Energy Efficiency and Building Science News

SES & Greenfiber Partner in New Approach to Home Insulation

Mon, 2018-01-15 22:14
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

Greenfiber and SES, leaders in the insulation industry, have partnered to offer an exciting new approach to home insulation with their Custom Comfort Solutions, highlighted by two projects completed with builders Elev8 and Monte Hewett Homes, and spray foam contractor SEI Group. Custom Comfort Solutions represents a new, targeted approach to 4 key measurements of insulation performance: energy efficiency, sound abatement, comfort, and fire safety.

Together, Greenfiber® Blow-in Cellulose Insulation and SES SucraSeal Spray Foam create the most comfortable environment possible in a modern home, with Guaranteed Performance levels that are sure to get the attention of builders, architects, and homeowners looking to build a safe and quiet home that is 40% more energy efficient.(1) Custom Comfort Solutions guarantees energy savings and assures that home temperatures will be equalized from room to room and across multiple floors.(2)

Custom Comfort Solutions also addresses the important subject of fire safety, with both Greenfiber® Blow-in Insulation and SES SucraSeal adding unique fire blocking qualities. Greenfiber® slows the spreading of flames and provides a 1 hour firewall.(3) With it's unique sucrose based formulation, SES SucraSeal spray foam passes the industry standard Appendix X fire test without the need for additional coatings or restrictive building assemblies, giving designers and homeowners more freedom to build the custom home of their dreams. Both Greenfiber® and SES SucraSeal also exhibit exceptional sound abatement qualities, adding peace and quiet to the whole-home Custom Comfort Solutions package.

Two recent projects, completed with Greenfiber®, SES, and the Custom Comfort Solutions team, highlight the challenges today's builders face in meeting new energy codes: how to pass new energy codes at first inspection, while providing insulation options to homeowners that are both affordable and high performing. As highlighted by the projects, builders are looking for new insulation solutions, as legacy products are quickly becoming inadequate in the face of new energy codes and consumer demand. Monte Hewett, a leading builder in the Atlanta Metro market, was looking for a solution to improve their Air Changes per Hour (ACH) and HERS ratings to meet the new energy standards. "With the type of products we offer our customers, delivering a solution which meets our customers' expectations of performance is our priority," said Aaron Sibly, VP Construction and 22 year veteran of Monte Hewett Homes. "We knew that the legacy products and solutions available were not going to meet our requirements and would not ultimately give our customers the long-term performance and comfort they expect from a Monte Hewett home." According to the project, Custom Comfort Solutions is designed to meet the most stringent performance standards today vs traditional systems and methods which may require added trips, rework or expense to pass the new standards. With traditional systems, inconsistencies in installations can cause homes to fail to meet the building standards while Builders and installers who have used Custom Comfort Solutions have seen a dramatic improvement in their ability to pass code the first time, eliminating costly modifications and delays.

"For today's Builders to be a leader in the market, they are looking for a superior system with highest level of performance and flexibility to pass the new stringent energy standards every time. They not only demand the performance, but need to deliver every home with great energy performance, lower utility bills and superior comfort," said Sim Skinner, CEO of US GreenFiber®.

Working with the technical teams at GreenFiber® and SES Spray Foam, Monte Hewett and SEI Group had access to new tools to help them design a better home with superior performance, sound and quality with a repeatable process. For the professional installers such as SEI Group, a system which can deliver the performance and consistency between installations is key to success. "Working with the team at US GreenFiber® and SES Spray Foam, we now have a partner and solution which replaces our legacy approach on how we provide high performing systems to our customers, said Shan Mize, Operations Manager of SEI Group. Using Custom Comfort Solutions not only has significantly reduced the unnecessary complexity and guesswork in passing the new energy standards when the home is completed but has ensured that each home is completed on time and within budget for our Builders. With legacy systems, we may have to visit the home two or three times extra to ensure it passes the standards which has driven up our costs and added unnecessary delays to the project."

Elev8, a luxury homebuilder in Austin, Texas, focuses on delivering their customers a unique home experience through the use of innovative designs and superior materials, with the ultimate goal of leading the market in building homes that accomplish net zero energy consumption as part of of their Home Of The Future initiative. According to the project, building a net zero home with legacy options is a monumental challenge, especially in custom home design. Elev8 identified areas in the home construction which would allow them to reach their goals including advanced framing techniques, water reclamation, window designs, integrated solar systems and high-performance insulations systems. "The goal was to use solutions, techniques and designs which can be used in virtually any home we build," said Chris Little, CEO of Elev8 Homes. "With the type of luxury homes we construct, our customers are looking for the very best performance of their home, and the GreenFiber®/SES solution is on pace to outperform any other system in the industry hands down."

The Custom Comfort Solutions system not only exceeds new energy codes, it goes further to guarantee comfort and energy savings, all within a system that is affordable for any home design budget. "For today's Builders to be a leader in the market, they are looking for a superior system with highest level of performance and flexibility to pass the new stringent energy standards and drive toward a net zero energy home as Elev8 has done. They not only demand the performance, but need to deliver every home with great energy performance, lower utility bills and superior comfort," said Sim Skinner CEO of US GreenFiber®.

 

Roxul Rebrands All Products to Rockwool in N. America

Mon, 2018-01-15 21:49
Energy Efficiency

ROXUL is now ROCKWOOL in North America.  Effective January 1st, the company officially adopted the name of its global parent company: ROCKWOOL—the world's largest manufacturer of stone wool products. Now, with a truly unified global presence, ROCKWOOL plans to build on its 80-year history by leveraging its broad portfolio of capabilities to enrich modern living by releasing the natural power of stone. 

The rebrand to ROCKWOOL applies to all segments and product lines of the company's North American stone wool insulation business—residential, commercial, roofing, OEM (core solutions) and technical insulation (industrial, marine & offshore).  North American customers and consumers will see the ROCKWOOL rebrand supported throughout 2018 with increased presence, promotional efforts and communications.

Customers in all segments will notice a transition to the ROCKWOOL branding on all packaging.  At retail home improvement and building centers, DIY consumers, builders and contractors will find a familiar look to the wrapping on ROCKWOOL COMFORTBATT®, SAFE 'n' SOUND® and COMFORTBOARD® products. The primary difference will be the new ROCKWOOL logo, which includes a graphic representation of a volcano—symbolically the source of the core material: volcanic rock, from which all ROCKWOOL products are made.

Customers will also notice the new branding on all marketing materials, including hard-copy materials like sales literature, technical data sheets, and more, to ROCKWOOL's new digital site and social channels throughout North America. ROCKWOOL has adopted new social media handles on all North American platforms, and invites its customers, partners, and stakeholders to connect.

