CertainTeed Gypsum and its parent company Saint-Gobain hosted the Ninth Gypsum International Trophy Awards in Berlin, Germany this spring. The awards, which are given every two years, recognize excellence in design, plastering, drywall installation, finishing, innovation and more. One project representative from the U.S. (GCCM Construction Services) and one from Canada (Capital Drywall Systems Ltd.) were selected to partake in this event, competing against 85 other projects from contractors from 33 different countries. The event took place June 6 and 7.

Walls & Ceilings was invited to report on the event from Germany.

In this feature, the magazine speaks to GCCM’s Owner Sy Safi about his award-winning project “My Green Kentucky Home” and what it was like to partner with CertainTeed on selecting the company’s gypsum, ceiling and insulation lines.

Please read a synopsis on the work Capital Drywall Systems’ did for the Ryerson University Sports & Recreation Centre at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto. The curved ceiling panels made from gypsum board is as impressive as it was complex for the company.

W&C is also proud to showcase all the winners and runner-ups from this competition. All 87 projects that were in competition are truly the best of the best on a global scale. During this award ceremony, the magazine spoke with many contractors from all corners of the world and it was fascinating to talk shop and see what contracting is like for them, the products they use, the places they work and more. Needless to say, it was an excellent and informative time spent in Germany. W&C thanks CertainTeed and Saint-Gobain for the invitation and opportunity.

After visiting this world-class city, the author would like to rehash the words said by John F. Kennedy of his support for the city in 1963: “Ich bein ein Berliner.”

It’s early June, a collective of builders, drywall contractors, Saint-Gobain staff and others in the construction community are floating up and down the Spree River in Berlin. All of us are marveling at this German, centuries-old Cathedral Church and this author notices moss and ivy on the exterior brick and roof. We all engage in a conversation about if this is good for a building and GCCM Construction Services LLC’s Sy Safi explains:

“Well, it can attack the mortar and that’s not good,” says Safi.

This leads to asking one of Kentucky’s premier contractors his thoughts on the current state of the green building movement. After all, GCCM Construction Services was invited to Germany to compete against other companies in the Innovation and Sustainability category. Safi has some great, thoughtful opinions on modern building and responsible ways to construct new structures. He didn’t cross the Atlantic to just showcase his popular and energy efficient project “My Green Kentucky Home.” The builder’s passion is to build smart, sustainably and succinctly. There’s no doubt why he was acknowledged by Saint-Gobain as a new kind of pioneer.

“Our only focus is sustainability, better described as resilience and regeneration in design and construction, which is growing and only getting better,” says Safi. “We are very optimistic in understanding our industry, from here going forward for the next 30 years, with the effects we have on the environment and the necessary ecological restoration that needs to be done.”

Safi says finding and creating ways to improve the building industry for the health and comfort of its occupants, and the restoration of ecosystems through just the design and build of a home or building is the most interesting aspect of the job for him. And it shows, as Safi does that well.

On June 6 the company was awarded Saint-Gobain’s Sustainability and Innovation Runner-Up Award for the Louisville project. Joining him to accept the award was the project’s Architect Clive Pohl, of Pohl Rosa Pohl, of Lexington, Ky. 

This Kentucky house meets the American Institute of Architects’ Vision 2020 and 2030 Challenge goals to be Net-Zero Energy use, which will save the homeowners more than $40,000 in utility bills in 10 years. The home was also designed and built for Net-Zero Water use and Net-Zero Waste.

Green Hills of Kentucky

“My Green Kentucky Home” is a single-family model home project located in Louisville that Safi conceived to create awareness, inspiration and to enlighten the general public on some of the most important issues related to the built environment and how it effects people’s health, finances and the environment.

Products Used on My Kentucky Home

CertainTeed is featured extensively in this project. The products include:

AirRenew Indoor Air Quality Gypsum Board; GlasRoc Diamondback Tilebacker; M2Tech Moisture & Mold Resistant Gypsum Board; SilentFX Noise Reducing Gypsum Board and Easi-Lite Lightweight Gypsum Board, CertainTeed batt insulation, EverNew PT Deck and former CertainTeed product Form-A-Drain.

