Energy Efficiency and Building Science News

Fear Building Envelopes No More with This Website & Videos

Wed, 2018-07-18 13:57
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

If you’re intimidated by the complexity and requirements of building envelopes and building science, you are not alone.  Many owners, architects, engineers and builders can be confused by the complicated and interrelated science involved in the important layers protecting the building from temperature changes, not to mention the complex factors that affect insulation performance, thermal bridges, structural performance, the effects of moisture vapor and wind driven rain, etc.

That’s where comes in!  

This new website contains a wealth of building envelope-related resources, including a primer on R-factor and U-Factor insulation math and steel and wood wall assembly performance calculators to aid in thermal and water vapor control design.  

A new video series has been added which serves as good way to get your feet wet on the concepts undergirding the wide range of topics covered on The first video below features Joseph Lstiburek, Ph.D., P.Eng, describing a state-of-the-art building envelope and the basic science behind its construction.




Each of the video in this series lays out a different basic building design concept, and helps to illustrate the breadth and depth of resources available at ABTG staff will introduce additional videos in the series as they are added to the site.  All of this work is meant to give you as much detailed knowledge as you need or would like to have to design a better performing building!

Installer Promotes Benefits of Spray Foam Insulation Retrofits

Wed, 2018-07-18 13:06
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

Have you ever wondered why some people have such cozy homes no matter what time of year it is?

It's not so much a mystery, as it is superior insulation. To create a house that doesn't feel like a sauna during the summer with an air conditioner that's constantly running, homeowners need an insulation that creates an air barrier – like foam insulation.

"Many homeowners don't realize the same insulation that keeps a house warm in the winter, also helps to keep it cool in the summer," said Eric Garcia, RetroFoam of Michigan general manager.

Keeping a home cool in the summer is done by using a window air conditioner unit or a central air unit. These are the only machines in the home that create cold air, as everything else radiates heat. Insulation plays a big role in maintaining a constant comfortable temperature.

Foam insulation creates an air barrier that keeps your cool air inside, while keeping the hot summer air outside. If the home doesn't have an adequate insulation, then there is no barrier to keep the heat outside.

"Think of foam insulation like one of those foam cups you get at the gas station," said Garcia. "The same cup keeps your coffee warm and your soda cold."

When injection foam insulation and spray foam insulation are installed, the materials completely fill the cavities, including any gaps and crevices. This stops any air leakage and movement.

Another added bonus of creating an air barrier in a home is that the AC unit won't run constantly in an effort to maintain a comfortable temperature. This doesn't just make the home cool during the summer, as it will also save the homeowner money each month on energy bills.

Traditional insulation materials, like fiberglass and cellulose, don't protect a home from airflow and leakage like foam insulation does. These materials are a poor choice for insulation if a homeowner wants to keep their home comfortable and more energy efficient.

When it comes to reducing air leakage, foam insulation is the best option as it provides both heat resistance and an air seal.

Since 2002, RetroFoam of Michigan has been insulating thousands of homes across Michigan's lower peninsula with foam insulation. The company has been recognized the past several years by Consumers Energy for its work to help homeowners reduce their carbon footprint by making their homes more energy efficient.


Spray Foam Used to Retrofit Historic Wine Country Home

Wed, 2018-07-18 12:59
Building Science

Northern California’s Wine Country is often regarded as the perfect setting for wine enthusiasts all over the world: Dry-summer tropical weather, scintillating landscapes, and of course, highly renowned vineyards providing top-shelf offerings that stimulate even the most defined and sharpest of palates. But if you look past the allure of the fermented-grape-based nectar, there’s also a rich history and concealed tidbits inside Wine Country. One of these hidden gems comes in the shape of a private home tucked away in the hillside of Kenwood, an unincorporated community located along eastern Sonoma County and at the north end of the picturesque Sonoma Valley.

Calvin Straub (1920-1998) was widely recognized for his work with post and beam structural style, which many architects employ today. Straub came out of retirement to complete the home in 1993, fulfilling a promise he had made to his daughter. Straub died in 1998, making this home his final masterpiece.

An Architectural Jewel

This single-story, 4,000 square-foot Mid-century modern home is not only unique in its presentation with a fully interconnected layout, vaulted ceilings, and exposed wood post and beam, it is actually the final residential masterpiece of the late acclaimed architect Calvin C. Straub. Straub’s building approach was marked by his fascination with wood and was considered by many, including American author and historian Esther McCoy, as the “father of California post and beam architecture” due to his consistent and extensive work using this style. Fueled by his motto of “To live and to build,” Straub brought to life 54 signature residential projects from 1946-1988. Straub was also hailed as a great educator throughout his time as a professor at the University of Southern California (where he also became dean of the College of Architecture) and Arizona State University.

When building each home, Straub emphasized the use of artisan craft as opposed to technology, being inspired by natural surroundings, context, and climate—and it shows in the home in question. The home sits on a nine-acre piece of land where there was formerly a rock quarry – and the area is teeming with natural beauty and wildlife. It boasts a cantilevered foundation over tree roots, and every room opens to a landscape of oak and madrone trees, peaceful ponds, and awe-striking hill vistas. Straub actually came out of retirement to build this home—this was number 55 and his only installment in Northern California—in order to fulfill a promise he had made to his daughter, Kathrin. Kathrin’s childhood dream had been to live in a home that was built by her father, and Straub made good on that promise and worked with Kathrin and Associate Architect Mark Parry to complete the Kenwood home in 1993 (Straub passed away in 1998). The project was one last apt creation and expression of unparalleled talent and now, two decades plus later, it is one of the remaining vestiges of an era in Western architecture that Straub pioneered.

Kathrin lived in the home for a number of years with her husband, Dennis, before a new owner purchased the home. Throughout that time, the existing roofing system of the home began showing signs of failure that began to affect the energy performance of the home, prompting the new owner to seek out a solution. The big question was: What could blend Mid-century modern architectural design with high-tech roofing technology in a seamless fashion? The answer was to install a spray polyurethane foam roofing system to the built-up roof membrane flat roof of the home to preserve Straub’s final magnum opus—a delicate task, which roofing experts Wedge Roofing made their own.

“Straub’s ability to marry the interior of the home with the striking scenery outside seamlessly was unique and it’s still relevant today,” explains Gary Harvey, general manager of Wedge Roofing. “The home captures the quintessential Mid-century modern design. The existing roof wasn’t that old, however, given the intricacies and complexities in the design of the structure, the system wasn’t performing as well as the current owner expected and he wanted to enhance the thermal envelope.”

Re-roof Revitalization

The intricacies and complexities in the design that Harvey refers to consist of meandering slender flat roof sections, as well as flat roof sections isolated by two-to-four-foot parapet walls, all punctuated by steep cathedral ceiling shingle sections. With spray foam, Wedge was able to air-seal the roofline without having to stack insulation and compromise the aesthetics of the unique characteristics of the roof such as the low clerestory windows and the plaster walls that came at two inches off the roof deck. The application consisted of applying SPF to the flat roof and the parapet walls.

