vapour barrier in the first place. Today’s best vapour barriers prevent moisture from moving into wall cavities while also letting trapped moisture escape.

Myth#3: Spray foam is bad

Back in the 1970s, urea formaldehyde spray foam was used to insulate homes. This proved to be a problem because authorities didn’t fully understand the dangers of urea formaldehyde off-gassing at the time. Just don’t let yourself think that all spray foam is harmful today. That’s too simplistic.

Properly applied spray foam delivers safe results and outstanding air sealing. Nothing else works as well as closed-cell spray foam for sealing and insulating.

Myth#4: Batt insulation is good for cathedral ceilings 

Stuffing batts between rafters in a cathedral ceiling and covering them with vapour barrier is common but risky because there’s no place for condensation to escape if it builds up within the roof structure. And build up it probably will. Unlike walls, roofs are more likely to have air leaks that lead to internal condensation and frost during winter. That’s why it’s not unusual for water to leak down through cathedral ceilings in spring, as a winter’s worth of frost melts and trickles out. Cathedral ceilings insulated with batts need open vent space from eaves to peak to prevent cold weather condensation, or they need to be insulated with spray foam.

Insulating properly isn’t as straightforward as it looks and it’s easy to understand why. Heat loss is invisible, insulation products are usually hidden and the physics of air movement and condensation are widely misunderstood. Let facts bust the four top insulation myths and you’ll be much closer to optimizing the energy performance of your home.


Can Spray Foam Make Homes 40% More Energy Efficient?

Wed, 2019-01-30 22:41
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

With more winter weather ahead, many are looking to lower their power and gas bills. Last January a brutal cold snap left many with bills they couldn't afford. Experts say one key to keeping your energy use in check, is with adequate home insulation.

Chance Segers, owner of Allied Insulation in Birmingham, says more energy efficient insulation can translate into big savings. "You can see upwards 30 to 40 percent savings depending on how the home is currently insulated," advises Segers.

And it's not just about the money. "The feel, the comfort is the biggest thing customers notice," says Segers.

The higher end spray foam is more expensive, but Segers says even adding the more traditional insulation will pay off. Companies can also assess a home for drafts and other areas that need to be addressed to conserve energy.

Utilities like Alabama Power offer online energy check-ups to see what's draining the most electricity in your home. You can also set up alerts online to let you know when your bill hits a certain point and monitor your daily usage.

OSB Prices Drop Sharply, More Cost Competitive

Wed, 2019-01-30 22:11
Raw Materials

While most building materials prices showed little movement in December, prices paid for OSB fell by double digits for the second consecutive month.

That’s roughly a price of $5.78 per 4x8 sheet of OSB, compared to $8.91 a year ago. This makes OSB much more cost competitive as an exterior sheathing product against alternatives.

OSB prices declined 12.0% (NSA) in December after falling 13.7% in November. Prices paid for OSB decreased 22.4% in 2018 and have fallen 36.7% since hitting their most recent peak.

Data from Random Lengths shows even steeper declines over the latter half of 2018. Unlike the PPI, which excludes the prices of imports, Random Lengths data includes purchases in the United States and Canada regardless of the country of origin. These data show that the prices of OSB and softwood lumber have fallen 52.0% and 43.0%, respectively, since June’s high mark.

USG Leadership Team to Leave After Knauff Merger

Wed, 2019-01-30 21:41

Editor’s Note: The article below outlines significant leadership changes for USG Corporation, a manufacturer of mineral wool insulation, upon its merger with Knauf, a leading global producer of building products including insulation.

USG Corporation President and Chief Executive Officer Jennifer F. Scanlon today announced that she intends to leave USG upon, and subject to, the completion of the pending merger with Gebr. Knauf KG (“Knauf”). Ms. Scanlon will continue to serve as President and CEO until closing, continuing to focus on executing USG’s business plans and strategies, and ensuring a smooth transition for USG’s employees, customers and other stakeholders.

“It has been a great privilege to serve as President and CEO of USG, and I am very proud of the work done by the USG team to align our strategy with customer needs and accelerate innovation,” said Ms. Scanlon. “Our shareholders will realize significant and certain cash value upon the closing of the merger, and our employees and customers will benefit from the creation of a global building materials leader that will leverage two highly complementary businesses to better meet the needs of our customers. Until the closing it’s business as usual at USG. Following the closing, I will continue to advocate for innovation in the construction industry and promote STEM education to expand opportunities for talented students in manufacturing.”

Ms. Scanlon has served in leadership roles at USG for sixteen years. As a senior executive, she led the execution of some of the Company’s most significant strategic moves in recent history, including establishing the USG Boral Building Products joint venture and the divestiture of L&W Supply Corporation. Ms. Scanlon became USG’s President and CEO effective November 1, 2016.

“Jenny became President and CEO at a time of significant change for our business, refocusing the Company on growth and innovation, and building a strong team. On behalf of the USG Board of Directors, I would like to thank Jenny for her strong leadership and extraordinary contributions to the success of our Company,” said Steven F. Leer, Chairman of the USG Board of Directors.

