Energy Efficiency and Building Science News

Several State Legislatures Take Action on Energy Code

Wed, 2019-04-03 17:08
Building Codes

Below are summaries of state legislative actions that could have an impact on the energy code:

Minnesota Moves to Slow Code Updates

On March 12, the Minnesota Senate Finance and Policy and Elections Committee considered legislation (S.F. 2006) that would significantly slow the updating of residential building codes if the update increased the average cost of constructing a residence by $1,000 or more, which is less than one percent of the cost of an average house in Minnesota. The bill would slow updates for any improved energy cost savings or life safety improvements.

The bill was approved on a contested voice vote of the committee, and has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee. This is the third time this bill has been proposed in Minnesota. Minnesota is one of the few states with a divided legislature.

Virginia Governor Signs Bill Supporting Net Positive Energy Schools

On March 26, the Governor of Virginia signed legislation that requires new and renovated schools to achieve net positive energy performance using industry standards. ASHRAE’s Advanced Energy Design Guide is specifically named in the legislation as a guide that can be used to achieve this result.

Utah Updates Commercial Energy Code

Governor Herbert signed HB 218 this week, which updates Utah’s commercial energy code to the 2018 IECC.

Colorado Looks to Push Local Jurisdictions Toward IECC

HB 1260 was introduced in Colorado this week to require local jurisdictions to adopt one of the 3 most recent versions of the IECC.

New Hampshire Seeks to Update Energy Codes

NH H 562 passed the House and was referred to Senate Executive and Departments on March 21, 2019. It would advance the 2015 energy code.

High-Cost Cities Justify Use of Aerogel Insulation?

Wed, 2019-04-03 16:58
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

A seemingly simple, six-story apartment complex is going up in Zurich, Switzerland, and is putting to the test a number of new technologies that showcase a more sustainable approach to new construction.

The project, Hohlstrasse 100, is designed by Dietrich Schwarz Architekten and is rising next to an existing, two-story commercial space that’s also being renovated and connected to the new building underground. The firm’s namesake principal has written extensively on environmental concerns in architecture and advocates a view of architectural history “from modernism to the ‘one planet society,’” which has manifested itself in projects like the 1996 Solarhaus I and the 2007 Eulachhof “zero-energy” housing complex.

Claiming that “architectural and spatial planning” is the cause of greater than 40 percent of global energy consumption, Schwarz has proposed that future structures “will be created in which the building envelope and building service systems complement one another optimally.” That ethos is being advanced in Hohlstrasse 100, which is, in part, supported by the Swiss Federal Office of Energy. Loaded with new technology, the residences will be a pilot for a new form of vacuum-insulated glass windows, hot water, and other monitoring systems, as well as new phase-change materials. The windows will also feature unique soundproofing, tested at Empa at ETH Zurich, that will allow them to be opened to the noisy street below for natural ventilation.

The structure is loaded with innovative technology: vacuum insulated glass windows, hot water monitoring, new phase-change materials, general building monitoring systems, and an ultra-thin aerogel-insulated facade. (Courtesy Dietrich Schwarz Architekten)

Hohlstrasse 100 is also testing ground for aerogel insulating technologies, designed in the lab of Jannis Wernery at Empa. While aerogels have been used in many renovations, and also recently at the research-showhome DFAB HOUSE, Wernery says this is first new construction in Switzerland to create a facade entirely using aerogel. The material, an ultralight gel that uses gas instead of a liquid, has incredibly low density and thermal conductivity.

Overall, the building is extremely high-efficiency in terms of insulation abilities for its size. The ultra-thin wood, MDF, and aerogel facade make it a primarily a wood structure coming in at just 135mm. Although aerogel is costly, in expensive cities like Zurich the gain in interior square footage (and its attendant profitability) more than compensates for the additional price while providing long-term energy efficiency, according to Wernery. For the architects, this thinness and space efficiency is also part of the building’s conceptual conceit. It reads with the “compression” that so distinctly defines modern urban buildings and cities themselves.


RCI Rebrands to Include Building Envelope

Wed, 2019-04-03 16:54
Building Science

On April 1, 2019, RCI, Inc., a nonprofit association originally incorporated in 1983 as the Roof Consultants Institute (RCI), will officially become the International Institute of Building Enclosure Consultants (IIBEC; pronounced eye-bec).

The change, approved by its membership after extensive study, brand assessment, and industrywide feedback, will align the association’s name and brand with its purpose and strategy heading into the future.

RCI has grown from a small core of dedicated roof consultants to represent some 3600 members, comprised of building enclosure consultants and other industry stakeholders specializing in roofing, waterproofing, and exterior wall specification and design. The evolving focus of the institute’s members in embracing the entire building enclosure called for a name that would clearly define its purpose as:

  • An international association 
  • A professional institute representing building enclosure consultants – architects, engineers and others such as ex-contractors who have gained the required education and experience 
  • A knowledge hub and leading authority on all things building enclosure (roofing, waterproofing and exterior walls) 
  • An institute attractive to professionals of all ages, races, and gender
  • An industry leader endeavoring to increase exposure, recognition, and usage of the institute’s resources by nonmember architects and engineers, government agencies (state and federal), as well as end-users such as school boards, universities, facility managers, etc. 

Kindly note that all correspondence, financial transactions, contracts, and references to RCI should be changed to the International Institute of Building Enclosure Consultants or IIBEC as of April 1.


Atlas Roofing's Robertson Explains Facility Insulation

Wed, 2019-04-03 16:48
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

Insulation stays out of sight, but when you’re expanding your building or installing a new roof, it should be top of mind. Facilities professionals who are new to the field or are taking on their first expansion project are facing a steep learning curve.

However, there are a few key facts that apply to every insulation project. One of the most important is whether your project meets or exceeds code requirements. Your local code sets out minimum insulation requirements for your roof and walls. Going beyond code requirements can make a dent in your energy consumption by keeping heat from transferring where it shouldn’t.

Here are the basics that new facilities managers need to know to investigate the best insulation material for walls and roofs.

How Energy Codes Classify Insulation

The International Energy Conservation Code and ASHRAE Standard 90.1, the two standards on which most jurisdictions’ energy codes are based, set out three classifications for roof types and four for walls.