Six crewmembers of Wedge’s team tackled this application. They were briefed beforehand on the importance of protecting the ancillary components surrounding the home. Therefore, before any materials were installed, they masked off pitched cathedral ceiling roofs that jut out, under-the-lineal-feet plaster walls on all areas of the roof, the undershot areas between roof sections, and almost 3,000 feet of pristine exterior wooden decking. They also set up an elevated grid and affixed plastic sheeting to it in order to promote airflow and simultaneously protect the water landscape features, which included ponds filled with koi fish that surround the east and southeast facing side of the home.

“We needed to give special attention to the natural environment, foliage, and wildlife, which meant providing protection the ancillary non-impacted components, including trees, shrubs, water features, pristine roof siding, and portions of the roof that weren’t included in our scope of work,” points out Harvey.

The Wedge team then got on the roof by ladder and added perimeter warning lines since the parapets were lower than five feet. They installed fasteners onto the existing membrane to add extra wind uplift value, which would be enhanced by the spray foam roofing system. To wrap up prep work, the crew pressure-washed the BUR substrate to make sure the existing membrane was clear from debris for a smooth SPF application.

After the roof was clear, the crewmembers outfitted themselves with PPE consisting of neoprene gloves, 3M particulate and organic filtered respirators, and Tyvek suits. They fired up their Graco E-30 proportioner and brought their Graco Fusion AP gun onto the roof and went to work. They installed an inch of PremiSeal 280, a 2.8 lb. closed-cell spray foam manufactured by Carlisle Roof Foam and Coatings.

“The SPF will transfer its fastening capability to the existing BUR system to provide maximum wind uplift protection,” says Harvey. “Of course, the foam will add to the life cycle of a one-of-a-kind home that needs and deserves to be preserved.”

After the SPF had been installed to the roof, the crew utilized a Graco GH 933 Big Rig hydraulic pump to install 22-mil base coat of dark gray Carlisle’s PremiCote 2100, a high-solids silicone coating, which was followed by an application of a 7.8-mil topcoat of PremiCote 2100. The crew also hand broadcasted white granules into the topcoat to complete the roofing system. Harvey noted that the application was attached to a 10-year manufacturer warranty from Carlisle for materials and labor.

The crew installed an inch of closed-cell spray polyurethane foam over the existing system. The roofing system was completed with a gray silicone finish with embedded granules

Masterpiece Longevity

After five days on the job, the Wedge crew rounded up the application and made their way down from the Kenwood hillside and back to their home base in Petaluma, California. Harvey, who was on site directing the crew, says that the impact of partaking in the revitalization of a landmark residence constructed by a celebrated architectural mind came after the project’s completion.

“I was aware of the unique characteristics of the home and the importance of its architectural features and design, yet it wasn’t until after that I realized the magnitude of our work,” says Harvey. “I’m glad we were able to install the roof system to perfection and without setbacks. I’d say we tried to put as much effort into this project as Straub put into realizing his and his daughter’s vision of ideal home living.”

The striking scenery of the Sonoma Valley is an everyday backdrop for the home’s residents

The closed-cell SPF roofing system now provides a completely leak-free seal that will bring about superior insulation with the highest R-value, which will reduce energy costs for the present and future homeowners of this remarkable abode. In addition to these benefits, the clean and aesthetic look of the spray foam roof compliments the horizontal lines of the streamlined flat roof.

“The benefits are vast, but forget for a moment that it [spray foam] has an extremely long-cycle and superlative performance; forget that it keeps everything dry; forget that it insulates the home with qualities comparable to your refrigerator; forget that it provides racking strength, wind uplift protection, along with other structural qualifications; it is a beautiful, monolithic system that has smooth lines in keeping with the rest of the structure,” concludes Harvey. “It was important to deliver a system that provides longevity and also looks great so that it can actually add to the aesthetics of this one-of-a-kind home, and we did.”


New Jersey Net-Zero House Components Built by Robots

Wed, 2018-07-18 12:31
Building Science

Construction is nearly complete on a new, energy-efficient home at the Jersey Shore.

Known as a “net zero” home, most of the Spring Lake Heights house was already constructed in Maryland. Once it is finished, the new homeowners will likely pay very little, if anything at all in heating and cooling costs.

“This house will generate as much energy as it uses on an annual basis,” says architect Rich Pedranti.

The 2,000-square-foot home was designed by Pedranti. Cost-saving measures include triple-pane, German-engineered window panes, air-tight fabrication and insulation. Once finished, a small renewable energy system will also be added. 

Click on the image to view the video.

 “What you're looking at here is the European model for home building. This building was built in a factory in Baltimore by a company called Blueprint Robotics,” says Pedranti.

The market value of the home is typical for its location in Monmouth County. Pedranti says that the cost savings come from the renewable energy, in addition to the time saved on construction.

“This house was built in a factory in three days and then the panels were brought here on a truck and assembled in about two weeks,” he says.

Pedranti says that homeowners don't need a new home to save money on heating and cooling costs. He urges homeowners to invest in upgrading insulation, adding airtight windows and installing a good ventilation system.

The new homeowners in the “net zero” home hope to move in around Labor Day.

BASF Brokers Rare Deal to Build $10B Chemicals Complex in China

Wed, 2018-07-18 12:25
Building ScienceBusiness

Germany’s BASF managed to wrap up a preliminary deal to build China’s first wholly foreign-owned chemicals complex quite quickly, aided in part by trade tensions between Beijing and Washington, sources with knowledge of the matter said.

The proposed complex, worth some $10bn in investment to 2030, will be located in Guangdong, China’s most populous province, which had been worried about the impact of a US decision to heavily penalise telecom firm ZTE, also based there.

Fears that a US-China trade war would hurt investment prospects for the business-friendly province made local government officials that much more receptive to overtures by BASF, a global giant with state-of-the art technology, separate people briefed on matter also said.

BASF’s announcement, part of $23bn worth of bilateral deals unveiled as German Chancellor Angela Merkel met Chinese premier Li Keqiang in Berlin this week is conspicuous for its timing, trade and chemical industry experts said. In reaching out to Europe, China is showing it is open for business as the trade row with Washington deepens.

BASF’s coup, while still a rare example of a foreign player prising open the Chinese government’s tight control over its energy and chemical industries, also follows measures by Beijing to lift some caps on foreign ownership in the automotive and banking sectors.

"Now that we have this trade war that was kicked off last week, Beijing is telling Washington it is still doing business and that there are capable companies around the world to do business with," said John Driscoll, director of consultancy JTD Energy in Singapore.

