A Little Piece of the Planet

There was an old TV commercial for one of the Big Box stores that really hit me. It was an ad selling garden tools and mulch, and at the end of the commercial, the tagline was something like this: “It’s not just your yard. It’s your own little piece of the planet.”

That’s how I remember it, anyway. And that’s weird for several reasons, including the fact that I almost never watch commercials (that’s what the remote control is for), and I’m certainly not a huge fan of yard work. I am, however, ridiculously attached to the small scrap of grass behind our house that is our backyard.

When the weather cooperates, our yard makes our house seem ten times bigger. The backyard provides more usable space, a place to relax and a little touch of Mother Nature. It’s a literal breath of fresh air.

I was reminded of how much I miss our backyard during the winter while working on this issue, which spotlights green roofs. I can understand the desire to increase usable space, but vegetative systems can bring so much more to the rooftop than aesthetics. They can help minimize storm water runoff, expand the natural habitat for birds and other wildlife, and help roofs perform more efficiently over a longer lifespan. From The Wharf in D.C. to a Manhattan skyscraper to home on an island in the state of Washington, the green roofs profiled in this issue are getting attention for all the right reasons.

When it comes to providing a haven for the birds and the bees, green roofs are the stars of the show, but every roof has the potential to last longer, conserve energy and help the planet. The industry is taking a leading role in educating the public and government on the benefits of long-lasting, high-performing roofs. In this issue, Tom Hutchinson, Louisa Hart and Marcin Pazera explore the importance of designing and installing thermally efficient products and systems — and documenting their performance.

The roof is the most crucial part of the building envelope, and roof performance is a critical component of a building’s energy footprint. In this industry, durability and sustainability have become the watchwords. And that’s important because when you pull up Google Earth on your computer, what do you see? Roofs.

It’s not just your roof. It’s your own little piece of the planet.

Designing Thermally Efficient Roof Systems

Photo 1. Designing and installing thermal insulation in two layers with offset and staggered joints prevents vertical heat loss through the insulation butt joints. Images: Hutchinson Design Group Ltd.

“Energy efficiency,” “energy conservation,” and “reduction of energy use” are terms that are often used interchangeably, but do they mean the same thing? Let’s look at some definitions courtesy of Messrs. Merriam and Webster, along with my interpretation and comment:

· Energy efficiency: Preventing the wasteful use of a particular resource. (Funny thing, though — when you type in “energy efficiency” in search engines, you sometimes get the definition for “energy conservation.”

· Energy conservation: The total energy of an isolated system remains constant irrespective of whatever internal changes may take place, with energy disappearing in one form reappearing in another. (Think internal condensation due to air leaking, reducing thermal R-value of the system.)

· Reduction: The action of making a specific item (in this case energy use) smaller or less in amount. (Think cost savings.)

· Conservation: Prevention of the wasteful use of a resource.

So, looking at this article’s title, what does “designing a thermally efficient roof system” imply?

Photo 2. Rigid insulation is often cut short of penetrations, in this case the roof curb. To prevent heat loss around the perimeter of the curb, the void has been sprayed with spray polyurethane foam insulation. Open joints in the insulation have also been filled with spray foam insulation. Note too, the vapor retarder beyond the insulation.

I conducted an informal survey of architects, building managers, roof consultants and building owners in Chicago, and they revealed that the goals of a thermally efficient roof system include:

  • Ensuring energy efficiency, thus preventing the wasteful use of energy.
  • Reducing energy use, thus conserving a resource.
  • Being energy conservative so that outside forces do not reduce the energy-saving capabilities of the roof system.

Unfortunately, I would hazard a guess and say that most new roof systems being designed do not achieve energy conservation.

Why is this important? The past decade has seen the world building committee strive to ensure the energy efficiency of our built environment.

A building’s roof is often the most effective part of the envelope in conserving energy. The roof system, if designed properly, can mitigate energy loss or gain and allow the building’s mechanical systems to function properly for occupant comfort.

Photo 3. Rigid insulation is often not tight to perimeter walls or roof edges. Here the roofing crew is spraying polyurethane foam insulation into the void to seal it from air and heat transfer. Once the foam rises it will be trimmed flush with the surface of the insulation.