"The rebrand bolsters our position in the North American marketplace and internationally, as well," says Trent Ogilvie, President, ROCKWOOL (North America). "It allows us to leverage our collective strengths to better serve both new and existing customers, while driving growth and investment across all regions."

The ROCKWOOL commitment to progress is evident through investments in capacity, workforce and infrastructure. On the digital side, January marks the launch of ROCKWOOL's new website in North America, www.rockwool.com, while the ROCKWOOL Group corporate site has transitioned to www.rockwoolgroup.com.  The new websites provide a stronger digital presence intended to revolutionize how ROCKWOOL engages with its stakeholders. They leverage advanced personalization, intelligent search and chatbot technology to make each interaction a more customized, relevant and meaningful user experience. Both the corporate and North American websites have an easy-to-navigate set up that offers visitors an opportunity to engage and personalize their experience.

Significant investment in its manufacturing operations continue to support strong and growing demand for ROCKWOOL stone wool products in the United States and Canada.  Since 2014, the ROCKWOOL Group has invested some $350 million in three new North American manufacturing facilities, including a recently announced stone wool insulation plant in Ranson, West Virginia. 

"The North American rebrand is meaningful beyond its impact to our company," says Mirella Vitale, ROCKWOOL Group SVP of Marketing, Communications, and Public Affairs.  "Under one, unified identity, ROCKWOOL is able to mobilize more effectively to address the challenges affecting modern society.  As we look to the future, ROCKWOOL stone wool products will play an increasingly important role, providing effective solutions to the critical issues of modern living such increased levels of urbanization, climate change, sustainability, water scarcity, flooding, energy consumption and noise pollution.  Our commitment to people and the planet is written in stone."

*The rebranding applies to ROCKWOOL's North American insulation business.  Rockfon and Grodan will continue to operate under their respective brand names.

 

ASHRAE Develops New Website for Measuring Energy Efficiency

Mon, 2018-01-15 21:39
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

ASHRAE announced the recent launch of the Building Energy Quotient (Building EQ) Portal, which provides a faster, more automated approach to receive a Building EQ Performance Score.

“The primary goal of the Building EQ program is to promote more energy efficient buildings and give owners actionable recommendations to improve a building’s energy use,” says Hugh Crowther, Building EQ committee chair. “We’re excited to launch this integrated resource that will help users identify opportunities to lower building operating cost and make informed decisions to increase value.”

Building EQ rests on ASHRAE methodologies and standards and the experience of credentialed practitioners. These characteristics assure owners they are receiving reliable and consistent results and recommendations.

Two different evaluations – In Operation and As Designed – can be used independently to compare a candidate building to other similar buildings in the same climate zone or together for an assessment of a building's design potential compared to actual operation. In Operation compares actual building energy use based on metered energy information. As Designed compares potential energy use based on the building's physical characteristics and systems with standardized energy use simulation. The In Operation rating is available now and the As Designed rating will be available in early 2018.

Building EQ In Operation rating assists in the preparation of an ASHRAE Level 1 Energy Audit to identify means to improve a building's energy performance including low-cost, no-cost energy efficiency measures and an Indoor Environmental Quality survey with recorded measurements to provide additional information to assess a building's performance.

Metered energy data can now be downloaded into the Building EQ Portal from the ENERGY STAR™ Portfolio Manager. Other features include an Online Data Entry and submission process, Median EUI calculation aligned with ENERGY STAR® and an improved submission approval process.

 The portal delivers the following items:

  • Building EQ Performance Score rates the building’s performance and is shown on the screen at all times for all projects.
  • User Input Report documents the data entered into the Building EQ Portal for a specific project and is available for all submissions.
  • Building EQ Label Report displays the Building EQ Performance Score and is available for approved submissions.
  • Building EQ Disclosure Report presents key energy use information for compliance with disclosure ordinances and will be available for a fee for approved submissions.
  • Audit Report Spreadsheets will be automatically populated with the information gathered during the In Operation assessment for use in a final audit report and will be available for a fee for approved submission.

 

2018 Sprayfoam Convention to Feature 30 Breakout Sessions

Mon, 2018-01-15 21:29
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

The Spray Polyurethane Foam Alliance (SPFA), the educational and technical resource to the spray polyurethane foam (SPF) industry, today announced Jeff Havens will keynote The Sprayfoam Show 2018 Convention & Expo. The largest annual event dedicated to Spray Polyurethane Foam will take place January 29 through February 1 in Mobile, Alabama.

Jeff Havens will present “Uncrapify Your Life!,” one of his signature keynotes, a hilarious and meaningful session aimed at teaching the audience how to improve in the areas of communication, customer service, and accountability. Considered a masterstroke of reverse psychology, the presentation offers a hysterical study in exactly how not to talk to others. The poignant and powerful discussion demonstrates how small changes in our communication strategies often prove the most important and least expensive way to strengthen relationships, increase loyalty and create an unbreakable culture of teamwork and respect. Jeff Havens’ keynote address is scheduled for 8:45 am on January 31, the third day of the event.

“Securing Jeff Havens for Sprayfoam Show 2018 is a major coup for our industry attendees,” said John Achille, president of the Spray Polyurethane Foam Alliance, which hosts the event annually. “His ability to engage and educate through humor is not only powerful but thoroughly enjoyable. We anticipate a great response to this year’s keynote session.”

One of North America’s most in-demand presenters, Jeff Havens delivers his educational content with the entertainment value of a comedy show. His varied audiences include government, academia, small business and Fortune 50 companies. One of the youngest members of the professional speaking circuit, Jeff Havens insists that education is the only way that we improve at anything and that we will improve faster and better if we enjoy the learning process. This belief is the foundation of his presentation style.

Additional Sprayfoam Show General Session Featured Speakers include former Congressman Reid Ribble, CEO of the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA), who will speak about challenges, opportunities, and new initiatives important to the roofing industry, and Claudette Reichel, Professor and Extension Housing Specialist at LSU, who will speak on principles of building science and moisture management with a specific focus on the 2017 floods in Texas and Florida.

The Sprayfoam Show 2018 Convention & Expo will host an anticipated 1,200 of the industry’s who’s who at this year’s event. To be held at the Arthur R. Outlaw Convention Center, the event will feature: a 50,000-square-foot exhibit hall showcasing more than 95 booth displays; a four-day educational program including more than 30 break-out sessions; the 13th Annual Industry Excellence Awards; SPFA Annual Member Awards, honoring members who have demonstrated significant dedication to the betterment of the organization and industry at-large; the Annual Golf Tournament; an all-new Sprayfoam Education Stage; SPFA Professional Certification Program testing onsite; VIP events; member and contractor-only events; an entertainment filled Closing Reception and Networking Party.