  • Roofs: insulation above deck, metal buildings, attic and other
  • Walls: mass, metal building, steel-framed, wood-framed

Each one has its own baseline requirements for the thermal envelope—the combination of the roof, walls, slabs and other components that keep heat from moving between the outside and inside of your building.

Requirements may vary depending on which climate zone your building is located in and your conditioning needs. At a minimum, your walls and roof will have to deliver a certain R-value (a measurement of how well an insulating material resists heat flow).

“The key locations for insulation are wall cavities that aren’t taken up by windows—where there’s not glazing, you’ll have insulation in the wall systems,” explains Charlie Haack, director of technical services for the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association (NAIMA).

“For ceilings, typically on flat roofs you need something a little more resilient, so depending on the structure of the building, a flat roof will use something like rock wool or a foam board. If you have a pitched roof, the most common application is fiberglass. It will be hand-blown just like a house, but it’s a larger structure. Metal buildings are built a little differently—you’re able to use fiberglass insulation at the roof and in the walls, and they’ll have insulation under the roof deck,” he continues.

Insulation Types

Upcycled and renewable materials are gaining popularity as insulation materials, including denim, rigid cork and natural wool. But most roofing projects will feature one of these three common insulation types.

Batt and blanket insulations

These flexible insulation products come in pieces (batts) or rolls (blankets). They include popular insulation products like fiberglass and mineral wool.

Rigid foam board insulation

Like the name implies, these are rigid pieces of insulation that are cut into board shapes or, in some cases, molded into the shape needed for a special application. Common insulation types for rigid foam board insulation include extruded polystyrene insulation (XPS), expanded polystyrene (EPS) and polyisocyanurate, a type of insulation made of rigid foam board sandwiched between two facers, such as paper and fiberglass.

Spray foam

Spray polyurethane foam insulation goes on in a liquid form and expands to fill the area where it’s applied. Spray polyurethane foam is useful for creating continuous insulation with no holes or leaks.

“The best insulation material for your facility is going to boil down to code requirements and climate zones,” explains Tom Robertson, business unit manager for wall insulation at Atlas Roofing Corporation.

“As you need more R-value on your building, you have to start thinking, ‘If I keep putting thicker and thicker insulation onto these buildings in New England, what does that mean for the claddings that I have to attach after I attach that insulation?’ It means they move further and further from the structural framework of the building, so they’re harder to install with all that weight hanging further outbound of the building itself. People have a preference for insulation with higher R-values per inch as you move north specifically for that reason,” says Robertson.

How to Find the Best Insulation Material

Choosing the best insulation material for your building requires an understanding of the role you need the insulation to play. The R-value of the finished assembly is the most important, but the decision around R-value can manifest itself in different ways.

“The various types of insulation have widely ranging R-values,” says Robertson. “That’s usually a matter of cost, or it might be a matter of how much insulation I want to buy. If I have an R-value target, do I use a less expensive insulation and more of it, or do I use a more expensive insulation and less of it?”

Your decision might also include the following six questions:

  1. How does the insulation handle water from the outside?
  2. Can the insulation perform as an air barrier if your building needs one?
  3. Does your code or location dictate the use of a vapor barrier? If so, does the insulation serve that purpose? “For example, an EPS product is a very vapor-open product. A foil-faced polyiso is a vapor-closed product,” Robertson says. “One or the other of those might be the right way to go for you.”
  4. What greenhouse gas emissions were released during the manufacturing of the insulation? “Almost all of our manufacturers have Environmental Product Descriptions that list emissions,” Haack says.
  5. How easy is it to install the insulation?
  6. How much does it cost?

“The No. 1 thing you’re choosing here is what you’re going to spend on energy in the coming years,” Robertson says. “A lot of people overlook R-value. We get caught up in whether it manages vapor or fire, but the first thing it’s got to do is insulate. Insulate the building first, then make sure the insulation you’ve chosen is going to meet the code requirements for fire performance – and they probably all will.

A large part of your energy bill undoubtedly comes from your HVAC system, which is paramount for occupant comfort. But the precision and flexibility of HVAC controls has come a long way to make the technology more efficient. Learn more >>

“To me, it’s baffling how many people today are making poor insulation choices because they’re distracted by other performance characteristics that are also met by the other insulations they have to choose from,” adds Robertson. “There are no insulations being sold onto the market today that can’t be put into a building in a code-compliant construction.”

Many factors will affect your final insulation choice. One thing is certain, however – there’s no single best insulation material out there. The best insulation material for your facility will have a reasonably high R-value for your area and account for code requirements, local weather patterns, cost and your organization’s own priorities for insulation materials. Once you understand what you need the insulation to do, you’ll be better equipped to specify the right material.


Hunter Panels' Exterior Sheathing Featured in New HQ

Wed, 2019-04-03 16:42
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

Hennecke Group, leader in manufacturing and supply of polyurethane processing equipment and plants, has shifted its North American headquarters to a new purpose-built facility south of Pittsburgh, Penn. The new headquarters has a research and development laboratory, a modern parts warehouse and areas for machinery repair and mixhead rebuilding services.

The new headquarters also features more office and conference space. Modern construction methods and better use of space resulted in a more efficient and sustainable structure. 

"This building better represents the innovation and leading polyurethane technology that we provide," said Lutz Heidrich, general manager of Hennecke. "We even used some of the materials that our customers make to construct the building." 

The new building is insulated with continuous, foil-faced polyiso panels made by Hunter Panels, a Carlisle Construction Materials company. It also contains hot water heaters manufactured by Bradford White. Both companies are Hennecke customers. 

Besides flexible- and rigid-faced insulating panels and hot water heaters, Hennecke manufactures equipment and supplies plants that make a wide variety of polyurethane-based products for the automotive, transportation, refrigeration, household goods, marine and aerospace, footwear, clothing, sporting goods, furniture, bedding, mattress and building and construction industries. 

Hennecke is the only machinery, plant and system supplier capable of providing solutions for all core technologies in polyurethane processing. The North American headquarters is one of many Hennecke Group locations worldwide. Besides its corporate headquarters in Germany, Hennecke operates facilities in Italy, Brazil, Mexico, China, Singapore, South Korea, India and Russia.

Soprema and 3M Co-Develop New Roofing Membrane

Wed, 2019-04-03 16:27
Building ScienceBusiness

Building owners, architects, roofing consultants and contractors now have a new go-to means of addressing reflectivity codes across North America thanks to a joint effort between SOPREMA and 3M.