Energy conservation is increasingly being viewed as an important performance objective for governmental, educational, commercial and industrial construction. Interest in the conservation of energy is high and is being actively discussed at all levels of the building industry, including federal and local governments; bodies that govern codes and standards; and trade organizations.

As with many systems, it is the details that are the difference between success and failure on the roof. This article will be based on the author’s 35 years of roof system design and in-field empirical experience and will review key design elements in the detailing of energy-conserving roof systems. Best design and detail practices for roofing to achieve energy conservation will be delineated, in-field examples reviewed and details provided.  

Advocacy for Improvement

In the past decade, American codes and standard associations have increased the required thermal values every updating cycle. They have realized the importance of energy conservation and the value of an effective thermal layer at the roof plane. They have done this by prescribing thermal R-values by various climatic zones defined by the American Society of Heating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, now better known by its acronym ASHRAE. Additionally, two layers of insulation with offset joints are now prescribed in the IECC (International Energy Conservation Code). Furthermore, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) has also realized the importance of conserving energy and defined an energy conservation goal called the 2030 Challenge, in which they challenge architects, owners and builders to achieve “zero energy” consuming buildings by 2030.

These codes, standards and laudable goals have gone a long way to improving energy conservation, but they are short on the details that are needed to achieve the vision.

Energy Conservation Is More Than Insulation

Roofs are systems and act as a whole. Thus, a holistic view of the system needs to be undertaken to achieve a greater good. Roof system parameters such as the following need to be considered:

  • Air and/or vapor barriers and their transitions at walls, penetrations and various roof edges.
  • Multiple layers of insulation with offset joints.
  • Preventing open voids in the thermal layers at perimeters and penetrations.
  • Protection of the thermal layer from physical damage above and warm moist air from below.
Photo 4. The mechanical fasteners below the roof membrane used to secure the insulation conduct heat through them to the fastening plate. The resultant heat loss can be observed in heavy frost and snowfall.

Air intrusion into the roof system from the interior can have extremely detrimental consequences. In fact, Oak Ridge National Laboratory research has found that air leakage is the most important aspect in reducing energy consumption. Interior air is most often conditioned, and when it moves into a roof system, especially in the northern two-thirds of the country where the potential for condensation exists, the results can include wet insulation, deteriorating insulation facers, mold growth and rendering the roof system vulnerable to wind uplift. Preventing air intrusion into the roof system from the interior of the building needs to be considered in the design when energy efficiency is a goal. Thus, vapor retarders should be considered for many reasons, as they add quality and resiliency to the roof system (refer to my September/October 2014 Roofing article, “Vapor Retarders: You Must Prevent Air and Vapor Transport from a Building’s Interior into the Roof System”). The transition of the roof vapor/air barrier and the wall air barrier should be detailed and the contractors responsible for sealing and terminations noted on the details.

One layer of insulation results in joints that are often open or could open over time, allowing heat to move from the interior to the exterior — a thermal short. Energy high to energy low is a law of physics that can be severe. Thus, the International Code Council now prescribes two layers of insulation with offset joints. (See Photo 1.)

When rigid insulation is cut to conform around penetrations, roof edges and rooftop items, the cuts in the insulation are often rough. This results in voids, often from the top surface of the roof down to the roof deck. With the penetration at the roof deck also being rough, heat loss can be substantial. Thus, we specify and require that these gaps be filled with spray foam insulation. (See Photos 2 and 3.)

Insulation Material Characteristics and Energy Conservation

In addition to the system components’ influence on energy loss, the insulation material characteristics should also be considered. The main insulation type in the United States is polyisocyanurate. Specifiers need to know the various material characteristics in order to specify the correct material. Characteristics to consider are:

Photo 5. Heat loss through the single layer insulation and the mechanical fasteners was so great that it melted the snow, and when temperatures dropped to well below freezing, the melted snow froze. This is a great visual to understand the high loss of heat through mechanical fasteners.
  • Density: 18, 20, 22 or 25 psi; nominal or minimum.
  • Facer type: Fiber reinforced paper or coated fiberglass.
  • Dimensional stability: Will the material change with influences from moisture, heat or foot traffic.
  • Thermal R-value.

In Europe, a popular insulation is mineral wool, which is high in fire resistance, but as with polyisocyanurate, knowledge of physical characteristic is required:

  • Density: If you don’t specify the density of the insulation board, you get 18 psi nominal. Options include 18, 20 and 25 psi; the higher number is more dimensionally stable. We specify 25 psi minimum.
  • Protection required: Cover board or integral cover board.
  • Thermal R-value.

