Energy Efficiency and Building Science News

Illustrations: Housewrap and Drip Edging Done Right

Wed, 2019-05-08 16:34
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

A few years ago, my company was called to look at a modest, pre-fab ranch-style house with a water-intrusion problem. The homeowner suspected a roof leak. Inside the house, water was staining ceilings and walls and running down windows, and there was a smell of mildew. A few years earlier, another contractor had reshingled the roof (over existing shingles), installed replacement windows, and re-sided the house exterior with vinyl siding.

The drip edge was installed tight to the fascia.

It was directing water behind the gutters, causing saturation and major damage in the house walls.

What we found when we inspected the roof was not a roof leak. Instead, the trouble had begun with the installation of the drip edge and gutters. One simple oversight started the entire problem: The drip edge was applied too tight to the fascia trim. I couldn’t even fit a fingernail between the drip edge and the fascia board. That meant that the water would run straight down off the roof, wrap around the drip edge and onto the coil-wrapped fascia, and run down behind the gutter instead of falling into the gutter where it was supposed to go.

But that was just the beginning of the trouble. There was no roof overhang on this house. And when the water reached the bottom of the fascia, which was applied tight to the house walls, it would seep back to the sheathing.

There was no flashing installed that could direct the water back out away from the house or down onto the housewrap, which had been cut so it butted up against the bottom edge of the one-by fascia rather than running up behind it. Once the water reached the crucial seam where fascia met sheathing, it dripped down behind the housewrap.

Water soaked the sheathing. Over the years, the water rotted the sheathing in multiple places. When we removed the sheathing, we found rot around all the windows below the eaves, and some even on the gable-end windows. Housewrap on the walls stopped short of the windows, and wasn’t integrated into any kind of tape or flashing. The window trim was installed in a way that let water penetrate to the sheathing and the window openings.

To fix the problem, the author first had to strip away and replace the siding and sheathing.

Water had soaked the insulation at the bottom of the wall, creating a habitat for ants and the insects that feed on them. In many places, even the framing was saturated and rotted, blackened by rot to the point that it looked as if it had been burned.

In an ideal world, of course, this house would have had a roof overhang, and that would have helped. It would also have been a really good idea, when first trimming the fascia along the eaves, to have made an additional one-inch bend in the bottom edge of the wrap so that it returned to lie flat against the sheathing (a common trim treatment that we’ve all seen plenty of times). But even without those obvious touches, this house would have been OK if the roof-to-wall connection had been well flashed, the walls had been properly wrapped, and the windows had been properly flashed and sealed.

Click to enlarge.

In this case, our scope of work didn’t include reroofing or replacing the drip edge. We did go around the house and pull and bend the lower edge of the drip edge away from the fascia as much as the material would allow, to facilitate dripping into the gutter instead of behind it.

But our main project was to remove all the siding and sheathing, repair rot (including reframing windows), replace the bug- and mold-infested insulation, resheathe the building, construct a working drainage plane, and flash all the windows correctly into the housewrap.

To manage water that might still make its way from the roof edge back to the house wall, we added a piece of metal flashing extending behind the fascia to direct water out onto the housewrap if it managed to make its way back to the wall. We extended the housewrap up at the top of the wall, high enough that it fell behind this piece of flashing.

Now the house is tight and dry. But had the roofers initially left a half inch of space between the bottom flange of the drip edge and the fascia, the homeowner might have been spared this ordeal and a significant expense.

Of course, the drip-edge detail is not the only factor in the damage here. The previous contractor did many things wrong, and if you look at the number of circumstances that had to align in order to create this much damage, the lack of a roof overhang is certainly one of them. If the house had an overhang, things probably would not have gotten this bad. The fascia itself could have been damaged, if it were a wood fascia, but the water couldn’t have traveled back to the house as easily, and the major damage to the wall below would most likely have been avoided.


Insulation Can Control Basement Floor Moisture

Wed, 2019-05-08 16:22
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

QMy clients want to use as living space the new walkout basement of an addition I'm building for them, but they're concerned about potential moisture-related problems with the planned carpet flooring. I've proposed installing a layer of rigid EPS foam followed by a screwed-down plywood underlayment on top of the basement slab, but I'm also considering a product called Dricore, a subfloor system consisting of engineered wood panels that have a molded polyethylene membrane on the underside. Which approach would be better at controlling condensation on the cool slab floor?

APaul Fisette, director of Building Materials and Wood Technology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and a JLC contributing editor, responds: In any basement, your primary design objective should be to control surface water, so designing a good drainage envelope on the outside of the foundation that incorporates subslab drainage should be a priority.

According to code and good building practice, you will also need to insulate (either on the outside or inside) the basement walls. Then you can direct your attention to the floor.

The plastic cleats on the bottom of Dricore panels are designed to lift the engineered subflooring off a cool basement slab floor and create an insulating airspace.

While I have no personal experience with Dricore (see photos, left; 866-767-6374, ), it seems like an effective approach, provided that the basement has a good moisture-control system in place and the installed cost works for the project budget. Rigid foam with a plywood flooring underlayment might supply better insulation and be cheaper to install than the Dricore panels, but you'd lose a little bit of headroom.

However, if the house you're working on is still in the planning phase, the best approach is to insulate underneath the slab: First, install a 6-inch layer of crushed stone in the bottom of the excavation, then cover it with a sheet of 6-mil polyethylene and at least 1-inch-thick rigid-foam insulation. The concrete slab is then poured directly on top of the foam/poly layer.

This arrangement will keep your slab on the warm (conditioned) side of the envelope, making condensation less likely to develop on the slab. The carpet pad and carpeting can then be installed directly on the concrete slab, without the additional expense of an interior foam/sleeper/underlayment system.


ICC Takes a Look at Net-Zero in the Context of Today’s Codes

Wed, 2019-05-08 16:17
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

In building energy efficiency circles, the terms net zero, zero net energy, carbon neutrality and net carbon neutral are becoming increasingly common when discussing policy trends. However, there is confusion of what these terms mean and how they intersect with today’s energy codes.

This article is in response to a recent inquiry from a member seeking clarifying information on the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) and “zero codes.” It is the first in a series addressing the changing landscape of building design, and the challenges, solutions and benefits of these changes.

The growing trend

The concept of net zero energy or net zero carbon buildings was first popularized by Architecture 2030 when they issued the 2030 Challenge to the building industry in 2006.  The challenge called for the reduction in the use of fossil fuels in new construction and major renovations resulting in carbon neutrality by 2030. Since that time, numerous programs, standards and codes have been developed to help move building practices closer to net zero, including the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE)  Zero Energy Ready Home, Architecture 2030’s Zero Code, the California Building Energy Efficiency Standards, and city- or state-specific energy codes such as the city of Boulder’s Energy Conservation Code or the state of Massachusetts Stretch code.