Accella Polyurethane Systems is the Platinum Sponsor of The Sprayfoam Show 2018. Gold Sponsors include Chemours, Demilec, Gaco Western, Honeywell, Icynene-Lapolla, NCFI Polyurethanes and Polyurethane Machinery Corporation. Premier Media Sponsors include Sprayfoam Professional (the official publication of the event), Building Enclosure, FOAM Expo, Insulate NetworkRoofing Contractor, Sprayfoam.com, and Walls & Ceilings. To inquire about event sponsorship, please contact Mickey Riesenberg at Michele@sprayfoam.org.

The event program, hotel pricing and availability, and additional event information is available at the SPFA website at sprayfoam.org/expo or www.thesprayfoamshow.com

 

OSB Prices Fall Significantly in December

Mon, 2018-01-15 21:26
Raw Materials

Prices paid for OSB (-13.0%), softwood lumber (-1.0%), and inputs to residential construction (-0.1%), all decreased in December, according to the latest Producer Price Index (PPI) release by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The index for gypsum products advanced (+1.6%).

Over the course of 2017, the price paid for every major input to construction NAHB tracks has increased. The following is a list of price increases by commodity since the start of the year:

+13.4%: Softwood lumber
+13.2%: OSB
+7.4%: Gypsum products
+3.7%: Inputs to residential construction (less labor and capital investment)
+2.9%: Ready-mix concrete

The steep decline in OSB prices in December comes one month after the commodity posted a 15.3% gain. Even with the price decrease, the PPI for OSB remains 13.2% higher than it stood in January 2017 and 37.4% higher than it began 2016.

Innovative Model Home Features Foam Insulation

Mon, 2018-01-15 21:04
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

Meritage Homes' reNEWable Living Home BUILDER concept project includes new and noteworthy products from 18 manufacturers. Some, including the HercuWall panelized wall system, are completely new to the Meritage product lineup, and their success may bring them into future Meritage homes. Below are some of the innovative products used in this innovation showcase home:

SES Foam

SES Polyurethane Systems’ SucraSeal open-cell spray foam insulation sports high R-values, yields of up to 17,000 board feet, and the highest bio-based content in the spray foam industry, according to the manufacturer. Its air and thermal seals can reduce the strain on the home’s HVAC system, extending the life of the unit and lowering energy bills. SucraSeal is Energy Star certified and USDA Bio-Preferred. sesfoam.com

Eldorado Stone

Eldorado Stone’s LedgeCut33 architectural stone veneer is formed from rough-hewn stone pieces in three lengths—12, 18, and 23 inches—stacked in rows 3 inches high. LedgeCut33 is designed for dry-stack installation and is easy to handle, cut, and install, according to the maker. The product is available in five color profiles, including Vintage Ranch, shown here.eldoradostone.com

CertainTeed

CertainTeed’s AirRenew drywall system removes formaldehyde particles from the surrounding air, filters them through its paper face, captures the particles in its gypsum core, and converts them into inert, organic compounds. The drywall is UL certified and emits zero VOCs, the manufacturer says. It is available in two varieties: AirRenew Essential and AirRenew M2TECH, which incorporates enhanced moisture and mold resistance to further improve indoor air quality. certainteed.com

HercuTech

The home’s HercuWall panels combine a structural wall, R-30 insulation, window and door casements, a water/vapor barrier, and exterior/drywall attachment components into one building component. HercuWall component installation is faster and requires less labor than traditional methods, the company says. It is pest- and mold-resistant, and has been tested to resist hurricane-force winds. hercuwall.com

 

Atlas Adds to Leadership in Roof & Wall Insulation Division

Mon, 2018-01-15 20:57
BusinessEnergy Efficiency

Atlas Roofing Corporation has promoted Jennifer Sansone to the Midwest Regional Sales Manager of the Roof & Wall Insulation Division. This is the third senior level promotion within the Atlas Roof & Wall Insulation division in just three months.

Since beginning her career with Atlas in 2008, Sansone has demonstrated tremendous aptitude in her role, both as an individual and, more recently, in a leadership capacity. “For the past decade, Jennifer has excelled in her sales roles at Atlas, due to her customer-oriented and process-driven mentality,” said Steve Heaton, Vice President Sales & Marketing of Atlas Roof and Wall Insulation Division. “During her tenure with Atlas, Jennifer helped develop the customer quote tracking system and made significant strides across the 7-state midwest region. We couldn’t ask for a more talented leader to take on the role of Midwest Regional Sales Manager.”

When Sansone transitioned from Account Executive at the East Moline facility to a Territory Sales Representative, she grew sales in Iowa and Nebraska by nearly 15 percent. Her role was quickly expanded to District Sales Manager in February 2016. During this time, Sansone has demonstrated the ability to maximize the development and effectiveness of her sales team.

Sansone graduated from the University of Iowa with a B.A. in Communication Studies. She is currently active in two roofing industry associations, serving as a Board Member of the Iowa Roofing Contractors Association and Iowa chapter of Roof Consultants, Inc.

In related news, Atlas Roofing Corp., Atlanta, has joined the National Roofing Contractor Association’s One Voice initiative.

Per NRCA’s release, “NRCA’s One Voice initiative is a transformational approach to addressing the roofing industry’s most critical issues and concerns—with one voice—to secure its future.

NRCA invites manufacturers, distributors, architects, engineers, consultants and service providers to fully engage with NRCA, as partners, and actively address the industry’s most pressing issues, including workforce and work certification; effecting change in Washington, D.C.; building codes and insurance; and increasing professionalism in all industry sectors.”

 

US Isocyanate Market May See Improvement in 2018

Mon, 2018-01-15 20:39
Building Science

US isocyanate buyers are hoping to see improved supply conditions in 2018, after both methyl di-p phenylene isocyanate (MDI) and toluene di-isocyanate (TDI) markets saw significant price increases over the course of 2017, driven by persistent supply tightness.

Isocyanates are among the key raw materials used in the manufacture of polyurethane foams.

The market is anticipating that supply will begin to normalize in either the first or the second quarter of 2018, although earlier expectations regarding the likely normalization of supply have proved premature.