Measured warming

The outcomes of Li’s visit, during which the widow of Chinese Nobel Peace Prize-winning political dissident Liu Xiaobo, left de facto house arrest in China to live in Germany, signalled a measured warming in what has been a bilateral relationship fraught with spying allegations and commercial mistrust.

This week, China has also approved a huge, new, wholly owned Shanghai factory for US electric vehicle (EV) maker Tesla, and a $2.3bn joint venture organic light-emitting diode (OLED) plant to be built by South Korea’s LG Display.

In contrast, the Trump administration on Tuesday raised the stakes in the trade dispute, threatening 10% tariffs on a list of $200bn worth of Chinese imports, prompting Beijing to warn it would be forced to retaliate.

BASF’s search for a potential site for its second major project in the world’s largest chemical market had been in the works for a while, an industry insider with knowledge of the deal said. Like other sources, the industry insider declined to be identified due to the sensitivity of the matter.

The German firm had decided to go it alone rather than working with a state-owned partner as it had done previously and chose Guangdong as recently as three months ago, the person said, adding that BASF had spied a "window of opportunity", banking on the province’s desire for cutting-edge technology. The person also said local governments had become more aware that foreign investment could help them build what they wanted.

BASF’s overtures coincided with a crisis for ZTE, slapped with a ban barring US suppliers from selling it components after the firm broke an agreement to discipline executives who conspired to evade US sanctions on Iran and North Korea. ZTE has had to curtail operations and is working to lift the ban. "The ZTE case helped," the person said on Tuesday, without elaborating further.

BASF’s media relations department said the company chose Guangdong for its first major investment in south China to tap the region’s fast economic growth but declined to comment on whether ZTE’s travails had helped speed up the decision-making.

Amid China’s increased openness to foreign investment, BASF’s knowledge of doing business in China meant it could "seize the right opportunity at the right time", a Beijing-based energy industry executive said.


Under the agreement, BASF will explore building an integrated chemicals complex with petrochemicals plants and a steam cracker producing 1-million tonnes of ethylene a year. It is a chance to greatly expand in a Chinese chemicals market worth an estimated $1.5-trillion a year, feeding plastics, coatings and adhesives to the southern province’s fast-growing consumer electronics and automotive sectors.

By contrast, rival petrochemical giants have yet to strike wholly owned similar-sized deals in China — which accounts for about 40% of the world’s chemical production. So far, they’ve stuck with joint ventures even though China eased restrictions on foreign ownership in the sector in 2011.

Royal Dutch Shell started an expanded joint venture petrochemical plant in Huizhou in May with China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC). Late last year, ExxonMobil signed a joint study memorandum of understanding with the government of Huizhou for a similar facility — although that agreement allows for the possibility of full ownership.

BASF plans to do a pre-feasibility study of its site by the end of the year, followed by a thorough analysis by end-2019 with construction estimated to start in 2023. The company aims to complete the first plants by 2026.

BASF’s first major foray in China, nearly two decades ago, was a joint venture with state oil major Sinopec to build a $5.2bn petrochemical complex in Nanjing, Jiangsu province.


Dream Home Acts as Icynene-Lapolla Foam Demonstration Project

Wed, 2018-07-18 12:16
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

It’s been a few years since Hurricane Sandy mercilessly tore through the Jersey Shore and left many crumbling structures in its wake, but that doesn’t mean that the area stopped being a desirable place to visit and live, which is why a great portion of these damaged homes have already been rebuilt and more structures have been added. In the borough of Lavalette, which was one of the areas where most damages occurred, a recently constructed, energy-efficient home on stilts by the ocean is another testament of said rebirth. This is the “dream home in the dream location” of New Jersey resident Sherry Vivenzio and her husband; it is where she wanted to live despite the past disastrous event.

And what’s not to like? Lavalette is home to nine protected picturesque ocean beaches that offer swimming, surfing, kitesurfing, fishing, sailing, and boating. Along the shoreline and further inland, there are opportunities for rollerblading, tennis, bocce, shuffleboard, live music and concert-going, and many other activities to suit all tastes. When you add beachside living with the right kind of entertainment, you understand that Vivenzio’s idea of a perfect location is not far off from most of yours. Living in Lavallette means watching the crowds roll in in the summer and then experiencing mostly peace and quiet the rest of the year with the exception of a few potent sea breezes—and Vivenzio wanted to keep it that way year-round, as well as have an ideal indoor climate through the summer and the winter while keeping energy costs down. That’s why she requested that her home be insulated with open-cell spray polyurethane foam (SPF) insulation.

“I wanted to make our home as energy-efficient and as quiet as possible,” notes Vivenzio. “There was no doubt foam insulation was the way to go!”

The Vivenzio’s home is located approximately 100 feet from the water. They requested spray foam as the insulation material to obtain sound deadening and indoor comfort.

The project involved a collaboration between system house Icynene-Lapolla and Foam Tight Insulation, Inc. (FTI), a contractor specializing in SPF applications. FTI became certified to use Icynene’s Classic Ultra, the latest technology in half-pound, open-cell SPF technology. This product features improved sprayability and consistent yield, as well as introduces Icynene-Lapolla Draw Mixer, an innovative expanding blade mixer that eliminates the need of pre-spray hand mixing. The certification was made possible by way of Damian Lardieri, dealer development manager for Icynene-Lapolla, who played a part in the product demonstration, FTI’s Classic Ultra certification, and the ordering of the product. Not only did Lardieri help out with the qualification process for the contracting company, he also aligned the project and personally introduced Stan Betts, president of FTI, to Vivenzio. Lardieri also oversaw the installation onsite to make sure that the FTI crew understood the ins and outs of the product.

“It was a successful link that led to a well-executed project,” says Lardieri. “I’m hoping I can participate in many future projects and help promote our top-of-the-line products.”

An additional benefit that the Classic Ultra SPF provided was that it could be applied at varying temperatures, with drum temperatures only needing to be at 70ºF for an optimal installation. A three-man FTI crew completed this application during the winter of 2018, and since there was no heat in the home when they arrived on site, using the Classic Ultra proved to be efficient.

“We didn’t need to heat our drums constantly to apply the foam and we didn’t have to use heaters against the substrate,” explains Betts. “This foam system allowed us to go through the job in a smooth manner without needing to heat the building. It’s a tenacious product that adhered perfectly to the plywood substrate.”

The crew insulated the home with Icynene’s Classic Ultra open-cell SPF. They applied it to the exterior walls of both floors of the home, as well the underside roof of the first and second floor.

The FTI crew arrived to the home in Lavalette in a truck-mounted rig that was equipped with a PMC PHX-40 hydraulic proportioner, PMC AP-2 spray guns, and 300 feet of hose. The application of SPF to the 3,000 square-foot home that was located approximately 100 feet from the water consisted of insulating the exterior walls of the first and second floor, the attic, and the underside of the first floor.