To underscore the magnitude of interest in energy and carbon reduction, in 2017 a total of 350 mayors had joined the Climate Mayors Agreement. Under this agreement, cities agreed to implement strategies that aligned with the greenhouse gas emission reductions outlined in the Paris Agreement. The signatories include the 10 largest cities in America — New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Antonio, San Diego, Dallas and San Jose — along with hundreds of additional cities large and small in both red and blue states. The group of mayors, who represent more than 65.8 million Americans in 44 states, outlined a plan to align with the other 194 nations that signed on to the Paris Agreement.

At its 86th Annual Meeting, The United States Conference of Mayors passed resolutions supporting the achievement of 100% Renewable Energy in American Cities, and Uniting Cities to Accelerate Focus on the Economic and Climate Benefits of Boosting America’s Building Energy Efficiency. Within this latter resolution, they urged mayors from around the nation to work in conjunction with non-governmental organizations and other broad-based organizations promoting greater building efficiency to unite and maximize local government support for putting America’s model building energy code, the IECC, on a glide path of steady progress toward net zero building construction by 2050.


So, what is a net zero energy building? Generally, it means the energy use of the building is offset by renewable energy generated on-site. The DOE convened a broad group of stakeholders to develop a definition for a zero energy building and recognized that several terms can be used as synonyms. The DOE definition for a zero energy building is:

Zero Energy Building: An energy-efficient building where, on a source energy basis, the actual annual delivered energy is less than or equal to the on-site renewable exported energy.

In other words, the on-site renewable energy that is exported to the grid is greater than the off-site power generated and delivered to the building. It is important to note that not all entities agree that renewable energy must be generated on-site, and some jurisdictions are seeking carbon reduction and neutrality by providing renewable energy via the grid.

How far are current codes from net zero?

The distance of the 2018 IECC from net zero is nuanced on several factors, including the definition of net zero, building type and occupancy, climate zone, and acceptable level of cost-effectiveness. While in theory many of today’s buildings could be a zero energy building with the installation of on-site renewables such as photovoltaic panels or wind generation; high-rise buildings with limited roof area are constrained and many buildings have not yet achieved a level of energy efficiency that allows for cost-effective deployment of renewable energy, nor could many grid systems handle the level of on-site power generation required.

There is not one definitive answer on how much more efficient buildings should be before it is cost effective to make them net zero or zero energy building. However, we can look to the research of leading organizations to understand how far the codes have come, and the efficiencies that are still needed. According to analysis conducted by the DOE, overall buildings constructed to prescriptive provisions of the 2018 IECC use an average of 33 percent less energy than those constructed to the 2006 IECC.

Research from the Florida Solar Energy Center indicates that single-family, low-rise residential can be cost effectively net zero with an Energy Rating Index (ERI) score in the mid-40s. This compares to current code minimum scores of 57 to 62. If we consider an ERI of 100 aligning with the base efficiency of the 2006 IECC, an ERI of 45 is 55 percent better than the 2006 IECC.  This will vary by due to climate and local market conditions, but the research indicates when homes are 50 to 60 percent more efficient than the 2006 IECC it will be cost effective for on-site renewable power generation to offset the power use.

Commercial buildings have far greater variance — consider the energy use of a warehouse in temperate climate compared to a hospital with large cooling needs in a hot climate. Architecture 2030 research indicates that a 70 to 80 percent reduction in energy use from the 2006 IECC is needed to cost effectively designate a commercial building net zero or zero energy building. Again, this will vary by climate and occupancy. Applying the DOE definition of net zero — it is far more likely that the warehouse with expansive roof area in a temperate climate will net zero than a high rise hospital in a hot climate. In fact, the DOE recognized this challenge by offering parallel definitions for zero energy campuses, communities and portfolios.

Glide path to net zero by 2050

Returning to the Mayor’s Resolution, and addressing the “Glide path by 2050,” the analysis shows buildings generally need to be 50 to 80 percent more efficient than the 2006 IECC, depending on occupancy and climate zone, to potentially be considered net zero. Given that the 2018 IECC is, depending on occupancy and climate zone, 33 percent more efficient that the 2006 IECC,  cost-effective net zero construction would require a further reduction of approximately 20 to 50 percent. An average 2 to 4.5 percent decrease in energy use over each of the 11 code cycles from the 2018 IECC to the 2051 IECC would accomplish the mayor’s resolution of net zero by 2050.

As a point of reference, the 2009 and 2012 IECC provided a 10 percent and 33 percent reduction in energy use from the 2006 edition (respectively). Each of these codes included provisions that resulted in key improvements in efficiencies — involving key changes in design, construction and enforcement practices.  The 2015, and it is expected analysis will show the same for the 2018 IECC, did not impact energy efficiency by more than 1 percent.

More questions

Critical questions asked by designers, builders and code enforcement personnel include queries into effective design protocols, cost-effectiveness and feasibility related to both new construction and existing buildings.

Future articles will explore building practices and trends across the country. The DOE and the Institute for Market Transformation have conducted data collection and compliance studies on construction practices related to codes, and we will be able to look at national and regional trends. What code provisions have successfully reached market transformation, and which are still challenges.

Not unlike the current energy code, advanced efficiencies look at the increased insulation; reduced lighting power; proper sizing of heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment; and eliminating unneeded use of energy through reduced air leakage, natural light and daylighting controls, occupancy controls, and HVAC controls. Advanced codes and design protocols also focus on building orientation and more complete system integration and commissioning. We will highlight both challenges faced by builders, and those builders that have found cost-effective means of building to current 2018 IECC levels and well beyond.

In addition, future articles will explore codes and policies that have been implemented to impact energy use of existing buildings. Finally, we will address how practices that reduce energy use in a building contribute to the health and safety of the building and its occupants, durability and resilience.


A Look Back at Insulation Products of the 20th Century

Wed, 2019-05-08 15:23
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

Insulation is critical to the energy efficiency of a building envelope. The U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED v4 building certification program, for example, awards up to two points to energy conservation from insulation that minimizes heat transfer and thermal bridging. However, insulation as we know it today is a relatively recent technology. While civilizations as early as the Ancient Greeks reportedly utilized asbestos, it was not until the 20th century that major advancements were made in insulative materials.

Courtesy BTHL. Click to enlarge.

In the 1900s, the design and construction of buildings with a thermal envelope to improve human comfort, as well as to reduce energy costs, spurred the production of insulating materials. The use of cavity wall construction for housing across the country led to the development of materials from mineral sources that could be installed as loose fill, blankets, or sheathing panels. The use of natural fibers extracted from wood and sugar cane produced a number of different insulating sheathing boards. By midcentury, new industrial processes resulted in lightweight glass fibers and mineral aggregates that combined thermal resistance with fire- and rot-resistance. Later still, the combination of insulating materials with vapor resistant materials led to composite systems.

Here, ARCHITECT takes a look back at the available insulation technology of the 20th century.

Click to page through.

Patent Mineral Wool, A.D. Elbers, New York, 1880
Some of the earliest commercial insulation were made of mineral wool, a fibrous material spun from molten mineral or rock components such as slag. Mineral wool could be used to insulate piping and heating systems, as well as in general structures.

