Retrofit Roofing Project Highlights Advancements in Building Materials and Methods

The roof was replaced on Huntsman Corporation’s Advanced Technology Center, an L-shaped, 70,000-square-foot facility housing expensive equipment and research labs. A TPO membrane roof system was installed over high-density polyiso cover board.

The roof was replaced on Huntsman Corporation’s Advanced Technology Center, an L-shaped, 70,000-square-foot facility housing expensive equipment and research labs.

Over the last few decades, computer and scientific innovations have evolved at a furious pace, with new technologies rapidly replacing only slightly older ones. In this race for the latest and greatest, it sometimes feels like the devices in our pockets and controlling our home stereos are from some virtual reality, while the building materials of our homes and workplaces are relics of a bygone age. But, looks can be deceiving, and the polyiso insulation industry is playing a role in evolving our built environment.

For example, many commercial buildings seem only superficially different from those built a generation ago when seen from a distance. But, from behind the glass curtain walls and updated building amenities, we may not notice the disruptive technologies that have substantially improved building systems in recent years. Informed by sophisticated research and utilizing advanced components, cutting-edge building materials are thinner, stronger and more resilient than traditional products. Adopting them in both new construction and renovation can appreciably improve building performance, while also decreasing environmental impact. These products are particularly attractive to forward-looking companies interested in buildings that will prove cost-effective over the long term.

A Case in Point

When the Huntsman Corporation began considering facility improvements for its Huntsman Advanced Technology Center (HATC) in The Woodlands, Texas, they decided to embrace the most innovative materials available. This four-building campus, located about 35 miles north of Houston, serves as the company’s leading research and development facility in the Americas, so it is appropriate that it be built with products as advanced as the technology it houses. Replacing the aging PVC roof on Building 1 was a key element in this upgrade.

After more than two decades of exposure to the Texas heat, the roof was approaching the end of its useful life. With expensive equipment and valuable research in labs throughout the building, Huntsman didn’t want to take any chances in modernizing the L-shaped, 70,000-square foot facility. With the added incentive of receiving the highest-level certification from its insurer, the company decided to remove and completely replace the existing roof with state-of-the-art materials.

Commercial roofs in Texas are required to have an insulation R-value of 20 or higher, so simply replacing the existing membrane and lightweight insulating concrete on a metal deck that the building had used before with the same materials would not have sufficed. In addition, current codes which say that old roofs need to be brought up to current code when doing a tear-off job. After reviewing the options, they chose to install thermoplastic polyolefin (TPO) membrane roofing over high-density polyiso cover board.

The polyiso cover boards are lightweight and easy to cut, which reduces both time and labor costs for installation. They add strength and protection to a roofing system, enhancing the system’s long-term performance. They can be shipped with approximately three times more square feet per truckload than gypsum products, so fewer trucks are needed, leading to fuel and transportation savings. Plus, they can be cut without specialized tools and workers don’t have to worry about the dust that is created when sawing, as they would with other types of cover boards. And most importantly, these high-density boards are based on proven technology.

A TPO membrane roof system was installed over high-density polyiso cover board.

A TPO membrane roof system was installed over high-density polyiso cover board.


Drawn to polyiso for its high R-value per inch of thickness, compressive strength, impressive fire-, wind- and moisture-resistance, long-term durability, and low environmental impact, Huntsman partnered with roof mechanics experienced in working with these materials and committed to both safety and quality.

If the original installers of the previous roof 22-years earlier had witnessed this new project, they would have been amazed. Instead of hoisting heavy materials up ladders, pallets are deposited on the roof by crane. Boards are attached with fasteners and plates or foam adhesives to the deck, and robotic welders seal the seams in the TPO membrane.

The new roof is resistant to ultraviolet, ozone and chemical exposure, which contributes to a lifespan of more than 20 years, while being virtually maintenance-free. Workers who access the roof to remove debris from the tall trees on the HATC campus can easily stay on the safety-taped walk pad areas. The roof materials are all recyclable later, leading to a very low environmental impact.

Increasing the thermal resistance to an impressive R-21 for the combined roof system, the building now exceeds local, state and international building codes. This added insulation and the reflective white surface of the new roof are going to lower energy consumption and lead to greater indoor comfort and a decreased load on HVAC systems. The roof is much less susceptible to the mold, mildew, and will help prevent water from pooling and ponding as it did on the old roof.

A new commercial roof is a substantial investment. Luckily, with all the cost savings inherent in both the installation process and the whole-life use of high-density polyiso cover boards, companies don’t have to forego state-of-the-art materials for financial reasons. Factoring in the ease of installation (from cutting to less dust) and weight of the cover boards, retrofitting an older building with updated roof systems can be a win-win for both clients and crews.

PHOTOS: HUNTSMAN CORPORATION

Darius Rucker Is Home For Good Project Ambassador

Three-time GRAMMY Award winner Darius Rucker is partnering with Ply Gem as the 2017 ambassador for the Home for Good project to help hundreds of families build homes across the U.S. with Habitat for Humanity. Ply Gem’s commitment to the belief that everyone deserves a place to call home aligns with Darius’ core values as well as themes across his music.