Protecting the Thermal Layer

It is not uncommon for unknowledgeable roof system designers or builders looking to reduce costs to omit or remove the cover board. The cover board, in addition to providing an enhanced surface for the roof cover adhesion, provides a protective layer on the top of the insulation, preventing physical damage to the insulation from construction activities, owner foot traffic and acts of God.

The underside of the thermal layers should be protected as well from the effects of interior building air infiltration. An effective air barrier or vapor retarder, in which all the penetrations, terminations, transitions and material laps are detailed and sealed, performs this feat. If a fire rating is required, the use of gypsum and gypsum-based boards on roof decks such as steel, wood, cementitious wood fiber can help achieve the rating required.

Insulation Attachment and Energy Efficiency

The method in which the insulation is attached to the roof deck can influence the energy-saving potential of the roof system in a major way. This fact is just not acknowledged, as I see some mechanically attached systems being described as energy efficient when they are far from it. Attaching the insulation with asphalt and/or full cover spray polyurethane adhesive can — when properly installed — provide a nearly monolithic thermal layer from roof deck to roof membrane as intended by the codes.

Figure 1. Roof details should be drawn large with all components delineated. Air and vapor retarders should be clearly shown and noted and any special instructions called out. Project-specific roof assembly details go a long way to moving toward ensuring energy conservation is achieved. Here the air and vapor retarder are highlighted and definitively delineated. Voids at perimeters are called out to be filled with spray foam and methods of attachment are noted.

Another very popular method of attaching insulation to the roof deck and each other is the use of bead polyurethane foam adhesive. The beads are typically applied at 6 inches (15.24 cm), 8 inches (20.32 cm), 9 inches (22.86 cm) or 12 inches (30.48 cm).

The insulation needs to be compressed into the beads and weighted to ensure the board does not rise up off the foam. Even when well compressed and installed, there will be a ±3/16-inch void between the compressed beads, as full compression of the adhesive is not possible. This void allows air transport, which can be very detrimental if the air is laden with moisture in cold regions. The linear void below the insulation also interrupts the vertical thermal insulation section.

The most detrimental method of insulation attachment in regard to energy loss is when the insulation is mechanically fastened with the fasteners below the roof cover. Thermal bridging takes place from the conditioned interior to the exterior along the steel fastener. This can readily be observed on roofs with heavy frost and light snowfall, as the metal stress plates below the roof cover transfer heat from the interior to the membrane, which in turn melts the frost or snow above. (See Photo 4.)

The thermal values of roofs are compromised even more when a mechanically attached roof cover is installed. The volume of mechanical fasteners increases, as does the heat loss, which is not insignificant. Singh, Gulati, Srinivasan, and Bhandari in their study “Three-Dimensional Heat Transfer Analysis of Metal Fasteners in Roofing Assemblies”found an effective drop in thermal value of up to 48 percent when mechanical fasteners are used to attach roof covers. (See Photo 5). This research would suggest that for these types of roof systems, in order to meet the code-required effective thermal R-value, the designer needs to increase the required thermal R-value by 50 percent.

Recommendations to Increase Energy Savings

Code and standard bodies as well as governments around the world all agree that energy conservation is a laudable goal. Energy loss through the roof can be substantial, and an obvious location to focus on to prevent energy loss and thus create energy savings. The thermal layer works 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year. Compromises in the thermal layer will affect the performance of the insulation and decrease energy savings for years to come. Attention to installation methods and detailing transitions at roof edges, penetrations, walls and drains needs to be given in order to optimize the energy conservation potential of the roof system.

Based on empirical field observation of roof installations and forensic investigations, the following recommendations are made to increase the energy-saving potential of roof systems.

  • Vapor and air barriers are often required or beneficial and should be specifically detailed at laps, penetrations, terminations and transitions to wall air barriers. (See Figure 1.) Call out on the drawings the contractor responsible for material termination so that this is clearly understood.
  • The thermal layer (consisting of multiple layers of insulation) needs to be continuous without breaks or voids. Seal all voids at penetrations and perimeters with closed cell polyurethane sealant.
  • Design insulation layers to be a minimum of two with offset joints.
  • Select quality insulation materials. For polyisocyanurate, that would mean coated fiberglass facers. For mineral wool, that would mean high density.
  • Attach insulation layers to the roof deck in a manner to eliminate thermal breaks. If mechanically fastening the insulation, the fasteners should be covered with another layer of insulation, cover board or both.
  • Design roof covers that do not require mechanical fasteners below the membrane as an attachment method.
  • Protect the thermal layer on top with cover boards and below with appropriate air and vapor barriers.