Click to page through.

H.W. Johns' Asbestos Steam Saving and Fire Proof Materials, H.W. Johns Co., New York, 1884
The H.W. Johns Co., established in 1858, became a large manufacturer of asbestos insulation, a material noted for its fire-resistance—and later reviled as a health hazard. This catalog promotes the use of insulation materials for boilers and heating systems.

Click to page through.

Celotex Insulating Lumber, Celotex Co., Chicago, 1923
The Celotex Co. produced a variety of building products that it promoted for their insulating qualities and structural strength. The company claimed that its insulating lumber exterior sheathing material was superior to conventional lumber or masonry in reducing thermal transfer, and therefore reduced energy usage.

Click to page through.

The Building Contractor’s Book on Armstrong’s Corkboard for a Heatproof Lining for Walls and Roof, Armstrong Cork & Insulation Co., Pittsburgh, 1926 
Cork has long been recognized for its thermal insulating capacity and noise transfer reduction. The Armstrong Co. produced corkboards that could be used instead of lath for plaster walls.

Click to page through.

Weatherwood Insulation Data Book for Architects, Chicago Mill and Lumber Corp., Chicago, 1931
Weatherwood was one of several competing versions of a structural insulating board made from wood or other natural materials. This publication bills itself as a comprehensive guide for architects offering climate and technical data on insulating materials.

Click to page through.

Facts About Insulation, Silvercote Products Inc., Kalamazoo, Mich., 1936
This guide to insulation is an illustrated version of two technical publications from the American Society of Refrigeration Engineers. Early research on insulation revealed that insulation technology also needed to address moisture transfer and control.

Click to page through.

The Book of Triple Insulated Homes, Johns-Manville Co., New York, 1937
The "triple insulated home" featured a variety of Johns-Manville products that had improved durability and fire resistance because they were made of asbestos. The wall cavities of this hypothetical house were filled with rock wool insulation while the roof and walls featured asbestos-cement shingles.

Click to page through.

Fir-Tex Insulating Boards, Fir-Tex Insulating Board Co., Portland, Ore., 1945
Fir-Tex insulating boards could be used for sheathing but this catalog also features many options for decorative interior finishes.

Click to page through.

Zonolite Brand Vermiculite: Insulation, Lightweight Aggregates, Acoustical Materials, Zonolite Co., Chicago, 1951
Vermiculite is a fire-resistant mica mineral that could be turned into a very lightweight loose-fill insulation for cavity walls or attics. Vermiculite could also be used as an aggregate in plaster or concrete. Unfortunately, these materials could also contain asbestos.

Click to page through.

Reflective Insulation, Louis Hafers Co., Alhambra, Calif., 1961
This reflective insulation featuring aluminum foil attached to a "kraft paper" backing was promoted for its superior reduction of radiant heat, particularly in ceilings.


Rmax Continuous Insulation Shines in Colorado Project

Wed, 2019-05-08 14:59
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

When Colorado architects from the Davis Partnership were designing a new building for the non-profit Shiloh House, they were thrilled to find a product that would protect the building envelope from exposure to fire, water, and wind while integrating a continuous insulation system that would provide long-term thermal efficiency. The polyiso wall insulation solution from Rmax gave them flexibility to use a variety of external claddings for visual interest without compromising on protection from the elements and energy savings. Even better, with the help of Rmax’s in-house architect and field team, they were able to design a wall system with smooth, on-time installation that meet the rigorous NFPA 285 requirements.

Shiloh House has five locations across Colorado that offer nurturing, therapeutic and educational services aimed to help youth and families to overcome the impact of abuse, neglect and trauma. They helped over 1,000 youth last year alone. 

This new facility in Centennial is situated on a 1.54-acre property and includes on-site parking, outdoor courtyards, and the spaces and amenities that support the group’s programming to promote family stability and help families achieve their goals, while ensuring continued access to community resources once Shiloh House services have been successfully completed.

For an organization with such lofty goals, every dollar saved in building operations is another resource that can be used to serve its mission. The Rmax polyiso wall boards provide continuous insulation—eliminating heat lost that could occur through the studs when insulating with traditional products that are installed only in the wall cavities—and have reinforced aluminum foil facers that offer enhanced durability, dimensional stability and greater radiant heat protection. They make it easier and less expensive to keep the building comfortable, no matter the weather conditions outside.

“When we’re designing a building, we try to meet the highest standards because we care about protecting the environment and saving our client money over the whole life of their building by maximizing energy efficiency,” the architects explained. “With a reliable weather barrier and superior insulative properties, the polyiso continuous insulation system really gives your building the best protection while actually saving time and hassle on installation since it includes multiple protective layers in a single product.” 

And the finished product speaks for itself:

Aerial views: 

Project Gallery:


Johns Manville Releases New Fiberglass Insulation Board

Wed, 2019-05-08 14:53
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

Johns Manville, a Berkshire Hathaway company and leading building products manufacturer, announced today the release of 800 Series Spin-Glas® Ultra, a fiberglass insulation board with a new polypropylene coated (poly-top) facing.

The insulation is designed with a facing that provides a similar aesthetic to Johns Manville’s Micro-Lok® HP Ultra pipe insulation, which also features a polypropylene coated facer. This polypropylene coating allows both 800 Series Spin-Glas Ultra and Micro-Lok HP Ultra to be wiped down for better cleanability.

Lance Bonin, Johns Manville’s Mechanical Portfolio Manager, said the idea for this new facing began at one of Johns Manville’s Contractor Advisory Councils.

“We regularly host events where we can get feedback from the contractors who install our products,” Bonin said. “Over the last year, one thing we heard repeatedly was that contractors want a poly-top facing for our Spin-Glas board insulation that is similar to the poly-top facing we use on our Micro-Lok® HP Ultra pipe insulation.”

The new facer is a scrim-reinforced, polypropylene-coated, metalized polyester.

Meredith Westerdale, Johns Manville’s Mechanical Product Manager, explained that this new facing is unique from other mechanical insulation facings. “Most facings used on mechanical insulation have a kraft paper component, but the new facing we are using on our 800 Series Spin-Glas Ultra board has no paper. We’ve found that for fiberglass boards, this can improve their wrinkle-resistance,” she said.

800 Series Spin-Glas Ultra can be used on any ASJ specification as it meets the requirements of a polymeric film type ASJ per the NIA Glossary. Additionally, it meets the highest rating for low permeance vapor retarders as a Type I classified material per ASTM 1136.

800 Series Spin-Glas Ultra will be available from Defiance, Ohio, in late April. For more information about 800 Series Spin-Glas Ultra, download the data sheet or the FAQs.


Kingspan Moves On After Recticel Rejects Buy Offer

Wed, 2019-05-08 14:48

Kingspan has moved on from its discussions with Recticel over bids for a part or whole of its Belgian rival and sees little hope of a deal being revived, the Irish insulation company’s chief executive said on Friday.