In addition to Ms. Scanlon, the Company anticipates that several other members of the USG executive team will depart USG following, and subject to, the closing of the merger. The departing executives include:

  • Matthew F. Hilzinger, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer
  • Brian J. Cook, Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer
  • Dominic A. Dannessa, Executive Vice President and Chief Customer and Innovation Officer
  • Gregory D. Salah, Senior Vice President, USG Corporation and President, Gypsum
  • Michelle M. Warner, Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary

“We thank these talented executives for their leadership and for their service to USG, our customers and employees,” said Mr. Leer.

These leadership changes will only become effective upon closing of the merger with Knauf. The Company expects the merger will close in early 2019 subject to the receipt of certain regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions. Until that time, both companies will continue to operate as separate businesses under their current leadership structures.


LEED 4.1 Seeks Innovative Energy Efficiency

Wed, 2019-01-30 21:34
Building CodesBuilding Science

Today, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) announced that its newest version of the LEED green building program, LEED v4.1, is open for registration for both new construction projects as well as interior spaces with LEED v4.1 BD+C and LEED v4.1 ID+C.

“The hallmark of LEED is ‘continuous improvement’ – and that is exactly where we are going with LEED v4.1,” said Mahesh Ramanujam, president & CEO, USGBC. “LEED v4.1 is set to raise the bar. It is the most comprehensive, collaborative, accessible and effective LEED system to date. From improving energy performance to emphasizing human health and integrative building design, LEED is encouraging project teams to operate beyond the status quo.”

The goal of LEED v4.1 is to make the rating system more accessible to more projects based on lessons learned from LEED v4 project teams. This newest beta version updates performance thresholds and referenced standards to ensure LEED remains the global leadership standard for green buildings and continues to expand the marketplace for LEED. The changes also advocate for improved performance throughout the life of buildings, rewards leaders based on their performance and incorporates performance reporting to enable building owners to track progress towards environmental, social and governance goals. Currently, there are more than 96,200 commercial projects participating in LEED in 167 countries and territories.

“LEED v4.1 is aimed at addressing the challenges projects face as they pursue their sustainability goals,” said Melissa Baker, senior vice president, USGBC. BD+C updates referenced standards to encourage leadership and responds to market feedback. ID+C updates mirror BD+C while also focusing on the realities projects experience as they interact with their base building.”

“As the global green building market has evolved, we must evolve with it,” added Ramanujam. “The heart of the green building community’s efforts must go well beyond construction and efficiency, and the materials that make up our buildings. We must dig deeper and focus on what matters most within those buildings: human beings. And this is what LEED v4.1 strives for. The standard we are most committed to raising is that of the quality of life itself—for every member of this community, and in populations spanning every corner of the planet.”

Focused on implementation, LEED v4.1 is an accessible, user-friendly and agile tool. To participate, users can register using LEED Online, review the LEED v4.1 Beta Guide and download the LEED v4.1 rating system. The latest education videos and live online webinars featuring USGBC subject matter experts are also available. USGBC staff will be available to meet in person at any of the 2019 Greenbuild and regional events.

The impact of buildings, cities and communities on people continues to be a priority for USGBC and across industries. Through LEED v4.1 USGBC is expanding its green building efforts to ensure LEED is not only the de facto leadership standard, but also the pre-eminent living standard. To tell those stories USGBC launched the Living Standard campaign to capture how USGBC, LEED and other sustainability programs are raising the quality of life for people around the world. By visiting, individuals and companies can join the campaign and submit their stories.


How Surfactants Reduce Building Wrap Performance

Wed, 2019-01-30 21:30
Building Science

Among the many performance characteristics to consider when choosing a building wrap, surfactant resistance is one that can be easily underestimated. However, builders and contractors who do not having at least a basic understanding of surfactants and how they impact the performance of building wrap could potentially jeopardize the long-term durability of the exterior wall assembly. In this post, we will take a closer look at surfactants and their impact on a building wrap’s ability to control moisture and provide solutions to mitigate surfactant-induced issues.

What is a surfactant?

Surfactants (surface active agents) are contaminants that lower the surface tension of a liquid allowing it to penetrate deeper into the housewrap material. Water soluble extractives in wood such as tannins and wood sugars in redwood and cedar are examples of surfactants that contaminate the surface of building wraps. In addition, surfactants can be found in detergents, soaps and other cleaning solutions used to power wash siding, making surfactants almost impossible to avoid.

The Problem with Surfactants

The problem with surfactants is that these contaminants promote the loss of water repellency, causing “wetting” of the building wrap surface. Once this occurs, water can more easily pass through the microscopic openings in the building wrap. Once moisture finds its way into the building envelope, it can threaten a home’s structural integrity, causing exterior surfaces to deteriorate. Bulk moisture intrusion can also support mold and rot that not only cause structural damage but also pose serious health hazards to building occupants.