“We always begin with the sustainability mindset and go through the LEED checklist among other qualifications that covers: health, indoor air quality, materials and resources, energy efficiency, water efficiency, waste, durability, resilience,” says Safi. “After we find the like-minded manufacturers, we take a closer look at the ingredients of their materials to avoid VOCs and the distance it’s extracted/processed/fabricated to our end-use location for a reduction in travel and our carbon footprint.”

For this project, GCCM worked with CertainTeed’s Ceilings, Gypsum and Insulation divisions, utilizing a lot of their sustainable products.

“I’m impressed with the AirRenew Drywall [product] for its ability to clean the indoor air of VOCs,” says Safi. “I can do my part as a designer and builder with our zero VOC approach to materials but the occupants might bring in VOCs with their furniture and belongings—that’s where AirRenew does its job. The Form-A-Drain is a wonderful three-in-one product CertainTeed invented that is not only for your concrete footer form but also your perimeter drainage and radon mitigation.”

So it should come as no surprise that this is why GCCM was elected to participate in this year’s International Gypsum Trophy Competition.

 “I think there were a multitude of reasons we were elected probably starting with our conscientious effort to do the right thing by people’s health, safety, finances and the environment,” says Safi. “While pursuing that goal with My Green Kentucky Home, we looked for the right subcontractors and material suppliers/manufacturers to be our team members. We had to work through all the ‘green washing’ and interestingly enough I didn’t realize how many of CertainTeed/Saint-Gobain’s products met our goals until I noticed we had about eight different building products of theirs.” 


North America’s Other Exceptional Entry

It was a bummer to not see Capital Drywall Systems Ltd.’s Ryerson University Sports & Recreation Centre at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto win the award for Mixed Use/Commercial category. The company’s Giovanni and Lucia Criscione, Concetta and Francesco (Frank) Panaia came to Berlin to show and tell a bit about the project. 

Key Achievements for Maple Leaf Gardens

The project features these accomplishments:

  • Large-scale drywall installation.\
  • Observed all restrictions and guidelines during drywall construction
  • due to the project’s historical building status.

  • Exceeded all project specifications for fire, moisture/mold and abuse resistance.

  • Converted the original building specification to allow use of sustainable insulation, used in all appropriate interior wall assemblies.

  • Brought the drywall portion of the project in on time and within budget.

The mixed-use sports complex and retail is a massive 222,970-square-foot project that utilized CertainTeed’s drywall and finishing products, ceilings as well as insulation.

The Toronto-based union subcontractor currently has 150 employees working all around the metro area.

Turn a New Leaf

The Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto was built in 1931 and home to the Toronto Maple Leafs until 1999. The team moved to a new arena in 1999, leaving the “Gardens” empty and largely unused. Loblaw—Canada’s largest food retailer—purchased the Gardens in 2004 with plans for a multi-use facility, including a flagship store (that opened in November 2011).

In 2009, Ryerson University entered into an agreement to share joint use of the arena with plans for a new athletic facility.

Designated a National Historic Site and listed under the City of Toronto as a Heritage Property, the project demanded that all renovations observed strict preservation guidelines and restoration work to reflect the original design.

To effectively refurbish this historic building, the original interior was replaced by new floor levels to accommodate a street level grocery store, a student athletic centre above it and a new ice rink installed on the top floor, beneath the original arena roof.

The multi-purpose court, studio and gym called for gypsum board walls, as well as interesting curved ceiling treatments. Capital worked with CertainTeed to secure long drywall lengths to create less joints and realize labor cost savings during the installation and finishing stages. M2Tech products with moisture/mold resistance and abuse resistance were used. Canadian Director of Marketing Morgan Waller worked with the company, and Ontario Acoustical Supply served as one of the main distributors.

