Survey Reports Health Impacts of Buildings Influence Design Decisions

Nearly three quarters of U.S. architects say the health impacts of buildings are influencing their design decisions. That finding parallels the market demand by building owners, with a solid two-thirds surveyed also reporting that health considerations affect how they design and construct buildings.

These findings and others were released in a ground-breaking report The Drive Toward Healthier Buildings 2016 by Dodge Data & Analytics, in partnership with Delos and the Canada Green Building Council, and with the participation of the American Institute of Architects as a critical research advisor and partner.

The report documents the value and need for more of the research, education, collaboration and outreach efforts that are hallmarks of the AIA’s Design and Health initiative. Since 2013, AIA has invested in expanding the body of knowledge on the connection between design and health, including professional continuing education and the 17-university Design & Health Research Consortium.

“As a society, we spend nearly 87 percent of our time indoors,” said AIA chief executive officer Robert Ivy, FAIA. “Designing and constructing ‘healthy buildings’ is important to our own well-being.”

“Working with architects, we can accelerate this need for healthier buildings and improve quality of life across the country,” Ivy said. “This report documents how architects can help clients have a positive effect on human health – through the built environment.”

That positive result includes increasing employee participation and fulfillment, the report found. Sixty-nine percent of owners who measure employee satisfaction and engagement reported improvement in both attributes due to their healthier building investments.

According to the report, the top five healthier building features implemented by architects are:

  • Better lighting/daylighting exposure.
  • Products that enhance thermal comfort.
  • Spaces that enhance social interaction.
  • Enhanced air quality.
  • Products that enhance acoustical comfort.

Use of nearly all of these is expected to grow considerably along with further pioneering approaches like the use of biophilic design features, spaces that enhance tenant mood and opportunities for physical activity, the report found.

“The increased attention to building health impacts is just beginning,” says Stephen A. Jones, senior director of industry insights at Dodge Data & Analytics. “In a similar way several years ago, companies engaged in green construction because of the demonstrable business and financial benefits they were able to achieve. The findings of this report demonstrate that the focus on buildings that enhance the health and well-being of their occupants is likely to follow a similar trajectory, boosted by those who have committed to sustainability in their organizations.”

Additional highlights from the report:

  • Most owners are not aware how healthy building investments result in business benefits like leasing rates (52 percent) and asset values (58 percent). However, among those that report an effect, 73 percent report faster rates and 62 percent report higher values.
  • According to architects and interior designers, the top driver for greater investment in healthier buildings is improved public awareness of the health impacts of buildings.
  • Public health professionals report that the most common policies currently in place to support healthier building practices are requirements to avoid the use of hazardous materials in buildings (65 percent). The key policy areas that are currently being considered include incentives that encourage physical activity (47 percent) and requirements for ongoing building air quality measurement (46 percent).
  • Ninety-two percent of public health professionals also report that their institutions are actively conducting research on the influence buildings have on occupant health and well-being.
  • Architects are most aligned with their clients (owners) when it comes to understanding the goals of healthy building investments, as compared to other industry players, recognizing that improved tenant/employee satisfaction and happier and healthier occupants is the primary focus for owners related to their investments.
  • The largest percentage of owners, at 42 percent, identify that they are very interested in partnering with architects to help increase their ability to implement healthy building practices. While low, it is notably more than the next two highest potential partners – facility managers and educational institutions, both at 31 percent.

Download the full study The Drive Toward Healthier Buildings 2016: Tactical Intelligence to Transform Building Design and Construction SmartMarket Report.

The report also received support from CBRE, Dewberry and the U.S. Green Building Council, with additional support from Armstrong Ceiling Solutions and the Regenerative Network. Other organizations that participated in the research process include the American Society of Interior Designers, the National Association of Real Estate Investment Managers and the World Green Building Council.

Principia Consulting Releases Its State of the Roofing Industry

Malvern, Pa.-based Principia Consulting has released it “2016 Commercial Roofing” report, which found total demand for commercial roofing in North America was valued at $5.1 billion based on the manufacturers’ factory gate level in 2015 compared with $4.8 billion in 2013. Market growth has largely been driven by new construction but the resurgence of city development is also playing a part in increased demand.