When choosing a building wrap, be sure to pay attention to its surfactant resistance capabilities. Not all wraps will provide the same surfactant protection—if any at all. On the other end of the spectrum are building wraps like TYPAR BuildingWrap, MetroWrap and Drainable Wrap that are engineered with a specialized coating that resist surfactants. In fact, in third-party testing commissioned by The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) showed that TYPAR resisted a power wash solution, while Tyvek Homewrap failed, permitting numerous droplets to form and wetting the underlying OSB. The complete testing report can be found here.

Beyond product selection, there are several installation best practices contractors and builders can adhere to in an effort to decrease the potential of surfactant-related issues. 
Renowned building scientist, Joseph Lstiburek, suggests several steps to prevent surfactants from reaching the building wrap material.

As it relates to wood, Lstiburek recommends back-priming and adding an airspace. Back-priming wood clapboards and trim helps to isolate the surfactants in the wood from the building wrap. Similarly, providing an airspace between wood trim and clapboards using furring or some other spacer reduces the quantity and time liquid phase water is trapped in the exterior thereby reducing the potential of surfactant movement.

Stucco should never be installed in direct contact with building wraps as it can adhere to the wrap’s surface, thereby altering its surface energy and allowing housewrap pores to become "wetted."

Due to the vast amount of building wraps and moisture management products on the market, it is more imperative than ever that builders and contractors have the knowledge to make the right product selections to design and build wall systems that perform to today’s standards of high performance, durability and moisture control.


Unique ‘Book House’ Challenges Insulation Installers

Wed, 2019-01-30 17:43
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

Nestled in the foothills of Santa Barbara, California, the Book House is a 7,000 square foot ‘stack of books’ vision come to life. The property owner, a well accomplished publisher and sculptural artist discussing his future project with his architect, was suddenly inspired by a stack of books on a nearby desk. The property owner challenged the architect to design a functional and creative space that resembled a stack of books.

The Design

The Book House is a metal framed structure that features a glass window ceiling in the middle which separates one stack of books from the other. The unique shape throughout the structure means that no single window is standard. Each window throughout the structure is either tilted or altered to suit the unique angles of the books. The eight books in the structure are wrapped in metal giving a distinct ‘well read’ look to the building. Being completely unique in its design, local licensed Icynene® contractor, InsulateSB became involved in the project. The team at InsulateSB advised the property owner that spray foam insulation was an ideal solution to use throughout the structure due to its flexibility, thermal qualities and air-sealing qualities.

Book House (Photos: InsulateSB)

Insulating the Book House

The thick double-framed walls and the unique and odd angles of the Book House initially presented a challenge to the InsulateSB team. The team had to consider effective and precise methods to adequately install the spray foam into the wall and ceiling cavities.

The team at InsulateSB had recommended to the owner that Icynene Classic Ultra™ spray foam insulation be used throughout the property. The team sprayed Icynene Classic Ultra™ spray foam throughout the conditioned roof deck to achieve an R-Value of R-20 at 5.5” and throughout the exterior walls and floors to achieve R-13 at 3.5”.

The InsulateSB team had two experienced sprayers working on the project. Their experience and knowledge helped to overcome the challenges of the double framed walls and irregular framing. An assistant helped move equipment and scaffolding to ensure the sprayers remained focused on the job.

As a light-density spray foam, Icynene Classic Ultra™ offers property owners an array of benefits including thermal comfort and air sealing. Icynene Classic Ultra™ also has excellent sound dampening qualities allowing airborne and flanking noises to be diminished for a quieter space. Following the installation of the spray foam, the team finished the process by using No Burn XD ignition barrier.

The spraying was completed over four days aided by the use of two sprayers working in tandem to successfully complete the job and ensure the unique structure was completely insulated.


Video: The Best Wall We Know How to Make

Wed, 2019-01-30 17:23
Building CodesBuilding ScienceEnergy Efficiency

Picture this: you’ve been tagged to design the building envelope for the next national institution.  Maybe it’s an addition to the Smithsonian, or a presidential library.  In any case, you are building for posterity, and this thing has got to last.  What do you do?

The so-called “institutional wall” is the choice for you!  Start with a durable CMU wall, and protect it from erosion, moisture, and thermal cycling with continuous insulation, a water resistive barrier, an air barrier and a vapor retarder on the outer surface.  Then guard those layers from UV, wind, and precipitation with cladding.  While potentially more costly than alternative wall designs, this system provides the best long-term durability for important buildings.  To better understand the building science at work behind this system, browse through the resources available at  The website content is organized by user type, such as architect/engineer, building official, or builder/contractor.

A quick overview of the institutional wall is given in the following video, part of a series we are highlighting on effective wall design:



Previous articles 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

Related Resources:

DowDuPont CEO Discusses Leadership Approach

Wed, 2019-01-23 21:22
Building ScienceBusiness

Edward D. Breen just spent the last three years merging industrial bastions DuPont Co. and Dow Chemical Co. His next act? Taking the combination apart all over again.