The Ply Gem Home for Good project is a multi-year initiative that includes a donation of over $1 million of exterior building products and funds for Habitat for Humanity to help families build strength and stability through housing. The company will support the project with advertising and social media initiatives to encourage its associates, the building industry—including distributors, builders and remodelers—as well as consumers to bring awareness of the need for affordable housing in communities across the country. Last year, Ply Gem featured country music icon Alan Jackson as the ambassador for the project.

“From an early age, my mother always encouraged us to give back,” shares Rucker. “Whether it was mowing a neighbor’s yard or supporting a friend, I think it’s important to give back any time and chance you can. For me, the opportunity to partner with Ply Gem and its Home for Good Project to help so many people at a national level is incredible. I am really looking forward to what we can do together.”

“We are proud to have Darius Rucker join us as the 2017 Ply Gem Home for Good project ambassador. He shares our passion for giving back to the community and conviction that every American deserves a safe and decent place they can be proud to call home,” states Gary E. Robinette, chairman and CEO, Ply Gem. “We are committed to the Home for Good project and look forward to partnering with Darius, Habitat for Humanity and families across the U.S. in 2017.”

Through their first year of the Home for Good project, Ply Gem has donated enough building materials –including windows and siding – to help 300 Habitat homeowner families build their homes.

As a way to kick off the Home for Good project, the Ply Gem Deck the Halls with Darius Rucker Sweepstakes has opened. Contestants can learn more about how to enter by visiting www.dariusrucker.com/plygem. There will be five lucky winners, one each week, who will win a $250 Visa gift card.

EPDs Provide a New Level of Environmental Transparency to Building Products

The sustainability movement has impacted the building industry in many ways. Today’s architects, owners and occupants have much greater expectations for the environmental performance of the buildings they design, operate and dwell in. Part of this expectation is focused on the components that make up the building. For example, did the wood come from responsibly harvested forests? Is the metal made of recycled material? Do the paint and interior finishes contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs)?

An Environmental Product Declaration, or EPD, is developed by applying a Product Category Rule, or PCR. PCRs are developed, maintained and warehoused by program operators. Examples of program operators include ASTM, CSA, ICC-ES, Environdec and UL Environment. Program operators also verify that an EPD and its associated life-cycle assessment conform with ISO 14025 and the ISO 14040 series. PCR development is commonly a collaborative effort between industry associations, manufacturers, and/or others.

An EPD is developed by applying a Product Category Rule. PCRs are developed, maintained and warehoused by program operators. Examples of program operators include ASTM, CSA, ICC-ES, Environdec and UL Environment. Program operators also verify that an EPD and its associated life-cycle assessment conform with ISO 14025 and the ISO 14040 series. PCR development is commonly a collaborative effort between industry associations, manufacturers, and/or others. IMAGE: Quantis US

Information technology has encouraged and facilitated this increased demand for in-depth data about building components and systems. People have become accustomed to being able to gather exhaustive information about the products they buy through extensive labeling or online research.

In response to the growing demand for environmental product information, building component manufacturers have begun rolling out environmental product declarations, or EPDs.

It’s a term now commonly heard, but what are they? EPDs are often spoken in the same breath as things like LCA (life-cycle assessment), PCRs (product category rules) and many other TLAs (three-letter acronyms). The fact is they are all related and are part of an ongoing effort to provide as much transparency as possible about what goes into the products that go in and on a building.

“An EPD is a specific document that informs the reader about the environmental performance of a product,” explains Sarah Mandlebaum, life-cycle analyst with Quantis US, the Boston-based branch of the global sustainability consulting firm Quantis. “It balances the need for credible and thorough information with the need to make such information reasonably understandable. The information provided in the document is based on a life-cycle assessment, or LCA, of the product, which documents the environmental impacts of that product from ‘cradle to grave.’ This includes impacts from material production, manufacturing, transportation, use and disposal of the product. An EPD is simply a standardized way of communicating the outcomes of such an assessment.”

The concept of product LCAs has been around for some time and has often been looked at as a way of determining the sustainability of a particular product by establishing the full scope of its environmental footprint. The basic idea is to closely catalog everything that goes into a product throughout its entire life. That means the energy, raw materials, and emissions associated with sourcing its materials, manufacturing it, transporting it, installing it and, ultimately, removing and disposing of it. In the end, an LCA results in a dizzying amount of data that can be difficult to translate or put in any context. EPDs are one way to help provide context and help put LCA data to use.

“The summary of environmental impact data in the form of an EPD can be analogous to a nutrition label on food,” says Scott Kriner, LEED AP, technical director of the Metal Construction Association (MCA), Chicago. “There is plenty of information on the label, but the information itself is meaningless unless one is focused on one area. An LCA determines the water, energy and waste involved in the extraction of raw materials, the manufacturing process, the transportation to a job site and the reclamation of waste at the end of the useful life of a product. With that data in hand, the various environmental impact categories can be determined and an EPD can be developed to summarize the environmental impact information.”

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