Before any foam came out of their AP-2’s, the FTI crew applied a polyurethane foam sealant around the windows and door frames and made sure to staple one-mil plastic sheeting around these openings, masked off light fixtures in the ceiling of both floors, and laid tarps to cover the ground between floors to reduce overspray damage. They also set up Baker scaffolding between each floor to reach the higher areas of the walls and rooflines.

FTI started at the bottom of the home and applied eight inches of foam to the underside of the roof of the first floor, which consisted of a two-car garage and a utility room. The water piping and plumbing system of the home was located in that utility room, so it was specified that the interior walls be insulated with closed-cell foam to create a moisture barrier. For that particular area, the FTI crew applied two inches of Icynene’s MD-C-200, a 2 lb. closed-cell SPF. Approximately 10 gallons of closed-cell foam were installed for that entire portion of the home. Then, the crew moved to the main living areas.

“We have experienced our home holding the heat extremely well and even with our high wind location the house feels solid and quiet.”

Betts explains that the application varied in depth between floors because the first floor had two-by-four exterior walls, whereas the second floor had two-by-six exterior walls, so to accommodate the different structural sizes, 3.5 inches of open-cell foam were installed between the studs of the first floor walls and 4.5 inches were installed to the second floor walls. The FTI crew then applied eight inches of foam to the underside of the roof to complete a thermal envelope for the home. Foam in place, the crew used a foam trimmer to shave off the excess foam and make the material flush with the studs. A total of three sets of open-cell SPF was installed to the home. Because the foam was later covered with drywall, no ignition or thermal barrier coating was required. While installing, the three FTI crewmembers wore coveralls, full-face respirators, face masks, gloves, and boots—and they completed the application in just under a week.

“Spray foam is a green product that is going to help the homeowners save a lot of money on utilities and keep the home nice and quiet at the same time,” says Betts.

And as far as Vivenzio and her husband are concerned, she is now convinced that she made the right choice in SPF. She moved in during the last days of winter and mentioned that the high level of coziness is a result of the insulation.

“We have experienced our home holding the heat extremely well and even with our high wind location the house feels solid and quiet,” points out Vivenzio.

Her vision of the ideal home has been realized, thanks in great part to SPF.


Kingspan Brings its Metal Panel Insulation in North America

Wed, 2018-07-18 12:11
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

Kingspan is introducing its most technologically-advanced metal panel insulation to the North American market, delivering performance that far exceeds that of any other metal panel insulation core.

Kingspan’s QuadCore™ Technology was introduced today at the AIA Conference on Architecture in New York City.

“QuadCore Technology represents a huge leap forward for the creation of buildings that deliver cutting-edge thermal performance, are resilient, safer in the event of a fire, healthy for occupants and still cost-effective,” said Brent Trenga, Director of Building Technology for Kingspan Insulated Panels. “Kingspan’s QuadCore technology has been proven around the world and we’re now proud to offer it to customers in North America.” 

Kingspan QuadCore Technology utilizes a hybrid insulation core with a closed microcell structure that delivers the ultimate in insulated metal panel performance in four key areas: thermal performance, fire protection, health and wellness, and warranty.

Thermal Performance

QuadCore is certified as the most thermally-efficient, closed-cell insulation material in the insulated metal panel market, performing at R-8.0 per inch, around 11 percent better than standard PIR insulation, and is around twice as efficient when compared to mineral fiber when used as the core material in insulated metal panel systems. That thermal performance allows a thinner panel to be used and still achieves a high R-value.

Fire Protection

QuadCore surpasses all other closed-cell insulated panel systems when it comes to fire performance and fire resistance; panels featuring QuadCore were the first to be certified to FM 4882 standards for use in smoke-sensitive occupancies.  This technology outperforms the competition with reduced flame spread (ASTM E84), higher flash ignition temperature (ASTM D1929) and 20 percent less heat released (ASTM 1354).

Health & Wellness

QuadCore’s unmatched third-party certifications include GREENGUARD Gold and a Silver Level Material Health Certificate, earned through the rigorous Cradle to Cradle assessment. In addition, QuadCore is Red List Free, so it can contribute to credits in health and wellness certifications, such as WELL, the Living Building Challenge, LEED v4 and BREEAM.

When Kingspan QuadCore panels are ordered with Valspar’s Fluropon Pure coatings, the entire panel earns a Red List Free declaration; it is the only insulated metal panel in the world to earn that distinction.

30-Year Thermal Warranty  

Kingspan is so confident in the science and testing that has gone into QuadCore that it’s backed by a 30-year thermal warranty - a first in the industry.

Initially, Kingspan will offer QuadCore in its KS Shadowline, KS Micro-Rib and Optimo panels, and will eventually be available in all Kingspan insulated metal panels.

For more information on Kingspan Insulated Panels North America, visit

Huntsman’s Chief Talks About Company’s Future and Focus

Wed, 2018-07-18 11:47
Building ScienceBusiness

Jon Huntsman Sr. made his name among the titans of plastics who, in the 1970s, created a world of convenience with single-use containers like bottles and clamshell packages.

The founder of Huntsman Corp., based in The Woodlands, guided his company through a series of major acquisitions as CEO and then as board chairman once his son, Peter, became chief executive in 2000. Shortly before his death earlier this year, the elder Huntsman ceded the chairman’s role as well to his son, leaving him to oversee what has become a specialty chemicals giant with worldwide operations and a stock market value topping $7 billion.

Now, as CEO, president and chairman, the younger Huntsman will play a larger role than ever in shaping the company’s future during a period of consolidation in an increasingly globalized industry. As other major chemical companies invest in commodity plastics and chemicals during a surge in U.S. natural gas production, the younger Huntsman envisions his company becoming even more specialized by acquiring smaller competitors that would allow it to further develop its technologies and specialty products, including polyurethanes used in foams, insulation, textiles and automotive manufacturing.

Huntsman wants to create a more stable company largely insulated from the booms and busts of a cyclical industry. The goal, he said, is put an even greater emphasis on the experimentation and innovation that set his company’s higher-margin products apart in a chemicals market dominated by multinationals such as such as DowDuPont and state-owned enterprises like Saudi Arabia’s SABIC, which churn out common plastics such as polyethylene in huge volumes and low costs.

Huntsman Corp., which began as a producer of commodity plastics such as polystyrene and polypropylene, now manufactures highly engineered polyurethanes and other petrochemicals for use in apparel, construction, transportation and manufacturing. Its shift toward specialty materials began about two decades ago with its acquisition of Imperial Chemicals Industries — a company with a strong research and development arm — and has continued as a means to shield profit margins from fluctuations in prices of raw materials derived from crude oil or natural gas.

“We’ll try to be able to manage that supply chain essentially from the barrel all the way to the store shelf,” Huntsman said. “That, for us, will continue to be a very challenging evolution.”