The merger-to-breakup plan, which was set in motion soon after Mr. Breen took DuPont’s helm in 2015, is the kind of corporate chemistry the gravel-voiced former cable-equipment salesman has performed over much of his two decades in C-suites. As chief executive of General Instrument Corp., he engineered its sale to Motorola before joining Tyco International in 2002, where he stabilized the sprawling conglomerate after a corporate-fraud scandal. In 2007, he split Tyco into three companies, then five years later, divided the remaining Tyco into three entities again.

Now as chief executive of the freshly reformulated DowDuPont, Mr. Breen will break it up next year—also into three companies.

DowDuPont CEO Ed Breen talks to The Wall Street Journal about the most important trait in a new hire, how to stay ahead of the competition and his passion for collecting antique canes. Photo: Natalia V. Osipova/The Wall Street Journal

A new Dow will spin off by April as a plastics and packaging maker incorporating DuPont’s materials operations. By June, another spinoff, Corteva Agriscience, will combine Dow and DuPont’s crop seed and pesticide businesses. The remaining company, dubbed DuPont, will build on its predecessors’ businesses in electronics, safety and nutrition products. As of next summer, Mr. Breen plans to serve as DuPont’s executive chairman and a director on Corteva’s board.

In a recent interview at The Wall Street Journal’s New York office, Mr. Breen reflected on building and taking apart companies. Here are edited excerpts:

WSJ: DowDuPont is preparing to break up. So are United Technologies and GE. Are the days of the conglomerate over?

Mr. Breen: I don’t think they’re over. It’s really a case-by-case basis. When I did it at Tyco, I thought it was the best way to create significant shareholder value above and beyond operating what it was. But there are great conglomerates out there that have great business systems or something they’re really an expert at, and they know how to run it.

WSJ: What’s harder: building companies up or taking them apart?

Mr. Breen: I actually like building companies. That’s been the fun of the last three years at DowDuPont. It is a heavy lift to split up a company. It takes time.

But in our case, by putting Dow and DuPont together, preknowing we were going to separate it into three companies, it has really been fascinating. We’ve created literally three industry-leading companies in their respective businesses.

WSJ: Both Dow and DuPont employed a lot of lifers. How do you sell disruptive change?

Mr. Breen: We were very transparent about why we were doing what we were doing. Usually, when you explain something to people, they go, “Alright, that makes sense.”

We solicited [from employees]—“What are your concerns, what questions do you have?” I would personally read all of them the week before I’d do the town hall or communication. We got, on average, 300 questions each time.

WSJ: Activist investors Nelson Peltz and Daniel Loeb played big roles in the run-up to Dow and DuPont’s combination. Why work with activists, after DuPont’s board initially resisted?

Mr. Breen: When I came into DuPont, to me, they were as important as any other investor in the company. We get input from all investors. Overall, I did not disagree with some of the points the activists were making. What they didn’t know, however, was that we had the potential to merge with Dow and then create these three powerful companies. So we were already working on that when they became aware of it.

WSJ: Why invite them into the deal discussions?

Mr. Breen: We signed a nondisclosure with Trian. I thought it was nice to have them on board, endorsing the deal, especially when we came out of the chute.

WSJ: What should CEOs know about working with activists?

Mr. Breen: Talk to them and understand exactly all the details of where they’re coming from. You’re not going to agree with them on everything, but they’re doing their homework also and sometimes they’re making some pretty good points.

WSJ: You’ve curtailed what you call DowDuPont’s “moonshot” projects. When you look across the business landscape, from autonomous vehicles to meat grown from cells, do you see U.S. companies getting overly ambitious?

Mr. Breen: No. When I say moonshots, I don’t want to do large, risky projects that I’m not highly confident have great returns. We work on autonomous cars now. We have R&D projects, that [last] literally, 10, 11, 12 years, like in agriculture. We’re going to do that, but I want to do things that are very safe returns, especially on the really big projects where you’re going to spend hundreds of millions of dollars.

WSJ: How does your experience at DowDuPont compare with your previous chapters running companies?

Mr. Breen: Tyco was very different than DowDuPont simply because of the crisis and the liquidity concern and the bankruptcy concern. So you deal with different issues, but your management style is not different.

In all the companies I’ve been in, having an open and honest assessment of risk has probably been one of the most valuable things I’ve ever done. Some of my biggest strategy moves came from understanding what the risk was in the company.

WSJ: Such as?

Mr. Breen: One of the top risks at DuPont was, “Are we going to be one of the big agriculture companies?” We were not, because of all the consolidation that looked like was going to occur. We took a first-mover advantage because we knew we wanted to be with Dow to get this balanced portfolio of crop [chemicals] and seed. And we moved. If we weren’t honest about that risk, we might be in a different place.

WSJ: Do you have another CEO role in you?

Mr. Breen: I’m not planning on retiring, so it’s not on my radar screen. I’m totally committed to staying with DuPont full-time afterward. I wouldn’t even think about “What after that?” at this point.


