I was involved with the creation of the brochure for using continuous insulation and cement plaster assemblies back in 2009. I saw the coming of the new energy code and understood there was still reluctance from a significant percentage of the design community to use EIFS. I have been accused of being anti-EIFS in my support of cement stucco and this brochure. The fact is that EIFS was developed in Europe specifically for a stucco look that provided needed benefit of energy savings. The 1970s energy crisis in North America opened the door for the introduction of EIFS to this side of the world. It is hard to argue against EIFS as the preeminent and obviously best CI system on the market. I firmly believe it is the best CI system on the market hands-down.

A True Continuous Insulation Cladding

My intent of this brochure was to fill a need by designers and building owners to continue using our plastering contractors. The reality was that EIFS was still reeling from a past reputation, whether that reputation was warranted or not is irrelevant. Today, I still run into designers and general contractors who do not want to use the system. I learned long ago trying to force people, particularly designers, to use a product against their will simply does not work. With no fastener penetration through a cladding, what else could be a “true” CI cladding? If the designer, building owner or developer is dead set against EIFS, they must come to the realization of the truth on their own and at their own speed. The following real life story took time but provides an example of some good that can happen—if we are patient.

In 2010, a Los Angeles design team was working on a six-story commercial building in the downtown area. The designers and owners knew the project was slated to start construction in mid-2011 and that the new energy code would be in full effect. It was agreed by the designers and owners to exceed compliance requirements and make a true “energy efficient” building. The primary focus fell on the continuous insulation for the exterior, and when EIFS was suggested as the cladding it was immediately and strongly dismissed by the building owner. The group then brought the Western Conference brochure up to show how it was also possible to use cement stucco and meet the CI requirement.

This caught the attention of the designers and owner, and everyone moved forward with selecting an assembly from the brochure. Several months passed, plans were completed, permits drawn, details submitted and construction was about to start. The selected cement plaster assembly from the CI brochure presented some challenges with various details, particularly when windows were re-designed and other elements altered. It was a test but we struggled through the obstacles to make a cement plaster CI compliant.

Be Patient

As with most large projects, redesign and alterations led to even more redesign at the eleventh hour. A full year passed and lathing was about to start. Another issue arose on a cement plaster detail. We scrambled for a solution. Then it happened: A technical representative from my office off-handedly commented that it would be much simpler with an EIFS and would even be less expensive. The same anti-EIFS owner was curious and now wanted to know more. Eventually, the switch to EIFS was made.

How and why did this happen? The reason this switch occurred was because the design team and owner finally began to trust us. It takes trust to lead designers. It takes time to earn that trust. It also takes patience and the ability to tell the truth and when need be, hold your tongue. At the time, only the previous year, this owner made negative and erroneous comments about EIFS. While we did not condone his comments, we were respectful and tactfully avoided the subject. While we certainly could have challenged him back then with EIFS facts, I suspect we would have been done before we even got started. 

Don’t forget owners and architects have options for claddings, so be respectful, open minded and above all, be patient. Trying the hard sell tactic may not get you to your ultimate goal; a softer touch may be the better road to use. EIFS is the ultimate CI cladding but let them come to that conclusion. This process can take some time but it will come.