SOPREMA and 3M have developed brand-new highly reflective white granules for use with SOPREMA’s SBS-modified bitumen roof membrane product line. The result is new-generation SOPRALENE SG and ELASTOPHENE SG modified bitumen cap sheets enhanced with 3M Highly Reflective Granules.

According to a press release from SOPREMA, these new-generation SG cap sheets build upon the success of SOPREMA’s reflective roofing products currently on the market. New SOPREMA SG granulate-surfaced cap sheets are improved with 3M Highly Reflective Granules, bringing improved durability and an even brighter white appearance to the market. Moving forward, the new 3M ultrareflective granule will be integrated into SOPREMA SG products to create solutions that provide the solar reflective index (SRI) ratings needed to comprehensively meet the highest U.S. and Canadian reflectivity requirements while providing the proven protection factor of multi-ply SBS-modified bitumen systems.

“We are pleased to be the first to provide this technology: a bright, reflective system without sacrificing multilayer bituminous waterproofing performance,” said Matt Davis, product manager for roof membranes at SOPREMA. “Our new SG products are not only durable and maintain their reflectance over the life of the products, but are also lighter weight for easier handling and application for the installer.”

“SOPREMA has been a strong customer for some time, and we were pleased to work with them on this innovative endeavor.  We’re proud to provide building owners with a reliable solution that is compliant with reflectivity regulations and helps reduce urban heat island effects,” said Amy McLaughlin, business director and general manager, 3M Industrial Mineral Products Division. “SOPREMA’s R&D team provided valuable insights on market and manufacturing needs and helped us conduct large-scale trials during the development of 3M Highly Reflective Granules. As a result of 3M working closely with the customer to create a solution that meets a specific market need, 3M’s new highly reflective granules exceed expectations during and after manufacturing and enable cap sheets to have high solar reflectivity levels years after installation.”


Kingspan Launches Competition for Building Designers

Wed, 2019-04-03 16:23
Building ScienceBusiness

Kingspan Insulation LLC, a leading manufacturer in energy efficiency and moisture management products, has announced its new King for a Day Sweepstakes.

Contractors, builders, architects and engineers can enter for a chance to win $1,000 to live like a king for a day. Each quarter, one lucky winner will receive a $750 StubHub gift card to see his or her favorite band or sports team, and a $250 American Express gift card for use on food, transportation and much more.

“Construction and building design professionals are integral to community development, and we are excited to award four lucky winners with the opportunity to truly live like a king, or queen, for a day through this sweepstakes,” said Suzanne Diaz, Marketing Manager, Kingspan Insulation North America. “For an extra chance to win, entrants can also submit a photo of themselves with Kingspan GreenGuard products or their GreenGuard project and will have a chance to be featured on our social media.”

Entrants can build like a king too by using Kingspan’s GreenGuard portfolio of products which offer energy efficiency and moisture management products including extruded polystyrene (XPS) insulation board, air barrier building wraps and accessories such as flashing. GreenGuard products create healthier, more durable and cost-efficient structures while also helping meet “green” building certification requirements.

For more information or to enter the King for a Day Sweepstakes, please visit Kingspan Insulation at the International Builders’ Show at booth C7548 or go to

No purchase necessary. To be eligible, submissions must be received by the following deadlines listed for each drawing: 1st Drawing – 11:59pm EST, Wednesday, April 10, 2019. 2nd Drawing – 11:59pm EST, Wednesday, July 10, 2019. 3rd Drawing – 11:59pm EST, Thursday, October 10, 2019. 4th Drawing – 11:59pm EST, Friday, January 10, 2020.

Kingspan Insulation LLC, headquartered in Atlanta, GA, is a leading manufacturer in energy efficiency and moisture management products, offering high-performance insulation, building wraps and pre-insulated HVAC ductwork.

 Kingspan Insulation LLC is part of the Kingspan Group plc., one of Europe’s leading construction product manufacturers. The Kingspan Group was formed in the late 1960s and is a publicly traded group of companies headquartered in Kingscourt, County Cavan, Ireland. Kingspan Group has manufacturing, distribution and commercial operations throughout Europe, North America, Australasia, the Middle East and other locations across the globe.


Approving a P.E.’s Work; Can a Building Official Deny?

Tue, 2019-04-02 12:07
Engineering & Testing

Graphic 1: An example process for complaint about the practice of engineering. There is a similar process for architects.

The answer to whether or not a Building Official can deny a Professional Engineer from practicing their trade under individual state professional licensing laws is contained in state law. The board of Professional Engineers is the only regulatory authority that has jurisdiction over engineering. So what does this mean? A properly licensed Professional Engineer shall be allowed to practice engineering, without discrimination, restraint or limitation, in their area of expertise as defined in the engineering laws of the state. The same is process and concepts are true for licensed professional architects.

As an example (see Graphic 1), the Florida Board of Professional Engineers has a process by which engineers that are violating professional engineering law will be investigated. This is a legal process that follows a standard investigation of the evidence, assessing legal sufficiency and probable cause of a violation of professional engineering law.

Graphic 2: Example sealed design document by a professional engineer as an approved source.

So, can a Building Official deny the any engineering work of a properly licensed Professional Engineer that has signed and sealed their engineering work?

The quick answer is no, because a Building Official does not have regulatory jurisdiction over any signed and sealed engineering or the individual engineer. If the Building Official believes the engineer is violating the law, they need to follow the proper state law complaint process through the licensing board governing engineering.

Consequently, the Building Officials that the Structural Building Components Association (SBCA) interacts with approve the work of Professional Engineers using the following step-by-step procedure:

Graphic 3: An example of state search engine to find licensed professional engineers or architects.

  1. Verify that the Professional Engineer licensed to practice in my jurisdiction by going to the state board’s website to see if the engineer in question has a valid and current license. An example validation site can be found here.
  2. If the Professional Engineer is licensed in the state and has signed and sealed their engineering work, they are defined by law to be an approved source, which is a term specifically defined in the building code as “an independent person, firm or corporation, approved by the building official, who is competent and experienced in the application of engineering principles to materials, methods or systems analyses”.
  3. Approve the work of a professional engineer by filing a signed and sealed engineering analysis, research report, design drawing or construction document.