MIT Researchers Trying to Improve Energy Use Modeling

Wed, 2019-01-23 21:12
Building Science

Developing a perfectly energy-efficient building is relatively easy to do—if you don't give the building's occupants any control over their environment. Since nobody wants that kind of building, Professor Christoph Reinhart (pictured at right) has focused his career on finding ways to make buildings more energy-efficient while keeping user needs in mind.

"At this point in designing buildings, the biggest uncertainty comes from user behavior," says Reinhart, who heads the Sustainable Design Lab in MIT's Department of Architecture. "Once you understand heat flow, it's a very exact science to see how much heat to add or take from a space."

Trained in physics, Reinhart made the move to architecture because he wanted to apply the scientific concepts he'd learned to make buildings more comfortable and energy-efficient. Today, he is internationally known for his work in what architects call "daylighting"—the use of natural light to illuminate building interiors—and urban-level environmental building performance analysis. The design tools that emerged from his lab are used by architects and urban planners in more than 90 countries.

The Sustainable Design Lab's work has also produced two spinoff companies: Mapdwell, which provides individualized cost-benefit analyses for installing solar panels; and Solemma, which provides environmental analysis tools such as DIVA-for-Rhino, a highly optimized daylighting and energy modeling software component. Reinhart is a co-founder and strategic development advisor at Mapdwell, and he is CEO of Solemma.

Through it all, physics has remained a central underpinning. "Everything our lab develops is based on physics first," says Reinhart, who earned master's degrees in physics from Albert Ludwigs Universität in Freiburg, Germany, and Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada.

Informing design

A lifelong environmentalist, Reinhart says he was inspired to study architecture in part by the work of the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems, which built a completely self-sufficient solar house in Freiburg in the early 1990s.

While finishing his master's thesis, Reinhart says, he also read an article that suggested that features such as color can be more important than performance to architects choosing a solar system—an idea that drove him to find ways to empower architects to consider aesthetics and the environmental performance of their designs at the same time. He began this effort by investigating daylighting at the Technical University of Karlsruhe, Germany.

Light is incredibly important from a design standpoint—architects talk of "painting with light"—but there are also significant technical challenges involved in lighting, such as how to manage heat and glare, Reinhart says.

"You need good sky models and you need good rendering tools to model the light. You also need computer science to make it faster—but that's just the basics," Reinhart says, noting that the next step is to consider how people perceive and use natural light. "This really nuanced way of thinking is what makes daylighting so fun and interesting."

For example, designers typically render buildings with all the blinds open. If they learn that people will keep the blinds down 90 percent of the time with a given design, they are likely to rethink it, Reinhart says, because "nobody wants that."

The daylighting analysis software developed by Reinhart's team in 1998 provides just this kind of information. Known as DAYSIM, it is now used all over the world to model annual daylight availability in and around buildings.

Reinhart has also published textbooks on daylighting: "Daylighting Handbook I: Fundamentals and Designing with the Sun" was published in in 2014, and a second volume, "Daylighting Handbook II: Daylight Simulations and Dynamic Facades," was released last October.

"Daylighting was really my first way into architecture," Reinhart says, noting that he thinks it's wonderful that the field combines "rock solid science" like sky modeling with more subjective questions related to the users' experience, such as: "When is sunlight a liability?" and "When does it add visual interest?"

Teaching and advising

After earning his doctorate in architecture from Technical University in 2001, Reinhart taught briefly at McGill University in Canada before being named an associate professor of architecture at Harvard University's Graduate School of Design. In 2009, the student forum there named him faculty member of the year.

In 2012, he joined the faculty at MIT, where he typically supervises seven or eight graduate students, including about three working on their Ph.D.s. Often, he also has students working in his lab through the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program. Several students majoring in computer science have proved particularly helpful, he says.

"It's amazing what MIT students can implement," he says.

Reinhart is also an instructor, of course, notably teaching 4.401/4.464 (Environmental Technologies in Buildings), which focuses on how to assess the energy efficiency of buildings.

"There's nothing more fun—especially at an institution like MIT—than to teach these concepts," he says.

The MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI) is now working to make that subject available online via MITx, and the class is expected to be part of a planned graduate certificate in energy, according to Antje Danielson, MITEI's director of education.

City-scale modeling

Meanwhile, Reinhart has scaled his own research up to modeling energy use at the city level. In 2016, he and colleagues unveiled an energy model for Boston that estimates the gas and electricity demands of every building in the city—and his team has since assessed other urban areas.

This work has underscored for him how significant user behavior is to calculating energy use.

"For an individual building you can get a sense of the user behavior, but if you want to model a whole city, that problem explodes on you," Reinhart says, noting that his team uses statistical methods such as Bayesian calibration to determine likely behaviors.

Essentially, they collect data on energy use and train the computer to recognize different scenarios, such as the energy used by different numbers of people and appliances.

"We throw 800 user behaviors at a sample of buildings, and since we know how much energy these buildings actually use, we only keep those behavioral patterns that give us the right energy use," Reinhart says, explaining that repeating the process produces a curve that indicates the buildings' most likely uses. "We don't know exactly where people are, but at the urban level, we get it right."