Saving limited fossil fuels and reducing carbon emissions is a worldwide goal. Designing and installing roof systems with a well thought out, detailed and executed thermal layer will move the building industry to a higher plane. Are you ready for the challenge?

About the author: Thomas W. Hutchinson, AIA, FRCI, RRC, CRP, CSI, is a principal of Hutchinson Design Group Ltd. in Barrington, Illinois. For more information, visit www.hutchinsondesigngroup.com.

North Carolina Middle School Generates More Energy Than It Uses

Sandy Grove Middle School in Hoke County, N.C.

Sandy Grove Middle School in Hoke County, N.C., was designed to be an energy-positive building. It generates 40 percent more energy than it consumes. Photo: Mathew Carbone Photography

When Robbie Ferris first presented the idea of a school building that generates more energy than it uses, people were skeptical. Now he can point to Sandy Grove Middle School in Hoke County, N.C., as proof that a high-performance school building can go well beyond net zero and generate 40 percent more energy than it consumes.

Ferris is the president of SfL+a Architects and manager at Firstfloor, a development company that specializes in public-private partnerships and design-build-operate agreements. “We designed the building, we own it and we lease it to the school district,” he says. “We monitor all of the systems remotely. One of the reasons we do that is because when you put really high-performance systems in buildings, you have to make sure they are operating at peak efficiency. It can take time to make sure everything is optimized.”

Three years after completion, Sandy Grove Middle School is outperforming its energy models, and the building continues to win accolades. It recently received Energy Star 100 Certification and has been recognized as the nation’s most energy positive school.

“Sandy Grove Middle School is a perfect example of a high-performance facility,” says Ferris. “With the public-private lease-back model, everyone wins. The students receive a quality school, it fits in to the school system budget, and it is energy efficient to help both total cost and our environment.”

The building’s systems were designed to be as energy-efficient as possible, and that includes the roof, which features an array of photovoltaic (PV) panels to generate electricity. “We wanted a roof that would last 30 years,” Ferris notes. “We’ve had a tremendous amount of success with TPOs, and metal roofs as well. This particular client wanted a metal roof look from the front, but they were very open to a membrane roof on other parts of the building. We made the decision to put the metal roof on the front of the building and a TPO on the wings at the back of the building.”

On this project, the warranties were important considerations, along with durability and energy efficiency. SfL+a specified a standing seam metal roof system manufactured by Dimensional Metals Inc. and a TPO system manufactured by GenFlex. “Obviously, if you’re putting a couple of million dollars’ worth of solar panels on your roof, you want to make sure you have a roof that is going to be problem free.”

A Smooth Installation

The installation was a challenging one, but everything went smoothly, notes Aaron Thomas, president and CEO of Metcon Inc. Headquartered in Pembroke, N.C., Metcon is a full-service general contractor that specializes in energy positive commercial buildings, so it was perfectly suited to serve as the construction manager on the project.

Photovoltaic panels were installed

Photovoltaic panels were installed on both the standing seam metal roof and the TPO system. The systems on the low-slope roof sections are fully ballasted, and both sections were installed without penetrating the roof system. Photo: SfL+a Architects

Thomas and Ryan Parker, senior project manager with Metcon, coordinated the work of subcontractors on the job, including the Youngsville, N.C. branch of Eastern Corp., which installed the TPO and metal roofs, and PowerSecure, the solar installer on the project, based in Wake Forest, N.C.

The roof systems covered 85,000 square feet, and Sharp PV panels were installed on both the metal roof and the TPO system. Solar panels were also installed on freestanding structures called “solar trees.” Each solar tree is 20 feet tall, 25 feet wide and weighs 3,200 pounds.

“The TPO roof system was upgraded to an 80-mil product due to solar panels being added to the roof,” Parker notes. “It was 100 percent ballasted on the low-slope sections, with slip sheets being used below the racking on the TPO roof.”

