Collective Efforts Support Stability and Growth of U.S. Building Industries

On April 3-4, more than 400 roofing industry stakeholders participated in Roofing Day in D.C. 2019 to share the industry’s message with lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Photo: PIMA

Andrew Carnegie once said that “the ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives” is the “fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.” This spring more than 500 professionals from the roofing and insulation industries brought their individual efforts together in unified support for policies that promote the continued vitality of our nation’s building and construction efforts by participating in organized visits with Congressional representatives in Washington, D.C.

In April, amid the profusion of cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin, groups of roofing contractors, front-line workers, state and regional roofing associations, roofing manufacturers, distributors, and design- and roof-consulting professionals participated in close to 300 Congressional meetings as part of the industry’s annual Roofing Day events. They were followed in May by contractors, manufacturers, and suppliers from the insulation industry representing the majority of states undertaking more than 100 meetings on Capitol Hill with lawmakers.

Roofing Day

Roofing Day in D.C. 2019 offered an opportunity for the entire roofing industry to advocate in support of three key issues:

  1. A robust buildings component for infrastructure legislation.
  2. Immigration reform that meets the roofing industry’s workforce needs.
  3. Expanded workforce training incentives.
Chad Burman of Carlisle Construction Materials (second from left) meets with lawmakers and fellow industry executives on Roofing Day in D.C. Photo: PIMA

Investment in U.S. public infrastructure could be a robust catalyst for sustained economic growth while also helping to create jobs. Congress currently is considering comprehensive infrastructure legislation for transportation, water and energy infrastructure needs. This includes the Public Buildings Renewal Act of 2019, S. 932, cosponsored by Senator Todd Young (R-IN) and Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), which would provide tax-exempt financing to the private sector via partnerships with the U.S. government to repair and maintain numerous federally owned buildings around the country. Roofing Day advocates noted that the average public school building is at least 40 years old and the current backlog of maintenance and capital projects represents an annual funding gap of $45 billion.

According to the first-quarter 2019 Commercial Construction Index from USG Corp. and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 70 percent of building contractors are missing project deadlines because of the skilled labor shortage. Roofing Day advocates discussed the need for a visa system, such as the system proposed in the Workforce for an Expanding Economy Act, that would support the hiring priorities of roofing and similar industries. This system would ensure employers undertake vigorous recruitment to hire U.S. workers first, and enable job creators to obtain the foreign-born workers needed to meet demand and grow their businesses.

Insulation Industry National Policy Conference

In May, 110 contractors, manufacturers, and suppliers from the insulation industry representing the majority of states met on Capitol Hill with lawmakers to discuss issues and ideas for harnessing the resources of the insulation industry to tackle some of the country’s most pressing problems.

Justin Koscher of PIMA and Paul Coleman of Huntsman Corporation were on hand for Roofing Day in D.C. Photo: PIMA

With the constant stream of news stories highlighting the human costs and economic consequences of a changing environment, momentum is growing behind solutions that can address these environmental challenges in ways that strengthen U.S. economic productivity and competitiveness. To that end, advocates worked to build enthusiasm for federal action on policies that optimize the energy efficiency of new and existing buildings. Raising standards for new residential, commercial, and industrial buildings and retrofitting older ones can lead to long-term savings through better building performance.

Increasing the energy efficiency of buildings is a practical way to help the environment, create jobs, and save money. Boosting energy efficiency alone can provide 40 percent of the necessary greenhouse gas emissions reductions to meet global targets and the work to implement these standards will lead to jobs in manufacturing, distribution, and installation. These improvements will save consumers billions of dollars in energy costs annually — money that can be invested back into the U.S. economy.

Congressman Paul Tonko (fourth from left) meets with insulation industry representatives during the Insulation Industry National Policy Conference in May. Photo: PIMA

But these policies would do more than save energy; they’d also provide buildings and the people who use them with added protection from severe weather events. In 2017 alone, there were $317 billion in losses from U.S. natural disasters, jump-starting discussions on creating more resilient buildings and communities. Optimizing insulation for an energy efficient building envelope improves performance post-disaster or during prolonged events like heat waves or extreme cold. And the investment would pay off — it’s estimated that designing buildings to the 2018 I-Codes would deliver a national benefit of $11 for every $1 invested. 

  • Some legislative tools to promote these improvements include:
  • Strengthening oversight of new rules for disaster preparedness and response.
  • Supporting investments in building science research.
  • Recognizing buildings as infrastructure, including critical structures such as hospitals and schools.
As part of the Insulation Industry National Policy Conference, Congressman Paul Tonko of New York speaks on “Charting the Federal Response to Climate Debate.” Photo: PIMA

Our environment is a constructed one — roads, buildings, offices, schools, houses and hospitals are all part of the infrastructure that sustains a productive economy. The strength of the construction industry is interwoven with the success of society overall. In tough economic times, companies retrench, grinding construction projects to a halt and leaving builders in a difficult position. This slowdown has a ripple effect through related industries, as architects, building suppliers, electricians, engineers, and retailers, feel the pinch from halted projects. As tax revenues fall, governments delay infrastructure investments and defer maintenance, using stopgap measures to keep things running without fixing underlying problems or proactively planning the replacement of systems already beyond their life-expectancy.

A proactive approach to strengthen the construction industry does more than give a hand to hammer wielders and mortar spreaders. It provides stability that flows through the economy as projects move forward and the web of interconnected industries support each other in providing necessary services. Policies that support a robust building industry boost economic growth, improve energy security and independence, and advance U.S. global competitiveness.

About the author: Justin Koscher is president of the Polyisocyanurate Insulation Manufacturers Association (PIMA). For more information, visit www.polyiso.org.

Resilience in Health Care Facilities

The hurricanes that pounded portions of the East Coast of the United States in recent years left record-setting destruction in their wake. But they also taught valuable, if painful, lessons about resilience — what works, what doesn’t, and what’s needed to ensure that the built environment can withstand the predicted increase in these cataclysmic weather events.

These storms, as well as wildfires in the West and tornadoes, hailstorms and extreme flooding throughout the South and Midwest, also drove home the message that hospitals and other health care facilities face unique challenges during times of crisis. They must continue operating to ensure the wellbeing of their patients, meet the needs of staff members who are caring for those patients, and admit additional patients, many of whom may have been injured during the storm. Hospitals frequently house ongoing research and millions of dollars of scientific work could be destroyed if power is lost, or a lab is flooded. Health care facilities are often called on to serve as emergency command centers for entire communities, even during extended utility outages and transportation infrastructure disturbances, and provide such basic necessities as food and water. In fact, in a 2014 report, FEMA cited hospitals, along with public shelters, vital data storage centers, power generation and water and other utilities, and installations which produce, use, or store hazardous materials, as critical facilities “for which the effects of even a slight chance of disruption would be too great.” In other words, hospitals must be able to provide “a standalone level of resilience” independent of the surrounding community and its infrastructure.