Demand for downstream polyurethane systems is strong and is expected to see continued healthy growth in 2018. Polyurethane foams have excellent insulating properties, and the move across many industries to adopt more energy-efficient technologies is leading to greater demand for polyurethanes.

Rebuilding efforts in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico following an active Atlantic hurricane season may provide an extra boost to polyurethane demand in the coming year.

Isocyanates are combined with polyols to produce polyurethane foams, which are used in a wide variety of applications in the construction, automotive, appliance and home furnishing sectors.

Higher raw material prices resulted in compressed margins for isocyanate buyers as most were unable to raise their end-product prices quickly enough to match the upward movement in isocyanate costs. Although buyers’ margins have faced compression, demand for downstream polyurethane systems, the primary end use for isocyanates, remained strong throughout 2017, amplifying supply shortages and helping to push through consecutive price hikes.

According to a survey by IAL Consultants, production of polyurethanes in the countries participating in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 2016 was up by 4.4% from the previous survey conducted in 2014, causing production of polyurethanes in North America to rise to levels last seen prior to the 2008 recession.

Executives from Dow and Covestro confirmed in November that MDI demand growth in recent years has outpaced industry anticipations, while at the same time, the isocyanate industry has struggled to bring new capacity on-line quickly enough to meet the additional demand.

Isocyanate markets across the globe faced significant supply shortages throughout 2017.

Germany’s BASF ran its 300,000 tonnes/year TDI plant in Ludwigshafen, Germany at reduced rates, with a back-up reactor from its initial restart in April through the end of the year. The market anticipates that BASF will only be able to install a new reactor and run its plant at normal rates in the first or second quarter of 2018. The plant was initially taken offline in November 2016 due to a technical defect.

Additionally, Sadara’s new MDI and TDI plants at its large integrated petrochemical facility in Al-Jubail, Saudi Arabia both started up in 2017 after delays. Sadara started up its 400,000 tonnes/year MDI plant in the summer of 2017, and commercial quantities from the plant began to appear in Middle Eastern markets in the fourth quarter. The company started up its 200,000 tonnes/year TDI plant in October and began sending out samples in November. Commercial production from the TDI plant is expected in the first or second quarter of 2018.

In addition to these global production issues, the US isocyanate market also experienced a series of plant disruptions and force majeures in 2017. BASF declared a force majeure on MDI from its 300,000 tonnes/year plant in Geismar, Louisiana in June, owing to high water levels of the Mississippi River, which impeded deliveries of feedstock benzene to the plant. The force majeure was lifted on 1 July.

Hurricane Harvey’s impact on the US Gulf Coast in late August prompted additional force majeure declarations.

Dow Chemical declared force majeure from its 340,000 tonnes/year MDI plant in Freeport, Texas on 31 August. The force majeure was lifted on 18 September.

Meanwhile, Covestro declared force majeure on MDI and TDI production from its Baytwon, Texas facility on 30 August. Covestro can produce 340,000 tonnes/year of MDI and 220,000 tonnes/year of TDI at its Texas facilities. The company lifted its MDI force majeure on 2 October while the company lifted its force majeure on TDI on 30 October.

With the market facing persistent supply shortages and demand growing at a faster than expected clip, isocyanate buyers had little alternative but to accept consecutive rounds of price increases, with some sellers heard to have taken a “take it or leave it” attitude towards their price increase initiatives, which would normally be at least partially negotiable.

ICIS raised its assessments for TDI by a cumulative 75 cents/lb ($1,654/tonne) over the course of 2017 and its MDI assessments by a cumulative 53 cents/lb over the same time period.

 

Denver Launches Energy Efficiency Rating Interactive Map

Mon, 2018-01-15 20:28
Energy Efficiency

Denver Department of Public Health & Environment (DDPHE) has launched an interactive map showing how buildings across the city rank in terms of energy efficiency. The Building Energy Performance Map displays buildings’ ENERGY STAR scores, which reflect the energy efficiency of each structure on a 1–100 scale. Similar to the miles per gallon rating for vehicles, ENERGY STAR scores allow building occupants, owners and tenants to compare performance across buildings to make better-informed business decisions — and learn whether their buildings operate like hybrid vehicles or gas guzzlers.

The interactive map draws from building performance data collected under the Energize Denver ordinance, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions produced by commercial and multi-family buildings. In its first year of implementation, Energize Denver had a 90 percent compliance rate.

The 2017 Energize Denver reporting cycle affected buildings exceeding 50,000 square feet in size, and in 2018 the program will phase in buildings 25,000 square feet and larger. The compliance deadline for this larger set of covered buildings is June 1, 2018. Trainings, help sessions and ongoing support will be available to assist the approximately 3,000 buildings within this size range in meeting compliance in 2018.

Energy use from heating and cooling buildings is the single largest source of GHG emissions in Denver, accounting for approximately 57 percent of its carbon emissions. Improving building energy efficiency will not only reduce GHG but will also help protect quality of life via improved air quality.

Energy savings can also help strengthen the economy when reinvested locally. Investing an estimated $340 million in improving building energy efficiency in Denver could result in the creation of 4,000 local jobs and $1.3 billion in energy savings over 10 years.

“Measuring public energy performance scores is a major milestone towards achieving the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent below 2005 levels by 2050,” says Katrina Managan, senior advisor, Energy Efficiency, DDPHE. “Benchmarking the energy performance of a building is the first step toward understanding and reducing its energy consumption, which is directly tied to harmful emissions.”

 

Video: House Energy Committee Holds Hearing on DOE Modernization

Mon, 2018-01-15 20:05
Building Science

The Subcommittee on Energy held a hearing on Tuesday, January 9, 2018, entitled “DOE Modernization: Advancing DOE’s Mission for National, Economic, and Energy Security of the United States.” The hearing examined plans for modernizing and realigning the Department of Energy (DOE) to better execute its various missions. It provided lawmakers with information to help assess what is necessary to ensure effective execution of the core DOE missions—national security, energy and economic security, environmental cleanup, and the scientific and technological innovation to support those missions. Click here to view the witness list and obtain further background.

The full video of the hearing can be viewed below.

DowDuPont Develops New Flexible Adhesive Tape

Tue, 2018-01-09 20:58
Housing & Construction

DuPont Safety & Construction will introduce DuPont™ FlexWrap™ EZ and provide live product demonstrations at the International Builders Show in Orlando, Florida., to take place Jan. 9-11.