Key to that evolution has been shedding corporate debt, which piled up after a series of acquisitions in the 1990s and 2000s. The company years ago began to streamline its operations, selling certain commodities businesses to focus on polyurethanes and, to a lesser degree, other chemicals used to make detergents, composites and dyes.

Specialty chemicals derived from polyurethanes and other compounds command a premium because, unlike one-size-fits-all commodity chemicals, they’re formulated to customer specifications. As Huntsman puts it, their value is determined more by human creativity than the cost of raw materials.

Late last year, the company spun off its volatile business in titanium dioxide, used to make pigments, in a move that created the publicly traded Venator Materials. The sale of Venator stock and bonds generated proceeds for Huntsman to pay down about $1.2 billion in loans. Huntsman has retained a 53 percent stake in the new company, but plans to sell it off in coming years.

Now, with a much lighter balance sheet, analysts say Huntsman is well positioned to further develop its core businesses, namely polyurethanes, which accounted for more than half of its $8.7 billion in revenue last year. Global sales of polyurethane products, particularly those used to make energy-efficient insulation, are expected to increase to serve emerging middle-class markets in Asia and elsewhere as well as demand for more sustainable building materials.

“The financial clean-up culminated in them spinning off the titanium dioxide business,” said Hassan Ahmed, a chemicals analyst with Alembic Global Advisors. “Now what you have is a real pure-play polyurethanes company.”

At 55, Huntsman said his leadership style has evolved to closely mirror that of his father, who didn’t shy away from making decisions and taking risks. The younger Huntsman said his father, a former Navy officer, learned early on not to live in fear of failure, but to learn from it.

Once, when the elder Huntsman was officer of the deck on the U.S.S. Calvert, the ship was ordered to veer right and it instead went left. He thought he’d be kicked out of the Navy, but instead a superior pulled him aside and said he was certain that Huntsman would never repeat the mistake and become a better officer for it.

“That example stuck with my father,” Peter Huntsman said.

That lesson influenced Jon Huntsman’s approach to business when, in 1970, he founded his first company, Huntsman Container Co., a predecessor of today’s corporation. In 1974, it debuted the clamshell package for McDonald’s Big Macs, a design that proved a highly lucrative as drive-ins and fast-food franchises spread across the country.

He then founded Huntsman Chemical Corp. in Salt Lake City 1982, and by the end of the decade, the company had acquired five chemicals plants in Texas, Ohio, New Jersey, Virginia and Illinois. The company continued to grow with acquisition after acquisition, some of which didn’t pan out as planned.

By the turn of the century, the company had accumulated heavy debts and at one point neared bankruptcy before a private equity firm swooped in to invest in the distressed company. It ultimately went public in 2005 and began streamlining the business.

“We had some acquisitions that were terrible,” the younger Huntsman said. “I like to think we learned from our mistakes.”

The elder Huntsman served as board chairman when his son sought to roughly double the size of the company last year by merging it with Swiss rival Clariant, a $15 billion proposal that failed in the face of opposition from activist investors who argued the deal would erode Clariant’s value. The idea was to create one of the world's largest specialty chemicals companies to compete with the industry’s dominant players in specialty chemicals, including BASF and DowDuPont.

Now, Huntsman sees potential in pursuing acquisitions of smaller, nimbler companies. He recently learned from his regional sales managers that some of the company’s fiercest competitors are smaller, more specialized companies that get products to market more quickly than top-heavy, bureaucratic multinationals.

“It was a wake up call to me,” he said. “They’re hitting us hard and we’ve got to act faster.”

The company has in recent months outlined a plan to invest as much as $2.2 billion in small acquisitions through 2020. In March, it acquired Demilec, a maker of spray polyurethane foam insulation, for $350 million, adding to that segment of its business.

The strategy comes as other major chemical companies work to simply their portfolios and develop their core businesses. For example, DowDuPont, which became the nation’s largest chemical company after a merger last year, plans to split into three distinct companies next year with respective focuses on agriculture, materials science and specialty products.

“Large conglomerate companies are trying to streamline and focus down on one or two businesses,” said Jim Sheehan, a chemicals analyst with SunTrust Robinson Humphrey. “You see Huntsman aligning with that global trend.”

Huntsman’s stock has climbed considerably since announcing plans for the Venator IPO in the fall of 2016, rising from roughly $20 a share at the end of that year to nearly $30. In April, both Moody’s and S&P Global in April upgraded their outlooks for the company, though each kept their ratings one notch below investment grade.

Huntsman has worked for years to to gain an investment-grade credit rating, which has eluded the company in recent years because of its high debt levels. In a first-quarter conference call with analysts, Huntsman said the pursuit of the higher rating made him feel “a bit like Charlie Brown” when Lucy holds out the football, only to yank it away when he goes in for the kick. But analysts agreed the company is on track to achieve that goal if it generates more cash while keeping debt low.

Going forward, Huntsman anticipates further strengthening the company’s regional operations. He pointed to the company’s 2016 supplier innovation award from BMW, which recognized the company for its high-performance polyurethane seating foam. The team that designed it was based near the automaker’s Munich headquarters.

The success of that strategy, he said, depends in part on giving a certain amount of autonomy to regional managers to decide how best to serve the specific needs of their customers. That’s a lesson he learned from his father.

“You give people the opportunity to make a decision and stand behind them,” he said. “Let’s not have people so fearful that they can’t ever make a mistake.”


Report: Closer Regulation of Mineral Wool May Be Justified

Wed, 2018-07-18 11:43
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

Is it time to legislate the Mineral Wool industry more tightly at EU level? was the question asked at a Brussels conference today (June 27th).

More correctly known as Man-Made Vitreous Fibre (MMVF), mineral wool is used for thermal and acoustic insulation in homes and businesses around the world. Since asbestos was banned in 1999 in most countries, MMVF has de facto become the replacement technology. However, a new study has raised serious questions over the risks to public health posed by this product.

Previously designated as carcinogenic by both the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Agency on the Research on Cancer (IARC), MMVF was declassified as such by both agencies following testing on a reformulated product in 1995 (although the EU still classifies it as a suspected cause of cancer).  

The study reveals that the 1995 tests were conducted on MMVF that had had a key constituent, a form of binder, removed. The product that was tested, and deemed to be non-carcenogenic by the WHO and IARC is not that product being bought and used by construction workers and DIY enthusiasts alike.

As well as fears of cancer, MMVF is also known to be a significant cause of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), a serious long term illness that reduces lung capacity.

People do not realise that sometimes it (COPD) is worse than cancer, for some cancers are curable, but this form of pulmonary fibrosis is generally not.

Dr. Marjolein Drent, University of Maastricht.

  • A report by EU Today, presented at the conference recommends legislative action in three areas.
  • The retesting of MMVF to ascertain the risk of cancer posed by the handling of the product.
  • Health and Safety legislation to protect construction workers and others exposed to MMVF, to ensure that adequate information about the risks is available, and the mandatory provision and use of safety equipment on site.
  • Product labelling to ensure that health warnings are displayed prominently on all packaging.