The same FEMA report points out that demographics are working to make hospitals even more essential during a crisis, pointing out that the aging population of the United States “will place additional stresses on health care infrastructure.” Finally, while hospitals understand how to organize for the unexpected, other “sub-acute” residential health care settings such as nursing homes, dialysis centers, rehabilitation centers and retail pharmacies tend to be less focused on the stresses that an emergency could put on their systems. Nonetheless, these non-hospital settings need to plan for worst-case scenarios and fully assess their physical vulnerabilities.

Given the increasing frequency of cataclysmic natural events, there has been a growing awareness that rebuilding health care facilities in the wake of a storm is not a viable approach: to fend off the impact of future storms, it will be necessary to incorporate increased structural resilience to protect both patients and staff during extreme events. In many instances, hospitals have responded, ensuring that their built environment incorporates features that were unheard of even a decade ago.

The Importance of the Roof

In any building, the continued functioning of the roof is essential to protect the interior from water or wind damage, and to maintain a comfortable level or heating or cooling for the interior space. In a health care setting, especially when flooding is an issue, the roof must perform additional essential tasks such as serving as a potential location for evacuation of patients or delivery of essential supplies and personnel. For instance, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina at Tulane Medical Center, the hospital’s engineering staff was called on to fashion a makeshift helipad on a parking garage roof to evacuate 200 patients and 1,500 personnel beginning two days after the storm, as generators ran out of fuel or failed and it became apparent that no fuel would arrive. Patients were transported in passenger pickup trucks, as ambulances were too tall to access the parking deck.

Additionally, roofs may be required to support heating and cooling equipment. At Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston, opened in 2013, all critical mechanical and electrical infrastructure was placed on the roof and above flood elevations to minimize possibility of interruption. In fact, hospitals in flood-prone regions are being planned and designed “upside-down” with critical infrastructure on rooftops and electromechanical distribution systems fed from the roof downward.

To help the health care sector better prepare for increasingly extreme weather, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has produced the U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit, devoting one specific section to Building Health Care Sector Resilience. The guide was developed through a public-private partnership with the health care industry and provides an introductory document as well as a suite of online tools and resources that showcase “emerging best practices for developing sustainable and climate-resilient health care facilities.” The guide also provides case studies of organizations that are finding innovative ways to deal with the threats posed by extreme weather events.

The toolkit also provides a checklist to help gauge the resilience of a building, focusing in part on conducting a critical building inventory. Questions specific to the roof, or partly pertaining to it, include:

  • Have you compiled building envelope and performance vulnerabilities for each critical building?
  • Have you reviewed building code design baselines against extreme weather intensities (wind speeds, rainfall volumes, etc.) for each critical building?
  • Have you incorporated expected climate change data over time into building vulnerability assessments?
  • What are the design wind loads for roofs?
  • What are the design snow loads for roofs? Have rooftop structures and equipment (and their attachments) been reviewed for anticipated wind speeds?
  • Have rooftop structures and equipment (and their attachments) been reviewed for extreme precipitation and/or hail vulnerabilities?

A Case in Point

As with most issues related to roofing, the people who have been on the front lines, helping to create a resilient system, are the real experts. Chuck Anderson is Construction Program Director at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. When Hurricane Ike struck in September 2008, the hospital, encompassing 100 buildings, suffered tens of millions of dollars in damage. Anderson has been one of the people charged with ensuring that the hospital campus, located on a vulnerable low-lying barrier island, is protected from similar future losses. The hospital campus is also required to be self-sustaining for two weeks during and after a storm. As far as priorities for building a resilient roof, Anderson says, “Number one, it is the product. Number two, the installation.” Anderson advocates for a fully adhered system. “You can have the best product in the world, and if it’s not applied correctly, that’s going to blow off.”

Anderson also points out that it’s essential to use a membrane that will withstand “any little blowing object that might put a hole in your roof.” But ultimately, along with state-of-the-art materials and installation methods, Anderson says that additional care is needed; when a storm is predicted, he and his staff walk the roofs to clear them of any debris that could create damage if it becomes windborne. High-tech roofing and low-tech, step-by-step attention to detail — a winning combination to help protect the built environment against increasingly destructive weather events.

To access the U.S Climate Resilience Toolkit and its guide, “Enhancing Health Care Resilience for a Changing Climate”, go to https://toolkit.climate.gov/image/662.

For information on incorporating resilience into a roofing system, go to http://epdmtheresilientroof.org.

About the Author: Louisa Hart is the director of communications for the Washington-based EPDM Roofing Association (ERA). For more information, visit www.epdmroofs.org.

Environmental Product Declarations Are a Driving Force for Change

Agropur Cooperative’s new Canada Green Building Council certified and LEED accredited two-story office building in Longueuil, Quebec, has polyiso insulation on the roof. Photo: SOPREMA

With a worldwide population that continues to grow (estimated at more than nine billion by 2050), demand for natural resources is increasing at rates that threaten to stress sustainable supply. Over the last few decades, society has become increasingly concerned about the environmental impacts of human activity. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that the built environment accounts for 41 percent of our national energy consumption and nearly as much of our greenhouse gas emissions. With an eye toward conserving resources and mitigating climate change and its effects, the building industry is on the front lines of the effort to achieve sustainability goals and create buildings that not only drop jaws, but also lower carbon footprints.

Polyiso roof and wall insulation offers high unit R-value per inch, zero ozone depletion potential, and outstanding fire performance. In this photo, polyiso roof insulation is being installed on a flat roof. Photo: Hunter Panels

Sustainability is not a one-time event, but a process that encompasses the whole life cycle of a building. To effectively ensure that resource conservation spans that whole cycle requires transparency and coordination between stakeholders starting at the beginning of the design process to assess choices based on economy, durability, utility, and sustainability. Architects and specifiers need to have a complete picture of the merits of any product that might go into a building so they can make informed decisions that include impacts from a product’s manufacturing process to its long-term applied performance.

