Contributed by Roy Schauffele
The air barrier technology used in today’s construction and mandated by the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) are firmly grounded in science. That database of knowledge continues to grow at an astounding rate. Research efforts by the Air Barrier Association of America (ABAA) will be presented at the ABAA Conference in 2019, and you will be astounded by how much research and testing that ABAA has been conducting to ensure better knowledge for all.
Currently, air barrier systems are being marketed with having passed only the air barrier part of the testing (ASTM E2357 - Standard Test Method for Determining Air Leakage of Air Barrier Assemblies) and pay little to no attention to the other architectural performance attributes, such as crack bridging, water resistance, adhesion to a substrate and fastener sealability, which when successfully passed, results in an ABAA Evaluated Assembly.
So, what I’m asking you to consider is an upgrade of performance requirements for a better and stronger air barrier specification. Here are my suggestions for ensuring the best possible air barrier performance for your project:
Performance requirements for a proper air barrier specification are vital. The above are four of my suggestions as how you can elevate and upgrade your specs. Should you have any questions or comments, I appreciate you commenting below. Thank you for reading.
Contributed by Elias Saltz
Getting this out of the way first, lest anyone accuse this article of being in the denial camp: Anthropogenic global warming is almost certainly real and will very likely have significant long-term societal, economic, and ecological consequences. Studying the processes that contribute to AGW, predicting the effects with a high degree of certainty, and finding technological solutions to reduce climate change’s impact should be a high priority of the world’s governments at all levels, as should incentivizing reducing carbon output from all industrial and business sectors.
However, some industries are more ready than others to make impactful changes, by dint of embedded scientific expertise and economic feasibility. The energy sector has low- (and zero) carbon options, for example, and the transportation industry is developing feasible technologies for reducing emissions as well. The building sector, for all of architects’ good intentions, is still a significant contributor of carbon emissions and architects, by dint of their lack of rigorous scientific and technical training, do not have the necessary expertise to contribute meaningful innovation.
In his recent column in Architect magazine, AIA President Carl Elefante writes that the newest design imperative is reducing and eventually eliminating carbon output from buildings. “A zero net carbon building sector is the architectural design imperative of our time,” he argues. In his article, he makes a number of problematic arguments.
First, Elefante invokes the changes made to make buildings more fire- and earthquake-resistant: “In 1871, the need for fire-safe buildings rose from the ashes of the Great Chicago Fire. In 1906, from the rubble of San Francisco came understanding that earthquake risk is a design imperative.” Elefante acknowledges that fires and earthquakes are singular catastrophic events that cause immediate death and destruction; specific deadly events shocked the public into demanding safety reforms that were rapidly baked into building codes. This is still a false equivalency. Climate change is acknowledged by the code writers and the International Energy Conservation Code, and requires incrementally improved energy efficiency in envelope design, mechanical and lighting systems. But since neither architects nor anyone else really knows how to make a building fully zero-carbon, let alone do it for a reasonable cost, there’s no true mandate for architects to follow.
Contributed by Eric D. Lussier
Earlier today, while researching job ads on Craigslist, I came across a help wanted post for flooring installers that had some interesting exclusions and language:
My immediate thought was ‘boy, does this guy have some nerve to post an ad like this!’.
But then I thought about it more.
I put myself in the post creator’s shoes for a minute and I immediately knew where he was coming from. Having written ads on Craigslist for flooring installers and laborers myself, and even going so far as to register the domain workinflooring.com to find potential applicants, I know full well that there are very good reasons why these requirements were listed in the above ad.
Much like the list of terms and conditions that my company has in our proposals to clients, there are legitimate explanations for each and every one of those items being there. Typically, an item is added to our terms because at least one time in the past, a situation arose on a project jobsite that necessitated declaration for potential future work. I don’t even need to jump to conclusions to know that every item listed above is spelled out, in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS at that, because he’s seen it first-hand.
But without even knowing who this person was, I could easily envision the scenario, and it hits very close to home. They’re a small business. They’re owner-operated, and chances are, the owner is the lead installer, as well as chief cook and bottle washer. They don’t have a marketing division, nor a human resources department. They have more than enough work to keep them busy at peak times and when times are lean, everyone in the company feels the pinch. I could just as well be describing my day job. I could also be describing thousands of other small businesses across the nation.