Determining how energy is being used at this broad scale provides critical information for addressing the needs of the energy system as a whole, Reinhart says. That's why Reinhart is currently working with Exelon Corporation, a major national energy provider, to assess energy use in Chicago. "We can say, let's foster these kinds of upgrades and pretty much guarantee that this is how the energy load throughout a neighborhood or for particular substations will change—which is just what utilities want to know," he says.

The food-energy-water nexus

Recently, Reinhart has also begun investigating ways to make food production more energy-efficient and sustainable. His lab is developing a software component that can estimate food yields, associated use of energy and water, and the carbon emissions that result for different types of urban farms.

For example, hydroponic container farming—a system of growing food without soil inside something like a shipping container—is now being promoted by companies in some cities, including Boston. This system typically uses more electricity than conventional farming does, but that energy use can be more than offset by the reduced need for transportation, Reinhart says. Already, Reinhart's team has shown that rooftop and container farming on available land in Lisbon, Portugal, could theoretically meet the city's total vegetable demand.

This work exploring the nexus between food, energy, and water is just the next level of complexity for Reinhart in a career dedicated to moving the needle on sustainability. Fortunately, he's not alone in his work; he has sent a host of young academics out into the world to work on similar concerns.

Reinhart's former graduate students now work at universities including Cornell, Harvard, Syracuse, and the University of Toronto, and he continues to collaborate with them on projects.

It's like having a growing family, says Reinhart, a father of two. "Students never leave. It's like kids."

Kingspan Insulation Transforms History Halifax Hall

Wed, 2019-01-23 21:01
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

The Kingspan OPTIM-R Flooring System and Kingspan Thermaroof TR27 LPC/FM have been installed in floor and roof constructions as part of the multi award-winning transformation of The Piece Hall in Halifax.

The Grade I Listed building first opened in 1779 for the trade in ‘pieces’ of hand-loomed cloth. Following a multi–million-pound transformation project, the building has been reinvented as an outstanding international cultural destination, which is strengthening the local and regional economy and enhancing local pride. The project included the construction of the Calderdale Council’s new adjoining Central Library and Archives, as well as the creation of heritage, leisure, events and retail spaces within the conserved building.

The Council contracted the construction works to GRAHAM Construction, and LDN Architects, with their expertise in conserving historic buildings, they reimagined The Piece Hall into the 21st century destination that it is today.

Due to its age, the three-storey building was entirely uninsulated. Its unusual design, set out around a square, also means it has a significant external envelope relative to its floor size. To improve the energy performance of the building, it was decided that insulation would be integrated within the building envelope wherever possible.

One of the most challenging areas to achieve this was in the basement level. Headroom within this space, which was being converted into a management suite, was already limited. The project team were, therefore, keen to identify a floor insulation solution which could achieve the desired thermal performance with a minimal reduction in floor to ceiling height. This led to the specification of the Kingspan OPTIM-R Flooring System.

The system comprises OPTIM-R vacuum insulation panels, with an exceptionally low thermal conductivity of just 0.007 W/m.K, and OPTIM-R flex infill strips of the same thickness, which can be cut to fill any gaps within the insulation layer. The low thermal conductivity of the OPTIM-R VIPs allowed the desired thermal performance to be met with a system thickness of just 43 mm (inclusive of a 3mm layer of rubber crumb).

Externally, heritage roofing experts — Ploughcroft — oversaw the sensitive restoration of the building’s roof. This required over 10,000 tiles to be carefully checked and, where necessary, repaired. As part of this work, Kingspan Thermaroof TR27 LPC/FM was applied to certain areas of the original building roof.

The roof insulation product has been LPCB approved to LPS 1181: Part 1 and are FM approved for Class 1 steel deck roof assemblies. The Green Guide A rated boards, produced at Kingspan Insulation’s Herefordshire and North Yorkshire manufacturing facilities are certified to the demanding BES 6001 responsible sourcing standard.

The transformed Piece Hall reopened on August 1, 2017 (Yorkshire Day) and has since attracted footfall of over 2.4 million, is making a major contribution to the regeneration of Halifax and beyond, and putting Calderdale on the map nationally and internationally.

The project was made possible by funding from Calderdale Council, £7 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund and support from the Garfield Weston Foundation and the Wolfson Foundation. It’s run by The Piece Hall Trust, an independent charity, to ensure the sustainable future of this magnificent building at the centre of Halifax’s vibrant cultural quarter.


Insulated Metal Panel Maker Promotes Performance Codes

Wed, 2019-01-23 20:51
Building CodesBuilding Science

Building codes are a set of regulations that govern the design, construction, and alteration of structures. A general understanding of building codes helps all parties involved in design and construction understand the specific requirements involved in compliance, preventing errors, delays, cost overruns and most importantly, ensure public safety. There are two primary paths for compliance: prescriptive and performance building codes.