Several wallboard ceiling features were created throughout the athletic center. By specifying sag-resistant drywall, the construction crew was able to effectively accommodate the large custom designed and built suspended structures.


W&C Chats with Saint-Gobain’s Claude-Alain Tardy, president of Gypsum Activity, and Dan Kennard, North American vice president of marketing

Walls & Ceilings: How do you view the global construction market overall in 2014? The European market? The North American market? 

Claude-Alain Tardy: Being the largest construction products company in the world does provide us a good view of the regional markets and there are many good things going on. Certainly we are excited to see the North American market recovering nicely and seeing controlled growth in residential. There are still some challenging economies in some countries in Southern Europe but on the whole many European countries start showing some positive trend. Growth is more brisk in most of the emerging markets and should continue to do so for many years. 

W&C: Saint-Gobain—and CertainTeed in North America—clearly are at the forefront of providing sustainable and green premium products to the building community. When did this become a focus? Do you see any one country/region embracing this more than others? 

Tardy: Saint-Gobain has been active in sustainable practices literally for centuries. Next year we celebrate our 350th anniversary and we have been active in conserving energy and recycling material in our facilities and from construction sites for some time. In more recent years, it has certainly become much easier to communicate achievements with tools like LCA’s and EPDs. Certainly in North America, the AIA and U.S. and Canadian GBC’s have done a great job in educating people on sustainable practices and products. Yet what is exciting is that you see similar effort and communication in many countries, including emerging ones. This is a huge area of focus for Saint-Gobain and we try to use our teams and reach to foster best practice approaches and exchanges all over the globe.

W&C: In North America, CertainTeed’s Ceilings, Gypsum and Insulation businesses (as it relates to the walls and ceilings industry) constantly are offering contractors new products for a healthy, sustainable habitat environment. What trends do you see in the marketplace as far as what customers are looking for in green building materials?

Dan Kennard: We think all building materials should be as sustainable as possible as a starting point. We are trying to make a material difference in the way spaces function and operate and the quality of life they support. Positive trends that we recognize and are working to support are indoor air quality, acoustic comfort, durability, mold and moisture control, enhanced fire protection, ease of maintenance and even improved aesthetic contribution. In fact many of our innovation teams are specifically comprised to address market trends such as these.

W&C: This is Saint-Gobain Gypsum’s 9th International Trophy Event. In addition to recognizing the work of gypsum contractors and architects, what else do you hope to achieve through this event?

Tardy: We think it is a great opportunity for some of our best customers from around the globe to share their practices and experiences with each other. We are also excited about the chance to present and get feedback on a number of innovative products currently in development within Saint-Gobain. We are walking each of them through a showcase of products and technologies many of which have yet to be introduced. Lastly, we simply want to thank these companies for supporting Saint-Gobain and being a part of our team.

Recognized International Winners

Prior to the evening gala dinner at Berlin’s Kosmos Theatre, guests had the opportunity to view the 87 competing projects during a showcase at the host facility of The Hilton Hotel. Here, each contractor received a participation award from Claude Imauven, senior vice president of Saint-Gobain, in recognition of the high level of craftsmanship needed in order to reach the international level of the competition.

During the course of the ceremony, 12 awards from six categories were presented along with a short introduction from the Gypsum Activity International Marketing Director Alastair Bell. The categories were:

  • Plaster

  • Plasterboard (Drywall)

  • Mixed Use/Commercial

  • Innovation & Sustainability

  • Residential

  • Segment Solutions


The award ceremony culminated with the presentation of the Grand Prix and President’s Prize. The Grand Prix, presented by Imauven, represents the overall competition winner. The President’s Prize, presented by Tardy, is a discretionary award presented to a contractor whose project reflects the Saint-Gobain Gypsum Activity’s overall strategy. This year the award was given to a contractor from a fast-growing market.

The projects, especially the 14 winners, showcase how high performance drywall systems and plasters—combined with skilled workmanship—provide solutions for high quality, safe, comfortable, modular and sustainable interiors across a wide variety of applications.