Recticel last week rejected a 700 million euro bid for its two main foam and insulation businesses, and disclosed that Kingspan had also approached it in relation to a possible offer for the entire group.

Kingspan had in fact twice reached agreement to progress to due diligence on a takeover before instead attempting to select the assets it really wanted, CEO Gene Murtagh said on Friday.

Recticel said last week that the approach for the entire group was made at 10 euros per share.

“We had agreement. On two occasions in fact and it’s when that fell through that we made the probably less friendly approach and the conclusion of that was quite predictable,” Murtagh told the company’s annual shareholder meeting.

“I wouldn’t hold out much hope at all (of the deal being revived). It would have been a nice bolt on, but it wasn’t to be... We’ve moved on. Plenty more fish to fry.”

Murtagh said Kingspan first approached Recticel “to do something” in 1994 when his father, current chairman Eugene Muratagh, was in charge.

Kingspan has spent just over 1 billion euros on acquisitions over the last two years, mainly building up a presence in North, Central and South America, while also strengthening its grip on the European insulation market.

Murtagh told reporters after the meeting that Kingspan had a pipeline of potential acquisitions and the capacity to spend 400 to 500 million euros a year on deals.

Acquisitions helped drive Kingspan’s first quarter sales up 18 percent to just over 1 billion euros, the Cavan-based company said on Friday.

While it anticipated “reasonably positive momentum” through the second quarter, it also flagged that insulated panel orders in the United Kingdom, where it generates around a fifth of its sales, have been relatively subdued.

Murtagh said that as long uncertainty prevailed in the UK regarding its departure from the European Union, investment decisions will be curtailed. 


Chicago Waits 70 Years to Overhaul Building Code

Wed, 2019-05-01 17:25
Building CodesDive Brief:
  • Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the city's Department of Buildings announced that they are making a “comprehensive” overhaul to local building codes, which was last done 70 years ago. City officials have been working with each other on the revamp for more than a year.
  • In addition to adopting the International Building Code’s (IBC) terminology and classification systems, the revised code will include provisions for modern materials; update sprinkler requirements to increase safety and encourage development; add risk-based structural requirements that will take the burden off those building relatively small and simple structures; provide more flexible, cost-efficient rehab codes for historic and other existing buildings; institute green building codes; and introduce seismic codes for critical structures and tall buildings.
  • “We are modernizing our building code for the 21st century to advance sustainability, make construction more cost-effective and continue our city’s reputation for innovative design and world-renowned architecture,” Mayor Emanuel said. The city will begin a phase-in of the new codes on June 1, with full implementation by Aug. 1, 2020.

Dive Insight:

Architects, engineers and contractors are expanding their reaches across state and city boundaries, so it’s much easier for those companies to reduce design and permitting time and head off any future compliance problems if local building codes are similar to ones they’ve used before. The International Code Council’s IBC is about as close as the U.S. gets to a common code.  

In addition to its use in several foreign countries, the IBC has either been adopted or is in use in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., New York City and U.S. territories. The ICC updates the IBC, along with its other codes, every three years. The next updated IBC will be released in 2021. 

There’s no mention yet whether the new Chicago code will provide for the construction of tall wood buildings, but the next edition of the IBC, after a somewhat contentious development process, will include codes for mass timber structures built as high as 18 stories (270 feet). Opponents of the new rules cited fire safety as one of their concerns, but the ICC’s ad hoc committee apparently addressed those and other arguments adequately since the organization’s membership voted in favor of the tall wood construction proposals.  

Each year in the run-up to the publication of a new code, the ICC membership considers new proposals based on code group — Group A, Group B and Group C. The tall wood construction proposals were taken up as part of the Group A development process, and this month the ICC will kick off the review of proposed Group B codes. Next year the ICC will consider changes to Group C, which includes the International Green Construction Code


Tamlyn Develops New Housewrap ‘Boot Panel’

Wed, 2019-05-01 17:15
Building Science

Editor’s Note: The following article by Tamlyn focuses on the reasons why it’s new weather-tight houserap boot with self-sealing rubber grommet may be the perfect solution to proper flashing around extruded piping. Check out for more information on water resistive barrier installation best practices 

If you install housewrap, or supervise those who do, there’s a good chance the flashing you use to seal-up round plumbing, electric, HVAC, and other penetrations falls into one of four categories. Each category has its fans and critics. Which one of the four wins your vote?

What makes this bake-off especially timely is word of a new way to seal-up exterior wall penetrations that combines some aspects of the four:

  • Traditional Flashing Tape. Old reliable, especially if all you have to work with is flashing tape. Taping-up a penetration may not be the most elegant, reliable, or even fastest approach, but no disputes its convenience.
  • Flexible Flashing Tape. A good solution that’s often recommended by housewrap manufacturers. With a patient, careful hand, the seal can be quite good. The issue for some is flexible flashing tape takes several steps to prep the tape, apply, roll, and properly affix it to the housewrap. The elastic nature of the tape means it is always subject to tape pullback, increasing the risk of water intrusion and callback issues.
  • Liquid-Applied Flashing. A good premium-quality solution. A liquid-applied sealer is seamless and cures water-tight. Proper application, however, is critical. The premium price often makes other value-priced options a better fit.
  • Boot Panel Flashing. A good solution for speed and simplicity. Just align and press the prefabricated flashing panel over the penetration. The tight rubber grommet automatically seals the penetration without tape or caulk. However, even this method has a downside: The plastic frame surrounding the grommet must be taped to the housewrap. Taping two unlike materials together with tape engineered and warranted for housewrap-to-housewrap applications may be asking for trouble.

Many pros today may welcome an alternative method that’s getting good early buzz.

It’s a new weather-tight housewrap boot panel that includes a self-sealing rubber grommet that makes it a snap to seal-up penetrations with any building envelope system (no more taping different materials). According to the manufacturer, Tamlyn, the patented boot panel seals penetrations sized from 1/8-inch to 4-inches across. The boot panel is available with a breathable membrane.

There may be no silver bullet for flashing exterior wall penetrations. But GCs, installing contractors, and anyone in search of a better way to seal-up exterior wall penetrations without the usual issues, may find this alternative well worth a look.


Attend the 'Future of Building Energy Efficiency and Decarbonization' Meeting of Experts

Wed, 2019-05-01 17:08
Energy EfficiencyTuesday, May 28, Denver, CO

The newest ICC Sustainability Membership Council subcommittee is calling all interested parties and industry experts to attend a new event that will dive into the future of energy efficiency and decarbonization, and that will be held adjacent to the 2019 National Energy Codes Conference.

Tuesday, May 28th
1:00-5:00 p.m. Mountain Time
Hilton Denver City Center


In July of 2018, the International Code Council hosted a diverse group of policy experts, representatives from the major grids, cities and states with advanced policies, and other thought leaders in building energy efficiency to discuss the future of building energy efficiency and management. The roundtable was convened adjacent to the DOE 2018 National Energy Code Conference. 