Many sections of building codes are prescriptive, and many projects take this path to demonstrate compliance with safety and performance standards. This approach requires that each element of a building has a minimum acceptable standard. For example, when reviewing energy codes, prescriptive tables require a specific insulation value for different types of wall and roof construction across different climate zones. These tables typically list R and or U-values that are required as minimums for the walls, windows, and roof. When using the prescriptive path to energy code compliance, this method doesn’t require conducting calculations and merely involves following a chart. 


Using performance pathways to establish energy code compliance requires “modeling” the building to predict energy usage against an acceptable baseline. This modeling is performed by using commonly available software that creates a “virtual” building, then uses historical weather information to predict how it would perform under those conditions. There are two different types of performance pathways. The first is referred to as the envelope trade-off method. This method allows the building designer to make trade-offs between various components of the building envelope. If certain building elements perform especially well, it allows more leniency with other elements. For example, if the walls have thicker than required insulation, it might allow the building to have less insulation in the roof, or perhaps less efficient windows or doors than what might be allowed under the prescriptive approach. The second performance method allows the designer to make trade-offs between the building envelope components and the various systems used to heat, cool and light the building. This method also requires the use of computer modeling to establish energy code compliance.

When using insulated metal panels and the prescriptive tables, it is critical to use U-values instead of R-values to determine the level of insulation required. This is because the R-value prescriptive tables in the code are based on fiberglass batts in combination with rigid insulation boards. IMPs are much more efficient than fibrous insulation systems, and there is very little drop-off between rated and in-place R-values. Using U-value tables take this into account and provide a more accurate depiction of IMP performance.    

When using the performance pathways to energy code compliance, IMP U-values are entered into the model, allowing the building designer to optimize the various building components, equipment and assemblies, saving money, time and operating expenses.

Want to learn more about meeting energy codes for your next project with insulated metal panels? Speak with an expert from Metl-Span today.


LSU Uses Atlas' Polyiso CI to Retrofit Historic Stadium

Wed, 2019-01-23 20:45
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

The Louisiana State University (LSU) recently renovated the club level suites in their historic stadium with a polyiso insulation to increase occupant comfort.

The club suites provide private seating and amenities for guests. Since the rooms were located directly above poorly insulated cast concrete corridors, the guests experienced extreme temperature variations.

The contractors employed an exterior continuous insulation (ci) to ensure long-term energy efficiency.

There are 76 mm (3 in) of ci on the ceilings. The panels provide an R-value of 19.7, making it one of the most energy-efficient solutions the contractor has reviewed. Its durable aluminum facers and water-resistive barrier (WRB) capability result in a high-performance rigid insulation, and its Class-A fire resistance properties were a suitable choice for a space that prioritizes public safety. While designed to be used on the exterior, the insulation system also works well for interior ceilings where a smooth structure and clean appearance is desirable, as was the case at the LSU stadium.

The panels and fasteners were painted gray to match the concrete walls of the corridors. The insulation was then installed on the ceiling over a period of 30 days.

The flooring in the suites now hold a high R-value, thereby improving temperature control and keeping guests comfortable during both the intense summer heat and colder fall months.




Popular Mechanics Helps Consumers Evaluate Insulation

Wed, 2019-01-23 20:37
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

Proper attic insulation is the best way to prevent heat loss in the winter and retain cool air in the summer. So it's time to pay close attention to what's happening up there.

If you feel like your house is leaking money via a drafty or unsealed attic, conduct an energy audit and/or use a thermal camera to find cool spots up there. It's possible to fill those holes though, depending on the age of your insulation, you might be better off replacing your attic insulation outright instead of filling in the gaps.

Let's Talk R-Value

To start off, determine what R-value is recommended for your home based on your location. You can find this information from the Department of Energy. If you aren't familiar with R-value, it's basically an insulating material's resistance to heat flow, measured by its thermal resistance or R-value. The higher the R-value, the more effective an insulating material is. Your home's R-value score will guide you toward the type of insulation you need.

In general, an attic's R-value should be between R-30 and R-49. In particularly cold climates, you might go up to R-60. Let's say the insulation you've selected has an R-value of three per inch and you'd like to achieve an overall value of R-36. You'll need about 12 inches of insulation material.

Here are the most popular options for attic insulation, along with a ballpark figure on pricing.

Blanket Insulation

Blanket insulation is available as batts or rolls and is the easiest DIY insulation material. It's available in fiberglass, mineral wool, plastic fibers, and natural fibers. This type of insulation is ideal for attics with standard spaced beams and joists and very few obstructions.

Batts must be carefully trimmed to fit snugly around vents to retain their R-value effectiveness. Pricing can vary based on thickness and material, but it's generally 0.15 to 0.50 cents per square foot. You can expect an R-value of 3.1 to 3.8 per inch.

Loose-Fill Insulation

Loose-fill insulation is great for installing in attics with very little headroom and multiple obstructions such as vents and cross-beams. It can be effectively blown over existing insulation and is available in fiberglass, cellulose, and mineral wool. Cellulose is the most effective material and has an R-value of 2.2 to 3.8 per inch, but if exposed to moisture it can get moldy.