Graphic 4: Ohio’s “Seal Law” 19 years later.

The only caveat to this is if, during the review of the documents provided by the engineer, a code compliance error is made, that error needs to be brought to the attention of the engineer, along with the code section violated, so that the engineer can cure the error.  

The Ohio Board of Building Standards has provided counsel and precedent with respect to the building official approval process in their white paper entitled “OHIO’S “SEAL LAW” 19 YEARS LATER.” The paper specifically states:

“Building officials do not have the right to refuse to accept non-residential construction documents that do not bear the seal of a registered design professional. If documents are required to have a seal of a registered design professional and they do not have one, they still must be accepted for review…. Failure to approve or deny construction documents and issue a Certificate of Plans Approval is a denial of a "license."…. To be in compliance with Ohio law, construction documents required to be submitted for an approval must be accepted for review by the building department. A thorough and complete plan examination must then be performed. If the Building Official does not issue an approval of the construction documents, this denial and the reasons for it shall be indicated in an adjudication order. This process must be used for any item of noncompliance causing the denial of an approval, including the requirement for an Ohio design professional’s seal.”

SBCA members have built an industry based on taking responsibility for their scope of work. This is best demonstrated by the continuing use of sealed truss design drawings. When an engineer’s seal is on a document, any company using that document has visible assurance that an engineer takes responsibility for the work to which the seal is attached. Furthermore, the PE will react professionally when working with building officials to provide structures that are safe and durable.


Tornado Season & Collapse, Are Building Materials to Blame?

Wed, 2019-03-27 17:18
Energy Efficiency

In early 2014, a video of the Brier Creek Multifamily building collapse went viral. The cause for the collapse was straight-line wind gusts of approximately 86 mph. Not surprisingly, the video generated significant media attention.

In the last year, weather systems throughout Tornado Alley have had a significant impact on the built environment. Any natural disaster causes severe stress on buildings, so blaming specific building materials for a structural collapse is disingenuous at best, sensationalism for certain, and unprofessional at its worst.

Some of the questions that need to be honestly addressed follow, but certainly are not limited to:

  1. Was the building built to code?
    1. If not, what were the as-built conditions?
    2. Which aspects of the structure were built to code?
    3. Which were not?
    4. What is the cause/effect analysis for each code compliant and each non-code compliant condition?
  2. Is there any possibility of being able to benchmark performance? For example:
    1. Does one building built identically to another perform differently?
    2. Why did it perform differently?
    3. Different winds?
    4. Different methods of connections?
    5. Different building orientation?
    6. Different window and door conditions?

There will be numerous reports on high wind event damage in the forthcoming months. Some will be credible while others may use the situation to take a particular product or application to task, while promoting their agenda. Most of the time, a critical review of authorship provides insight into the goals and objectives driving articles, research reports and educational programs. In the process of discernment, you have to ask: is there a conflict of interest?

Using photos and videos without an appropriate damage assessment onsite is a poor and limiting method for determining the cause of a partial or total collapse. In most cases, engineers can point to one of several common weak links as the cause of structural failure. Observations of adverse building performance in high wind events typically find that any structural failure is due to a lack of adequate connections. A continuous load path and accurate connections from the roofs to walls and floors to walls and then to the foundation, must be provided for reliable building performance.

The most commonly observed reasons for failure include:

  1. inadequate roof-to-wall connections
  2. improper anchor bolt connections attaching walls to the foundation
  3. poor sheathing fastening
  4. the use of the wrong nail type
  5. breaches due to failure of windows, garage doors, or cladding/wall systems that result in catastrophic failure

It is obvious that construction implementation is the key to satisfactory building material performance. Obviously, using more nails and providing close attention to all connecting systems that make up the load path is essential.

The most important outcomes of poor building performance in a high wind or seismic event are that

  1. no one gets hurt
  2. the construction industry continues to learn and evolve
  3. design and installation best practices improve.

The entire construction industry will greatly benefit by staying focused on providing framer-friendly details that are easy to understand and implement. It’s critical that we come together with the goal of fostering innovation, using accepted engineering practice, creating installation best practices, working closely with professional framers and assisting building departments to focus inspections on key load path elements. We all are educators. By working together, we will significantly improve the built environment.   

Why Does EEBS Exist?

Wed, 2019-03-27 13:28
Energy Efficiency

Energy Efficiency and Building Science (EEBS) is a news consolidating service supported through the sponsorship of the Applied Building Technology Group (ABTG). ABTG’s mission to provide a repository for reference documents, educational programs, CAD details, calculators and more founded on sound science and professional engineering. The EEBS goal is to create a forum for exchanging building envelope performance information, good or bad.

Given the evolving energy code requirements, continuous insulation products and entire product lines are innovating quickly including OSB composites, plastics, mineral fiber, spray foam, foam sheathing and beyond. And, while building science can appear to be quite complicated, one of our primary objectives is to provide concise, accurate information in a way that allows readers to understand and evaluate it for themselves. This leads to critical thinking and, inevitably, innovative solutions are the result.

The intent of EEBS is to foster a robust and cost-effective pathway to information, where independent building science and related engineering work is published. We have always believed good intelligence gathering and the advancement of knowledge, via debate and discernment, is the only true power any organization has. These are the principles behind the emails that wear the CI badge.

SBC Magazine has been honored to have an on-going relationship with ABTG. ABTG and SBC Magazine share the same passion, which is to ensure that the community of architects, engineers, builders and framers have information that they need to assess a wide variety of roof and wall structural framing and building envelope issues and solutions. Both ABTG and SBCA provide “open source” research so that the information is easy to use, can be debated as needed and is known as dependable reference material.

As always, we appreciate any perspective or new ideas our readers desire to share. This can take many forms,  from writing articles or research reports, to suggesting new products, all of which helps everyone grow professionally. EEBS seeks to continually improve the value provided, and the best way to do that is to listen to the marketplace and find ways to disseminate information that will reduce pain points.

We sincerely appreciate everyone that chooses to engage with EEBS and will always strive to provide science-based, factual information in this valuable resource. We also encourage our readers to connect with us directly with any question, comments or concerns.

Finally, should there be other sponsors that are interested in advancing these concepts, please contact Molly Butz. There are many ways to collaborate in serving this innovative and valuable market.