Project: Ghelamco Arena, Gent (Belgium)

Contractor: Genisol

KAA Gent’s new football stadium hosts football and corresponding facilities, offices and commercial activities. Polish architect “Mac” Stopa (Massive Design) designed the concept for the interior with various entrances, a lobby, ticketing areas, bars, restaurants and VIP lounges. The design plays off of the geometric shapes of a football and the club’s blue color. When entering through the VIP entrance, viewers see organically shaped Gyproc ceiling islands and reflective GypArt columns.


Project: Al Mafraq Hospital, Abu Dhabi 

Contractor: Joint-Venture: Al Massa and International Décor

Mafraq Hospital, first established in 1983, has undergone an $870 million major expansion that will see The Abu Dhabi Health Services Company triple the number of treatment rooms to 690 beds—sufficient to cover the city’s demand until post-2018. The original hospital, which is among the oldest in Abu Dhabi, will benefit from the new energy-efficient building addition through waste water recycling, fiber-optical interior sun lighting and solar panels—not to mention the regeneration of the site.


Project: Synagogue of Mulhouse (France)

Contractor: Werey Plâtres and Staff

Built from 1846 to 1849, this historical building is located in the heart of Mulhouse. It is a classified “historical monument.” In April 2010, a short circuit in the electric system of the organ caused a disastrous fire. Major parts of the interior of the synagogue were destroyed, notably the cornices of the ceiling, and the pilasters and coves of the walls. The aim of this project was to identically rebuild the synagogue as it was before the fire.


Project: Theatre Royal Drury Lane, London (UK)

Contractor: Locker & Riley

To help celebrate the theatre’s 350 year anniversary the Royal Staircases, Grand Saloon and Rotunda were restored. The fine enrichments and details were very fragile and these were removed to form casts of leaves and cornice with Fine Casting Plaster and then reinstated and blended in with the new castings. The Georgian construction was updated to allow integration with modern mechanical and electrical installation, air conditioning and lighting, with the need for flexibility using plaster in a traditional manor, as well as innovative ways to blend new with old. In keeping with the beautiful design aesthetics of the building, exemplar detailing throughout the impressive interior include beautifully finished ceilings, pillars and archways.


Project: German Theatre, Munich (Germany)

Contractor: TM Ausbau GmbH

The German Theatre was built in the 19th century as a luxury entertainment location. During World War II, the theatre was bombed and then rebuilt in the ’50s. In 2008, due to fire security problems and outdated building equipment, a huge renovation project was started. The master piece of this project consists of a 3-D perforated ceiling, which required excellent illumination of the auditorium as well as a perfect acoustic performance.


Project: Erasmus Medisch Onderwijscentrum, Rotterdam (Netherlands)

Contractor: Van Vonderen Interior Contractors

Erasmus Medisch Onderwijscentrum is an academic medical education facility connected to the largest hospital in the Netherlands. The education facility was demolished and a new facility was connected to the existing structure. The contractor and Van Vonderen only had the architect’s vision to work off of and therefore a very close corporation was necessary. The central study square is located in the heart of the facility and all corridors lead here. The high acoustics and indoor air quality demands along with aesthetic demands that required several intricate details with curved, angled and falling details were required.


Project: Cradlestone Mall, Johannesburg (South Africa)

Contractor: Abbeycon (PTY) LTD

The Cradlestone Mall has been built to serve the needs of the growing residential and business population in Johannesburg. The architect used the layering of strata as a unique design theme and inspiration for the mall, from the coloring of the exteriors right through to the jagged, jutting shapes that give the mall its dynamic angular expression. All the materials used in the installation had to reflect the design inspiration while achieving the high level of acoustic and aesthetic appeal. The main feature of the project is the ceiling above the food court and entertainment area. The installation of the ceiling was designed to contour the jagged shape of the “Armadillo-style” roof, which has been framed by 3-D bulkheads.