DuPont™ FlexWrap™ EZ, an innovative, flexible and versatile self-adhered tape will be showcased at the DuPont booth (W4071) as the newest addition to DuPont™ Tyvek® Building Envelope Solutions portfolio coming in early 2018. DuPont™ FlexWrap™ EZ was designed specifically to help create an air- and water-tight seal when installed around penetrations of all different shapes and sizes. It is ideal for flashing around the many smaller electrical, HVAC and plumbing penetrations as a fast and easy solution to help improve energy efficiency and the durability of a wall system.

“We are thrilled to unveil our newest product, DuPont™ FlexWrap™ EZ,” said DuPont Global Timber Frame Market Manager Alan Hubbell. “Our latest innovation is unique, and different from competitive solutions, because of its flexibility and versatility for use on a wide variety of wall penetrations typically found on a home or building. Multiple trades can use this single product on various types of penetrations for sealing the building envelope, no longer needing multiple products for different applications.” Hubbell elaborates, “It helps reduce complexity for builders and contractors. One roll is enough to seal around all the typical penetrations in an average-sized home. Plus, FlexWrap™ EZ is designed to withstand extreme temperatures and 270 days of UV exposure, making it suitable for use in residential and commercial applications.”

In addition, the DuPont booth will feature various types of high-performance wall systems, integrating DuPont™ Tyvek® Building Envelope products with STYROFOAM™ by DOW, to help deliver energy-efficient and durable wall solutions. Further highlights include a real-time air exchange unit demonstrating how DuPont™ Tyvek® wrap and flashing products help tighten the building envelope; integrated wall solutions focused on reductions in thermal bridging; and solutions which help deliver improved drainage-efficiency and drying capability to the wall system. Attendees also will be able to test the walkability of DuPont™ Tyvek® Protec™ roofing underlayments in wet and dirty conditions.

Additionally, DuPont™ Tyvek® Building Envelope Solutions products will be installed in live demonstrations at the DuPont booth (W4071), as well as the NAHB High Performance Building Zone (W6157). Building science and construction experts, Mark LaLiberte and Walt Tomala, will host a series of presentations and live installation demos at the DuPont booth, featuring tips and solutions for water and air management; managing safety on the roof; and, creating effective air barriers and high-performance walls. For Greater Good™ is the promise of the DuPont™ Tyvek® brand. Tyvek® can provide the trusted protective barrier people need to worry less so they can focus on accomplishing bigger things – making the greater good possible.

 

Drywall Makers Settle Price Fixing Suit for $191M

Mon, 2018-01-08 16:09
BusinessRaw Materials

Four of the nation’s principal drywall manufacturers have agreed to pay an additional $125 million to settle a class action case involving allegations of price manipulation, boosting the total payout to nearly $191 million, according to an SEC filing and an announcement by the plaintiffs’ attorneys.

Eagle Materials, American Gypsum Co., New NGC Inc. (parent of National Gypsum), and PABCO Building Products entered into an agreement on Dec. 29 settling claims that wallboard manufacturers broke antitrust laws by conspiring in 2011 and 2013 to raise prices.

“Settling defendants believe that they are not liable for the claims asserted and have good defenses to plaintiffs’ claims,” according to the settlement agreement, included as part of Eagle Materials’ Dec. 29 SEC filing. “but nevertheless have decided to enter into this settlement agreement in order to avoid further expense, inconvenience, and the distraction of burdensome and protracted litigation. ….”

Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, one of the law firms for the plaintiffs said wallboard makers now have committed $190.7 million to settle the case. The most recent settlement is subject to final approval by a federal judge.

According to Cohen Millstein, the case began in the fall of 2011 when American Gypsum announced a 35% price increase for drywall for the following year. The other defendants then announced comparable increases.

“Over the course of the litigation, the plaintiffs alleged that American Gypsum would not have raised prices so significantly without the agreement of its competitors to follow suit,” Cohen Millstein’s press release said. “All the defendant drywall manufacturers also instituted significant price increases for 2013. The lawsuit alleged that as a result of collusion, direct purchasers of drywall products, including distributors, buying cooperatives and contractors, paid artificially inflated prices.”

In March 2015, U.S. District Judge Michael Baylson of Pennsylvania’s Eastern District gave preliminary approval to four settlements totaling $55 million. Paying then were USG Corp. and TIN Inc, (aka Temple Inland), the Top Class Actions website reported. CertainTeed also had been accused of price fixing but was cleared of wrongdoing.

The class action covers persons or businesses that bought wallboard between Jan. 1, 2012, and Dec. 31, 2013, from any of the companies named above plus L&W Supply Corp. (at that time a unit of USG), and Georgia-Pacific. Compensation will be doled out based on the total dollar amount of wallboard bought in the U.S. by entities in the class.

“Price-fixing scandals in fact are standard fare for drywall manufacturers,” The Atlantic reported in July 2016. It cited “a 1996 Department of Justice memo that ordered Georgia-Pacific to divest two gypsum plants in order to restore viable competition.” The publication added that “major producers of gypsum wallboard have been caught up in civil and criminal price-fixing litigations in the 1920s, 1940s, and the 1970s.”

 

Solar Window Glaze Innovation a 'Significant Breakthrough'

Mon, 2018-01-08 16:06
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

A group of National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) scientists recently made a significant breakthrough in solar window efficiency.

The NREL scientists created solar windows that use thermochromism — the property of substances to change color due to a change in temperature — to transform from transparent to tinted, and convert sunlight into electricity in that tinted state.

The innovation, called SwitchGlaze, could be one of the next commercial successes coming from Energy Department national laboratory research, the agency reports. The SwitchGlaze team has been able to explore the market potential of its new technology through Technology-to-Market’s Energy I-Corps, a training program for national lab researchers that aims to accelerate industry offtake of DOE technologies.

With support from the department’s Building Technologies Office (BTO), the researchers spent two months learning the industry landscape for solar windows, and determining how to best transition their technology from the lab to the marketplace.

While the technology offers something new and exciting to the market, solar windows have been around for decades. Initial efforts integrated conventional fully-opaque solar cells into windows and shades. This was followed by semi-transparent designs when thin film solar technology took hold. The latest technologies included fully-transparent, infrared light-absorbing designs.

What makes their technology unique? Below are five facts about solar windows and how the new innovation works.

1. It looks like an ordinary window. SwitchGlaze windows may look ordinary, but they are far from it. The technology absorbs some of the sunlight as it is transmitted through the window and converts it into electricity. The windows act like solar cells, providing a flexible clean energy solution for modern building design.

2. It “switches” with changes in temperature. SwitchGlaze solar windows are designed to tint (the switch) at warmer temperatures, especially on hot days when the sun is shining. After the switch to a tinted state occurs, SwitchGlaze windows absorb and convert sunlight into electricity the same way conventional rooftop solar panels do.