If you would like to review and subscribe to our other industry communications, please review your subscription preferences to update the types of content you would like to receive. Should you wish to stop receiving Energy Efficiency & Building Science News, please send us an email, and we will remove your email address from our distribution list.

Can you Influence ICC Energy Code Language?

Wed, 2019-03-27 12:47
Energy Efficiency

The only way you can have any effect on the building code to get directly involved. In fact, with a little effort you can change current code language that is unclear or write new sections of code based on your area of expertise. The code development process is open to anyone having influence if initiative it taken.

Between 2006 and 2012, the efficiency of the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) improved about 38%.

Buildings use 40% of America’s energy.  Constructing them to be as efficient as possible is important. Involvement in the development of the 2021 IECC this year will affect family budgets, energy consumption, housing markets, and the American economy as a whole for generations to come.

View 2019 Group B Proposed Changes

Updating the IECC every three years keeps it up-to-date with modern technology and building practices. This advances the evolution of new building construction so that buildings resist all applied loads effectively, are durable, efficient to build, reduce energy costs and are state-of-the-art.

Key drivers for the implementation of innovative systems are; 1) engineering, 2) construction best practices, 3) construction techniques that save labor, and  4) providing the best economic solution for the structural framework and building envelope. Innovation through free market economics is what makes this nation the best place to transact business on the planet.

Obviously, the building code can have a significant impact on the responsible evolution of innovation in the built environment. This is particularly true in the energy sector where chemistry combines with traditional materials to create really cool and valuable energy savings products. For example, who really hear about open cell spray foam 10 years ago?

This is why direct involvement is so important. Each voice matters when code provisions are created. In addition, participating in the code development process allows new intelligence to be gathered via various points of view making arguments over proposed language. Much nuance can be learned about energy efficiency, building envelopes and the construction process overall. Genuinely,  active participation in the code development process can be a very valuable strategic planning session.

As a point of reference, of the 20,000 potential voters (Governmental Member Voting Representatives, or GMVRs) eligible to vote in the last code cycle, only about 500 cast votes for IECC proposals. Therefore, your voice does matter and we all need your participation.

Sign up today for the 2019 Committee Action Hearings form: April 28 – May 8, 2019 in Albuquerque, NM. Register here or send an email to at  or call Jessica Franklin 888-ICC-SAFE (888 422-7233), ext 4333.

Icynene-Lapolla Launches New Open-Cell Spray Foam

Tue, 2019-03-26 17:01
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

Icynene-Lapolla, a global supplier and manufacturer of high performance, energy efficient insulation for construction, today introduced Lapolla FOAM-LOK 750 Spray Polyurethane Foam Insulation. The open-cell system provides an ideal solution for high-performance homes designed to meet stringent building code and energy efficiency requirements. 

Lapolla FOAM-LOK 750 achieves R-22 in 2x6 wall assemblies. At a core density of 0.75-pound, the open-cell foam is air impermeable and optimized to help builders meet strict building code requirements. 

“We expect Lapolla FOAM-LOK 750 to be well received among builders and contractors seeking an insulation solution for new homes designed specifically to enhance energy conservation and savings,” said Doug Kramer, president & CEO of Icynene-Lapolla. “Not only is energy efficiency top-of-mind with homeowners and buyers today, but building codes increasingly demand better energy solutions. FOAM-LOK 750 is one such solution.”

In addition to its exceptional R-Value, FOAM-LOK 750 also provides a number of additional benefits. The professionally spray-applied product achieves a more controllable rise during application, creating a neater appearance, with no need for trimming. This attribute saves the contractor on clean-up and overall time on the job. It also provides great interlaminar cohesion between lifts.  

FOAM-LOK 750’s soft, flexible composition maintains a continuous air seal, even after seasonal expansion and contraction of the building assembly occurs. The insulation’s composition and density also offers superior sound control, dramatically reducing the noise heard on either side of the insulated wall.

“While energy performance remains a key selling point for this product, the numerous additional benefits such as sound attenuation and reduced contractor application time are also major benefits not to be ignored,” added Kramer.


Is ‘Print-in-Place’ the Future of Spray Foams?

Tue, 2019-03-26 16:55
Building Science

Technology is advancing at a rapid rate within many industries, including spray foam. Being aware of the advances in technology will not only help contractors, architects, and suppliers stay ahead of the competition, but it may also help with productiveness, safety, and expansion.

The breakdown of a Print-in-Place wall sample. PHOTO: STEVEN KEATING

Many may be skeptical, or even threatened by technology, especially with the use of robots. Spray Foam Magazine sat down to chat with Julian Leland Bell, a former researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to discuss his work on automated construction with spray foam, understanding the future use of robotics, and how they may help business, not hinder it.

During 2012, MIT student Steven Keating invented a concept for additive manufacturing at very large scales using spray foam. This concept, known as Print-in-Place (PiP) fabrication, involves building up spray foam in layers to create a three-dimensional mold for a structure. Then, a structural material such as concrete is poured into the mold to create a finished structure. Similar to insulated concrete form (ICF) construction in principle, Print-in-Place is naturally adapted to use by automated systems such as robot arms or 3D printers, and allows much more complex structures to be built.

The concept of Print-in-Place fabrication involves building up spray foam in layers to create a three-dimensional mold for a structure by automated systems, such as 3D printers, and, in this case, a robot arm. PHOTO: STEVEN KEATING

The development of this novel manufacturing process also led to the creation of the first prototype of a Digital Construction Platform (DCP), a robotic arm system large enough to create architectural-scale structures. Investigating and experimenting with the theory of using technology for large scale digital manufacturing, Keating’s vision for the DCP was a serial-kinematic robot, rather than a parallel-kinematic robot-like gantry. Developing the serial-kinematic arm will eventually enable the robot to complete complicated tasks and help on construction sites. An example of this would be: administering spray foam to tall buildings, which will help with construction site safety issues. Spraying large, simple surfaces like flat walls with a robotic arm could allow human operators to concentrate on more complex areas of a building, ultimately saving time.