New-construction growth is projected to increase at a rate of 6 percent annually compared to 3 percent for reroofing. While a substantially higher growth rate is projected for new construction than reroofing, many buildings are being refurbished as the millennial generation returns to city dwelling. In addition, older buildings are being repurposed for offices and residences as developers find it faster and less expensive to adapt existing space than to construct new structures. This is good news for commercial roofing as it will increase the amount of roofing area put back into play for re-roofing jobs. Retrofit, repair and reuse are an important sector for all of commercial construction and in commercial roofing account for nearly 75 percent of demand in 2015.

Low slope continues to maintain market share over steep slope with single-ply roofing demand growing the fastest with a 4 percent growth rate annually. Single ply holds the largest share of overall demand with 45 percent by volume. For steep-slope commercial applications, metal roofing is expected to grow slightly faster though asphalt shingles will continue to enjoy the majority share because of dominant market position and price.

“2016 Commercial Roofing” draws upon interviews with nearly 400 roofing professionals and property owners and managers. This fourth edition of Principia Consulting’s coverage of the commercial roofing market provides detailed analysis on the current and future state of this segment of the roofing industry. The report provides a vital baseline analysis for forecasting and business planning for current and new industry participants. Using 2015 as its launch point, the report analyzes demand drivers and trends by material, construction type, distribution channel, supplier and region, providing forecasts through 2018. It also analyzes trends in current products, new product developments and technologies, and competitive materials, helping companies anticipate customer needs.

To purchase the report or learn more about the scope and content covered, contact Brooke Cowell, Principia’s vice president of Marketing.

Architecture Billings Index: Mostly Stable Conditions in Nonresidential Design and Construction Markets

Following a generally positive performance in 2015, the Architecture Billings Index has begun this year modestly dipping back into negative terrain. As an economic indicator of construction activity, the ABI reflects the approximate nine- to 12-month lead time between architecture billings and construction spending. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) reported the January ABI score was 49.6, down slightly from the mark of 51.3 in the previous month. This score reflects a minor decrease in design services (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings). The new projects inquiry index was 55.3, down from a reading of 60.5 the previous month.

Every January the AIA research department updates the seasonal factors used to calculate the ABI, resulting in a revision of recent ABI values.

“The fundamentals are mostly sound in the nonresidential design and construction market,” says AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, PhD. “January was a rocky month throughout the economy, with falling oil prices, international economic concerns, and with steep declines in stock market valuations in the U.S. and elsewhere. Some of the fallout of this uncertainty may have affected progress on design projects.”

Key January ABI highlights:

  • Regional averages: West (50.8), Northeast (50.4), South (50.3), Midwest (48.9)
  • Sector index breakdown: multi-family residential (51.9), commercial/industrial (50.5), institutional (49.9), mixed practice (49.0)
  • Project inquiries index: 55.3
  • Design contracts index: 50.9

The regional and sector categories are calculated as a three-month moving average, whereas the national index, design contracts and inquiries are monthly numbers.

Architecture Billings Index: Positive Outlook for Construction Industry

There were a few occasions where demand for design services decreased from a month-to-month basis in 2015, but the Architecture Billings Index (ABI) concluded the year in positive terrain and was so in eight of the 12 months of the year. As an economic indicator of construction activity, the ABI reflects the approximate nine- to 12-month lead time between architecture billings and construction spending. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) reported the December ABI score was 50.9, up from the mark of 49.3 in the previous month. This score reflects a slight increase in design services (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings). The new projects inquiry index was 60.2, up from a reading of 58.6 the previous month.

“As has been the case for the past several years, there continues to be a mix of business conditions that architecture firms are experiencing,” says AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, PhD. “Overall, however, ABI scores for 2015 averaged just below the strong showing in 2014, which points to another healthy year for construction this year.”