3. It’s thermochromatic. SwitchGlaze windows use temperature-triggered thermochromatic tinting. This is what allows for the partial absorption of sunlight and transforms the windows into efficient solar cells. SwitchGlaze initially converts sunlight into electricity at an efficiency of 11.3 percent. Conventional rooftop solar panels are roughly 20 percent efficient, with a theoretical maximum of 32 percent. Meanwhile solar windows that only convert visible light are limited by a theoretical 10 percent efficiency.

4. It will be cost-efficient. The cost of adding SwitchGlaze solar cell layers to traditional windows is predicted to be a fraction of the cost, which could be cancelled out by solar energy payback. The most expensive parts of conventional rooftop solar panels, the glass that encapsulates the panel and the transparent metals, are already in standard high-performance windows.

5. It’s an evolving technology. Building design is constantly evolving from static to dynamic. Just like lighting set to motion sensors provides lighting when needed by responding to occupant need, this dynamic technology responds to sunlight to improve building efficiency and provide on-site energy generation. Buildings of the future will be more energy-efficient, comfortable and durable as dynamic technologies are integrated. SwitchGlaze is in the proof-of-concept stage, with more work to be done before it will be commercially available.

 

Video: Meritage’s Concept Home Shows the Future of Net-Zero

Mon, 2018-01-08 16:02
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

Creating a net zero home is impressive and provides the occupants with strong benefits. Creating a net zero home that redefines how utilities work is amazing. That’s exactly what Meritage Homes set out to do with the reNEWable Living Home. This 2018 BUILDER Concept project was engineered and designed to use energy in a completely different way.

CR Herro, vice president of environmental affairs at Meritage Homes and the lead on the project, explains the background of this housing revolution in energy efficiency in this short video.

 

 

Editor’s Note: If the video does not play, or will not expand to full screen, click here.

Investors Speculate on DowDupont Material Science Spin-off

Mon, 2018-01-08 15:56
Building ScienceBusiness

Moody's Investors Service is maintaining a stable outlook for the pending materials science spin-off of DowDuPont, expecting that the company will make adjustments to compensate for its lower earnings, caused by a shift of some businesses to another spin-off.

The materials-science company will be about $2.4bn lighter in terms of earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA), Moody's said in a report. This $2.4bn represents the amount that will be shifted to the specialty products spin-off.

The materials-science company will likely adjust its capital structure accordingly to justify an investment-grade rating of Baa2, Moody's said.

Meanwhile, it should withstand an upcoming ethylene downturn in the future, caused by the new capacity coming on line in North America.

A decline in PE prices and a rise in ethylene costs would cut the spin-off's EBITDA by more than $2.5bn in 2019 from 2017, Moody's said. This decline would be countered by $1.2bn in synergies and growth in the spin-off's other businesses.

Overall, the ethylene downturn should be modest for the materials science spin-off as well as other North American ethylene producers, Moody's said. The US has a cost advantage, and Moody's expects ethylene chain cash margins to remain well above $500/tonne.

Looking at DowDuPont in general, Moody's said the company's synergy targets are reasonable and achievable.

DowDuPont seeks to achieve $3.0bn in cost synergies and $1.0bn in growth synergies, Moody's said. Among these, about $660m will come from procurement. The rest could come from reducing the work force, consolidating buildings and other facilities and shutting down plants as well as other activities.

Based on the track record of the management team, DowDuPont could well exceed its synergy targets, Moody's said.

Materials science is one of the three businesses that DowDuPont will spin off between March 2019 and August 2019. The other two are specialty products and agriculture. Agriculture will likely take the DuPont name, while materials science could take the Dow name.

The specialty products business would have the size, scale and credit quality to merit an investment-grade rating, Moody's said. It will have $21bn in revenue and an EBITDA margin of about 25% spread across four segments that Moody's said are strong and well positioned.

 

BASF Announces Top Leadership Changes in 2018

Mon, 2018-01-08 15:54
Building ScienceBusiness

BASF, one of the world’s largest chemical groups, will replace Chief Executive Kurt Bock with his deputy Martin Brudermueller in May as it prepares to carve out its oil and gas division and spends billions of euros on farm seed assets.

Bock is set to become supervisory board chairman in 2020 after a two-year cooling-off period, the German chemicals maker said in a statement on Thursday.

“The change next year is part of the long-term succession planning for the Supervisory Board and the Board of Executive Directors of BASF,” said Juergen Hambrecht, the group’s current chairman.

Brudermueller was appointed deputy CEO in 2011 after losing out to Bock -- finance chief at the time -- in the race for the CEO role. He is also chief technology officer after a previous stint as head of Asia.

Brudermueller, with a business strategy background, is seen as more charismatic, and sometimes more impulsive, of the two.

BASF’s consensus-based corporate culture has prevented rivalries and differences from breaking out into the open.

Bock has long been criticised by investors for being too passive as rivals pushed for big mergers and acquisitions, especially in crop chemicals.

But BASF, whose products include catalytic converters, vitamins, engineering plastics and foam chemicals, has embarked on a series of medium-sized deals under his leadership during the past two years.

It paid 5.9 billion euros in October to buy seed and herbicide businesses from Bayer.

It also bought Solvay’s nylon business for 1.6 billion euros. In 2016, it bought Albemarle Corp’s surface-treatment unit Chemetall for $3.2 billion.

BASF is also in the process of finishing a deal to combine its oil and gas unit Wintershall with DEA, the energy group owned by Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman.

A 67 percent stake in the new entity for BASF is already agreed, as well as a possible initial public offering in the second half of 2018.

Hans-Ulrich Engel, in addition to being BASF’s chief financial officer, will take on the role as deputy CEO - or Vice Chairman of the Board of Executive Directors, as the official title goes.

The number of executive board seats will shrink to seven from eight. 

 

Kingspan Announces Three Insulation Company Acquisitions

Mon, 2018-01-08 15:48
Building ScienceBusiness

Kingspan, the insulation group, said on Friday that it had committed more than €620 million to 10 acquisitions so far this year, including three purchases that it had not previously announced.

The largest of these is the planned purchase of Barcelona-based Synthesia group in a deal worth €250 million, giving Kingspan a “leading position in both insulated panels and insulation boards on the Iberian peninsula”, the Cavan-based group said in a statement. The Spanish group had €275 million of sales last year.