On the metal roof, clips manufactured by S-5! were used to affix the solar racking to the seams. “There are no penetrations for the frames, and penetrations for the electrical wiring went through vertical walls, not the roof,” Parker says. “There were no penetrations anywhere in the roof system, which made all of the warranties that much easier to keep intact.”

The biggest challenges on the project, according to Parker, were coordinating the different scopes of work and ensuring all of the manufacturers’ warranty considerations were met. “We had two different kinds of roofs, both coupled with solar panels,” Parker says. “Like any rooftop with photovoltaic products, there had to be special attention paid to the warranties of all parties involved. Both Genflex and DMI were closely involved in coordinating details to ensure that the owner achieved a great roof free of defects.”

The building’s systems were designed for energy efficiency

The building’s systems were designed for energy efficiency, and the roof features an array of photovoltaic panels to generate electricity. Photo: Mathew Carbone Photography

One key was developing a detailed schedule and keeping everyone on it. “We would meet once a week and huddle up on how it was progressing and what else needed to be done,” Parker recalls. “We found that by using a collaborative submittal sharing platform, all of the varying parts and pieces could be checked by all parties to ensure compatibility.”

There were multiple safety concerns associated with combining solar panels to the roofing system, so everyone had to be on the same page. “The roofing subcontractor and the solar subcontractor performed a joint safety plan that utilized common tie off points,” Parker notes. “The job had zero lost time.”

“Everyone coordinated their work and it was a great team effort,” Ferris says. “It was one of the smoothest jobs I’ve ever seen. We have not had a single leak on that project—not a single problem.”

Proof Positive

For Ferris, the greatest obstacle on energy-positive projects convincing members of the public and governmental agencies of the benefits. “The biggest challenges had nothing to do with construction; they had to do with just doing something new and different,” he says. “The toughest challenge was getting the school board, the county commissioners, the public and the review agencies on board. It took a very long time—and lots of meetings.”

Photo: SfL+a Architects

Now Ferris can point to Sandy Grove as an example of just how a high-performance school building can pay huge dividends. “As soon as you see it in real life, you’re on board,” he says. “It’s very exciting for people to see it. If we can get people to the school, they’ll walk away convinced it is the right thing to do.”

With Sandy Grove, the school district has a 30-year lease with an option to purchase. Ferris believes the lease model is the perfect solution for educators. “We’re responsible for any problems for the life of the lease,” he says. “If a problem does come up, we usually know about it before the school does because we monitor the systems remotely online.”

“In their world, buildings are a distraction from educating kids,” Ferris concludes. “This is one building that is not a distraction.”

TEAM

Building Owner: Firstfloor, Inc., Winston-Salem, N.C., Firstfloor.biz
Architect: SfL+a Architects, Raleigh, N.C., Sfla.biz
Construction Manager: Metcon Inc., Pembroke, N.C., Metconus.com
Roofing Contractor: Eastern Corp., Youngsville, N.C.
Photovoltaic Panel Installer: PowerSecure, Wake Forest, N.C., Powersecure.com
Metal Roof System Manufacturer: Dimensional Metals Inc., DMImetals.com
TPO Roof System Manufacturer: GenFlex Roofing Systems, GenFlex.com

Pressure Sensitive Tape Council Opens Calls for Abstracts for TECH 40 Technical Seminar

Pressure Sensitive Tape Council (PSTC) opens Calls for Abstracts to its TECH 40 Technical Seminar, taking place during the 2017 Tape Summit from May 15-19, 2017 at Mandalay Bay Hotel, Las Vegas, NV. Submitting an abstract allows participants to share industry expertise and leadership, all while supporting the PSTC event. Chosen abstracts and subsequent final papers will be highlighted at TECH 40 in Las Vegas.

Topics include ideas on processes, materials, technology, test methods, applications, environmental issues and more – all related to advancing the science of pressure sensitive adhesive tapes in the building construction, alternative energy, packaging, transportation, medical/healthcare industries.

The abstract submission process has been upgraded with a more user-friendly interface. Those interested in participating can visit www.pstc.org/TECH40Papers to submit an abstract. The deadline for submissions is Aug. 29, and applicants will be notified if their work has been selected in late fall 2016. In the event that applicants should require deadline flexibility for submission, contact PSTC directly at info@pstc.org.