In the United States, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards developed by the U.S. Green Building Council have emerged as an important benchmark for rating individual building components, processes, and systems. They are designed to:

  • Promote the efficient use of energy, water, and other resources.
  • Protect occupant health and improve productivity.
  • Reduce waste, pollution, and environmental degradation.
  • Improve resiliency in the face of extreme conditions.
The new Big Ten Headquarters in Rosemont, Illinois, utilizes polyiso wall insulation. Photo: Hunter Panels

Other notable programs across the globe and throughout North America, including the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM), Green Globes, US Department of Energy’s Energy Star program, GreenStar, and the Living Building Challenge, employ standards that are used in concert with LEED ratings to boost performance and promote a conscious approach to resource use in building construction, operation, and maintenance.

Many manufacturers are publishing rigorous, third-party verified evaluations of the whole life cycle impacts of their products to increase transparency and allow easier comparison of alternatives. These Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) are similar to a “nutrition label” for building products and include information on sourcing, production, and performance of the products in a standardized and independently verified format that is recognized globally and based on International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standards. This consistent and scientific method to measuring and reporting information makes it possible to consider a product’s comprehensive impact and allows to base specification choices on measurable projections.

Earlier versions of LEED allowed manufactures to make claims about a product’s sustainability in one area without disclosing deficits in another area. This led to a healthy skepticism from clients and consumers about advertised merits and prompted a move toward greater transparency and verifiability. In its most recent revision, the LEED v4 standard asks manufacturers to provide more detailed information on a material’s content and its comprehensive environmental impact before their individual products can claim sustainability designations.

Basis for Evaluation

For an EPD to have a scientific basis, the impacts need to be clearly defined and linked to important environmental concerns. To help define these impacts the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed TRACI, the Tool for the Reduction and Assessment of Chemical and Other Environmental Impacts. TRACI methodology identifies a number of important factors related to critical environmental impacts:

  • Global Warming Potential (GWP)—linked to global climate change.
  • Ozone Depletion Potential (ODP)—related to the (now closing) hole in the earth’s ozone layer caused by certain chemicals.
  • Smog Creation Potential—linked to car exhausts, power plant emissions and fumes from products that contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
  • Acidification Potential—linked to acid rain caused by certain smokestack emissions.
  • Eutrophication Potential—linked to excessive amounts of nitrogen in rivers and lakes causing algae blooms that consume vital oxygen in the water.

Common Standards for Comparison

The EPD process is based on a framework to ensure that these practices are conducted in a consistent and reliable manner anywhere in the world. It includes the following key steps:

  • Product Category Rule – products with similar functions are assessed in the same way using comparable measures.
  • Life Cycle Assessment – products are evaluated based on inputs in the form of resources and energy, and outputs in the form of emissions and waste for their life cycle either from “cradle-to-gate” (from raw material extraction until it reaches the “gate” of the manufacturing facility) or the more rigorous “cradle-to-grave” (goes beyond the gate to include transportation, product manufacturing, use phase and the product’s end of life).
  • EPD generation – information from this assessment is organized into the standardized format for publication, including a life cycle diagram, illustration of product components, and a summary of impacts.
  • Third-party validation – outside experts verify and evaluate the report and the research that underlies it.

The widespread adoption of EPDs is fostering change in the building products industry leading to even more ambitious sustainability goals. As a growing body of EPDs are published, they contribute to a reliable catalog of data available as a reference point to help identify markets for new products and potential areas for improvement. Manufacturers can easily evaluate which steps in their products sourcing and production could be optimized for sustainability. Comparative information can serve as motivation for product innovation, leading to better options and better outcomes for the whole industry.

About the author: Marcin Pazera, Ph.D., is the Technical Director for Polyisocyanurate Insulation Manufacturers Association (PIMA). He coordinates all technical-related activities at PIMA and serves as the primary technical liaison to organizations involved in the development of building standards. For more information, visit www.polyiso.org.

EPDs Confirm the Benefits of Polyiso

Photo: Johns Manville

EPDs from the Polyisocyanurate Insulation Manufacturers Association (PIMA) report the results of an exacting “cradle-to-grave” Life Cycle Assessment showing the merits of polyiso insulation for wall and roof applications. The findings include:

  • The energy savings potential of polyiso roof and wall insulation over a typical 60-year building life span is equal to up to 47 times the initial energy required to produce, transport, install, maintain, and eventually remove and dispose of the insulation.
  • Polyiso has a high return on embodied energy.
  • Polyiso roof and wall insulation offers high unit R-value per inch, zero ozone depletion potential, recycled content, opportunity for reuse, and outstanding fire performance.
Photo: Johns Manville

Evaluation for the third-party assessment was done by PE International and includes a cradle-to-grave life cycle assessment that covers every step in the process of creating and using polyiso products. Looking at everything from resourcing, production, transport, installation, maintenance, to eventual removal and replacement, the EPD measures impacts across a broad spectrum, including everything from how products might contribute to global warming, smog production, and ozone depletion to the energy and water use and waste disposal required at the end of its life.

Primary data from six PIMA manufacturer members was used for the underlying life cycle assessment and the EPD represents the combined weighted average production for these members.

What Is Polyiso?

Polyiso is a closed-cell, rigid foam board insulation consisting of a foam core sandwiched between two facers. In wall applications its facers, which are usually made of kraft paper-backed foil, are adhered to both sides of the foam before it is cut into sheets and packaged for shipment and the boards function both as continuous insulation—creating a thermal barrier that isn’t interrupted at every stud—and as an environmental envelope to protect the building from water, air, and heat infiltration. It is typically attached outside the wall framing and covered by an exterior finish.

It is the most widely used insulating material for above-deck commercial roof construction in North America. The boards are installed in one or more layers, depending on the insulation needs, on the steel, wood, or concrete roof deck structure and then covered with the roofing membrane.

EPD Polyiso Findings

  • High thermal efficiency. Because it is one of the most thermally efficient building insulations available in today’s marketplace, Polyiso requires less total thickness to deliver specified R-value in roof and wall assemblies, reducing overall construction costs and increasing usable building space.
  • High net return on embodied energy. A recent study comparing initial embodied energy to long-term energy savings achieved over 60 years in a typical commercial building suggests that the net energy savings potential of Polyiso wall insulation ranges between 20 and 47 times the initial embodied energy required to produce, transport, and install the Polyiso insulation.
  • Zero ozone depletion potential. All PIMA Polyiso manufacturer members produce rigid foam board with third-generation, zero ozone-depleting blowing agents. The blowing agent (pentane) used in Polyiso also is among the lowest in Global Warming Potential.
  • Recycled content. Polyiso insulation typically is manufactured using recycled material. The percentage of the recycled material by weight depends on the individual manufacturer, the thickness of the product, and the type of facer.
  • Opportunity for reuse. Although this declaration assumes the Polyiso wall insulation boards will be landfilled at the end of the wall assembly service life, it is possible to salvage and reuse the boards, either at the original site or on another construction site. Used Polyiso wall insulation may be collected and resold by several national logistics firms.

