A new energy code is now in effect in California. It is commonly referred to as Title 24. The intent of Title 24 is to start constructing buildings that will save significantly on the use of energy and the requirements will keep getting tougher in the future. What does this have to do with contractors not in California? A lot.
The new national energy bill that is about to pass, and it will pass, takes away the option for individual states to bow out on new tough energy requirements. If a state does not enact or meet new energy laws, the requirements of California Title 24 shall be mandated to the state. So like it or not, super energy efficient buildings are in our future.
What’s the big deal?
The groups that have the primary influence and guide the energy codes are the Department of Energy and the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers. ASHRAE has published data on the R- value of materials for decades. What’s new is that the traditional American R-value (thermal resistance) method of calculating heat loss is being replaced by the European U-value or factor (thermal transfer) method. This has impact on the wall and ceiling industry because ASHRAE has determined that the use of metal studs will diminish the R-value or increase the U-factor substantially. In some cases, the previous stated R-values are now half of what they were using the U-value method. Even wood studs conduct or transfer energy and the R-values of these walls will be discounted.
While the experts are divided over the actual numbers, it is safe to say that exterior walls with steel studs have to come up with ways to prevent what is known as “short circuiting.” The wave of the future is likely to be continuous insulation.
A continuous layer of rigid foam insulation over the exterior framing prevents the transfer of heat through the studs. The insulation may be extruded or an expanded type of foam. CI is a method to reduce the heat flow and meet the new U-factors.
TIME FOR CIFS
I predict the answer to the designer’s problem is a continuous insulation and finish system. I can imagine this system in my mind: A metal-framed wall assembly with gypsum sheathing for fire resistance; water-resistant barrier over the sheathing, possibly a liquid or maybe a spray-applied coating? The foam sheathing could be adhesively applied over the protected gypsum panels. The tricky part would then be to invent a thin, strong and yet flexible coating that would protect the foam and provide an aesthetically pleasing finish.
I could imagine a fiberglass mesh troweled into a cement basecoat that would be specifically formulated to be thin, strong and flexible. This would be the answer to the designers’ needs but grey cement is limited in aesthetics. Maybe a finish coat could be created to go over that cement in a wide range of colors with some texture variations? This would be so cool but of course the testing and code approvals would take years to develop.
Of course, we have that system, fully tested, fully code approved and ready to go. The problem? Some architects have taken EIFS off their radar. Well, it is time to put it back in front of them. Call it CIFS or EIFS but it is the logical answer to the energy code dilemma for a stucco look on commercial buildings. The industry should develop a strategic marketing campaign geared specifically and solely at:
Providing continuous insulation and eliminating “short circuits”;
Meeting the new, tough U-value requirements;
Having approved testing and code compliance;
Avoiding negative attacks at other claddings; take the high road and let them chase us.
The new energy code and subsequent updates will also be encouraging thicker layers of foam-much thicker and only EIFS can currently deliver that. Other claddings are scrambling to meet these requirements. The current 4-inch code limit for combustibility of EIFS will be reviewed and could be altered to allow much thicker foam. Why do I say this? Much of the energy savings (U-value) and technology is derived from Europe, where foam is typically applied to about 10 inches thick. So it would stand that the U.S. will be looking at how they calculate the fuel load of foam and adjustments may be made for “greener” buildings. If you are in the EIFS business, you should be excited about the future-very excited.
The plastering contractor should also be aware of one-coat stucco systems. These systems were developed using a foam sheathing to meet higher R-value requirements set in place in the 1970s. One-coat stucco is also tested and code approved for use over foam, with some limitations.
The successful plastering contractor of the future will need to be well versed on continuous insulation as a substrate for all stucco and stucco looking systems. Whether you agree with the new energy code or not is irrelevant, it is coming and coming in a big way. Three-coat stucco is also possible over foam-our challenge is help guide energy engineers and the foam manufacturers into best practices and develop a practical, insulated three-coat stucco over foam (CI) that is constructible.
Like Benjamin Braddick was told in the 1969 movie The Graduate, “The future is in plastics, young man.” This time, it is foam plastic. W&C
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