Concerns about rising energy costs and global warming have both placed insulation high on the political agenda: the rush to find a replacement for Asbestos has led to a potentially carcinogenic product, and one which is known to cause life threatening respiratory disease, becoming the industry norm.

What we now know as Asbestosis was first identified in London in 1900. It took 99 years for governments to act to protect public health - let us hope that today's legislators can act more promptly.

Download the report here: Mineral Wool Safety 27 June 2018.

Commercial Use of Mineral Wool to Increase 3.4% Annually

Wed, 2018-07-18 11:31
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

Demand for mineral wool insulation in the commercial market is forecast to grow 3.4% annually to 366 million pounds in 2022, valued at $135 million. Mineral wool is projected to be the fastest growing insulation material type in volume and area, supported by increasingly stringent fire safety codes. Demand for mineral wool will benefit from its noise dampening properties, an important factor in improving productivity and worker safety in loud environments such as manufacturing facilities. The material can earn LEED credits, which will boost demand as interest in green building practices continues to rise. These and other trends are presented in Commercial Insulation Market in the US, a new study from The Freedonia Group, a Cleveland-based industry research firm.

More information about this study is here:

Strong competition from foamed plastics will serve as a check on demand for mineral wool, as these products continue to see rising use in commercial structures because of their ability to provide continuous air barriers, which reduce air leaks, a major focus of recent building codes.

Demand for all types of insulation in the commercial building market is forecast to increase 3.0% annually through 2022 to $3.1 billion. Gains will be supported by:

  • healthy growth in office, retail and lodging, and institutional structures, which use insulation intensively
  • concerns about reducing utility costs and minimizing energy consumption
  • the continued acceptance of green building codes such as LEED
  • increasingly stringent fire safety codes, particularly in high-rise commercial buildings, as properly insulated structures can greatly reduce the rate at which fire spreads through a building

Top 10 Most Read EEBS News Headlines of Q2 2018

Wed, 2018-07-11 22:22
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

Below are the ten most read Energy Efficiency & Building Science News articles published in the second quarter of 2018. 


New BREEAM Construction Standard Coming to the U.S.

Wed, 2018-07-11 22:18
Building CodesBuilding Science

HOK and BRE today announced plans to Americanize the BREEAM New Construction standard for the U.S. marketplace. BRE expects to release BREEAM USA New Construction for public consultation in January 2019.

HOK is providing BRE with input and advice on the adaptation of the BREEAM New Construction standard for the American market. HOK will begin piloting the BREEAM New Construction standard for the U.S. with new and existing clients starting summer of 2018.

BRE first introduced BREEAM In-Use for existing buildings to the U.S. market in 2016 to provide a science-based sustainable certification and improvement solution not covered by existing green building programs. Market enthusiasm for the BREEAM standard encouraged BRE to expand the program in America. BREEAM differs from other leading green building rating systems as a true third party verification for certification. BRE uses independent licensed BREEAM assessors to conduct an onsite visit to verify the design and construction is up to BREEAM standards before certification is awarded.

“We have established BREEAM In-Use for existing buildings in America and with the support of HOK we are extending this into BREEAM New Construction,” said Barry Giles, CEO of BRE America. “We’re excited to be working with HOK in this expanded capacity as BRE is at the forefront of advancing the built environment and always looking to partner with forward thinking organizations to help build a better world together.”

BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) was developed in 1990 by BRE, a leading multidisciplinary building science organization. With more than two million registered projects and over 560,000 certified buildings in 77 countries, it has more certifications than any other green building rating system.

“As a firm, we’re really excited about the potential opportunities to explore using BREEAM New Construction for complex projects such as laboratories, sports projects and airports in the U.S.,” said Anica Landreneau, Director of Sustainable Design at HOK. “We know first-hand from our experience working with BREEAM in Europe that it provides a new approach for greater sustainability and is backed by the latest research in building science."


Beezer Markets the Benefits of its Energy Efficient Homes

Wed, 2018-07-11 22:12
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

For decades, Beazer Homes has made itself known building energy-efficient homes across the United States. However, the company’s beginnings were humble enough to not hint at such reputation. Begun in 1600s England by one George Beazer, Beazer Homes, now – nine generations later and headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia – is one of the country’s largest single-family home builders. From then to this day, Beazer Homes has stood for quality homebuilding, craftsmanship, and innovation.

But, in addition to a leading name in homebuilding, craftsmanship, and innovation, Beazer has also made major strides in becoming associated with another quality: energy efficiency. Energy efficiency and environmental friendliness have become top priorities for homebuyers in recent years, and Beazer has been there paving the way. Beazer goes above and beyond, ensuring that each and every one of their homes lives up to their standards. According to Allan Merrill, CEO of Beazer Homes, “Whatever the expectations were for starts, we’re going to do better than that.”

As a leading name in the homebuilding industry, it only makes sense to measure up to the standard in energy efficiency. Beazer aims to exceed ENERGY STAR® standards in each of its homes. To this, every one of Beazer’s homes is inspected, tested, verified, and officially certified in accordance with the Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR® requirements. This is part of the reason why, in 2014, Beazer was recognized by the EPA as the ENERGY STAR® program’s partner of the year.

In addition to being ENERGY STAR® certified, Beazer homes also receive Home Energy Rating System (HERS) scores. A typical resale home scores around 130, indicating a high amount of energy consumption. A new home will generally score a bit better, at around 100. And for Beazer? Well, the average HERS score of a new Beazer home comes in around at a 65. That lower score will translate into savings, as well. The average electric bill of a two-story, 2,960 square foot resale home should come out to around $300. A new, two-story, 3,918 square foot Beazer home would have a bill under $60.


LP Promotes Radiant Sheathing to Comply with Energy Rating Index

Wed, 2018-07-11 21:55
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

In recent years, the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) has provided both prescriptive paths and performance paths for reaching energy code compliance. The prescriptive paths are strictly dictated and allow less opportunity for flexibility and trade-offs to reduce construction costs. But the performance paths are designed to let builders view the home as a whole system. They empower a builder to make adjustments and product swap-outs as long as the overall energy efficiency of the home meets requirements based on climate zone.

The newest performance path is based on a home’s Energy Rating Index (ERI). The ERI is a number that falls somewhere between 100 (representing a home built to the prescriptive 2006 IECC) and 0, a home that uses Zero Net Energy. The lower the score, the higher the home’s energy efficiency.

Using the ERI performance path, a builder could use slightly less energy-efficient windows as long as improvements are made elsewhere, e.g., with a high-performance attic. That’s exactly what some builders are now doing by installing LP TechShield Radiant Barrier Sheathing above the attic.