Key December ABI highlights:

  • Regional averages: West (53.7), South (53.3), Northeast (46.7), Midwest (46.1),
  • Sector index breakdown: multi-family residential (52.9), institutional (52.2), commercial/industrial (47.3), mixed practice (46.5)
  • Project inquiries index: 60.2
  • Design contracts index: 51.0

The regional and sector categories are calculated as a three-month moving average, whereas the national index, design contracts and inquiries are monthly numbers.

Reduce Cost of Managing Subcontractor Reports While Increasing Transparency

NoteVault's program, One Team. One Report., enables construction companies to invite subcontractors to contribute project documentation to any project within their account at no cost to either the contractor or the subcontractor.

NoteVault’s program, One Team. One Report., enables construction companies to invite subcontractors to contribute project documentation to any project within their account at no cost to either the contractor or the subcontractor.

NoteVault, a provider of mobile reporting solutions, launched a program designed to increase transparency, while reducing administration costs of managing subcontractor reports on large, complicated building or engineering projects. The program One Team. One Report. enables construction companies to invite subcontractors to contribute project documentation to any project within their account at no cost to either the contractor or the subcontractor.

The One Team. One Report. program enables subcontractors to post notes, photos and labor to any project at no cost, no matter how many subcontractor companies are working on the project. Each subcontractor is allocated an individual NoteVault account. NoteVault links the subcontractor project to the construction company project report. This results in a professional daily report, including all subcontractor notes collated for easy reference, delivered every day or on demand. Plus, subcontractors receive their own reports for their work.

A NoteVault Account includes:

  • NoteVault Daily Reporting Platform.
  • Notes! app for Android or iOS.
  • Activities Labor, Materials and Equipment app for Android or iOS.
  • Immediate notification of incidents/accidents through keyword notification.
  • Collaboration with colleagues using the comment feature.
  • Professional­­ human transcription (available for an additional charge).

PIMA Report: Effect of Roof Traffic and Moisture on Roof Insulations

The Polyisocyanurate Insulation Manufacturers Association (PIMA) released a research report suggesting that low-slope roofs using popular single-ply roof coverings may not be suitable for the use of mineral fiber (also known as mineral wool or rock wool) board insulation when subject to roof traffic and/or moisture accumulation.

The PIMA report titled “The Effect of Roof Traffic and Moisture on Roof Insulations,” was developed as a follow-up to previous research studies from Europe that evaluated the performance of mineral fiber subjected to a combination of simulated roof traffic and increased roof moisture content. The study suggests that moisture vapor may significantly reduce the compressive strength of mineral fiber insulation leading to a significant increase in overall roofing failures.

The research report concludes that:

  • After exposure to 95 percent humidity for 48 hours, single-ply roofing assemblies installed over two different types of rigid mineral fiber board insulation lost over 85 percent of their initial compressive strength when tested for only five cycles of a walkability test, recently developed in Europe to evaluate the effects of roof traffic on roofing systems.
  • Based on this observed loss of compressive strength, all of the roofing assemblies tested were rated as “Not Suitable” for roof traffic using a classification protocol developed in conjunction with the walkability test.
  • The reduction in walkability observed in this testing was slightly mitigated by increasing the thickness of the single-ply roof covering, but the benefit appeared to be minimal.

“It is well-known that moisture may collect inside roofing systems either from internal condensation or from external leaks,” says Jared Blum, president of PIMA. “As a consequence, the presence of water vapor inside roofing assemblies may be relatively commonplace. The data from this study, combined with prior work done in Europe, suggest that moisture vapor may significantly reduce the compressive strength of mineral fiber insulation. As a consequence, great care should be taken when using mineral fiber insulation if any significant level of roof traffic and/or internal moisture is anticipated.”

A copy of the research report, “The Effect of Roof Traffic and Moisture on Roof Insulations” is available for download at PIMA’s website and is also available from PIMA members.

Certain Metal Roof Systems Have a Service Life of at Least 60 Years

The Athena Sustainable Materials Institute (ASMI) has accepted a recent report published by the Metal Construction Association (MCA) that verifies certain metal roof systems can have a service life of at least 60 years. The service life report served as the technical substantiation required for Athena to change the useful service life of this type of roofing product to 60 years, which can be longer than the buildings they cover.