The forum solicited dialogue and input from leaders and advocates on collective goals. The group addressed such questions as:

  • Where should we want to go as a nation with energy efficiency in buildings?
  • What are the challenges and resources available in reaching those goals?
  • Is there some level of collaboration in which we should be engaging that currently does not exist?
Current Status

The group has met and produced several draft reports, focused on developing guidance and tools for states and jurisdictions seeking carbon reduction. With both the IECC and IgCC in mind, the group is now poised to move forward, working to establish ICC as a nationwide leader for states and AHJs with carbon and energy reduction goals.

Moving Forward

Initially, it is anticipated the subcommittee will focus on:

  1. A gap analysis – what is needed, what products and materials currently exists, and what can ICC provide states and AHJs with carbon reduction and energy efficiency goals beyond the IECC and IgCC
  2. Any building energy product that would be an extension of the IgCC/IECC compliance path
  3. Address how to include water - also an extension of IgCC
Your Help is Needed

We encourage all interested parties to attend this meeting to help refine the path forward and discuss alternative ideas, issues and other important aspects of energy efficiency and decarbonization that will help advance communities agendas in these areas. Discussions will include impact assessments and how to address obstacles to new energy initiative implementations. No registration required to attend. If you have additional question, please contact Michelle Britt at


SOPREMA Launches ALSAN "Cool Roof" Products

Wed, 2019-05-01 16:55
Building Science

Editor’s Note: Soprema has launched a new line of products to address “cool roof” designs to increase the energy efficiency of a building’s roof.  Released under the brand ALSAN, these products will also be marketed to extend the life of other roof building products.

SOPREMA, Inc., a leader in the roofing, waterproofing, wall protection, and civil engineering industries, has launched a new collection of silicone and acrylic products under the brand name of ALSAN® Coatings. ALSAN Coatings are ideal for maintaining and extending the life of existing roofs by protecting them from natural weathering.

The ALSAN Coatings line is comprised of:

  • ALSAN Coating SIL 402, a low-VOC, high-solids, single-component silicone roof coating that forms a durable weatherproof coating for exceptional UV protection and resistance to standing water. This maintenance coating is intended for application over existing single-ply (TPO, PVC, EPDM, and CSPE), modified bitumen, BUR, and metal roofing systems and/or approved existing coatings.
  • ALSAN Coating AC 401, a high-quality, plasticizer-free, water-based, acrylic elastomeric roof coating that is tested in accordance with ASTM D-6083. ALSAN Coating AC 401 is highly reflective and offers outstanding flexibility and resistant natural weathering. This reflective coating is intended to be applied over existing single-ply (TPO, PVC, EPDM, and CSPE), modified bitumen, BUR, and metal roofing systems and/or approved existing coatings.

These products are supported by several primer options that allow the coatings’ use across a range of roofing materials and help prevent asphalt bleed-through, inhibit rust and promote adhesion. Additional accessories include an all-purpose cleaner, Polyfleece polyester fabric for reinforcing seams and flashing, walkway coatings/granules, silicone caulk, and butyl fleece tape. Both ALSAN Coating SIL 402 and ALSAN Coating AC 401 are available in white and custom colors.

“With the addition of ALSAN Coatings, SOPREMA now has an answer for virtually every roofing need and budget,” explains Tom Stuewe, product manager, SOPREMA. “The ALSAN Coatings line now allows customers to reduce rooftop temperatures and prevent premature aging caused by UV rays, reduce energy consumption and costs, and extend the life of existing leak-free roofs that could be comprised of a variety of substrates—all at an economical price point. These materials also offer a low environmental impact, thanks to low-VOC content and their ability to extend roof lifespans, reducing landfill waste associated with tear-offs.”

ALSAN Coatings are available for purchase today. For more information on ALSAN Coatings, visit


The Do’s and Don’ts With Today’s Flashing Products

Wed, 2019-05-01 16:53
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

The most common mistakes – the places where installers need to always pay attention – are reverse flashing, improper cuts, poor surface prep, and not properly seating the flashing on the substrate.

Reverse shingling, where the upper layers go under the lower layers, is the most common installation mistake. All flashing details should provide 100% mechanical drainage paths so that they shed water even if the adhesive fails.

Regardless of flashing type, the substrate needs to be clean and dry. No flashing will stick to dirty, cold, wet and frozen surfaces. There can also be adherence problems with the rough side of OSB – even if it’s bone dry and clean – as well as with gypsum and masonry-based substrates. In these cases, a primer will fill in any irregularities in the substrate and will also provide extra adhesion.

Reverse shingling, where the upper layers go under the lower layers, is the most common installation mistake. All flashing details should provide 100% mechanical drainage paths so that they shed water even if the adhesive fails.

Improper cuts. Water always follows an edge. Often a piece of flashing is cut then lapped over the piece below. The cut should direct water away from the vulnerable area, preferably out onto the WRB. The most problematic cuts are at windowsills – a good argument for using one-piece flexible product in that area.

Improper surface prep. Regardless of flashing type, the substrate needs to be clean and dry. No flashing will stick to dirty, cold, wet, and frozen surfaces. There can also be adherence problems with the rough side of OSB – even if it’s bone dry and clean – as well as with gypsum and masonry-based substrates. In these cases, a primer will fill in any irregularities in the substrate and will also provide extra adhesion.

Fastener placement. The self-sealing properties of peel-and-stick flashings should be taken with a grain of salt. For instance, fasteners should not be driven through the flashing in areas where water could collect, as in a windowsill.

A plastic spreader is a great way to create the initial bond of the tape to the sheathing. If enough pressure is carefully and meticulously applied, the spreader can create the permanent bond. Whenever possible it is always best to go over the tape with a roller.

Seating adhesive flashings.Peel-and-stick flashing tape needs to be mechanically smoothed with a roller or other device that applies mechancial pressure to promote adhesion. Smoothing the flashing with hand pressure is not enough.


Knauf Expands Building Material Empire Through USG

Wed, 2019-05-01 16:49

It was announced recently that German building materials giant Gebr. Knauf KG had completed its acquisition of USG Corporation, paying $7 billion for the gypsum manufacturer.  As the release points out:

“This acquisition creates a global building materials industry leader that will be even better positioned to meet customers’ needs by leveraging two highly complementary businesses, product portfolios and global footprints.”

Their insulation business, Knauff Insulation, purchased Guradian Insulation in 2014, including Guardian Fiberglass and Guradian Laminated Building Products (which was renamed Silvercote, LLC). At the time, the integration of Guardian Insulation more than doubled its production capacity of glass mineral wool fiber.  Knauf also recently announced it was nearing completion of an over £200 million investment into the company’s insulation manufacturing capacity.

The acquisition of USG diversifies Knauf’s product portfolio significantly and creates greater cross-distribution opportunities for Knauf to package both its building insulation and wall board products together.