According to an APA study, installing radiant barrier sheathing is estimated to lower a home’s ERI rating by up to three points in Climate Zones 2 and 3 (south Texas, Florida, lower Arizona) and by up to two points in Climate Zone 4 (most of California, Alabama, Georgia, etc.). In fact, radiant barrier sheathing reduces a home’s ERI score by almost as much as a complete switch from incandescent to compact fluorescent and LED lighting.

Thanks to educational efforts by the major homebuilders, most buyers today understand the importance and value of lower ERI scores. With the ERI performance path, builders have much more freedom to achieve the increasingly more stringent building codes.


Video: Bulk water Management Improvements Through Retrofit

Wed, 2018-07-11 21:51
Building Science

In this video Jake Bruton discusses the methods used for bulk water management on a remodel. This home had bulk water issues for almost 25 years. Simple methods applied with attention to detail make water worries a thing of the past.


Guide to Choosing Energy Efficient Windows for Your Envelope

Wed, 2018-07-11 21:46
Building Science

In efforts to save more energy, it is important that, as home builders, we do our part in choosing and installing energy efficient products to go into homes. This not only helps the home owner save energy and money, but significantly separates your construction company for your competition. Here are some tips on choosing and installing the best energy efficient windows for your next project.

How to select energy efficient windows

When you install energy efficient windows, the homeowner will benefit from low cooling and heating costs, and at times extend to low lighting costs. When you choose the right energy efficient windows, you are also going to add to the beauty and marketability of the home.


Now, before choosing new windows for your new build, you need to identify the type of windows that will best suit its climate and improve the energy efficiency of the home. It’s important to understand the energy performance rating of the windows based on the home design and the climate of your area.

For energy efficient windows that are labeled, ENERGY STAR has set minimum performance rating criteria for these windows, and categorized them by climate. However, the criteria do not involve the home design. Now, in areas that are dominated by heat, major glazing areas need to face the south to get the solar heat when the sun is low, and in the summer, other shading devices can prevent heat from getting into the house.

For a greater effect, windows that are facing south need to have a solar heat coefficient higher than 0.6 to gain the highest levels of solar heat during winter, a U-factor of 0.35 for heat reduction, and a high visible transmittance for the transfer of visible light. To learn more about energy ratings, check out Energy Performance Ratings.

Windows that are facing east, north and west, should allow some lighting when minimized. It is not easy to control light and heat through windows that are facing west and east during winter periods, and these windows need to be shaded or have a low SGHC. Windows that are facing North collect very low levels of solar heat, therefore they are used for lighting. When you install low-emissivity window glazing, you can control the gain and loss of solar heat in heating climates.

If you live in a cool climate, an effective strategy would be to include the preferential use of windows that are facing north and shade windows that are facing south. The best windows to use to reduce cooling loads are windows with low SHGCs.

To reduce solar heat gain, one needs some type of glazing to lower the windows SHGC. Windows with insulated glazing have Low-E coating that is microscopically thin, almost invisible metallic oxide or metal layers on its surface to control heat. A large portion of solar radiations is absorbed by tinted glass through a reflective coating to reduce solar radiation transmission and to select coating that filer between 40-70% of the heat that is transmitted through the glazing or the insulated window, as it allows transmission of full light. This kind of window, except for the spectrally selective, reduces a window’s VT. To learn more about coating, tint, glazing, and others, check out the windows types.

In case you are building a new home or remodeling it, incorporate your selection and windows design as an important part of the house design.


When you are choosing the type of windows you want to put in your house, there are several options to choose from. When selecting energy efficient windows, consider their ratings on energy performance in relation to the design of your home and your climate. Select windows that have low SHGCs and low U-factors to maximize energy savings in cold and heat seasons. Go for whole unit SHGCs and U-factors, compared to the center of glass (COG) SHGCs and U-factors. The energy performance of the product is accurately indicated by the whole unit numbers.

All the components of a window determine its energy efficiency. The frame of a window conducts heat, contributing to the overall energy efficiency of a window, in particular, the U-factor. Glazing has become advanced over the years, and designers specify the type of glazing for different types of windows based on the climate, orientation, design of the building, etc.

You should also consider the way a window operates because some have lower air leakage rates while some have high leakage rates.


Choosing the best energy coefficient windows depends on several factors, but will greatly improve the design and appeal of your next build.


How Cities Can Help Grow the Energy Efficiency Workforce

Wed, 2018-07-11 21:43
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

As US cities push forward to meet their clean energy goals, they will need a strong, capable energy efficiency workforce to make critical energy-saving upgrades and investments. Our new report, Through the Local Government Lens: Developing the Energy Efficiency Workforce, shows how cities can take an active role in growing the workforce and extend its benefits to underserved communities.

The Energy Efficiency Workforce

Local governments across the United States are increasingly prioritizing energy efficiency, and there are a lot of efficiency jobs out there – 2.25 million. These jobs span diverse industries, from construction to professional and business services. And they are projected to keep multiplying, with a 9% increase predicted for 2018.

Source: ACEEE Jobs; underlying data from US Energy and Employment Report

With the right policies and practices, local governments can develop and grow this robust workforce. From our research and more than 25 interviews, we identified a few key strategies cities can take.

Collaboration is critical

Local governments can partner with stakeholders across the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. For example, they can work with community colleges to identify skill gaps, state government to promote trainings and incentives, and utilities to promote existing trainings or identify new ones.

Boston, MA. City of Boston staff are actively working with both National Grid and Eversource, Boston’s gas and electric utilities, respectively, to leverage energy efficiency dollars for workforce training. Utilities will pay the tuition for facilities staff from Boston, Cambridge, and other municipalities in the greater Boston area for the 74-hour Building Operator Certification training. Upon completing the training, municipal building engineers will be able to operate and maintain local government buildings more efficiently, saving energy and helping both utilities meet energy efficiency targets.

Balance worker supply with energy efficiency demand

Cities can encourage demand for energy efficiency workers by enacting efficiency policies and programs. They can also leverage citywide energy and sustainability planning to align training programs around current and future city-, state-, and utility-funded efficiency incentives.

Vancouver, BC. Vancouver launched several initiatives to teach skills required to build in accordance with its Zero Emissions Building Plan. The city plans to subsidize trainings for builders and developers to learn more about passive house design standards, technical building requirements, economic and energy impacts, and energy modeling tools. Additionally, Vancouver will contribute funds to the Zero Emissions Building Centre of Excellence, a nonprofit-run collaborative platform that will compile and disseminate zero-emission building educational resources to the local building industry. The center is expected to launch this summer.

Increase diversity and equity in the energy efficiency workforce

Any locally driven workforce development strategy should consider the needs of people who are underrepresented in the energy efficiency sector. For example, cities can direct city- or industry-led trainings to low-income community members by coordinating with organizations that understand their needs. They can also work to ensure that minority- and women-owned businesses are aware of efficiency project opportunities in public buildings.