This type of insulation can be purchased online or at Home Depot and spread manually, or you can rent an easy-to-use machine that blows it in place, which will cost about $100 per day. Rental is often included for free if you purchase a minimum amount of insulation. If you hire a pro, it costs about $1 per square foot.

Sprayed Foam Insulation

This type of insulation is expensive and not a do-it-yourself project, but it has one of the highest R-values at 3.5 per inch for open-cell and 6.5 for closed-cell.

Both types are made with polyurethane. The difference is that closed-cell foam cells are filled with a gas that helps the foam expand to fill the spaces around it. Open-cell foam cells are filled with air, which gives the insulation a spongy texture. Both types of insulation provide an effective air barrier, but closed-cell insulation can also serve as a moisture vapor barrier if that is needed.

Open-cell spray-foam insulation is roughly $1 to $1.25 per square foot and closed-cell spray foam is about $1.25 to $1.50 per square foot.


Company Develops New Structural Bioplastic...From Wood

Wed, 2019-01-23 20:30
Building ScienceRaw Materials

One B.C. company has developed a method to make bioplastics from wood. But rather than another bio-alternative for plastic straws and containers, Advanced BioCarbon 3D Ltd (ABC3D) is creating a wood-based engineered grade high performance plastic.

Canadian Biomass spoke with chief executive officer Darrel Fry and environmental scientist Kim Klassen to learn more about this innovative process.

“People often think of bioplastics as single-use with low-value functionality, but our products are incredibly high-functioning with exceptionally high heat resistance while being lightweight,” Fry said. “As an example, our goal is to be able to 3D print something like a piston for your car from this material – there’s such high heat resistance, and it’s also very strong.”

The company’s focus is on addressing the broader issue of climate change, rather than the over-production of single-use plastics, Klassen said. “If we have extreme weather events happening all the time, it’s going to interrupt every part of society. So, climate change, above all other environmental concerns, is important and that is what this company addresses through product development, through sustainable bioplastics made from renewable resources.

“Our products are carbon negative, so that’s not just reducing the impact on climate change, we’re actually helping to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.”

ABC3D makes its products from wood chips by extracting the resins from wood. “Using a closed-loop manufacturing system, we are able to produce a sustainable product that is non-toxic and renewable,” Klassen said. “The process uses green chemistry and starts with wood chips from the forest industry that are mixed with a solvent and put through a series of pressurized heating and cooling phases to extract the resin from the wood chips. All solvent from the manufacturing process is put back into the system to be reused again.”

This technology was developed by ABC3D’s founders Hélène Bélanger and Ross Prestidge who researched the process for more than a decade. The production of commercial resins is not new but it’s the quality of the resin that the company is producing that creates these advanced sustainable materials.

The company currently operates a pilot plant and is working to scale production to have retail sales of 3D filaments available by the first quarter of 2019.

ABC3D’s head office is located in Rossland, B.C., but the wood to plastics process takes place under the same roof as MIDAS (Metallurgical Industrial Development Acceleration and Studies) Fab Lab in Trail, B.C., which is an applied research, commercialization and digital fabrication training facility.

Being an on-demand print centre, the MIDAS Fab Lab is one of ABC3D’s target customers and in their target client market. They are currently testing the product with ABC3D, while Selkirk College and ABC3D were recently awarded a $300,000 grant from the government of British Columbia’s organization, BCIC Ignite, to purchase equipment for testing and producing filaments. Besides on-demand print centres, other target clients include the 3D printer manufacturers themselves and OEM (original equipment manufacturers) suppliers.

Other verification and development has been done by the National Research Centre Industrial Materials Institute (NRC-IMI) in Boucherville, Que. “The feedback from them is that they were happy with the results they received from their testing,” Fry said. “The project results, in their words, were, ‘well above their expectations.’”

The company is currently using hardwood trees to make its products, so Fry said they aren’t competing with the forest industry for fibre.

“There currently is no viable market for those hardwood trees,” he said. “We’re actually helping to create a new market for fibre. The cost to the forestry companies is already there to cut down and process unwanted species, so what we’re saying is, they’ll still have those costs, but now they’ll have an opportunity where they can continue to harvest that tree, take it out of the forest, and bring it to market.”

The process also works well with softwoods and future testing will reveal the exact methodology required to extract the highest quality resins from those species.

After demonstrating the process to a 10 tonne scale per day of wood chips, the next goal is the commercial scale (in two years) where volumes are expected to reach 60–250 tonnes of wood chips a day.

“We are targeting to have our sales in 3D filaments start in the first quarter of 2019 and then roll out a number of different filaments with additional characteristics such as carbon fibre reinforced filament, conductive filament and filaments that are reinforced with other wood fibres, beyond our first products, which are a blended traditional printing filament,” Fry said.

“Our company is proving that from wood we can make sustainable, economical, high performance plastics,” Fry said.