After the initial investigations took place, Keating battled with brain cancer and took a sabbatical, returning to the project in 2015 while completing his PhD. That’s when Julian Leland Bell was brought on to the team. Bell, a mechanical engineer with experience in robotics and manufacturing recalls, “I was brought in to help address some of the technical challenges of this project. The first prototype, DCPV1, got a lot of interest from large manufacturers like Dow Chemical and Altec. They were excited about the project and offered their support, with Dow donating their FROTH-PAK low pressure spray foam, and Altec donating the aerial lift vehicle used in our robotic system.

Google heard about the research and also provided funding and a worksite for the development of a second prototype, the DCPV2, between 2015 and 2016. Keating and Bell, along with MIT researcher Levi Cai and others, worked throughout the year to refine the DCPV2 prototype. Their work culminated in a full-scale printing demonstration in July 2017, when the team printed a 47-foot diameter, 12-foot tall section of a dome structure using Dow’s FROTHPAK low-pressure spray foam. Bell is honored when he explains, “Our dome remains one of the largest monolithically-fabricated 3D printed structures ever built. There are lots of people carrying out very interesting work with spray foam for additive manufacturing, but this idea of printing formworks that you could then cast concrete into to create robust structures, was really Steve’s genius. To see a real, architectural-scale structure built around this idea was incredible.”

“If the robot has a good map of the building, it can work with little need for human involvement.”

During the project the delivery rate was the same it would be for a human operator. One of the robot’s advantages lies in the fact that it is based around a tracked aerial lift vehicle. Bell explains, “The aerial lift vehicle weighs thousands of pounds; it’s basically a small tractor with a robot arm on top. It has the capacity to move a large amount of material. For our experiment, we took the largest size of FROTH-PAK cylinder Dow produces, loaded the components onto a trailer, which was attached to our robot, and had the robot drive with the trailer to the site where we were going to perform our print. Because we use Dow’s sprayer system, the volumetric construction rate of the robot is the same as a human operator with our current foam sprayer, but the amount of material that the robot can carry with it is very substantial. It is only limited by how big a tank you can provide for the robot.”

The work that the MIT team has accomplished on this experiment has laid the foundations for other companies and researchers to continue exploring applications of spray foam in 3D printing. PHOTO: STEVEN KEATING

The initial project was research-based and has the potential to be developed within the industry. Quizzing Bell on how the DCP could possibly be advanced, Bell replies, “There are a number of ways to expand on this technology and one would be to administer the foam at a faster pace than a human application. Imagine if you had to spray the inside of a very simple but large structure, like a warehouse. A robot like this could spray foam the interior of a warehouse very rapidly. There would be no need to put human workers up on lift vehicles, placing them in potentially dangerous situations. If the robot has a good map of the building, it can work with little need for human involvement. The barriers to adoption of this are lower, too—the robot is just applying spray foam, not building a structure which has to meet building codes.”

The MIT team’s work has laid the foundations for other companies and researchers to continue exploring applications of spray foam in 3D printing. Branch Technology, based in Chattanooga, TN and BatiPrint3D, a method used by the University of Nantes, situated in France developed the system to progress Architectural-Scale printing with the application of spray foam.

Nantes University research team also built a 3D-printed house in Nantes. The project 3D printed polyurethane was sprayed layer-by-layer as a supporting structure, and then concrete was poured inside it. The outer 3D printed structure remains to form insulation reducing construction time, improving thermal insulation and reducing construction operating costs. Picture a structure that is built a reverse way of traditionally made walls.

Scientists, manufacturers and the public sector are all working together to build a future where technology, human and imagination all combine to develop exciting innovations. Humans will never fully be replaced by robots, but one thing is certain: if they are ignored, we will fall behind in business, losing out to competitors who will shape how this new and exciting technology is developed.


Miks Becomes New Vice Chair of Spray Foam Coalition

Tue, 2019-03-26 16:47
Building Science

Editor's Note: Kathy Miks also serves on the American Chemistry Council's Foam Sheathing Committee.

Johns Manville, a Berkshire Hathaway company and leading building products manufacturer, announced today Kathy Miks, spray foam Product Manager, is the newly elected Vice Chair of the Spray Foam Coalition, a dynamic organization of companies that produce and sell polyurethane spray foam insulation systems and the chemicals and equipment necessary for their use. As Vice Chair, Miks will work alongside the organization’s Chair to lead efforts aimed at educating and promoting spray foam and its benefits.

“Kathy brings an immense amount of technical expertise to the role of Vice Chair of the Spray Foam Coalition and is in a unique position to help the organization meet its strategic goals and expand,” said Bob Wamboldt, President of Insulation Systems at Johns Manville. “Spray foam is an excellent solution for creating high performing, energy efficient, sustainable and resilient buildings and Johns Manville is committed to fostering a culture of innovation through the external commitments of employees like Kathy.”

The Spray Foam Coalition was founded in 2010 by the American Chemistry Council’s Center for the Polyurethanes Industry to promote the use of spray polyurethane foam and its benefits in U.S. applications, provide a forum for helping shape public policy and support the safe manufacture, transport and application of the product. With nearly eight years of insulation experience, Miks will help the organization prioritize activities, determine strategies and actions to address industry issues and represent industry interests on a national platform. She will serve as Vice Chair through December 2019, and then transition to the position of Chair through 2021.

“Kathy’s experience and commitment to our industry will help us fulfill our mission of championing the use of spray foam in U.S. building and construction applications as a leading voice in the industry,” said Stephen Wieroniey, Director of the Center for the Polyurethanes Industry, American Chemistry Council. “The strong foundation of our organization is largely due to the commitment and support from the nation’s leading spray foam manufacturers like Johns Manville and we look forward to working closely with Kathy over the next three years.”

Miks is an accomplished industry professional, bringing more than 18 years of experience to the role. In her current position as Product Manager, Miks oversees the spray polyurethane foam and polyiso wall system portfolios for the Johns Manville Building Insulation division. In addition to her full-time role with Johns Manville and new responsibilities with the Spray Foam Coalition, Miks is on the steering committee for the Polyisocyanurate Insulation Manufacturers Association. Miks earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering from the Colorado School of Mines.

New 'Building Benchmark' Created for Resilient Construction

Tue, 2019-03-26 16:40
Building CodesBuilding Science

A just-released “Buildings Benchmark,” the first of 19 Community Resilience Benchmarks—will support efforts to create more resilient structures in local communities that can withstand natural disasters.