Project: El Faro Shopping Mall, Extremadura (Spain)

Contractor: Joint-Venture: ACADINSA & OPERSIS

El Faro is the largest shopping, leisure and restaurant centre in Extremadura, and has 2,500 parking spaces and more than 100 retail units. The design was BREEAM certified and rated “very good,” thus demonstrating its firm commitment to energy efficiency and the well-being of its users. Use of water, energy and materials is economized and it offers users a high comfort level. The architecture studio’s concept for the shopping mall was to create a cool relaxing environment to contrast with the dryness of the surrounding area by using plants, water and natural light.


Project: Casino 2000, Mondorf-les-Bains (France)

Contractor: Eschlimann

The Casino 2000 of Mondorf-les-Bains is located in the spa town Mondorf-les-Bain, close to the French border, in Luxembourg. The entrance hall and cloak rooms of the casino were extended. To enhance the entrance hall, the architect designed an undulated ceiling, with waves that all have a unique shape. Furthermore, this ceiling integrates original lightening effects, and a hydronic radiant heating and cooling system.


Project: “My Green Kentucky Home,” Kentucky, United States

Contractor: GCCM Construction Services LLC

“My Green Kentucky Home” aims to lead the industry by being the first LEED Platinum, Net Zero Energy, and Net Zero Water home in the state. In addition, contractor Sy Safi with GCCM Construction Services formed a team with the homeowners, architect, engineer, green consultant and subcontractors to transform the residential construction process, taking a commercial industry-like approach from design to completion via design charrette, team decision discussions, installation training and home tours. (See the main story “Kentucky Urban”)


Project: Marsan Residence, Valladolid (Spain)

Contractor: Audiotec Ingeniería Acústica

The Coca Building (Marsan residence) is a high-specification residential building in the centre of the city of Valladolid. Not only has attention been paid to the quality of its finishes, but it is also the first building in Castilla-León to receive the Q+ Sound Quality certificate. This was issued after the work performed in the design and construction phases passed the control and monitoring audits. Gaining this distinction was made possible by using SICAE. This is the comprehensive rating system for sound certification in buildings which the Audiotec Acoustic Technology Centre validates and implements.


Project: Brunsfield Residence @ U-Thant, Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia)

Contractor: Practical Jaya Construction Sdn Bhd

Brunsfield Residence @ U-Thant is a well-designed and sustainable exclusive eco-lifestyle residence in the heart of Kuala Lumpur. Each unit boasts an area of 3,000 to 6,000 square-feet, depending on the various unit types. With the rising demand for material that achieves thermal and acoustic comfort, impact and moisture resistance as well as superior finish appearance, Brunsfield Residence @ U-Thant used Gyproc systems and products to meet their requirement.


Project: Institut d’études politiques, Lyon (France)

Contractor: D’Angelo & Agus

The “Institut d’Etudes Politiques” de Lyon is one of the leading French universities for political sciences. The aim of this project was to transform a bearing chamber into an auditorium that housed 240 seats. The architect had the very original idea to drywall all the walls of the auditorium with Rigitone, a completely seamless and monolithic system, which is normally dedicated to ceiling applications. It was an ambitious project, as it had to address important acoustic requirements in terms of sound absorption, and it was a real architectural challenge.


Project: Glenstal Abbey, Limerick (Ireland)

Contractor: Paul O’Loughlin Carpentry

Construction began on the extension to the existing Glenstal Abbey School in January 2013 consisting of a three-story classroom extension, with a total of 18 classrooms, three science laboratories, offices and general refurbishment to the existing school which is a protected structure. The new building was constructed using a reinforced concrete and steel frame and is Irelands first Activ’Air school. The school is a seven-day boarding secondary school for boys, located on the grounds of Glenstal Abbey, in Murroe, County Limerick. It is run by monks of the Benedictine order with a student body of 300.

Green Hills of Kentucky • 
Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto • 
Chat with Claude-Alain Tardy and Dan Kennard • 
Recognized International Winners