New Orleans, LA. Through partnerships with the US Green Building Council and Louisiana and Delgado Community Colleges, the New Orleans Office of Supplier Diversity works to train small and disadvantaged businesses on green economy initiatives, for example, by holding a test preparation class for the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design exam. The city also works with APTIM, Entergy New Orleans’ efficiency program administrator, to teach local builders and operators high-performance construction principles through the Green Professional Operations and Maintenance (GPRO) Essentials course. New Orleans offers this program to drive participation in its Downtown Energy Challenge and works to include from individuals from local workforce development organizations such as the Urban League of Louisiana.

Cities and our clean energy economy

The opportunity is clear for cities interested in leading an equitable transition to a clean energy economy. By investing in a robust, diverse, and local energy efficiency workforce, cities can save energy, reduce pollution, and sustain high-quality jobs for their residents. In this report, we identify additional strategies for cities to make these goals a reality, and we highlight an array of cities that are moving in the right direction.



City Incentivizes Higher HERS Scores Through Lower Fees

Wed, 2018-07-11 21:39
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

The City of Norman, Oklahoma has undertaken a pilot program to encourage the construction of energy efficient homes in the community.  On Tuesday, May 22, 2018, the Norman City Council approved a resolution that offers incentives to homebuilders who build more energy efficient homes for a pilot period of six months.

The program waives a percentage of city’s building permit fee based on the home’s HERS Index Score.  The lower the HERS score, the more energy efficient the house and the bigger the discount on the permit.

Under the Norman pilot program, the minimum threshold is a HERS Index Score of 65.  Homes that achieve a HERS Index Score of 55 or less would be exempt from the city’s building permit fee altogether.  The pilot program will begin on July 1, 2018. 

According to the Norman Transcript by having the program as a six-month pilot program allowed the city council “to enact it via resolution instead of an ordinance and gives the city some flexibility to test the waters and make adjustments”.

The Transcript quoted city council member Bill Hickman, “We wanted to incentivize builders to build a better quality product of energy efficient homes,” It has an environmental benefit, but knowing that it costs more money, the incentive was a way to encourage them to do it.”

“We’ve gotten overwhelming support from the building community and the largest homebuilders in town, like Ideal Homes and Home Creations,” Hickman said. “It’s a rare opportunity when we can bring forward a policy that has support from the building community and the environmental community. So I’m very excited and thrilled about this.”

The news outlet quoted Curtis McCarty, of CA McCarty Construction that many homebuyers aren’t very familiar with the HERS rating system, but over time, that could change as homebuyers lean toward prioritizing more energy-efficient homes and become more educated about how improved energy efficiency saves money over time, and it’s worth it.

“It is important to me, and I think it should be important to consumers, but when you talk to most people about a [HERS rating], most people don’t even know what it is … As energy gets more expensive, which it’s going to — nothing gets cheaper, typically, when it comes to energy — I think it will be something that becomes more important,” McCarthy said. “I think public awareness of what a HERS rating is will probably help push them over the top. If you can finance the extra cost over the life of your mortgage and you can reduce your monthly electric bill, then absolutely it will help.”

For the complete news story go to Norman embraces green builders with incentive program.

How to Address Attic Rafter Thermal Breaks with Foam

Wed, 2018-07-11 21:34
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

Q. I'm looking at house plans that call for insulating a cathedral ceiling with closed-cell polyurethane foam sprayed against the roof sheathing. If we go this route, would it be possible to create a thermal break by fastening a layer of rigid foam to the underside of the joists before hanging the drywall?

A. Henri Fennell, of H C Fennell Consulting in North Thetford, Vt., responds: 

It's true that the wood rafters are the weak link in the insulation system you describe. In the absence of a thermal break, heat from the living space can flow through the drywall into the rafters - which are much more conductive than the surrounding foam - and pass through the rafters to the outdoors. Adding a layer of rigid foam under the drywall would significantly reduce the conductive heat loss. However, this is not an ideal solution, because convective movement of the air between the spray foam and the rigid foam within the rafter bays will speed the transfer of heat from the warm ceiling to the cooler rafters.

Thermal-break insulation performs most efficiently when it's contiguous with the primary insulation. Therefore, a better solution would be to apply the spray foam from above, directly against the surface of the rigid foam. That approach can complicate job scheduling, since the roof has to be left open until the foam contractor has left the site. But it does improve the thermal performance of the assembly, and provides a ventilation channel between the roof deck and foam within each rafter bay.

In a retrofit situation, of course, the spray foam will ordinarily have to be applied from below. In that case, convective heat loss can be minimized by wrapping the foam up onto the sides of the rafters. That profile prevents any direct contact between the air in the rafter bays and the cool surfaces of the rafters themselves. If the volume of foam used is equal to that of the flat application, the R-value at the center of the rafter bay will be slightly lower, but the reduction in heat loss at the foam-wrapped rafters themselves will give the assembly a higher R-value overall. (Some trimming of the overspray at the rafter edges will probably be needed before the rigid-foam thermal break can be applied and fastened).


Icynene-Lapolla Releases New Open-Cell Spray Foam

Wed, 2018-07-11 21:25
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

Icynene-Lapolla, a global supplier and manufacturer of high performance, energy efficient insulation for construction, today introduced its all-new Lapolla FOAM-LOK 450 Spray Polyurethane Foam Insulation. An open-cell solution for homes and commercial structures, the high-performance material is notable for providing high yield and enhanced energy efficiency, passing benefits to builders, contractors and building owners. 

FOAM-LOK 450 is a superior insulation for use in attics, cavity walls and over metal and other critical insulation areas. The professionally installed spray foam seals the structure providing a continuous air barrier. These performance characteristics reduce heating and cooling demands and the ongoing costs associated with them.

FOAM-LOK 450 eliminates air infiltration, which can cause as much as 40% of energy loss - a characteristic that inherently outperforms fiberglass and blown-in insulation options. The installed costs in many circumstances is cost competitive with traditional insulations and can potentially offer a return on investment through reduced energy consumption. Additional product benefits include noise attenuation and reduced air leakage contributing to the control of moisture and durability.

“The noteworthy yield and performance reliability of FOAM-LOK 450 are significant attractions for both builders and contractors,” said Doug Kramer, president of Icynene-Lapolla. “With FOAM-LOK 450’s potential to surpass the performance of competing products at a competitive price, we believe demand for this technology will quickly grow for use in new and retrofit home and commercial applications. Additionally, the product offers one-hour re-entry for trades and two-hour re-entry for re-occupancy.”

FOAM-LOK 450, like other Lapolla open cell insulation products, adheres to framing members and substrates and can be used to fill stud wall construction in a single application. Additionally, it conforms to the AC 377 End Use Configuration Criteria and therefore meets building code requirements for use with no additional ignition barrier required.