PIMA is currently updating its EPDs for polyiso wall and roof insulations, which will be available in Q1 of 2020.

Building Codes: Everyday Tools for Disaster Preparedness and Relief

In the days following the powerful assault of Hurricane Michael on the Florida Panhandle, images of widespread devastation headlined television news coverage and print media. Not as prone to hurricane activity as the rest of Florida, the area hit by the almost Category 5 storm had many older homes built prior to the enactment of stricter building codes put into place after Hurricane Andrew in 1992. As a result, many structures built to less stringent requirements were unprepared to weather the onslaught of wind, rain, and debris tossed by Michael’s sustained 155-mph winds.

Nothing can guarantee a structure’s integrity when faced with such brutal conditions. However, contrast the post-storm condition of those older structures with that of newer buildings and the benefits of more rigorous regulations are clear. The aerial images of the impacted communities illustrate the value of implementing building codes that can contribute to greater resiliency both for the structures themselves and for the safety and comfort of the people and property contained within them during and after a storm makes landfall.

Media coverage of the storm’s aftermath included profiles of some of the structures that fared better than their neighbors. The New York Timesran a profile entitled, “Among the Ruins of Mexico Beach Stands One House, Built ‘for the Big One’” and the Washington Post published an article entitled, “Houses intact after Hurricane Michael were often saved by low-cost reinforcements.” 

When interviewed on CNN, Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Brock Long said, “… there’s a lesson here about building codes. The key to resiliency in this country is where our local officials and state officials are going to have to do something proactively to start passing building codes to high standards.” 

As is often the case in the wake of a disaster, there is a profusion of interest in exploring strategies to protect communities and properties from devastation. These articles and interview reveal that building structures with conscious attention to resiliency can offer markedly improved performance in extreme weather. As an added bonus, many of the products and processes that deliver this resiliency can also contribute to decreased energy usage and operational costs for buildings regardless of the weather they’re subjected to.

Even before this summer’s series of destructive storms, elected officials and government agencies were working to implement wide-ranging strategies to protect our communities. Updating state and local building codes, which exist to safeguard life and protect private and public interests through regulating the design, construction practices, construction material quality, location, occupancy usage, and maintenance of buildings and structures, is one of the most effective ways to increase the safety and resiliency of our built environment.

Congressional Action

On two occasions this year, Congress enacted reforms for disaster preparedness that raise the profile and importance of building codes in planning for and recovering from disasters. The nation’s disaster relief law — the StaffordAct— was first reformed as part of the Bipartisan Budget Act and later reformed with permanent fixes under the FAA Reauthorization bill passed in October 2018. 

Under these amendments, building code adoption and enforcement are added as eligible activities and criteria used in grant programs aimed at reducing the impact of future disasters. In other words, states that act to adopt modern building codes and standards will be eligible for additional federal assistance in the event disaster strikes. Moreover, the reforms allow damaged buildings to be rebuilt with federal support to better withstand future events, rather than merely restored to their pre-disaster condition. 

While these changes do not specifically address energy codes, adopting and updating building codes will also lead to improvements in energy performance. Energy efficiency is a key part of a building’s — and a community’s — ability to withstand and quickly recover after a disaster. For example, a well-insulated building can maintain a comfortable temperature when power is lost or intermittent. Building energy codes will also encourage the construction of more robust building envelope systems that can help avoid the crippling effects of moisture intrusion that are common in severe weather events.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the first nine months of 2018 (through October 9) resulted in 11 weather and climate disaster events with losses exceeding $1 billion each. Moody’s Analyticsestimates that losses resulting from Hurricane Michael will cost between $15 and $21 billion. Damage to homes and businesses are a major contributor to the total financial impact of a disaster. 

Buildings constructed to meet or exceed modern building codes can therefore play an important role in reducing the overall economic impact of natural disasters. According to the “Natural Hazard Mitigation Saves: 2017 Interim Report”published by the National Institute of Building Sciences, the model building codes developed by the International Code Council can save the nation $4 for every $1 spent. In addition, designing new buildings to exceed the 2015 International Building Code(IBC) and International Residential Code(IRC) would result in 87,000 new, long-term jobs and an approximate 1 percent increase in utilization of domestically produced construction material.

While people, pets and some belongings can be evacuated to safety with enough warning and resources, buildings can’t be moved to higher ground or be rebuilt overnight in anticipation of an oncoming storm. Indeed, buildings are often the only things separating people from the brutal forces of natural disasters. The protection they offer is often determined by the quality of the construction materials and the installation methods used, which are themselves often regulated by the safety standards in place at the time of original construction or major renovation. 

The recognition by Congress that modern building codes deliver an answer to disaster preparedness is a positive for homeowners and businesses across the country. States now have added incentive to prepare for tomorrow by enacting and enforcing better building codes today. And more exacting building codes will create momentum to raise the bar for all of the codes that work together to create stronger and more resilient buildings that will contribute to better outcomes in extreme weather and reduced energy consumption in any weather. 

About the author: Justin Koscher is president of the Polyisocyanurate Insulation Manufacturers Association (PIMA). For more information, visit www.polyiso.org.

Weather, Congress Among Variables Likely to Affect Industry in the Year Ahead

As we move forward in 2019, the roofing industry can expect to be influenced by two sometimes out-of-control, difficult to predict forces: the weather and the United States Congress. Add to the equation a shifting economic outlook, as well as uncertain immigration policies, and you have a potentially toxic mix that makes any projection difficult. But there are some constants in the current environment that can help guide strategies for the roofing industry, and here’s our take on what to expect as this decade winds to a close.

There may be some limited success in tackling immigration reform, but don’t expect enough change to mitigate the labor shortage experienced by roofing companies. The Trump-promised wall has yet to be built, but actions to slow illegal immigration have been somewhat successful. The roofing industry has pressed for immigration reform; experts estimate that worker shortages account for up to 20 percent in lost roofing business each year, and sensible immigration reform could help end those shortages. The Center for Construction Research and Training, or CPWR, points out that in some construction occupations, including roofing, more than half of the workers are of Hispanic origin. So, the roofing industry certainly has a compelling case to be made for reform. 