Kingspan has also agreed to buy Polish insulation company Balek Metal, which had revenues of €160 million in 2016, as well as Brakel Group, a Dutch company involved in daylight access, fire safety and ventilation solutions for buildings, which is exp ected to generate a turnover of €300 million this year.

“The latest three acquisitions mark a significant strategic step forward for Kingspan,” said group chief executive Gene Murtagh. “They are a perfect fit for our existing businesses and geographic footprint and, in addition, provide a technology platform that will complement our ongoing innovation pipeline and the development of next generation insulation.”

Kingspan also said on Friday that it had secured €225 million of financing by way of a private placement of €175 million in loan notes with an average maturity of 8.5 years and annual interest rate of 1.57 per cent, as well as a €50 million negotiated bilateral facility.

The money will help fund the latest acquisitions as well as “further strategic development”, the company said.

The market value of Kingspan has risen more than 40 per cent so far this year to €6.6 billion. Shares in the group have recovered in recent weeks from a wobble in the middle of November, as it accompanied the publication of a solid set of figures for the first nine months of the year by confirming evidence of UK slowdown and indicating that full-year profits would be lower than market expectations.

 

Wool Insulation Product Creates a 'Smart Wall'

Mon, 2018-01-08 15:44
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

Havelock Wool, a provider of wool insulation solutions, in partnership with 475 High Performance Building Supply, has introduced the ‘Smart Wall’, a smart enclosure system made of highly efficient, durable and sustainable products, including Havelock Wool sheep’s wool insulation, Pro Clima membranes and Gutex insulation board.

The Smart Wall was conceived and developed by green entrepreneurs Andrew Legge and Lucas Johnson to improve indoor air quality while protecting health and the planet. Constructed using non-toxic materials, the enclosure system uses existing and new technology to generate an airtight, energy efficient and long-lasting building envelope that delivers comfort and healthier air without the risk of rot, mold or other maintenance and health concerns.

“Most walls are built with toxic materials and end up being vapor retarded or, in many cases, what we refer to as ‘vapor-closed,’” said Johnson, a Seattle-based consultant for 475 High Performance Building Supply. “These walls trap moisture and are almost impossible to dry out. This can cause accelerated structural decay, and cultivation of mold and contaminants, which can lead to costly repairs and recurrent respiratory and flu-like symptoms – a high price to pay.”

Another recently identified effect of compromised indoor air is decreased cognitive function. A 2015 Harvard study found that occupants in buildings with low volatile organic compound (VOC) levels scored 61 percent higher on a test measuring critical thinking prowess than those in buildings with conventional VOC levels. When higher ventilation rates were added to the equation, scores were 101 percent higher.

“We spend as much as 90 percent of our time indoors, so buildings have a unique ability to influence our physical health and cognitive performance,” said Andrew Legge, founder of Havelock Wool, which is pioneering the use of sheep’s wool in the U.S. as a natural building material. “The quality of air that we breathe matters. And, it matters for business owners too, because when employees can think clearly, productivity and the bottom line are improved.”

Sustainable, recyclable and biodegradable, natural wool insulation is highly effective for both thermal and acoustic insulation. It continues to perform well due to its inherent ability to absorb and release moisture, and can last for multiple generations. And, unlike other types of insulation, no protective gear is required when installing it. All of these factors make wool insulation particularly well-suited for the Smart Wall enclosure system.

Added Johnson, who has a bachelor’s degree in Physiochemical Biology and master’s degree in Environmental Science, “With the Smart Wall, we’re talking about material that is not only able to manage moisture naturally, but is void of chemicals, is fire resistant and is earth-friendly. At the same time, it solves many of the problems builders and installers encounter when installing insulation – for example, moisture-riddled studs popping the foam in wall cavities.”

Legge is also working with 475 High Performance Building Supply on the “Smart walls for smart kids” project, an initiative that seeks to provide a safer, healthier environment for students through the installation of Smart Walls in schools.

Commented Legge, “As more architects and builders seek to improve the spaces we inhabit, building materials will become increasingly ‘intelligent’ and adaptive. By interweaving natural principles with technological innovation and manufacturing, we’re working in harmony with nature rather than against it to create smarter, healthier buildings (and people) – one wall at a time.”

 

Icynene Develops New Open-Cell Spray Foam Innovation

Mon, 2018-01-08 15:39
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

The undisputed leader of open-cell spray foam innovation, Icynene, has unveiled its latest high-performance light density spray foam insulation products – Icynene Classic Ultra and Icynene Classic Ultra Select. In a first for Icynene, both new open-cell products go beyond the expectations of spray foam contractors by eliminating the requirement of paddle mixing by hand prior to application with the introduction of an expanding blade mixer – the Icynene Draw Mixer. Both new products offer significantly better cohesion than existing Icynene open-cell spray foam insulation products – namely Icynene Classic Max and Icynene Classic Max Select.

Formulation enhancements see cohesion properties improve as much as 90 percent for Icynene Classic Ultra and a 30 percent improvement for Icynene Classic Ultra Select, when compared to Icynene Classic Max and Icynene Classic Max Select open-cell spray foam insulation. Icynene Classic Ultra is a low VOC innovation and holds a GREENGUARD Gold certification.  Both new open-cell products feature:

  • No paddle mixing by hand of resin prior to spraying. The new Icynene Draw Mixer does all of the work.
  • Ability  to start spraying with drum temperatures as low as 60°F for Icynene Classic Ultra and as low as 70°F for Icynene Classic Ultra Select
  • R3.7 per inch R-Value

The elimination of manually hand mixing Icynene spray foam resin is a first for the spray foam insulation manufacturer. Spray foam applicators can use the Icynene Draw Mixer, a 13.3 pound expanding blade mixer, which is exclusive to Icynene through equipment partner, Graco. Use of the Icynene Draw Mixer ensures consistent foam properties throughout the spray application.

“The introduction of Icynene Classic Ultra and Icynene Classic Ultra Select demonstrates our commitment to delivering customer-valued innovation in the insulation category. Sprayers no longer need to paddle mix the resin material, or wait for the liquid to warm up – so they can quickly start spraying these two high quality, high yielding products,” Mark Sarvary, Icynene-Lapolla President.

 “This is truly a game changer. Icynene has a long history of driving change within the insulation category and the introduction of Icynene Classic Ultra and Icynene Classic Ultra Select is no exception. These two products stand out from the rest in terms of cohesion, sprayability, performance and yield. Both products spray beautifully and spray foam applicators will notice ease of application as well as an improvement in their own time management when on a job site,” said Randy Scott, Vice President and General Manager, North America for Icynene.