The Pressure Sensitive Tape Council is an organization of pressure sensitive tape companies, complying with manufacturing standards in an environmentally and socially responsible manner.

AIA Comments on the Passing of the Energy Policy Modernization Act

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) issued the following statement after the U.S. Senate passed S. 2012, the Energy Policy Modernization Act. The legislation repeals targets for reducing fossil fuel consumption in federal buildings contained in Section 433 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which was passed by Congress and signed into law by then-President George W. Bush.

AIA President Russell Davidson, FAIA, says: “Cutting fossil fuel consumption in new and renovated federal buildings by 2030 is clearly something we can achieve as a nation. My fellow architects are already designing buildings that are “net zero” consumers of energy. According to government statistics, better designed buildings have already saved our country approximately $560 billion in energy costs since 2005.

“Therefore it makes no public policy sense for Congress to cave in to the oil and gas lobby and kill requirements to reduce fossil-fuel consumption in federal buildings. As we have noted before, residential and commercial buildings account for almost 40 percent of both total U.S. energy consumption and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Last December, nearly 200 nations, including the U.S., committed in Paris to reducing the planet’s carbon footprint.

“Uncle Sam must continue to be a leader worldwide in energy conservation and reduced dependence on the use of fossil fuels. Yet we are effectively abrogating this role with this short-sighted vote, which will continue to hold federal taxpayers hostage to the whims of global energy markets.

“We were gratified by the White House’s announcement in December that the President would veto the House energy legislation, specifically citing the repeal of Section 433 as one of several major objections. We hope that lawmakers come to their senses and strip this provision from any final bill.”

MiaSolé and SolEnergy Enter into Representation Agreement

SolEnergy LLC has entered into a representation agreement with MiaSolé in which SolEnergy will represent MiaSolé in Louisiana, Maryland and North Virginia. SolEnergy offers innovative, mission-critical solar power and energy solutions that provide customers guaranteed savings, NetZERO design options, cutting-edge energy storage systems, remote building energy metering and controls, energy system retro-commissioning, and advanced energy-efficiency options. These flexible, scalable systems are tailored by SolEnergy to meet and exceed the energy needs of today’s growing businesses.

SolEnergy will offer MiaSolé FLEX modules, efficient thin-film lightweight flexible modules with an efficiency rating of more than 16 percent. MiaSolé FLEX modules bond directly to the roof surface with a simple peel-and-stick adhesive. The low-profile FLEX module provides superior wind resistance and a seismic advantage over traditional rack-and-panel systems where their higher profile increases the likelihood of damage in a hurricane or earthquake, making FLEX modules the ideal solar solution for solar carports and commercial buildings. This adhesive approach eliminates the need for racking and reduces labor and logistics cost to provide a 20 percent lower BOS cost than traditional glass solar systems. In addition, the MiaSolé Flex modules use innovative bypass diode technology that enables better shade performance. The FLEX-02 Series module is IEC 61646 & IEC 61730 and UL 1703 certified.

UN Climate Conference Agreement Will Impact Energy Efficiency of Buildings

The agreement from the U.N. Climate Conference will dramatically impact the energy efficiency of buildings in the U.S. becoming standard operating procedure for new construction and making deep retrofits worth the time and effort.

According to the Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey, there are approximately 6 million commercial buildings in the U.S., comprising 87.4 billion square feet. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the average commercial building wastes 30 percent of its energy consumption at a cost of more than a trillion dollars of wasted energy.

PIMA President Jared Blum, serving also as vice chair of the Business Council for Sustainable Energy, led a delegation of renewable and energy-efficiency business leaders to the COP21 meeting in Paris. Blum and the other leaders participated in briefing sessions given by the U.S. negotiating team, as well as in workshops as technology and policy experts.

“COP21 has indeed resulted in an unprecedented operating commitment to reduce CO2 emissions for the 196 countries attending,” says Blum. “Coupled with the recently passed Clean Power Plan here in the U.S., we expect to see building designers and scientists reevaluating how to get existing buildings to perform.”

Blum participated in the COP 21 in a number of different ways:

  • Provided the opening statement, the Intervention, at the Plenary Technical Working Group for Governmental Delegates.
  • Held meetings with U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz and a U.S. Senate delegation offering business input to the conference leaders.
  • Participated in a panel discussion with representatives of the wind industry and other efficiency advocates.

