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Long Before Disaster Hits, Building Codes Can Provide Damage Protection

Posted By Justin Koscher, Friday, November 2, 2018
Aerial images of the Florida Panhandle in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael seem almost post-apocalyptic in their illustration of the widespread devastation wrought by the storm’s powerful wind, storm surge, and precipitation. Yet nestled amid the rubble and debris, a few anomalies appear – homes and structures that weathered the disastrous conditions with little apparent damage even as neighboring houses lay in ruin.

Media coverage of the storm included profiles of some of these structures. The New York Times described a home “built for the big one” and the Washington Post highlighted low cost reinforcements that saved other homes. A common theme was that all of these homes were built with conscious attention to building code standards that could increase resiliency to extreme weather.

While concrete walls and extra nails and fasteners might shine as methods to prevent damage, boosting survivability of buildings through construction standards is only part of the broader picture. A suite of building codes that minimizes structural damage can also provide savings in normal operational circumstances. Buildings that maximize insulation and vapor barriers save money every day through reduced energy usage. But when disaster strikes, they have the added ability to keep the temperature of interior spaces habitable when electricity is knocked out for extended periods after a storm.

Building codes are the minimum standards for structures designed to protect public health, safety, and general welfare as they relate to the construction and occupancy of buildings. They comprise a collection of guidelines related to all of the interconnected parts of a building: the roofing systems, wall components, fire prevention, safety features, plumbing, electrical, and HVAC systems. They are designed to work together and often upgrades in one area can create momentum to make a building more robust overall: better windows may require updated flashing or insulation that will help the building with general durability and also increase its resistance to major events.  

As climate change continues to impact the built environment, the building industry has been keen to refocus on what sustainability really means. While earlier efforts at “green building” might have been to incentivize adding bike racks, today’s resiliency work goes to the very purpose of building—to create structures that will protect occupants from the elements, function well over time, and perform efficiently even in adverse circumstances.

Acknowledging the value of improved building codes, FEMA is even offering pre-disaster mitigation funding to states and jurisdictions that will incentivize owners to upgrade existing buildings to new standards, a process that can be particularly cost-effective when other renovations are already taking place. Though added costs may seem daunting, studies have shown that for each dollar of added cost in bringing buildings up to higher standards, there is almost $6 in savings from damage prevented, not to mention reduced costs from improved energy performance throughout the life of the building. The upgrades literally pay for themselves over time.

While no building code can guarantee complete protection from hazardous weather and natural disasters, adopting higher standards does greatly increase the odds that a building will have minimized damage and a more habitable internal environment in the aftermath of a storm. Taking advantage of the building technologies and construction methods that meet the most progressive codes is a decision that will often pay for itself many times over.

Tags:  building codes  buildings  Disaster Preparedness  resiliency  Stafford Act 

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The Far-Reaching Impact of the Insulation Industry

Posted By Nathan Pobre, Monday, September 10, 2018
Updated: Monday, September 10, 2018

Insulation can be found in buildings, refrigeration and a multitude of other end use products, and is used for floatation and transportation.

From an environmental standpoint, when insulation products such as Polyiso are used in building and construction, the purpose of the insulation is to stop the flow of air (hot or cold) through the exterior walls and roofs of a building. Reducing the air transfer reduces the amount of energy required to regulate a building’s heating and cooling system. As a result, the insulation has a direct impact on the cost and use of energy to run that building.

Beyond its sustainability and environmental attributes, a new report, “The Contributions Insulation to the U.S. Economy in 2017,” produced by the American Chemistry Council (ACC), shows that the insulation industry contributes significantly to the U.S. economy. In fact, the industry generates more than 500,000 jobs and $30 billion a year in payrolls.

“This report makes clear that the business of manufacturing, distributing and installing insulation generates significant economic output and creates jobs across the country,” says Martha Gilchrist Moore, senior director of policy analysis and economics at ACC and author of the report. The impact is significant and key findings about the insulation industry’s contributions to the U.S. economy are detailed in the infographic below.

For extended details on the economic contributions, insulation industry segments, and more view the full study here.