The number, frequency, and intensity of disasters affecting U.S. cities is growing. From floods and fires to sub-zero cold snaps and extreme heat, it seems like every week we are provided with another example of why communities need more tools to ensure they are more resilient, prepared for weather-related disruptions, and can quickly recover.

The role of building codes in this preparation and recovery cannot be clearer: buildings physically protect us from the impacts of climate change and extreme weather, especially our most vulnerable in schools and hospitals.

Building Codes Help During And After Disasters

The Institute for Market Transformation (IMT) recognizes that energy efficiency in our buildings is a critical piece to improving the resilience of cities and local communities. Buildings that are built to higher efficiency standards are able to maintain comfortable temperatures for longer periods of time due to better thermal envelopes – preventing overheating or freezing.

These envelopes are able to maintain more survivable temperatures with a smaller input of energy, allowing generators or on-site solar to go further to sustain people who are sheltering in place or trying to perform critical job functions during a power outage or severe storm. More efficient heating and cooling equipment also means less pressure on the grid to provide the energy required to keep our buildings and communities lit, powered, and safe.

Earlier this month, the International Code Council (ICC) and the Alliance for National and Community Resilience (ANCRreleased a Buildings Benchmark—the first of what will be 19 Community Resilience Benchmarks—to support efforts to create more resilient structures in local communities that can withstand natural disasters.

The goal of this resource, and the benchmarks to follow, is to provide states, cities, and towns with the necessary tools and information to evaluate their current resiliency efforts and be able to take the next steps towards strengthening their infrastructure, organizations, and social functions.

Developing the Buildings Benchmark was an extraordinary undertaking. IMT joined ICC, ANCR, and several other organizations and experts from around the country at a workshop in Minneapolis in October 2017 to review key benchmark areas such as buildings, governance, and culture, and to come up with a process for developing the tools. The group then worked through a series of development and review cycles over the course of a year, culminating in a final vote in September 2018.

What’s In the Building Benchmark?

The resulting Buildings Benchmark encourages local governments to adopt modern building codes, create policies to allow for building above code, and to provide the human, technical, and financial resources necessary to support improving code compliance—an area that too often gets overlooked and leads to lower-performing and less efficient buildings.

This focus on code compliance aligns with the work that IMT has been leading through its development of the City Energy Project Code Compliance Assessment Methodology, as well as its research supported by the U.S. Department of Energy to conduct residential and commercial code compliance field studies that are identifying baseline practices and targeting areas and strategies for improving compliance.

The Buildings Benchmark consists of nine requirements, each with three steps that range from “essential,” to “enhanced,” to “exceptional.” Each requirement step is aimed at increasing the resilience of a community by helping to evaluate where it is, and the work that can be done to achieve the next step toward becoming “exceptional.”

For example, the “Mitigation and Design of Critical Facilities” moves a community from the essential step of identifying those facilities, to the exceptional step of having design standards for the construction of new facilities and upgrades completed on existing facilities that are critical to surviving disruptions.

The steps are meant to be accessible no matter where a community is while at the same time pushing them forward to achieve more. The requirements include the adoption, administration, and enforcement of building codes.

Financial Upside Also a Driver

recent study released by the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS) shows that by adopting the most recent building codes, there is an impressive cost-benefit ratio ranging from $4—12 for every $1 invested towards hazard mitigation. These numbers demonstrate the large and increasing benefits to adopting modern building codes.

As IMT continues to drive improvements on building energy code compliance across the country in collaboration with cities, code officials, and building owners and operators, we are excited to join ICC, ANCR, and other leaders in scaling compatible resiliency solutions for our buildings and communities.


179D Tax Deducution for Energy Efficiency Improvents

Tue, 2019-03-26 16:37
Building Science

The 179D Energy Policy Act makes provisions for a tax deduction after the installation of energy-efficient systems in a building, including HVAC, building envelope insulation and lighting. The building may qualify for up to $1.80 per square foot ($0.60 per square foot for each system).  The deduction is available for new construction as well as energy retrofits of commercial buildings and apartment buildings four stories or higher with units for lease. Commercial property owners can claim the benefit with the exception of government-owned buildings where the tax deduction is given to the building designer.

Here are some important details to consider when evaluating the opportunity to apply for a tax deduction under 179D:

How Much Is The 179D Energy Policy Act Deduction?

  • Maximum Deduction – $1.80 per square foot = 50% reduction in total annual energy and power costs (compared to a reference building that meets the minimum requirements of ASHRAE Standard 90.1-2001) not to exceed the amount equal to the cost of energy efficient commercial property placed in service during the taxable year.
  • Partial Deduction – $0.60 per square foot  / per system for reduction of energy consumption through building envelope, HVAC, and Lighting

What qualifies?

To qualify for the deduction, the building must improve on 2001 energy-efficiency standards set forth by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE). The installation of any modern, efficient lighting, HVAC or water-heating equipment is likely to qualify, as is the use of low-heat transfer glass, shading, insulation or heat storage construction in the building envelope.

Who qualifies for the deduction?

  • Building owner at the time of building improvements
  • Public Buildings – The owner may allocate the deduction to the designer (architect, engineer, contractor, environmental consultant, or energy services provider) for the taxable year that includes the date on which the property is placed in service

What are the Requirements?

Must reduce total annual energy and power costs with respect to the interior lighting systems, heating, cooling, ventilation, and hot water systems by 50%. However, partial deductions are allowed. Energy simulation is required to justify the deduction; inspection and testing must be completed by a qualified engineer or contractor registered in the jurisdiction.

The building envelope can be the most difficult system to qualify in a renovation/retrofit. Typically, if at least two of these items have been upgraded it may qualify. These systems include: Windows, Roofing Improvements, Window film or tint, Doors, and Wall-Roof or Floor Insulation.

Click here for a comprehensive 179D compliance checklist.

AttachmentSize 179d-pre-qualification-checklist.pdf516.92 KB

Evaluating Positive vs. Negative Side Waterproofing

Tue, 2019-03-26 16:09
Building Science

Editor's Note: The article below discusses the various factors to consider when evaluating the placement of waterproofing.  For further design guidance on water resistive barriers, check out the resources on

Prior to designing waterproofing for a new building, the architect is faced with a plethora of questions. The initial question is “Where do you want the waterproofing to be installed?” The choices are:

  • Positive side waterproofing.
  • Negative side waterproofing.