“We work tirelessly to develop, introduce and refine the next generation of high-performance open-cell spray foam insulation products that respond to market demand and address anticipated advancements in building codes, architectural design and industry requirements,” said Mr. Scott.

 

A Wall's Drying Potential Won’t Always Bail You Out

Mon, 2018-01-08 15:12
Building ScienceEnergy Efficiency

By Jay Crandell, P.E. (with contributions by Kirk Grundahl, P.E.)

 

Illustration by Hunter Lane, Applied Building Technology Group

Unlike boats, a building’s walls must have some capability to “breathe” instead of being totally impervious to all forms of water. However, a misguided reliance on “breathing” or drying potential as the primary means to make a building’s wall work, without proper consideration of variations in conditions of use, can lead to the problem of wetting potential being too high when conditions of use change. What you end up with is a wall that dries fast in one condition of use and then wets just as fast in another condition of use – just like the boat in the above cartoon. Water or water vapor that leaves in one direction can also enter in the opposite direction when conditions change. For the boat illustration, the rate and direction of water movement depends on the size of the hole and the water pressure difference (which changes depending on whether the boat is in the water or dry-docked). Similarly, water vapor movement depends on the vapor permeability of material layers and the vapor pressure difference across those layers (which changes direction seasonally).

Because walls in buildings dry by means of water vapor movement, use of a high vapor permeance water-resistive barrier layer on the outside of the wall is often considered to be universally good.  In some circumstances this may be true and is helpful.  In many others, it is not. The problem is that vapor drives are not always in the outward direction.  In fact, they are often in an inward direction.  Furthermore, just focusing the vapor permeance of one layer does not fully address how the assembly will behave under changing circumstances.

The direction and amount of water vapor movement into or out of the wall depends on the time of year, the climate, the indoor conditions (temperature and relative humidity), the vapor permeance of the material layers that make up the wall assembly, and the type of cladding. In particular, moisture reservoir claddings like stucco or adhered masonry veneers can significantly increase inward vapor drives when not adequately back-ventilated.  So, having high drying potential on the exterior side of a wall assembly can be good at one time of the year in some climates and for some cladding types, but not for all times of the year in all climates for all cladding types.  This seems complicated and it is. There are resources should you want to take a deep-dive into this subject.  

But, there is an easier to understand solution…

For a boat hull, it is best to essentially eliminate wetting potential with the use of a highly water- and vapor- resistive hull, or at least outer coating on the hull, right? In this case, drying potential is easily handled on the interior side by use of a small bilge pump or bailer.

Exterior walls of buildings are a bit trickier, but similar in principle. First and foremost, wetting potential from rain water must be minimized by proper use of a water-resistive barrier and best-practice flashing details at all windows, doors, and other penetrations. Any reasonable approach to or amount of drying potential will not offset major water-resistance defects that result in excessive wetting potential from rain water intrusion.  For example, if a boat has holes in the hull the approach of installing a larger bilge pump (aka, more drying potential) to remove the water may in some cases keep the boat afloat temporarily, but it is not going to make it seaworthy. Fix the holes.  Similarly, trying to rely on high drying potential (rather than focusing on fixing the holes or water leaks) can lead to increased wetting potential from inward water-vapor movement for reasons given earlier.  The three stooges make some fun of this point.  Don’t be a stooge. 

For drying potential of a building’s walls, one must be careful to allow adequate vapor movement out of the assembly, but not in a way that allows a lot of vapor movement back into the assembly under changing seasonal conditions. This can be a challenging balancing act (see Figure 1 below) that depends on a number of factors, including the cladding material used, the climate zone where the building is located and the vapor permeance of building material and insulation layers making up the wall assembly. 

Figure 1. The Drying Potential Balancing Act

Consequently, a safe and simple design approach for building a sound wall assembly is to use a moderate- to low- vapor permeance material layer on the exterior of the wall and let the wall breathe to the interior by use of a moderate- to high- vapor permeance interior vapor retarder, such as a Class II (Kraft paper), Class III (latex paint) or a “smart” vapor retarder. This approach works well because the water-sensitive interior portions of a wall become influenced by a more stable indoor environment and are protected from the variable  outdoor conditions that otherwise create episodes of wetting and drying. Also, the balance of wetting and drying potential with adequate inward drying minimizes moisture cycling of materials within the wall. This is good for the structure.  This is good for durability. This is good for water sensitive materials within walls such as wood-based or gypsum sheathings. This is simple, but it must be done right…

While the above inward-drying approach can work in any climate, in colder climates the wall must be “tricked” into thinking it is in a warm climate to control humidity levels with the assembly and prevent condensation or moisture accumulation within the wall during the winter months.  This beneficial effect is easily and reliably achieved by using a sufficient amount of continuous insulation, like foam sheathing, on the exterior of the building as is often required to comply with modern energy codes.  In fact, a wall calculator tool and educational aids have been developed for this purpose. Foam plastic insulations, like plastics commonly used for boat hulls, also have a comparatively high level of durability when exposed to water, which can be further enhanced by facers (like the gel coat on a boat hull). With these moisture control and durability benefits, energy savings are also obtained by envelope insulation of the entire exterior of a structure, including all the thermal bridges created by wood and, to a much greater extent, steel framing members.

Conversely, walls with no exterior continuous insulation result in cold materials within the wall (such as wood-based or gypsum sheathing) and this tends to create high humidity or condensation conditions that increase the moisture content of these materials during the winter, which can lead to moisture related and durability issues. Even with high exterior drying potential leading to drying in the Spring and Summer, the moisture cycling in the winter may lead to potential moisture damage unless a low-perm interior vapor barrier is used and careful air-sealing applied to prevent vapor diffusion and warm indoor air leakage into the wall.  Also, in warm-humid climates, a high outward drying potential really means that during much of the year there is high inward wetting potential due to inward vapor diffusion. In this case, focusing instead on inward drying and avoiding high vapor permeance materials on the exterior is a favorable practice.    

So, don’t be fooled by narrowly focused claims that foam sheathing creates low drying potential without considering the fact it can significantly reduce and control wetting potential while, together with appropriate vapor retarder selections, also provide appropriately balanced and inwardly directed drying potential for a durable and energy efficient wall assembly suited for any climate.

For more information on topics addressed in this article, visit www.continuousinsulation.org and particularly the following page: https://www.continuousinsulation.org/topical-library/water-vapor-control

The following EEBS articles are also relevant: Creating the 'Perfect Wall': Simplifying Water Vapor Retarder Requirements to Control Moisture and Perfect Walls are Perfect, and Hybrid Walls Perfectly Good