“This transformational transaction is the largest acquisition in Knauf’s history and, accordingly, presents significant opportunities to create a stronger, more sustainable company for our employees, customers and communities,” said Alexander Knauf, General Partner of Knauf. “We greatly admire USG’s strong brands, leading market positions in North American wallboard and ceilings, and highly talented employee base. We are excited to welcome USG employees to the Knauf family and look forward to working together to accelerate growth and profitability and even better serve our customers.”


Big 10 Headquarters Boasts Cutting-Edge Building Envelope

Wed, 2019-05-01 16:44
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

Since its inception in 1895, the Big Ten Conference has pioneered standards of excellence for intercollegiate sports. It should be no surprise then that the design of its headquarters building in Rosemont, Illinois features the construction industry’s highest performing products. In the Midwest, where temperatures can swing 100 degrees between winter and summer, the effectiveness of a building’s envelope, in particular, is a major factor on interior comfort, energy efficiency, and building durability.

Echoing the red brick buildings on the college campuses the Big Ten represents, designers chose a terra cotta rainscreen wall system that creates a striking façade for the 50,000-square-foot building. The tiles themselves are 12 x 48-inch panels with a bright red-orange color and a smooth finish. Their distinctive color is created using a single-clay composition, but there is a range of natural variations that enhance visual interest. The panels weren’t chosen just for their looks though. Each piece incorporates self-supporting extruded clay cleats that eliminate the need for metal support clips during the installation process—reducing costs and install time. 

The terra cotta tiles are only the most exterior of the layers that wrap the Big Ten headquarters’ building envelope. These layers, called an open-joint rainscreen system, allow pressure to be equalized in the space between two exterior wall components so weather elements don’t reach the inner wall (rainscreen), which contains the moisture barrier and other critical components. This makes the building mold and mildew resistant—a huge bonus in an area known for its summer humidity. The panels are attached to exterior cold-formed metal framing, which supports the rainscreen system to resist the wind and snow loads for the Chicago area.

Behind the framing is the workhorse of the wall assembly, a commercial-grade insulation from Portland, ME-based Hunter Panels. The continuous insulation system used was manufactured at the local Hunter plant in Chicago. Continuous insulation, as its name suggests, covers the entire wall surface, with the obvious exception of windows, doors, and fasteners, minimizing heat loss and thermal bridging that is inevitable in systems that only insulate between the studs. Hunter’s Polyiso foam-board insulation with foil facers on both sides offers R-values from 6.3 to 19.5 in a single layer—a marked improvement over other insulation options. Since the insulation panels incorporate the moisture barrier required to protect the building, they also eliminate a step from the installation process.

Even though the construction team was unfamiliar with some of the wall system’s elements before this job, they were able to quickly master the installation techniques. The entire exterior took only six months to install and the Big Ten will be reaping benefits of such a maintenance-free and energy-efficient system for decades to come.


How to Insulate Slab-on-Grade Under ASHRAE 90.1

Wed, 2019-05-01 16:38
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

Slab-on-grade insulation. It seems like it should not be so complicated. Yet, slab-on-grade insulation can be arranged in a number of configurations, each with pros and cons. One arrangement may be more conducive to maintaining a continuous thermal barrier from a wall down through its foundation but it allows unsightly exposure along the building perimeter. Another configuration may better conceal the insulation yet it allows an undesirable thermal short along the edge of the slab. A particular solution may provide great continuity of the thermal barrier but be problematic in terms of constructability.

Click to enlarge. 

The prospect of slab-on-grade insulation can become complicated. When it does, project teams will often lean on energy codes and standards to settle the issue.

Slab-on-Grade Insulation Requirements in ASHRAE Standard 90.1

Let's unpack the issue in the context of ANSI/ASHRAE/IES Standard 90.1 - Energy Standard for Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings.

First, the standard defines two classes of slab-on-grade:

Heated slab-on-grade floor: a slab-on-grade floor with a heating source either within or below it.

Unheated slab-on-grade floor: a slab-on-grade floor that is not a heated slab-on-grade floor.

Heated slabs-on-grade will feature hot water pipes or coils embedded within or beneath the slab to provide space heating. Heat losses from heated slabs are greater than that of unheated slabs because the temperature is warmer. For unheated slabs, insulation may or may not be required depending on your climate zone, whether or not the project is residential, and which edition of Standard 90.1 is being referenced.

The R-value specification in standard defines both the rated R-value of the insulation and the depth or width of the insulation. For example, "R-10 at 36 in." means that insulation with a rated thermal resistance of 10 must be installed and that the insulation must extend a distance of 36 inches form the top surface of the slab.

A review of the Standard 90.1's building envelope prescriptive requirements will reveal a reference to a "maximum assembly F-factor" rather than a U-factor, as one would see for other envelope components.


In contrast to the U-factor for floors, the F-factor for slab-on-grade floors is expressed per linear foot of building perimeter. F-factors are provided for both heated and unheated slabs.

The F-factors are provided for three insulation configurations (verbatim below from the 2016 edition with my emphasis):

Horizontal Insulation: Continuous insulation is applied directly to the underside of the slab and extends inward horizontally from the perimeter for the distance specified, or continuous insulation is applied downward from the top of the slab and then extends horizontally to the interior or the exterior from the perimeter for the distance specified.

Vertical Insulation: Continuous insulation is applied directly to the slab exterior, extending downward from the top of the slab for the distance specified. 

Fully Insulated Slab: Continuous insulation extends downward from the top of the slab and along the entire perimeter and completely covers the entire area under the slab.

The F-factors for slab-on-grade floors are defined in Standard 90.1. Consult Appendix A (Table A6.3.1 in the 2016 edition) for a tabulation of assembly F-factors for slab-on-grade floors based on the arrangement and rated R-value of the applied insulation.

These F-factors are acceptable for all slab-on-grade floors, but you need to make sure the insulation is rated and applied accordingly.

Regarding the rated R-value of insulation on slab-on-grade floors

As clarified in Appendix A of Standard 90.1-2016:

  • The rated R-value of insulation shall be installed around the perimeter of the slab-on-grade floor to the distance specified. Exception: For monolithic slab and footing, the insulation must extend only to the bottom of the footing or the distance specified, whichever is less.
  • Insulation installed inside the foundation wall shall extend downward from the top of the slab a minimum of the distance specified or to the top of the footing, whichever is less.
  • Insulation installed outside the foundation wall shall extend form the top of the slab directly down for the full distance, or at least down to the bottom of the slab and then horizontally until the specified distance is achieved. In all climate zones, the horizontal insulation extending outside of the foundation shall be covered by pavement or by soil a minimum of 10 inches thick.
Sound complicated?

While ASHRAE's performance requirements for slab-on-grade insulation has shifted over time, the basics of the standard's permitted applications of slab-on-grade insulation have remained largely unchanged for the past several editions of Standard 90.1.

In hopes of offering some clarity, the figure below depicts acceptable and unacceptable slab-on-grade insulation applications. This figure is adapted from a similar figure in the ASHRAE's 90.1 User's Guide. (This information applies at least as far back as the 2007 edition of standard. Only two states have an energy code less stringent than Standard 90.1-2007, so I did not dig deeper than the 2007 edition.)