Balancing the demand for secure borders against the need for additional workers has so far failed to produce meaningful legislation. Given the intense disagreement on how to move forward, 2019 will most likely be another year of bipartisan gridlock on this issue. The encouraging news comes from two areas of activity: innovations that promote ease of roofing installation, and industry efforts to certify roofing workers and increase the prestige of working in the trades. These efforts may help to recoup some of the business that has been lost because of the labor shortage, but only rational immigration reform will help to meet the unmet demand.

The weather may, in fact, be more predictable than the lawmakers who just assembled on Capitol Hill. Late in November of this past year, the Federal Government released the National Climate Assessment, the fourth comprehensive look at climate-change impacts on the United States since 2000. The Congressionally mandated thousand-page report delivered a sobering warning about the impact of climate change on the United States and its economy, detailing hownatural disasters are becoming more commonplace throughout the country and predicting that they may become much worse. 

While some may challenge the reality of long-term climate change, statistics tell us that short-term increases in cataclysmic weather events are an indisputable fact of life. And a temporary lull in these disasters cannot be taken as a sign of a change in weather patterns. For instance, as of early August this past year, the Tropical Meteorology Team at Colorado State University downgraded the forecast for the rest of the year, until November 1, from      “slightly above average Atlantic hurricane season” to less than anticipated. They were correct, for a while. No hurricanes formed in the Atlantic during the rest of August, making it the first season in five years without a storm of hurricane magnitude. But just as forecasters were declaring victory over unpredictable nature, Hurricane Florence delivered a pounding to the Carolinas in early September, and in October Hurricane Michael devastated much of the Florida panhandle. The erratic weather patterns did not stop at the end of the hurricane season: an early December storm dumped as much as a foot of snow on parts of the Carolinas that rarely see that much during an entire winter. So much for the predicted respite from extreme weather conditions.

The difficult-to-predict weather is creating one certainty for the roofing industry: customers will increasingly be looking for durable materials and systems that can withstand weather extremes. Additionally, the focus is turning to anticipating destructive weather and mitigating its potential impact by creating resilient structures. ERA has just produced its first annual report, “Building Resilience: The Roofing Perspective.” We anticipate updating this product each year to help provide the roofing industry with the latest approaches to creating resilient roofing systems. 

Unpredictable labor markets and unpredictable weather patterns are defining the “new normal” for our industry and will no doubt be part of our reality in 2019. But based on past performance, there’s at least one certainty we can count on: the roofing industry will come out ahead in the face of these challenges, providing our customers with innovative products and superior service and providing our employees with a work environment that ensures a secure future.

About the Author: Jared Blum is the executive director of the EPDM Roofing Association (ERA), www.epdmroofs.org, and serves as chair of the Environmental and Energy Study Institute. 

Benefits of High-Density Polyisocyanurate Cover Boards for Roofing Systems

High-density polyiso cover boards are designed to provide a combination of impact resistance, energy savings, and ease of installation to enhance the long-term performance of a commercial roof system. Photo: Firestone Building Products

Roofing projects, whether new construction or renovation, require careful product selection to balance cost with performance. Many contractors choose to include cover boards in their roof designs to enhance overall system durability and lower long-term maintenance costs, particularly for low-slope commercial roof applications. There are many cover board products currently available — ranging from traditional gypsum board to highly engineered polyisocyanurate (or “polyiso”) technologies. Across product types, cover boards are an important component in roof systems that provide a rigid substrate and protection for other components of the roof system.

Selecting the right cover board for your project means verifying that the product will work with the chosen membrane type to provide a stable foundation for the roof and suitable protection for the underlying insulation. Understanding the unique benefits of a high-density polyiso cover board product can help roofing contractors reduce labor costs and save money during the construction process, while also contributing to lower building energy usage over the long-term life of the roof system.

Benefits of High-Density Polyiso Cover Boards

High-density polyiso cover boards provide a combination of impact resistance, energy savings, and ease of installation that make them a compelling option. They are manufactured with coated glass facers that provide well-recognized versatility during installation and service-life durability. By adding a high-density polyiso cover board, roofing contractors can enhance the long-term performance of a commercial roof system in addition to providing the following advantages:

  • Lightweight: High-density polyiso cover boards, on average, weigh 66 to 80 percent less, when compared to other products of the same thickness. Individual boards are light enough to be carried by a single worker, reducing manpower requirements.
  • High-density polyiso cover boards are light enough to be carried by a single worker, reducing manpower requirements. Photo: Firestone Building Products

    Water resistance: The water absorption by volume of high-density polyiso cover boards is about four percent—much lower than traditional boards. High-density polyiso cover boards will not rot or dissolve and can maintain their integrity under adverse weather conditions.

  • Fewer truckloads: High-density polyiso cover boards can be shipped with about three times more square feet per truckload, requiring fewer trucks, which leads to fuel and transportation savings, as well as reduced traffic congestion on job sites.
  • Reduced product staging time: High-density polyiso cover boards require less crane time with lower hoisting, loading, and staging costs. The cover boards are easier to carry and maneuver around the roof. Pallets need not be broken or redistributed as they might need to be with other products.
  • Ease of cutting: Unlike traditional gypsum boards which require heavy-duty saws or cutters to resize, high-density polyiso cover boards can be easily scored and cut using a utility knife. A single worker can measure and cut boards to size, increasing the productivity of the roofing team.
  • Weight: When considering a building’s structural design, high-density polyiso cover boards will contribute less dead load to a roof than other alternatives. Lighter dead loads can add up to savings in structural costs for new construction and fewer headaches when reroofing an existing building.
  • Greater R-value: In addition to providing suitable protection to a roof system, high-density polyiso cover boards can increase the thermal resistance of the roof and provide two to five times more R-value than other cover board options.
  • Virtually dust-free: High-density polyiso cover boards are made with polyisocyanurate foam found in insulation products, which contribute less dust during cutting. This can decrease potential seam contamination of the roof cover prior to waterproofing the laps. Reduced dust and the absence of silica particles also enhances worker safety. And, less mess also means improved productivity for installers.
  • Mold: High-density polyiso cover boards resist mold growth when tested under ASTM D3273. This makes the products highly suitable for applications prone to elevated moisture conditions.
  • Resiliency: Higher compressive strength and flexibility in cover boards improves a roof’s resistance to damage from foot traffic, heavily loaded carts, dropped hammers and other tools.
  • Versatility: High-density polyiso cover boards can be used in new construction, reroofing, and recover applications. They are suitable in mechanically attached, adhered and ballasted roof assemblies.

High-Density Cover Boards Help Ohio High School Achieve LEED Gold Certification

When the Green Local School District in Ohio began making plans for a new high school to be built in Smithville, they wanted to build for the long-term. Recognizing that operating costs should be factored into building budgets, they set a goal to seek LEED Gold certification for the new building.

The new high school in Smithville, Ohio, was designed to achieve LEED Gold certification. It features a PVC roof system including high-density polyiso cover boards.

The school district was eager to design for lowered heating costs in the brutal Ohio winters through smaller, more efficient mechanical systems. Achieving that energy efficiency required designers to look at the whole building envelope with an eye toward maximizing insulation and minimizing the thermal and vapor conductivity of the building components.
Their roofing solution? Charcoal-colored PVC membrane to capture winter sunlight over polyiso roof insulation and 1/4-inch high-density polyiso cover board from Johns Manville.

Advanced Industrial Roofing Inc., based in nearby Massillon, installed the components over the school’s structures — 12 distinct roofing areas of varying size and slope. With such a complex job, they were grateful for the ease of handling and cutting the high-density polyiso cover board and for the sturdy protective surface it provided during the installation.

Codes and Standards: Dealing With Decision Makers

During the past ten years, in my role as Associate Executive Director of the EPDM Roofing Association (ERA), much of my professional focus has been on monitoring the development of building codes and standards that could impact the products of our members, and the people who use those products. This past decade has been marked by intense debate, focusing on issues such as how the design of buildings can save energy, protect the health of the people who work there, and resist the ravages of increasingly frequent intense and even cataclysmic weather events. It has been an important time for the roofing industry to be engaged.

Given the complexity of the multiple codes and standards that impact roofing, it’s important to know the difference between codes and standards. To clarify, building codes are a set of rules that are frequently adopted into law, and are designed to specify the minimum requirements to safeguard the health, safety and welfare of building occupants. Building standards are set by national organizations such as ASHRAE and determine the performance requirements of the materials used in building construction. While standards are frequently incorporated into codes, that is not always the case.

Each year, ERA has increased its commitment of time and resources to stay abreast of proposed changes in codes and standards. As part of this commitment, I have sat through, and participated in, countless hours of codes and standards meetings and hearings, as well as related meetings with individuals and groups who share ERA’s goals. When I started out, I felt that it was important for members of the roofing industry to stay involved in the code and standard-setting processes. A decade later, I am convinced that participation by the roofing industry is essential if codes and standards are to support the best possible service and products that we can give our customers.

A few insights, based on my experience:

1. Science speaks.

ERA members, because of their close relationship with contractors and consultants, want to make sure that the choice of building materials is left in the hands of the design professional, the consultant, the architect, the engineer, the contractor and, of course, ultimately the building owner or facility manager. When we have codes and standards that do not reflect science-based evidence and/or the best practices within the roofing industry, then those stakeholders may not be able to choose the best product for the job at hand. In some cases, proposed modifications to existing codes or standards are suggested by people from the industry. In those instances, our role is to provide research and evidence to support the proposed change. Either way, science-based testimony usually carries the day. Not always, but without good scientific evidence to support a specific position, the chances of winning are nil to none. It takes time and clear thought to influence the codes and standards process, but without a base of indisputable scientific evidence, it’s hard to get out of the starting gate.

2. Collaboration is essential.

We have always welcomed forging partnerships with like-minded roofing professionals. But there have also been times when we have acted as consulting partners with regulatory agencies. A recent example: when regulatory agencies across the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states were charged with improving air quality, they chose to reduce the amount of allowable volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, in adhesive sealants. This was a very good idea, and the industry was certainly supportive of the intent, but the way in which many of those states intended to enact those VOC regulations would have crippled the roofing industry. Essentially, the agencies were taking a regulation that was written for the state of California and applying it universally across the New England and Mid-Atlantic States.

So, ERA conducted studies, showing how the climate of those Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states was dissimilar from the climate of California. We also provided technical information on how product would react differently in those different climates, and then we asked for a delayed implementation period to allow the research and development divisions in our companies to develop new products. These new products are appropriate for use in the climates in question and still allow the regulatory agencies to achieve their goals, successfully reducing the amount of the VOCs. Our participation was essential to help the regulatory agencies draw up a realistic timeline that would take into account the needs of the roofing industry.

3. Monitor the decision makers.

It’s important to monitor the discussion surrounding any proposed changes in codes and standards. It’s equally as important to monitor who will be making the final decisions on these issues. Since there are various facets of the roofing industry, code-setting bodies would be wise to ask the local roofing experts for advice on whom to include in their decision-making process. I’ve seen instances where committees have incorporated someone who may technically be from the roofing industry, but that person’s breadth and depth of knowledge is not appropriate for the topic at hand.

I would say we have seen mismatch of decision makers when urban heat island and cool roof issues are being debated. An individual may know a fair amount about climate change, but that doesn’t mean the person necessarily understands the nuances of cool roofing. Additionally, they may not be aware of the breadth of research on that topic and instead rely on dated information from college or grad school without being appropriately briefed on new and emerging research.

4. Prepare for a variety of responses.

We have worked with some regulatory agencies during a collaborative process and they’ve been very grateful for our input. There have been other situations where it seems that the policymakers just want us to rubber stamp their very well-intentioned but ill-conceived draft codes. That’s not something that we are willing to give. These initiatives, these outreach campaigns, take a tremendous amount of time and effort and financial resources, and difficult as it may be, our members feel that they owe it to the industry and their customers to make sure that anything that we’re involved in is done the right way and rooted in science-based evidence. There are no shortcuts in these sometimes very difficult fights.

5. Everyone can contribute.

Every member of the roofing community can be active and engaged and make a contribution to ensuring that codes and standards reflect the true needs of the construction industry and our customers. It’s very valuable to build relationships with state legislators and attend town hall meetings. It is crucial to identify candidates that are pro-business and pro roofing, and support them financially as well as from an educational perspective by sharing information with them about the roofing industry.

This is also critically important: When you are asked to write a letter to a key decision maker, be sure to do it. Recently, as part of a campaign to preserve choice of building products for roofers, I visited a city councilmember’s office. On the wall was an enormous white board where every single constituent member’s concern was tracked, along with a reference to the response. This particular city council member had an 87 percent “close rate,” meaning that 87 percent of the concerns that they had received in a given period had been responded to. My experience has been that municipal and state legislators take constituent outreach very, very seriously. Every letter, every e-mail makes a difference.

6. Gather intelligence for your professional organization.

If there is one takeaway that I want people to get from this article, it is to keep us informed. It is darned near impossible to track everything that happens on a city, county, state and national basis because there is no software that currently tracks these issues before they are formally proposed and published for review. And that is often too late to educate the policy makers. It is critical for the readers of this article to attend their local trade association meetings and become acquainted with the policy makers and the legislators in their area. Equally as important, everyone can become a resource for legislators and policymakers when they have a question about roofing.

I’m looking forward to the next decade of victories for the roofing industry, allowing us to deliver superior roofing systems to a broad range of customers. But this will happen only if key decisions about the roof are made by roofing experts, and not mandated by politicians who are far removed from the design process.

Regular Roof Inspections Help ‘Keep the Door Open’

A roof inspector makes field observations. Photo: Kemper System America Inc.

Regular roof inspections give consultants and contractors a chance to maintain relationships with building owners and managers and create value beyond any immediate repairs.

Commercial roofs should be inspected at least twice a year, typically in the spring and fall. Roof inspections are also advised after major weather events, though contractors may already be deluged with repair requests. Of course, building managers will be more receptive to discussing regular inspections during such times, even though time is short. A service flyer and readily available letter-of-agreement can help quickly close the deal, and be used after any major job throughout the year to create recurring business. Customers should clearly understand the service offer and any special provisions for emergency repairs or exceptions such as during wider emergencies.

Common Sources of Roof Leaks

  • Cracks in or around flashings and penetrations
  • Breaks in and around gutterways and drains
  • Poor drainage or debris-clogged drainage systems
  • Storm damage, tree branches, ice dams, etc.
  • Incidental damage by other trades during construction or maintenance
  • Excessive foot traffic at rooftop access points and around HVAC units and other rooftop infrastructure
  • Old or deteriorating roofing materials

While roof leaks can be caused in several ways, many common sources of leaks can be prevented with liquid-applied coating and membrane systems that fully adhere to substrates and are both self-terminating and self-flashing. Membrane systems are fully reinforced and create a seamless surface. High-quality systems are designed to withstand ponding water, ice, snow, UV light, as well as most chemicals. Unreinforced roof coatings can be used for repairs or complete restoration of the roof surface.

If only a small area is damaged, a limited repair is best, and usually possible with compatible materials over an existing system in good condition.Check if a warranty is in place, and if possible contact the manufacturer before the repair. Perform any repairs within the guidelines of the warranty.

For wider areas, a roof recovery is often possible right over the existing roofing. If interior leaks from a field area are evident, core samples can verify the condition of the existing roof assembly down to the deck. Built-up roofs (BUR), in particular, are susceptible to sun and temperature cycling. Tiny spider cracks and micropores can develop in the surface, and the layers below can absorb moisture and deteriorate. Water always travels to its lowest point and, if left unchecked, will damage the underlying structure.

On low-slope roofs, areas of ponding water are a prime target for inspections. If the roof is covered by aggregate or overburden, it must be cleared from around the lowest point of any low-lying areas, and other areas of suspected damage. A visual inspection can locate the source of an active leak, but there may be more than one source or a larger issue that may not always be visible. Broader sampling is needed to evaluate the general condition of the roof and the scope of any deterioration.

Quality workmanship and materials help avoid callbacks and ensure long-term relationships. After completing any necessary repairs, a PMMA, polyurethane or elastomeric membrane or coatings system can be installed to extend the service life of an existing roof. Elastomeric-based coatings are generally the best value for straightforward repairs and can be ideal for recovering metal roofs. Roof restoration, in general, can enhance building performance with “Cool Roof” products, especially those with a high solar reflectance index (SRI).

At the end of the day, an ounce of prevention and a prompt response to issues can help building owners avoid expensive headaches. People remember expert advice and quality service, especially in times of need. They also may tell others — which is another way regular inspections can help keep the door open to recurring business.

Improving Disaster Mitigation Strategies

This past January, the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS), a non-governmental, non-profit organization, reported that for every dollar spent on mitigation efforts to protect the built environment from the ravages of natural disasters, six dollars could be saved. These findings were part of a follow-up to the widely cited benefit-cost ratio of four to one in a comparable study by NIBS more than a decade ago. For this most recent study, NIBS reviewed the outcomes of 23 years of mitigation grants funded by FEMA, HUD, and the U.S. Economic Development Administration.

On the same day that the NIBS study was released, FEMA released its draft National Mitigation Investment Strategy to provide a “national approach to investments in mitigation activities and risk management across the United States.” According to the FEMA draft, the final investment strategy will be grounded in three fundamental principles: (1) catalyze private and non-profit sector mitigation investments and innovation; (2) improve collaboration between the federal government and state, local, tribal and territorial governments, respecting local expertise in mitigation investing; and (3) make data- and risk-informed decisions that include lifetime costs and risks. The investment strategy’s overarching goal, according to FEMA, is to improve the coordination and effectiveness of “mitigation investments,” defined as risk management actions taken to avoid, reduce, or transfer risks from natural hazards, including severe weather.

FEMA invited comment on its draft report and will publish its final strategy in November. Given the potential impact of this report on the built environment, and the industries that work to incorporate resilient strategies, the EPDM Roofing Association (ERA) submitted feedback to FEMA. ERA represents Johns Manville, Firestone Building Products, and Carlisle SynTec Inc., the three EPDM manufacturing members of the association, whose businesses span the globe. EPDM roofing membranes have been one of the leading commercial roofing materials in the country for the past 40 years, and the companies’ knowledge of the role of roof performance in achieving a building’s resilience is unparalleled.

In our response to FEMA, ERA noted that we appreciate the role that the built environment plays in a comprehensive disaster mitigation strategy. As an organization, ERA has invested time and resources to gather and provide state-of-the-art information about various approaches to creating a resilient built environment. This past year, ERA established a new microsite, EPDMtheresilientroof.com, to provide the roofing industry with a one-stop source for information about resilience. As part of information gathering for this site, ERA staff and members have visited three of the premier research facilities in the country: Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS), and the National Center for Atmospheric Research. These visits were also devoted to gaining a fuller understanding of the intersection between public and private progress in research and development.

At the outset of our response to FEMA, ERA commended FEMA for its issuance of the draft strategy, and supported all the recommended goals as desirable as risk management strategies to be implemented at the private and public sector levels. However, given ERA’s experience with building performance, we also focused our comments on two of the specific recommended strategies in the published draft.

First, ERA responded to the recommendation that “Federal departments and agencies should ensure up-to-date building standards are used for federal building projects and could incentivize state, local, tribal and territorial governments receiving federal aid for building projects to adopt and enforce, at a minimum, the most current version of model building codes.”
Commenting on this recommendation, ERA pointed out that a review of hurricane and related weather catastrophic events demonstrates that the better the building quality and the better the building codes, the better the performance of the community. While there has been substantial improvement in many states across the country, adoption and compliance pose significant hurdles for overall performance in disaster events. The urgency of this cannot be overstated. Part of this effort to upgrade the building codes and consequently overall resilience must focus on the quality of materials, installation, and inspection of final construction to ensure compliance by local authorities.

The experiences of the roofing industry in its inspection of many disasters over the years have confirmed that a well-installed, inspected, and well-maintained roof is a linchpin of overall building resilience. ERA believes that federal funding to the states to allow for the kind of technical assistance that enhances code quality and state and local compliance programs necessary to achieve physical and community resilience should be provided.
Additionally, ERA responded specifically to the recommendation that “Public sector entities should focus more on rebuilding better as well as rebuilding quickly following damage caused by natural disasters.”
ERA pointed out in its response that this recommendation to achieve rebuilding better buildings quickly following damage caused by natural disasters is among the most important in the report. As FEMA Deputy Director Roy White has pointed out in several presentations focused on resilience, it makes no sense for the agency to fund rebuilding of a destroyed facility to standards that existed when the original building was constructed with the likelihood that it would not be able to withstand another weather event beyond historic norms. Consequently, ERA recommends that FEMA and HUD need to have authority and appropriations to ensure that rebuilding is done with an eye towards future — not historic — climate conditions. This is in recognition that the original basis for many buildings that then are destroyed has been dramatically changed by recently evolving weather patterns. In addition, as the FEMA and NIBS study recently demonstrated, there is a payback to the government of a 6 to 1 ratio for investing in rebuilding to a more resilient standard.

There are many, many elements of the draft strategy that ERA supports; however, we believe the two mentioned above are particularly within our expertise and with which we are very familiar. We look forward to the final mitigation strategy report from FEMA, due to be released in November, and we encourage FEMA to incorporate our recommendations to ensure that the value of investment in resilience be realized to the fullest extent possible.

Easy-to-Use Discs Enable Induction Welding of PVC and TPO Membranes Over EPS Insulations

With induction welding, the membrane is heat bonded to the top of each plate and there are no penetrations in the membrane. Photo OMG

Over the past ten years, North American roofers have begun to adopt induction welding as a fast, simple and secure way to mechanically attach TPO and PVC membranes. The method also helps create a high-performance roof assembly by eliminating fastener penetrations of the membrane.

For most of its history, induction welding was limited to installations over thermoset insulations such as polyiso or over other rigid insulations with a cover board. But now, a deceptively simple and easy-to-use disc enables roofers to use induction welding over expanded polystyrene (EPS) insulations that don’t have cover boards. The result is faster and more affordable insulation installation and lower fatigue for work crews.

The Induction Welding Method in Brief

A roof fastener manufacturer pioneered induction welding attachment as a way for roofers to streamline TPO and PVC membrane installation, while avoiding membrane penetrations, for a more watertight roof assembly.

A roofing technician seals the seam with hot-air welder. Photo: Insulfoam

In a typical mechanically fastened membrane system, roofers secure the membrane with 2-inch to 3-inch diameter plates on the seams held down by screws that pass through the membrane and insulation layers to the underlying deck. With the induction welding method, each plate becomes a fastening point for the membrane, and the membrane is heat bonded to the top of each plate. With this method, crews screw down the insulation layer as usual, then unroll the membrane over the insulation. They then place a stand-up or handheld induction welding tool on the membrane at each plate location. In less than five seconds, the tool heats the plate under the membrane to about 400 degrees Fahrenheit, bonding the membrane to the plate. Heating is accomplished via electromagnetic induction between the tool and the plate, rather than via direct application of heat (think of an induction cooktop compared to conventional stove heating coils). Induction welding meets the FM 4470 approval standard and is accepted by most membrane manufacturers.

Induction welding typically requires 25 percent to 50 percent fewer fasteners and plates than typical mechanically fastened installations, as well as fewer seams, resulting in both labor and material savings. As the fasteners are spread across the roof in a grid pattern, the resulting assembly enhances resistance to wind uplift and reduces membrane sheet flutter.

EPS Insulations and Induction Welding

Until now, the induction welding process could not be used with EPS insulations that lacked a cover board, as

EPS insulations can be used in both new construction and roof recovers. Photo: Insulfoam

the 400-degree heated plates caused the insulation to soften and draw back. This resulted in numerous depressions in the roof assembly (at each fastener location), where water could pond.

To enable use of the induction welding process with a broader range of rigid foam insulations, fastener manufacturers have developed a simple solution. For each fastener, crews place a thin disc between the fastener plate and insulation. This separation medium protects the EPS from the high heat of the induction welding process, without interfering with the bond between the membrane and the fastener plate. Manufacturers typically refer to these separators as “induction welding cardboard discs.” While they are paper-based products, calling them “cardboard” understates their performance, as they are densely compressed and have a moisture-resistant coating, so they work well in high-performance roof systems.

Why This Matters

For roofers who prefer using EPS insulations for the products’ thermal performance and ease of installation, the discs allow them also to achieve the benefits of the induction welding process discussed above.

Induction welding cardboard discs enable use of the induction welding attachment process for TPO and PVC membranes over EPS insulation. Photo: Insulfoam

While induction welding has always been possible using EPS insulation products that have standard cover boards, the discs make it possible to induction weld over EPS products with glass facers and fanfold EPS with polymeric facers. Glass-faced EPS products can be used in new applications and recovers while roofers typically use fanfold EPS in roof recovers.

Fanfold EPS bundles, like R-TECH FF and others, are available in standard sizes up to 200 square feet, comprised of 25 panels that are 2 feet by 4 feet each, and come in various thicknesses. A typical two-square bundle weighs less than 11 pounds, so it is easy for one person to carry. EPS fanfold bundles require fewer fasteners per square foot than most roofing insulations and are less expensive than virtually every recover board. The man-hours needed to install fanfold bundles are about 60 percent less than working with individual sheets. Material costs are also lower than wood fiber, perlite, or gypsum board. On large projects, the

Induction welding typically requires fewer fasteners and plates than mechanically fastened applications, resulting in both labor and material savings. Photo: OMG

total savings can add up to tens of thousands of dollars. As with other EPS insulations, the product’s light weight also means less crew fatigue.

As roofers look for ways to create cost-effective, high-quality roof assemblies, new methods provide the opportunity to boost the bottom line by reducing labor and material costs. A simple, affordable disc now enables you to obtain the benefits of both the induction welding method for fastening TPO and PVC membranes and the advantages of EPS insulations.