“Of real difference this year is the shift in the attitude of the business community towards this effort. The prices of solar- and wind-energy technologies have fallen dramatically, energy storage R&D is making significant progress, and energy-efficiency practices and policies have definitively demonstrated that economic growth can be separated from energy use,” adds Blum. “I believe that realization was one of the reasons this conference was a success.”

Owens Corning Releases Ninth Annual Sustainability Report

Owens Corning announced strong progress in reducing its environmental footprint and improving the environmental impact and transparency of its products. The company released these results in its ninth annual sustainability report.

“We are proud of what we accomplished this past year, further reducing our environmental footprint and expanding our positive handprint by introducing new solutions to the challenges of climate change, energy consumption and infrastructure development,” says vice president and chief sustainability officer, Frank O’Brien-Bernini. “Today, our global enterprise operates with 46 percent less absolute greenhouse gas emissions than our peak in 2007, and we are developing ways to make additional reductions. We are committed to expanding our impact through sustainability and collaborating with others to further our progress.”

The report also highlights the company’s global philanthropic work, joint efforts with customers and suppliers to improve sustainability, and analytics on its handprint. All of these support the goal of becoming a net-positive growth company. All of these support the goal of becoming a net-positive growth company.

“We’ve begun to explore handprint opportunities along the social dimensions of human health and employee well-being,” O’Brien-Bernini says. “Continued safety progress and advances in health and wellness help our employees and their families live to the fullest each day.”

Building on the successes of its first 10-year sustainability goals, this is the fourth year Owens Corning has reported against its 2020 goals.

Other highlights of 2014 progress include:

  • Industry-leading track record of safety performance, which earned Owens Corning the 2014 Green Cross for Safety medal from the National Safety Council.
  • Sustained environmental footprint progress, including intensity reductions of 34 percent in greenhouse gas and 65 percent in toxic air emissions from its 2010 baseline.
  • Facilitated 2.4 billion pounds of end-of-life recycled shingles and consumed 1.3 billion pounds of recycled glass, year-over-year increases of 33 percent and 15 percent respectively.
  • Launch of the WindStrand high-performance glass fiber roving and Ultrablade fiberglass reinforcement fabric products, which enable longer and lighter wind blades. This advancement supports the continued growth of economical wind energy for low-wind sites.
  • Participation in community programs at more than half of our worldwide facilities. This included increasing access to basic health and educational needs for more than 19,000 children in India, China and Mexico.
  • Collaboration with the Harvard School of Public Health to strengthen its wellness programs.
  • Placement in the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index for the fifth consecutive year and named Industry Leader in Sustainability for the second consecutive year.
  • Perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index for the 11th consecutive year.

Owens Corning’s 2014 Sustainability Report is consistent with Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) guidelines known as GRI-G3.1. GRI’s Sustainability Reporting Guidelines set a globally applicable framework for reporting the economic, environmental and social dimensions of an organization’s activities, products and services.

Research Helps Industry Organizations Conclude Ballasted Roofs Provide Energy Savings

During the last decade, the roofing industry has been increasingly impacted by two strong forces: first, rising energy prices with no real end in sight, and, second, increasingly stringent building codes and regulations, designed to limit emissions, reduce energy use and mitigate the impact of urban heat islands.

The first definitive study to measure the energy-saving potential of ballasted roofs was done at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tenn., in 2007.

The first definitive study to measure the energy-saving potential of ballasted roofs was done at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tenn., in 2007. PHOTO: EPDM Roofing Association

The industry response has also been two-fold: In some instances, new products have been created, such as lower VOC adhesives, primers and sealants, self-adhering membranes and a wider variety of reflective membranes. At the same time, roofing professionals have taken a close look at some of the products that have been in use for a generation. Using rigorous science, they have tested these tried-and-true products to see how they measure up against the new standards. And in many cases, they’ve found that products that have been in use for decades are delivering great results in this new, energy-sensitive environment. Case in point: ballasted roofing, which has been available since the early 1970s, is turning out to be a great choice to meet 21st century needs.

