Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Benefits of Cool Roofs

The term "cool roof" refers to how much it reflects and emits the sun's heat back to the sky instead of transferring it to the building. According to the Cool Roof Rating Council (CRRC), "Coolness" is measured by solar reflectance and thermal emittance. The higher the value, the "cooler" the roof.

A cool roof is either white or is another "cool" color which use darker-colored pigments that are highly reflective in the near infrared portion of the solar spectrum. It is like wearing a light shirt versus a dark shirt out in the sunshine: the light shirt keeps you cooler.

Benefits of a Cool Roof are numerous and include:
  • Energy savings and global warming mitigation
  • Reduction in urban heat island effect and smog
  • Improved occupant comfort
  • Comply with codes and green building programs
Washington Roofing & Insulation provides free on site consultation to help you determine which cool roof product is right for you.

Source: Cool Roof Rating Council

Friday, September 23, 2011

Health Risks Associated with Toxic Mold

Mold is considered a 4-letter word in the building industry. Especially now, with the summer floods and seasonal hurricanes, the moist environment is a perfect breeding ground for this organism.

Mold is a fungus that thrives in warm, damp and humid conditions with an ample food source; spreading and reproducing by making spores. There are hundreds of thousands of living species of fungi in the environment, both outdoors and in, and are considered part of the natural ecosystem -- some which are beneficial to mankind.

Mold can be found everywhere, but the inhalation of spores from some mold may cause allergies or other health related problems. Some molds are even considered toxic and can be very harmful to people when exposed, especially over a long period of time.

Black Mold, also known as Stachybotrys Chartarum, is a greenish-black fungi which likes to grow in straw, hay, web leaves, drywall, carpet, wall paper, fiber-board, ceiling tiles, thermal insulation and other types of high-cellulose materials. There are many different species of black mold, however, all black molds are not necessarily Stachybotrys. There are non-toxic black molds, as well.

Testing for the toxic black mold can only be accurately performed by an accredited laboratory, which can be expensive. The CDC's website suggests that if you are seeing or smelling mold, or having allergies associated with mold, then no matter what type of mold is present it needs to be removed. 

The 10 most common health risks associated with toxic mold are:
1. pulmonary hemorrhage or pulmonary hemosiderosis (primarily in infants)
2. nose bleeds
3. immune system suppression (resulting in increasing numbers of infections)
4. hair loss
5. dermatitis
6. chronic fatigue
7. psychological depression
8. diarrhea
9. sore throats
10. headaches and other flu-like symptoms

Most smaller areas of mold can be cleaned up with a bleach solution. However, if the area is more than 10 square feet, the CDC website suggests consulting the the EPA's "Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings."

Sources: CDC Website, | EPA Website,  |  The Mold Blog website,

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Friday, September 16, 2011

The Thermal Barrier and Ignition Barrier Story

One issue that has confused many people is the code requirement for thermal and ignition barriers and how it relates to spray foam insulation when installed in an attic or crawl space.

Thermal Barrier - A thermal barrier, as far as building code is concerned, is any product that has been ASTM tested and is considered to have a "15-minute thermal barrier" or an "index of 15." An example of a thermal barrier is 1/2" sheet rock, 1/4" plywood or particleboard, and some fire proof coating.

Ignition Barrier - a product that prevents the ignition of the product which it is applied to from a spark, or from direct heat, but does not protect from direct flame over a period of time. Ignition barriers are usually spray on or brush on coatings.

The Fire Suit and the Leather Jacket
This analogy might help understand the difference. Lets say a firefighter is wearing his fireproof suit, his suit is our thermal barrier. We are standing next to him wearing a leather jacket. This leather jacket is our ignition barrier. The firefighter can walk though a fire without burning, but we can't. That leather jacket would burn quickly. But if we were standing outside the fire and a spark come in contact with the leather jacket, it's doubtful we would burn. The jacket would give us a small amount of protection, but nothing close to the amount of protection that the fireproof suit would give us.

In conclusion, a thermal barrier is a high-level of protection, and an ignition barrier is a low-level of protection. 

When does code tell me I need to us a thermal barrier?
Simply put, everywhere foam is applied to the interior of the building, a thermal barrier must separate the foam from the interior of the building. For example, when foam is applied on the exterior walls your sheet rock on the walls is your thermal barrier. When foam is applied to the roof deck, sheet rock installed at your ceiling is your thermal barrier. If your ceiling is not sheet rock, or does not have a 15-minute fire rating, you must apply a thermal barrier directly to the foam.

When does code tell me I need to use an ignition barrier?
Code says that anywhere foam is applied in an attic or crawl space, it must also be protected from the attic space from an ignition barrier in addition to the thermal barrier that is at the ceiling. The way the code sees it is that once the foam is separated from the interior of the building with a thermal barrier, the foam does not need the same level of protection from the attic space. However, it does require some protection. That is when the ignition barrier, or low-level protection, is used.


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Is Your Community StormReady?

StormReady is a program started by the National Weather Service (NWS) in Tulsa, Oklahoma 12 years ago to help arm communities "with the communication and safety skills needed to save lives and property-before and during the event, " according to the StormReady website.

As of September 6, 2011 Oklahoma is leading the Midwest with 86 StormReady designations, while Missouri comes in 2nd with 63; Kansas 32; Iowa 30 and Nebraska with 24. Our big southern neighbor, Texas, comes in big at 115.

What does that means to residents? It shows that these areas are prepared to help prevent weather-related deaths and injuries through planning, education and early warning systems. 

To become a StormReady designation (a county, city, commercial site, university or supporter site) the area must show they follow six guidelines: Communication, NWS Information Reception, Hydrometerological Monitoring, Local Warning Dissemination, Community Preparedness and Administrative.

Cities, counties, commercial sites, and universities can become StormReady, Tsunami Ready or both. To learn more about this program and to see if your community or University is StormReady, go to the StormReady website.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

New LEED Pilot Credits

Yesterday, the U.S. Green Building Council added nine additional Pilot Credits to their LEED Pilot Credit Library. These include:

  • Pilot Credit 44: EQ - Ergonomics Strategy
  • Pilot Credit 45: SS - Site Assessment
  • Pilot Credit 46: EA - HVAC Commissioning
  • Pilot Credit 47: EQ - Acoustic Comfort
  • Pilot Credit 48: IP - Discovery - Analysis to Support Integrative Process
  • Pilot Credit 49 : IP - Implementing Synergies
  • Pilot Credit 52: MR - Environmentally Preferable Non-Structural Products and Materials - Prescriptive Attributes
  • Pilot Credit 53: MR - Responsible Sourcing of Raw Material and
  • Pilot Credit 54: MR - Avoidance of Chemicals of Concern in Building Materials. 
LEED is a rating system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council in March 2000 for buildings that are "designed, constructed and operated for improved environmental and human health performance."

From homes to commercial buildings, LEED credits can be obtained by following specific guidelines for new construction or renovation, schools, retail, core & shell, commercial interiors, operations & maintenance and neighborhood development. 

Complying with LEED standards is completely voluntary, but has been proven to benefit owners with cost-effective solutions that result from green building. To read case studies, profiles, research and resources on green building, visit the U.S. Green Building Council website.