In early June, the United States Department of Labor released the news that for the first time since statistics were tracked in 2000, the number of American job openings exceeded the number of job seekers. As a result of this ratio, business owners may feel that they have to say yes to someone who comes along unqualified, because they answered an ad. Chances are the Owner is short on time. They’re short on employees. They have bigger fish to fry and more important tasks to accomplish. And that is why, out of sheer frustration, after hiring and firing a times over, Mr. Craigslist Ad posted the above.
Contributed by Roy Schauffele
I just reviewed another project from a different architect with the same recurring design misunderstanding. This is isolated to the parapet area of a building. I see this detail dozens of times a year and yes, I’m being Texan polite by calling it a misunderstanding.
The building is an administrative office for a Fortune 100 company. It is of steel stud construction with R-13 batt insulation between the studs, 5/8” exterior gypsum sheathing, an ABAA (Air Barrier Association of America) approved liquid applied air barrier (from Company XXX), 1” of an ABAA evaluated foil faced polyisocyanurate insulation (from Company XXX) and a metal façade. This assembly has an effective R-value of >13, which exceeds code. It is also an ABAA evaluated assembly and completely compliant with the Code Mandated Fire Requirement to NFPA-285, and since the air barrier and insulation were from the same corporation, chemical compatibility issues are avoided.
All is well on the front of the building.
Unfortunately, all is not well on the backside of the parapet.
The detailing of the parapet backside showed steel studs, R-13 batts and 5/8” exterior gypsum sheathing for an effective R-value of about 6.6, at best. Undoubtedly, this area is going to be highly energy inefficient and it will have a different dew point (the temperature to which air must be cooled to become saturated with water vapor) than the front of the building. When the dew point occurs, the condensate will drop straight in to the conditioned space, possibly causing mold and definitely leading to reports of a “roof leak”.
The fix is easy.
Just put 1” of your specified continuous insulation over the top and backside of the parapet and now your entire building has the same thermal envelope, with the same dew point profile on both sides of the building.
The advent of code required effective R-value and the use of continuous insulation has led to certain misunderstandings, but as I said above, there is an easy fix and it is in the paragraph above.
Contributed by Randy Nishimura
A cozy group gathered at the Eugene Builders Exchange this past Thursday for the May chapter meeting of the Construction Specifications Institute-Willamette Valley Chapter. The topic for the meeting was repurposedMATERIALS, the successful enterprise at the vanguard of the rapidly growing materials repurposing industry.
CSI-WVC member Alorie Mayer, who has a background in energy and resource conservation management, organized the presentation of a webinar by repurposedMATERIALS president Damon Carson. Damon founded the company in 2011, and it has only grown by leaps and bounds since then. In Damon’s words, repurposing occupies the intersection of affordability and sustainability. The repurposedMATERIALS business model involves taking byproducts out of the waste stream and extending their maximum practical benefit while minimizing waste and the expenditure of new energy to ready them for new uses.
Damon introduced the topic of repurposing materials by having us think about what many of us did naturally as preschoolers: taking an empty Quaker Oats canister and transforming it into a drum or a container for Lego blocks, or reimagining a Maytag refrigerator shipping box as a medieval fort or a space-age rocket. This, in his words, was our “substitutionary thinking” at work. Repurposing isn’t a new concept; fundamentally, it is an innately human behavior.
Damon cited the waste hierarchy pyramid and how reuse occupies a perch near its peak. Repurposing is not the same as recycling, which typically involves energy-intensive processing of the materials (e.g. chipping, shredding, grinding, or melting) before reuse is possible. Repurposing is a means to extract the maximum practical benefit from products while minimizing the cost to the environment. As a waste-management strategy, repurposing minimizes emissions of greenhouse gases, reduces pollutants, saves energy, conserves resources, creates jobs, and stimulates the development of green technologies. Repurposing rather than reprocessing previously-used items also saves time and money, making quality products available to people and organizations who may be of limited means.
Of course, repurposing isn't a new concept. Artists (like my friend and former co-worker Rosie Nice) have long fashioned sculptures and other works out of what most people would consider junk. Habitat for Humanity ReStores and Eugene/Springfield’s own BRING Recycling sell salvaged materials but tend to emphasize reuse rather than repurposing. For example, salvaged doors or windows sold by Habitat for Humanity ReStores or BRING are typically used by the purchasers for the same ends they originally were originally intended for. What distinguishes repurposedMATERIALS is its procurement of large amounts of discarded products no longer suitable for their original purposes but are otherwise practical for altogether different uses.
Let's Fix Construction is an avenue to offer creative solutions, separate myths from facts and erase misconceptions about the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry.
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