Figure 1: Slab-on-Grade Insulation Applications. Click to enlarge.
Image courtesy of Daniel Overbey. Adapted from the ANSI/ASHRAE/IESNA Standard 90.1-2007 User's Manual.


Wood Fiber Insulation Startup Buys Production Facility

Wed, 2019-05-01 16:16
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

A Maine-based startup hoping to expand the wood fiber insulation market in the U.S. is in the process of buying a shuttered paper mill and hopes to start production of batt, board and blown in insulation next year.

Fiberboard insulation, long popular in Europe, should have its first U.S. producer by early next year. A Maine-based company plans to overhaul a closed paper mill and ready a new production line for fiberboard. [Photo credit: 475 High Performance Building Supply]

GO Lab, a spinoff of GO Logic in Belfast, Maine, is plunking down roughly $2.5 million for the Madison Paper Industries mill that was closed in 2016 amid the slow deflation of the state’s pulp and paper industry, according to The Portland Press Herald.

Matt McConnell, director of market development, said in a telephone call that the company has purchased used equipment from Germany and can begin setting up a production line as soon as a paper-making machine has been disassembled and removed.

Insulation made from wood fiber is fairly common in Europe but it’s a relatively  expensive and hard-to-find product in the U.S. There are only two known retailers in the country — 475 High Performance Building Supply in New York, which sells German-made Gutex, and Global Wholesale Supply, a Maryland-based company that distributes Steico insulation, which is  manufactured in Poland. GO Lab would become the first producer in the country.

In an interview with GBA in 2017, GO Lab CEO Josh Henry said that wood fiber insulation will make an appealing alternative to rigid foam because it’s made from wood fiber rather than petrochemicals, can be recycled, and can be manufactured sustainably from Maine’s abundant wood fiber resources. Like rigid foam or mineral wool, it can be applied in a continuous layer on the outside of a building to reduce thermal bridging through the structural framing. Fiberboard insulation is not a structural component.

GO Lab hopes to sell the insulation both to lumberyards and to insulation distributors and contractors. Distribution will be mainly in the Northeast, McConnell said, but the company would ship it to buyers elsewhere.

Factory site is in the heart of paper country

Madison, Maine, is a town of about 4,800 in the rural midsection of the state. The mill’s closure in 2016 was part of an industry contraction that saw the number of mills decline and employment fall from its peak of 18,000 workers in the 1960s. The downward trend followed lower demand for newsprint and the type of glossy magazine stock the Madison mill produced.

The end of paper making in Madison was a blow to the community. Two hundred and fourteen people lost their jobs, and the town lost its biggest taxpayer.

But wood products, including paper, remain an important part of Maine’s economy and cultural identify. Industry officials look to non-traditional means of using the state’s forest resources to bring jobs back. If GO Lab can get its business off the ground and make good on Henry’s goal of hiring 110 people, it would be good news on Main Street.

GO Lab has been looking for private sources of money, and won a $100,000 grant last year through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Then, earlier this month, the company was awarded another $750,000 grant, this one from state sources.

McConnell said the company is “feverishly” raising money and would need between $60 million and $65 million to get the operation off the ground. “We’re getting good traction,” he said.

So far, a niche product here

Fiberboard insulation will appeal to builders who want to avoid any type of foam in their roof and wall assemblies. European builders apparently like it, but U.S. builders don’t have ready access to it, and it’s considerably more expensive than rigid foam.

Gutex Multitherm 40 (R-5.8) costs about $1.80 per square foot — nearly three times as much as 1 1/2-inch-thick EPS with the same R-value — and it comes in an odd size that is incompatible with the 4-foot grid used by U.S. builders (although the tongue-and-groove design means seams don’t have to land on framing members).

Gutex Multitherm, meant for application on exterior walls, is sold in thicknesses ranging from 1 9/16 inches to 7 7/8 inches, with R-values from 5.8 to 29.1 respectively. The composition of Multitherm is 1% paraffin, 4% polyurethane, and 95% wood. It has an R-value of 3.7 per inch and a perm rating of 44 in a 1-inch thickness.

Steico’s competing product, called Steico Universal, comes in a variety of thicknesses, with 40 mm (1.57 inches) and 60 mm (2.36 inches) the most popular here, according to a company spokesman. It’s R-value is about 3 per inch, with standard sheets sold here about 7.2 feet by 2.5 feet.

McConnell said that the company hopes to get the price of fiberboard down so that it’s only slightly more expensive that extruded polystyrene (XPS).

As much as current fiberboard retailers like the product, they recognize that it isn’t likely to dethrone rigid foam or fiberglass. “We’re not going to make this a mainstream product,” said Will Grupenhoff, vice president for business development at Global Wholesale Supply. “It’s not going to be a product that winds up in Home Depot.”

But both Grupenhoff and Ken Levenson, 475’s chief operating officer, look forward to a growing market for the product in the U.S. as interest in healthy, low-carbon buildings gains a wider audience.

“Like Passive House and all the players in Passive House, whether you’re window suppliers or airtightness [product] suppliers or insulation suppliers, all these different efforts to grow the market and the availability of these products is going to help everyone,” Levenson said. “It’s going to make a more dynamic and more mature industry to serve the market.”

Levenson said that fiberboard insulation is a good fit with mass timber construction because it uses waste that would otherwise be burned or used in another product with a shorter carbon cycle. “It’s real value added in terms of the climate fight in that way,” he said. Other benefits include excellent sound attenuation and workability.


ICC CEO Sims: ANSI is “Highest Possible Standard” for Approvals

Mon, 2019-04-29 11:02
Building Codes

In an April 15, 2019 article the International Code Council had the following to say about American National Standards Institute (ANSI) accreditation:

Certified Once
Accepted Everywhere

“Recognized across borders, ANSI accreditation is critical to public health, national security, safety and the environment. While certification agencies are not mandated to receive ANSI accreditation, accreditation by ANSI under its consensus and due process-based system provides certification organizations with an exemplary level of integrity, distinction and trust.”

“The ANSI accreditation reflects the Code Council’s commitment to pursue the highest possible standard,” said Michelle Porter, director of the ICC Assessment Center, “This mark of distinction demonstrates that the Code Council has the necessary competencies and has undergone a rigorous accreditation process.”

“The ANSI accreditation reflects the Code Council’s commitment to pursue the highest possible standard,” said Code Council Chief Executive Officer Dominic Sims, CBO. “This mark of distinction demonstrates the Code Council has the necessary competencies and has undergone a rigorous accreditation process. Accredited certification programs are essential to maintaining public health and safety, which is at the core of the Code Council’s mission.”

“The Code Council is proud to receive the ANSI accreditation,” commented Code Council Board President William R. Bryant, MCP, CBO. “We provide the professional development services for the building safety industry, and this recognition is an acknowledgment of our exceptional
products and services.”