Tags:  buildings  insulation  jobs  manufacturing  payroll  tax revenue 

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National Insulation Fly-In Day a Success

Posted By Nathan Pobre, Thursday, May 31, 2018

More than 130 insulation industry professionals recently gathered in Washington, DC for the second-annual Insulation Industry National Policy Forum. They met with 82 Congressional offices and Members of Congress – including Senator Rob Portman (Ohio) who has introduced a bill that would strengthen the nation’s commitment to energy efficiency – S. 385 The Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act. In addition, leaders from the Department of Energy, White House and U.S. Congress addressed the industry – including Representative Adam Kinzinger (IL), a leader on energy efficiency issues in Congress.  This year’s event included nearly 50 percent more attendees when compared to 2017 attendance numbers.

PIMA was a lead organizer of the fly-in event and some of the key points the association and it members made to lawmakers included:

  • The insulation industry employs more than 529,000 people and creates over $30 billion in annual payrolls.
  • The insulation manufacturing sector employs 37,000 Americans in 42 states with the largest number of manufacturing jobs located in Ohio.
  • Building energy codes – a driver for the use of insulation – are projected to save the US economy $126 billion in energy cost savings between 2010 and 2040.
  • Federal investments to resilient buildings provides a positive ROI for taxpayer dollars – a recent study demonstrates that exceeding the 2015 International Building Codes can save the nation $4 for every $1 spent. The insulation industry produces technology that contributes toward the value of these mitigation efforts.

The fly-in, and events like it, provide opportunities to ensure elected officials hear from and understand the importance of both the roofing and insulation industries to the overall U.S. economy. During our meetings on Capitol Hill with key lawmakers we also discussed workforce issues, funding for Department of Energy programs that support building energy efficiency, and buildings as key components of a resilient national infrastructure.

To view images from the fly-in, click here!

Tags:  Adam Kinzinger  building codes  buildings  Congress  Efficiency  energy codes  energy efficiency  fire performance  insulation  jobs  manufacturing  Polyiso 

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Understanding NFPA 285: Harmonizing Fire Performance and Energy Efficiency in Exterior Wall Assemblies

Posted By Nathan Pobre, Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Commercial building codes have been modified to require the construction of more energy-efficient buildings. Improvements to the building envelope, using continuous insulation solutions incorporating polyisocyanurate (or Polyiso) insulation, have played a major role in mainstreaming high-performance construction practices. To meet the demands of today’s buildings, architectural and design professionals must balance energy efficiency with whole building performance considerations, including fire safety. All construction materials, including foam plastics materials such as polyiso insulation, must provide a suitable margin of fire safety. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 285 fire test is a large-scale wall assembly test used to determine the potential for flame spread from one story of a building to another through the exterior wall. With respect to wall assemblies in Type I-IV Construction, understanding and properly implementing NFPA 285 is a critical component for designing a compliant, high-performance building envelope.  

To learn more about NFPA 285, check out this free webinar which can help you:
1.    Understand the development history of the NFPA 285 standard fire test procedure for exterior wall assemblies containing combustible materials.
2.    Identify the NFPA 285 related requirements in the 2012 and 2015 editions of the International Building Code.
3.    Explain how engineering analysis of NFPA 285 test assemblies may be used to specify alternative materials.  
4.    Determine how Polyiso insulation can be used as an integral component of NFPA 285 tested and compliant wall assemblies.

Tags:  building codes  buildings  energy efficiency  insulation  NFPA 285  Polyiso  Type I-IV  walls 

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The Tax Cuts & Jobs Act – Saving Small Businesses up to 30% on Energy Efficient Commercial Roof Retrofits

Posted By Nathan Pobre, Thursday, April 12, 2018

There has been a great deal of news coverage about the recent Tax Cut and Jobs Act. But as with all things related to the tax code, getting to what matters can be a long and arduous hunt. The Polyisocyanurate Insulation Manufacturers Association made an assessment of the impacts this legislation will have on the building and roofing industries. It found that new reforms allow qualifying building owners to expense, or deduct, up to $1 million for the cost of certain building improvements in the year the work is performed, including adding insulation during roof replacement projects to meet or go beyond modern building energy code requirements. The impact can be significant for capital improvement projects. For example, a building owner that expenses the cost of a full roof replacement can reduce the net cost of the entire project by 25% to 30%. You can find our one-pager with more detail [here].

Tags:  buildings  energy codes  insulation  jobs  roofing  tax  taxreform 

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