“We are honored that our service life study for metal roofing met Athena’s high standards and will now be used in whole building life cycle assessments for buildings throughout the country,” says Scott Kriner, MCA’s technical director

Athena’s software allows for whole building LCA assessment, taking into account all materials, systems, assemblies and components used in a given type of building. The Metal Roof Service Life report, which was sponsored by MCA and the ZAC Association, studied the service life of unpainted 55 percent Al-Zn low-slope standing-seam metal roofing in a wide range of different environments across the U.S.

A New Report Finds Sustainable Roofs Deliver Millions in Benefits to ‘Roof Aware’ Cities

“Roof Awareness” has come a long way during the years. It used to be that people only thought about their roofs when something went wrong. Building owners then started realizing that making smart choices about the roof could save money on energy costs. Roofs are now seen as essential platforms for cities to meet energy-efficiency and renewable-energy goals, to improve the health and quality of residents’ lives, and to achieve social equity. A new effort to better quantify those benefits and costs shows cities with good roof awareness are reaping millions in economic benefits.

TABLE 1: Summary of cost-benefit analysis results (NOTE: There is no internal rate of return, simply payback, or benefit-to-cost ratio for rooftop PV because we all rooftop PV systems are financed with a PPA [so there is no upfront cost to DGS]).

TABLE 1: Summary of cost-benefit analysis results (NOTE: There is no internal rate of return, simply payback, or benefit-to-cost ratio for rooftop PV because we all rooftop PV systems are financed with a PPA [so there is no upfront cost to DGS]).

With that change in role comes new challenges for evaluating what type of roof makes sense for building owners and cities alike. There are well-developed building models and field studies that give us great insight into how sustainable roofing—that is, reflective, vegetated or solar roofs—saves energy and energy costs. But there is not a single tool that could evaluate all the benefits that accrue from good roofing choices beyond energy savings, such as better health, enhanced air quality, greater stormwater management and improved social conditions. Until now, that is.

A recently released report—the “Affordable Housing Smart Roof Report”—from Washington, D.C.-based Capital E, a firm dedicated to accelerating the transition to a low-carbon economy, now allows city officials and owners of affordable housing developments to see and calculate the full lifetime costs and benefits of roof decisions. “This is the first model that helps the user puta dollar value on the various benefits of sustainable roofing options. We see this as a great tool for contractors looking to quantify the full benefits of sustainable roofing for their potential clients. It will also help city officials to enact policies that recognize the value of smarter roofing that may not be directly visible on the building owner’s books,” says Keith Glassbrook, a Capital E senior analyst and one of the lead developers of the new model.

TABLE 2: Present value summary of costs and benefits for the three technologies on all low-slope DGS roofs (NOTE: All PV is financed with a PPA so there is no upfront cost to DGS; results may not sum due to rounding).

TABLE 2: Present value summary of costs and benefits for the three technologies on all low-slope DGS roofs (NOTE: All PV is financed with a PPA so there is no upfront cost to DGS; results may not sum due to rounding).

Building the Tool

Rather than reinventing the wheel, Capital E identified existing tools, models and methods from the huge base of existing science for each item in its cost-benefit analysis. The model integrates these individual, detailed components into a form that is accessible and easy to use for non-scientists and that provides straightforward results in dollars per square foot.

The model is an extension of an analysis undertaken for the Washington, D.C., Department of General Services (DGS) as part of its Smart Roofs Initiative. The initiative is designed to help Washington achieve its aspirations to become the greenest, healthiest, most equitable city in the U.S. by using the roofs of city-owned buildings more thoughtfully. DGS owns and controls more than 400 buildings in Washington, including office buildings, schools and hospitals. The city is using this portfolio (28 million square feet of buildings with approximately $62 million in annual energy expenditures) to drive deep improvements in energy efficiency and achieve other objectives.