“ANSI is the official U.S. representative to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and, via the U.S. National Committee, the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). Accreditation from ANSI is recognized globally as government bodies look to ANSI accreditation programs to distinguish among certification programs.

Government officials, such as building officials,  are charged with enforcing adopted regulations. For alternative products and services a research report is typically required to be provided by approved agency. IBC Chapter 17 section 1703.1 defines approved agency requirements.

As ICC states above the ANSI mark of distinction provides building officials what they need to know to approve an ANSI accredited agency’s technical evaluation report. Why? ANSI demonstrated that each accredited agency has the necessary competencies and has undergone a rigorous accreditation process as defined in IBC chapter 17. Accordingly, the agency meets all code compliance regulations.

What is true of ANSI is also true of professional engineers through accepted engineering practice or engineered designs. Professional engineers are certified and licensed through individual state laws through a series of state legal requirements. When a seal and signature is applied, the sealing process is equivalent to or better than an ANSI certification. This is because a P.E. and their company stand behind their work.

Finally, the ANSI certification can be used to obtain product or service approval in any country that is an IAF MLA Signatory. The IAF MLA evaluation is a rigorous accreditation process that expects “certified once, accepted everywhere.” Companies can go to jurisdictions in any IAF MLA Signatory Country and be approved by authorities having jurisdiction using ANSI’s accreditation.

For additional information, please read the following articles:

  1. Is an “ANSI 17065 Report” equal to an "ICC Report"?
  2. Do Building Officials have Legal Authority over a P.E.'s Work?



Commentary on Term Authority Having Jurisdiction

Mon, 2019-04-29 10:22
Building Codes

What is the definition of authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) found in the building code, and what does this definition mean? The 2018 set of building codes does not provides a definition for AHJ. Therefore, this term will need to be defined using the dictionary or as a term defined in another code. Fortunately, the Building Code 2015 of New York State or the Uniform Code (UC)  helps by providing a definition as follows:

Section 107 Administration and Enforcement
107.1 Definitions

“Authority Having Jurisdiction” means the governmental unit or agency responsible for administration and enforcement of the Uniform Code.

It is then clear that the definition of AHJ is identical to that of building official. A commentary for both definitions is provided in the article entitled, “Key Construction Industry Definition - Building Official.”

Fighting to Keep the Law Free

UpCodes is using AI to make compliance with the law easier and cheaper. This will result in safer and more affordable housing. Open access to the law is an important part of reaching that goal. SBCA supports UpCodes in its defense of Americans' constitutional right to freely read their own laws and the make this easy through innovation.

For additional information and commentary on building code definitions, please read the following articles:


Commentary on Term Building Official

Mon, 2019-04-29 10:11
Building Codes

What is the definition of building official found in the building code, and what does this definition mean? The place to begin to address key definitions, which may be understood differently through interpretation, is from source documents where adoption into law occurs. The 2018 International Building Codes (IBC) provides the definition of Building Official as follows:

[A] BUILDING OFFICIAL. The officer or other designated authority charged with the administration and enforcement of this code, or a duly authorized representative.

The procedures for “administration” are defined in Chapter 1 of the building code and are further defined as follows:

Section 104 Duties and Powers of Building Official

[A] 104.1 General

The building official is hereby authorized and directed to enforce the provisions of this code. The building official shall have the authority to render interpretations of this code and to adopt policies and procedures in order to clarify the application of its provisions. Such interpretations, policies and procedures shall be in compliance with the intent and purpose of this code. Such policies and procedures shall not have the effect of waiving requirements specifically provided for in this code.

[A] 105.3.1 Action on application

The building official shall examine or cause to be examined applications for permits and amendments thereto within a reasonable time after filing. If the application or the construction documents do not conform to the requirements of pertinent laws, the building official shall reject such application in writing, stating the reasons therefor. If the building official is satisfied that the proposed work conforms to the requirements of this code and laws and ordinances applicable thereto, the building official shall issue a permit therefor as soon as practicable.

The following commentary is intended to amplify the foregoing language:

A building official’s role is to administer and enforce the words as used   in each section of the code, in the context of the specific code compliance application. This is challenging because there may be multiple sections of the code that often need to be applied to have proper context.

The building official shall examine all aspects of the construction project for compliance with the specific charging language and scope of the section of the code being implemented.

If anything within the construction project is non-conforming with respect to the requirements of the pertinent laws, or clarifications provided through interpretation or policy, the building official shall reject non-conformances in writing, providing the reasons the code sections are non-compliant.

Implied is that the written rejection will provide:

  1. Specific evidence of non-conformance, and
  2. Enough information to be able to understand the non-conformance based on the evidence provided, and
  3. A clear and easy-to-understand pathway to cure non-compliance.

Implied here is the fact that not everything needed to enforce the code is going to be written in the code. Hence, alternatives will need to be provided and an evaluation made regarding whether or not various products and services meet the intent of the code. The typical policy and procedure for alternative approval is as follows:

  1. registered design professional (RDP) or approved source provide an accepted engineering analysis or research report and signs and certifies their belief that the issue being dealt with conforms to the code.
  2. research report, also known as a technical evaluation and is provided by an ANSI ISO/IEC 17065 Accredited Product Certification Body and is often generically called an “ICC Report.”

Fighting to Keep the Law Free

UpCodes is using AI to make compliance with the law easier and cheaper. This will result in safer and more affordable housing. Open access to the law is an important part of reaching that goal. SBCA supports UpCodes in its defense of Americans' constitutional right to freely read their own laws and the make this easy through innovation.

For additional information and commentary on building code definitions, please read the following articles:


Commentary on Words/Terms Used in the Building Code

Mon, 2019-04-29 09:57
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

Good communication requires a common understanding of the words that we are using. As everyone knows, communication can easily become miscommunication when the same word is being used but the intent behind the words is different. The building code addresses how we should use words in Section 201 as follows:

201.1 Scope

Unless otherwise expressly stated, the following words and terms shall, for the purposes of this code, have the meanings shown in this chapter. 

201.2 Interchangeability

Words used in the present tense include the future; words stated in the masculine gender include the feminine and neuter; the singular number includes the plural and the plural, the singular. 

201.3 Terms defined in other codes

Where terms are not defined in this code and are defined in the International Energy Conservation CodeInternational Fuel Gas CodeInternational Fire CodeInternational Mechanical Code or International Plumbing Code, such terms shall have the meanings ascribed to them as in those codes. 

201.4 Terms not defined 

Where terms are not defined through the methods authorized by this section, such terms shall have ordinarily accepted meanings such as the context implies.

Fortunately, the building code is clear on how we should be managing words. When a word is not defined in the building code, yet needed a contextual definition, SBC Magazine will link to to provide a definition.   

Fighting to Keep the Law Free

UpCodes is using AI to make compliance with the law easier and cheaper. This will result in safer and more affordable housing. Open access to the law is an important part of reaching that goal. SBCA supports UpCodes in its defense of Americans' constitutional right to freely read their own laws and the make this easy through innovation.

For additional information and commentary on building code definitions, please read the following articles: