All Things Gypsum: The Electronic Gypsum Library
February 22, 2008
The Gypsum Association serves several functions to the construction industry, including participating in standards development and building codes, developing mine and plant safety procedures and training, and playing an important role in the development of fire protection systems. Perhaps its most important role is that of creating and disseminating technical documents that address all aspects of using gypsum products in the built environment.
HELPING SINCE THE ‘30sSince the 1930s, the Gypsum Association has dedicated much of its energies to creating informative documents that enable the design professional, the code official, and the contractor to stay on top of the latest developments in the world of gypsum products. In the early days, these documents addressed the properties of such things as gypsum plaster systems, gypsum fire bricks, and gypsum lath. Over the years, the use of gypsum panel products has largely supplanted the use of trowel-applied gypsum plaster and other building materials. And though gypsum board began its existence as a commercially viable building product as substrate for gypsum plaster in the early 1900s, by the 1950s the gypsum board we know today was beginning to edge out traditional plaster as a finish. Since the 1950s, a vast array of gypsum panel products, including gypsum board, gypsum sheathing, veneer plaster base, shaft liner board, soffit board, roof underlayment, and predecorated gypsum board have become common products in the building materials marketplace.
Each of these products has specific applications and properties, and it would be impossible for the above-mentioned audiences to stay abreast of all the new developments over the years without easy access to documentation. The Gypsum Association has for many years made these publications available by producing and direct mailing a catalogue, advertising in several industry publications–including Walls & Ceilings–and selling through industry bookstores all across North America. And like the rest of the modern world, the Gypsum Association can be found on the Internet.
One of the great gifts of the Internet since its inception has been the Portable Document File, or PDF, as we now all refer to these files. Originally developed as a means for the scientific community to share papers for peer review without tampering, the PDF has enabled anyone with a computer and Internet access to capture documents of all kinds–from medieval manuscripts to IRS forms. And, of course, the commercial world eventually caught on to the idea that sharing documents in electronic files saved us the cost of paper, ink, and postage. Grudgingly, most of us have elected to make many of these documents that we previously sold available for free download.
FOLLOWING WEBSTER'S EXAMPLEWe agonized over this concept ourselves, but the often told story of Merriam Webster makes the point. Webster has produced one of the most popular dictionaries in the United States for generations. As the Internet became a standard resource for students and professionals alike, Webster found itself under enormous pressure to put its dictionary online, although in this case in an interactive format, not PDF format. Naturally, there was much trepidation on the part of the company that posting an interactive site would eventually put them out of business. But for whatever reason, perhaps to stay ahead of the competition in presenting our ever-evolving vocabulary, they took the plunge and posted the site that is no doubt in the “favorites” folder on half the computers around the world today. And contrary to their fears of sagging book sales, Webster soon enjoyed a major boost in the sales of their flagship product. We have followed Webster’s example; we’ve posted just about everything we print on our Web site as free downloadable PDFs.
This decision has proven to benefit us and the industry in ways perhaps even we cannot entirely appreciate or quantify. As mentioned earlier, we’re saving the cost of paper, ink, and postage while getting more copies of each of our documents in the hands (or on the screens) of the end users. A quick and occasional look at our Web site’s tracking statistics shows ever-increasing traffic in and out of our online library. And like Webster, we have not suffered a drop in publications’ sales, so posting our documents on the Internet is a win-win for us and our intended audiences.
Posting our publications on the Internet has provided us with several benefits that we didn’t initially foresee but that have served us well. The most obvious is that we can now update any of our publications electronically and almost instantly get them out to the industry and other consumers. This in turn has given us the motivation to sequentially update documents, some of which are currently in the hopper for review and revision, that we may have left at the bottom of the to-do list until more significant changes forced us to make wholesale changes to them. Also, we now can publish certain documents–documents that did not make economic sense to produce in a print format–available in electronic format only. Finally, we are able to use the Internet to notify the users of our publications of which edition is the most current.
KEEP CHECKING OUR WEB SITERecently, the Association’s Promotion Committee urged staff to add language to each new or revised technical document that instructs the reader to check our Web site for the most recent edition. This development, in turn, led us to create a webpage where anyone can check if they’re using the most recent version of any of our technical publications. The URL for that page is: http://www.gypsum.org/currenteditions.html. Users of our documents are encouraged to regularly check this page to ensure that they have the latest editions.
The New Year, 2008, brought us a new crop of revised technical documents, with a few more still in the works. A quick trip to our library of downloadable documents at http://www.gypsum.org/download.html will reveal that we have just posted three more recently revised documents for 2008:
• GA-224, Installation of Predecorated Gypsum Board, provides essential information regarding predecorated gypsum board, including the applicable ASTM and other standards; definitions of terms used throughout the document; delivery, identification, handling, and storage measures; favorable environmental conditions; materials used in building systems that incorporate predecorated gypsum board; and proper application methods and procedures. The document also provides additional application, maintenance, and repair information in its appendices. The revised document includes new reference standards and updated metric conversions.
• GA 226, Application of Gypsum Board to Form Curved Surfaces, describes proper materials and procedures necessary for both dry and wet bending of gypsum board to form either convex or concave curved surfaces. The document also discusses the application of gypsum board in archways and techniques for finishing gypsum board once it has been used to create a curved surface.
• GA-229, Shear Values for Screw Application of Gypsum Board on Walls, presents shear values achieved using a variety of gypsum board thicknesses, screw types, and screw patterns. The document also provides conclusions reached after extensive testing of the different attachment configurations.
All of the new editions of the documents have been reviewed by the Association’s Technical Committee and have been reformatted to conform to the current style of Association-produced documents. Any text revisions to documents are reviewed by an organizational committee prior to revision.
By the time this article hits the streets, there may be more newly published or revised Gypsum Association documents to download. We recommend that any design professional, code official, and especially the drywall contractor make regular visits to our downloadable library of technical documents to ensure that he or she has the most current information available on gypsum products.