Like a growing number of cities, Washington, D.C., is committed to using its roofs to deploy photovoltaic panels to generate electricity, cool roofs to reflect sunlight and reduce unwanted heat gain in summer, and green roofs to cut stormwater runoff that results in water pollution and requires construction of expensive water-treatment plants and other grey infrastructure. Tommy Wells, a former councilmember and current director of the District Department of the Environment, summarized the reasons in the Smart Roof cost-benefit report’s press release: “Past research shows that ‘smart’ roof strategies that reduce extreme temperatures in buildings can literally save lives. This new report provides additional justification for cool, green, and solar roofing solutions by showing that they also make compelling financial sense as we work to make D.C. a healthier and more sustainable city.”

Washington has been among the most advanced cities in the nation in deploying sustainable roof technologies. But because there was no established methodology for quantifying the full cost and benefits—including health benefits—for any of these technologies, Washington to date had not been able to quantify the full costs and benefits of these roof choices or compare the merits of each to make informed decisions about which technologies to deploy and at what scale. The analysis undertaken by Capital E to remedy this issue concluded that DGS’ Smart Roofs program can deliver between $47 and $335 million in benefits to the city over 40 years, depending on the roof technology chosen.

More Analysis

A parallel analysis was funded by the New York-based JPB Foundation, which seeks to enhance the quality of life in the U.S. by creating opportunities for those in poverty, promoting pioneering medical research, and enriching and sustaining the environment. JPB Foundation launched its analysis based on the success of this initial analysis by DGS. This time, the model was adapted to evaluate actual affordable-housing buildings in Baltimore; Los Angeles; Philadelphia; and Washington, D.C. The sample buildings, which were part of the National Housing Trust, Washington, or Columbia, Md.-based Enterprise Community Partners Inc.’s portfolios, included steep- and low-slope roofs, high- and low-rise structures, as well as some attached row houses. The project team for this study included the National Housing Trust; Washington-based American Institute of Architects; Washington-based Global Cool Cities Alliance; Enterprise Community Partners; and U.S. Green Building Council, Washington. In each city and building type evaluated, the model found sustainable roofs would generate more benefits than they cost (first cost and maintenance) and would, in some cases, have an immediate payback.

The results were variable by building and city but they confirmed that sustainable roofing was the superior economic choice compared to traditional dark roofs in the cities studied.

The JPB Foundation analysis shows there is no one-size-fits-all solution to maximize value with sustainable roofing. For example, green roofs made the most sense in Washington, D.C., because of the city’s stormwater rules. On the building in Baltimore, cool roofs were the best choice. The results were variable by building and city but they confirmed that sustainable roofing was the superior economic choice compared to traditional dark roofs in the cities studied.

A second phase is currently underway by JPB Foundation to extend the model to large areas of cities to capture the impact of sustainable roofs at a community scale, as well as other technologies, such as reflective pavements, and to better quantify some of the social benefits of cooler, more enjoyable surroundings.

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.

NRCA Releases Market Survey on Sales Volume Trends

The National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) has released its 2014-15 market survey providing information about overall sales volume trends in the roofing industry, roofing experiences, material usage and regional breakdowns. It is an important tool to measure the scope of the U.S. roofing industry, and the data provides a glimpse into which roof systems are trending in the low- and steep-slope roofing markets.

This year’s survey reports sales volumes for 2014 and 2015 projections averaged between $7 million and just more than $8 million, respectively, and revealed a near-steady ratio of low- to steep-slope sales of 72 percent to 28 percent.

For low-slope roofs, TPO remains the market leader with a 31 percent share of the new construction market and 26 percent of the reroofing market for 2014. Asphalt shingles continue to dominate the steep-slope roofing market with a 44 percent market share for new construction and a 58 percent share for reroofing.

Polyisocyanurate insulation continues to lead its sector of the market with 75 percent of new construction and 70 percent of reroofing work.

In addition, roof cover board installation for 2014 was reported as 24 percent in new construction, 46 percent in reroofing tear-offs and 30 percent in re-cover projects.

NRCA’s market survey enables roofing contractors to compare their material usage with contractors in other regions, and provides manufacturers and distributors with data to analyze, which can affect future business decisions.