Positive vs. Negative: Where

Positive side waterproofing is applied to the wet or exterior face of foundations or slabs on grade and below grade, as well as suspended slabs. It is the predominant type of waterproofing used in new construction. Positive side waterproofing applications consist of all commercially available dampproofing or waterproofing systems. Properly applied positive side waterproofing protects the interior of the facility from moisture infiltration and protects the structural components, including concrete and steel. Positive side below-grade systems include fluid-applied membranes, sheet-membrane systems, hydros clay and vapor barriers.

One of the primary advantages of positive side systems is that water is prevented from entering the substrate surface. The substrate is also protected from freeze-thaw cycles, as well as from corrosive chemicals in the groundwater.

The primary disadvantage of positive side waterproofing is that the system is inaccessible for repairs after the installation. This means that costly removal of topping (concrete, landscaping, grass, dirt, etc.) is required prior to repair - no matter how small the area of repair is. Another disadvantage is that subslabs and well pointing are required for foundation waterproofing.

Negative side waterproofing is applied to the dry or inside face of the subsurface. It is used primarily for water holding purposes. Negative side waterproofing prevents water from entering occupied space.

  • However, it does not prevent water from entering the substrate.
  • The materials used in negative side waterproofing applications must be able to withstand hydrostatic pressure. The most common forms of materials used in these applications are epoxy injections and cementitious coatings.
  • There are also acrylic or crystalline chemical conversion additives on the market that are applied at the blind side and penetrate into the substrate.

The primary advantage of negative side waterproofing is that the area is fully accessible after installation. Any further defects or required touch-ups can be repaired with no surface removal or intrusion to the substrate. This method also eliminates the need for subslabs and well pointing for foundation waterproofing, which are required on positive side systems.

Moisture entry allowed into the substrate on negative side waterproofing systems can be viewed as both an advantage (it promotes active curing of the concrete substrate) and a disadvantage (it contributes to the corrosion of the concrete and steel reinforcements from groundwater and chemicals). Negative side waterproofing does not provide protection from freeze-thaw cycles and is limited to the application of cementitious systems.

Positive vs. Negative: When

The decision to use positive side or negative side waterproofing can be made after exploring a litany of questions regarding site conditions:

  • Will there be exposure to corrosive soil materials? If so, consider only positive side waterproofing.
  • Will there be exposure to freeze/thaw cycling? If so, consider only positive side waterproofing.
  • Will there be interior humidity limitations? If so, consider only positive side waterproofing. If the answer to all of these questions is no, then negative side waterproofing can be considered.

Positive vs. Negative: Why

Most waterproofing experts agree that the most effective form of new construction waterproofing installation is at the positive side of the structure. The installation of any system on the negative side is exposed to the added risk of having the waterproofing “pushed off” or disbonded from the substrate by moisture that infiltrates the concrete in a liquid or vapor form. Waterproofing applied to the negative side of the structure also provides a passage for any ground containments or chemicals to enter into the substrate and deteriorate the concrete and corrode steel reinforcements.

To eliminate these concerns it is possible (although not always economical) to install a negative side bulkhead wall to hold the waterproofing in place. This method may prove to be more costly than excavation of the surface. The optimum solution is to apply positive side waterproofing on newly constructed structures and limit negative side waterproofing to remedial applications.

How Spray Foam Effectively Insulates Pot Grow Houses

Tue, 2019-03-26 16:02
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

A recent article in Spray Foam Magazine focused on an emerging trend for spray foam: insulating marijuana growing facilities.  The article starts by pointing out this industry has been growing rapidly in the past few years, and that growth is expected to accelerate.

“Predicted to be a $21-billion-dollar industry by 2021, grow houses are investing in this protection and crop standardization. One way farmers are ensuring their crops are top quality, is to regulate the grow house temperature with a climate controlled facility. The application of spray foam will ensure this happens which in turn will keep heating and cooling costs down for the grower.”

More specifically, spray foam is the perfect insulator for this specific application:

“What makes this foam insulation so special is its ability to make grow rooms airtight so growers can purchase smaller heating and cooling systems and lower utility expenses. It also features an R-7 per inch insulation capacity. Two or more inches can make a wall resistant to moisture, insects, vermin, mold and mildew.”

Check out the video below to see the spray foam application applied to the building highlighted in the article:



After conducting several tests on the efficacy of the insulation installation, they reached this conclusion:

“The evidence was clear—the spray foam makes the building so airtight that just two inches of it is better than six inches of fiberglass and 17 inches of cellulose.”

WV Updates Commercial Energy Code to ASHRAE 90.1-2010

Wed, 2019-03-20 22:41
Building Codes

The State of West Virginia has updated its State Commercial Building Energy Code from ASHRAE 90.1-2007 to 90.1-2010, which will become effective April 30, 2019. The bill was signed by the Governor last week. 

Update Date: Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Seminar: Foam-Free High Performance Enclosures, March 25

Wed, 2019-03-20 22:35
Building Science

On Monday, March 25th, come and learn about available options and best practices in high performance residential systems from one of the leading building science firms in the nation.

Foam Free High Performance Building Enclosures presents a clear and practical guide to achieving the highest levels of resilient, sustainable building, using materials within the enclosure that have a low global warming potential to eliminate the use of foam. The growing performance demands of air control, vapor control, thermal control, health and sustainability are examined. Foam insulation, dominant in today's high-performance marketplace, is increasingly recognized as hindering many of these building performance goals. Practitioners are therefore wanting and finding new solutions that virtually eliminate foam and provide greater performance. This presentation is a careful look at how to do it.

* This seminar will cover residential construction only*

Register Here


Ken Levenson, Chief Operating Officer, 475 High Performance Building Supply


Monday, March 25, 2019, 11:00 AM – 2:00 PM EDT

Pepco Edison Place Gallery, 702 8th St NW, Washington, DC 20068


  • Doors open for registration at 11:00 am
  • Presentations begin promptly at 11:30 am
  • Presentations end at 1:30 pm
  • Doors close at 2:00 pm for networking
  • Food and drinks are allowed. Feel free to bring your lunch/snack to the event!
  • If you have any questions regarding this email communication, please contact Bryan Bomer at
Update Date: Wednesday, March 20, 2019