2007 Study

The first definitive study to measure the energy-saving potential of ballasted roofs was done at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tenn., in 2007. Andre Desjarlais, ORNL’s group leader of Building Envelope Research, and his colleagues had just completed work in which “we had done a fairly substantial comparison of different cool roof technologies, both membrane types, as well as coatings,” Desjarlais says. At the request of EPDM manufacturers, working together at the newly founded EPDM Roofing Association (ERA), Bethesda, Md., as well as manufacturers within Waltham, Mass.-based SPRI, Desjarlais designed and implemented a second study to assess the performance of ballasted roofing. “We undertook a study to effectively expand what we had done earlier on coatings and membranes,” he says.

Other factors also encouraged ORNL to generate data about ballasted roofing. The California Energy Commission, Sacramento, had just revised its codes, essentially defining roofs with high reflectance and high emittance as the only choice of roofing membranes that would deliver high energy savings. Desjarlais believed this definition of a “cool roof” might be inaccurately limiting roofing choice by excluding other roofing materials, such as ballasted roofs, that would deliver comparable savings.

The California Energy Commission, Sacramento, had just revised its codes, essentially defining roofs with high reflectance and high emittance as the only choice of roofing membranes that would deliver high energy savings.

The California Energy Commission, Sacramento, had just revised its codes, essentially defining roofs with high reflectance and high emittance as the only choice of roofing membranes that would deliver high energy savings. PHOTO: EPDM Roofing Association

In addition, in Chicago, a new Chicago Energy Code was adopted as early as 2001 “with high reflectivity and emissivity requirements that limited severely building owners’ and managers’ roof system choices”, according to a paper presented in 2011 by Bill McHugh of the Chicago Roofing Contractors Association. At the roofing industry’s request, a reprieve was granted, giving the industry until 2009 to come up with products with a reflectivity of 0.25.

Faced with that 2009 deadline, the Chicagoland Roofing Council, Chicago Roofing Contractors Association and Rosemont, Ill.-based National Roofing Contractors Association began in 2001 to conduct research on products that would help to meet the city’s goal of creating a workable Urban Heat Island Effect Ordinance while giving building owners a wider choice of roofing products. As part of their effort, the industry coalition turned its attention to the energy-saving qualities of ballasted roofing and coordinated its work with the research at ORNL.

Desjarlais points out the concept of thermal mass having energy benefits has been accepted for years and has been a part of the early version of ASHRAE 90.1. “Thermally massive walls have a lower insulation requirement, so there was industry acceptance of the fact that using mass is a way of saving energy,” he says. “But we had a hard time translating that understanding from a wall to a roof. Whether you do that with a concrete block or a bunch of rocks doesn’t really matter. The metric is no different. Roofs or walls.”

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FERC Report: Renewable Energy Sources Provide More than 75 Percent of U.S. Generating Capacity

According to the latest “Energy Infrastructure Update” report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) Office of Energy Projects, wind, solar, geothermal, and hydropower combined provided more than 75 percent (75.43 percent) of the 1,229 MW of new U.S. electrical generating capacity placed into service during the first quarter of 2015. The balance (302 MW) was provided by natural gas.

Specifically, during the quarter, eight new “units” of wind came on line with a combined capacity of 647 MW—accounting for 52.64 percent of all new generating capacity for the quarter. It was followed by 30 units of solar (214 MW), one unit of geothermal steam (45 MW), and one unit of hydropower (21 MW). Five units of natural gas provided the new capacity from that sector.

FERC reported no new capacity from biomass sources for the quarter nor any from coal, oil or nuclear power.

The numbers for the first three months of 2015 are similar to those for the same period in 2014 when renewable energy sources (i.e., biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, wind) provided 1,422 MW of new capacity and natural gas 159 MW while coal and nuclear provided none and oil just 1 MW. Renewable energy sources accounted for half of all new generating capacity last year.

Renewable energy sources now account for 16.92 percent of total installed operating generating capacity in the U.S.: water—8.53 percent, wind—5.65 percent, biomass—1.38 percent, solar—1.03 percent, and geothermal steam—0.33 percent. Renewable energy capacity is now greater than that of nuclear (9.11 percent) and oil (3.92 percent) combined. Moreover, as noted, total installed operating generating capacity from solar has now reached and surpassed the one-percent threshold.

“The trend lines for the past several years have been consistent and unmistakable,” notes Ken Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY Campaign. “Each month, renewable energy sources—particularly wind and solar—increase their share of the nation’s generating capacity while those of coal, oil and nuclear decline.”