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.

PIMA Names New Technical Director

The Polyisocyanurate Insulation Manufacturers Association (PIMA) announced Dr. Marcin Pazera as its new Technical Director. In his new role, Pazera will coordinate all technical-related activities within PIMA, serve as a primary technical liaison to organizations involved in the development of building standards, and represent the Polyiso industry at industry-related meetings. With an engineering background and 16 years of experience in the building, construction and insulation industries, Pazera brings valuable technical proficiency to this role, according to the association.

“PIMA has rightfully earned respect for the depth of its knowledge about the impact of insulation on building performance and the strength of its advocacy on behalf of its members. I’m enthusiastic about the opportunity to contribute my training and experience to this effort to demonstrate the impact of high performing buildings and the vital role of insulation in their success,” said Pazera. “As a keen supporter of the remarkable improvements in insulation technology and materials, PIMA has a powerful voice in the ongoing national dialogue on energy efficiency and building resiliency.”

Pazera holds a doctoral degree in mechanical engineering from Syracuse University and, over the course of his career, has worked with insulation products and demonstrated experience in evaluating their energy and moisture performance. His work encompasses the full arc of the insulation process—research, testing, product conception and production, design and implementation for specific client needs, and product support after installation.

“The breadth of Marcin’s expertise gives him valuable insight into all aspects of our association’s work. His deep understanding is not confined to the theoretical, but rooted in real-world tactile familiarity with the products and processes at the core of our industry,” said Justin Koscher, President of PIMA. “Marcin has become a respected thought leader in the field of building science and PIMA will benefit from his contributions to enhancing the technical understanding of Polyiso insulation among our members and key stakeholders in the industry.”

For more information, visit www.polyiso.org.

PIMA Issues Technical Bulletin on High-Density Polyiso Cover Boards

The Polyisocyanurate Insulation Manufacturers Association (PIMA) announced the release of a new technical bulletin detailing the advantages of high-density polyiso cover boards. High-density polyiso cover boards are an important component in roof systems, providing a substrate for roofing membranes and protection for underlying insulation.

“PIMA’s new technical bulletin illustrates that high-density polyiso cover boards perform well with less structural loading and improved long-term maintenance when compared to other options,” said Justin Koscher, President of PIMA. “We see broad acceptance of these high-density boards in both new construction and the retrofitting of existing roofs.”

According to the technical bulletin, high-density polyiso cover boards, when compared to other options offer project teams many advantages:

  • Can be shipped with approximately three times more square feet per truck load.
  • Are significantly lighter than alternatives of the same thickness.
  • Require less crane time and are easier to maneuver around the roof which can decrease the
    hoisting, loading and staging costs.
  • Are virtually dust-free during the cutting process, eliminating itchy residue.
  • Can be cut without specialized tools.
  • Can be lifted by a single worker.
  • High-density polyiso cover boards also provide high R-value, superior water and mold resistance while boasting impressive long-term durability and service life, according to the association. Their compressive, flexural and tensile strength provide impact resistance from foot traffic, hail and other extreme weather. These boards also contribute toward meeting or exceeding the newest continuous insulation standards and can qualify buildings that use them for preferred insurance ratings.

    “In terms of both installation and effectiveness over time, high-density polyiso cover boards provide savings and deliver superior results from installation through the life of the roof,” added Koscher.

    The new technical bulletin with full details can be found along with other information about polyiso products on PIMA’s website.

    Koscher Is Polyisocyanurate Insulation Manufacturers Association’s New President

    The Arlington, Va.-based Polyisocyanurate Insulation Manufacturers Association (PIMA) has announced Justin Koscher has assumed presidency of the association as of Jan. 1. Koscher succeeds Jared Blum who served as PIMA president from 1990 to 2016.

    “With an accomplished record of leadership in insulation and energy-efficient construction coalitions, Justin brings broad experience in the roofing and polyurethanes industries, as well as strong advocacy and association management experience,” says Helene Pierce, chairman of PIMA’s board of directors. “He is widely respected within our industry and will be a tireless advocate for polyisocyanurate insulation and sustainable building practices in the years to come.”

    Koscher previously was director of Polyurethanes Markets at the Washington, D.C.-based American Chemistry Council’s Center for Polyurethanes Industry (CPI) and held a leadership role on the Sustainability Committee, which represents the U.S. polyurethanes industry on building codes and standards, blowing agents, fire safety and environmental issues. He also directed CPI’s Spray Foam Coalition, an organization of spray polyurethane foam systems houses, raw material suppliers and equipment manufacturers.

    “Sustainable building insulation is the key to driving energy efficiency in the modern era,” Koscher says. “PIMA has been at the forefront of advancing this value proposition for decades and I look forward to continuing to position polyiso’s significant role in reducing the built infrastructure’s impact on the environment and enhancing the performance of the buildings we live and work in each day.”

    Prior to joining CPI in 2014, Koscher served as vice president of Public Policy at the Center for Environmental Innovation in Roofing, Washington. There, he worked with trade association members to develop policy priorities from local through federal levels, including building codes, product standards and renewable-energy legislation.

    To learn more, visit Polyiso.org.

    The Roofing Industry Seeks to Protect Buildings from Storms

    I used to love storms. I was never one to cower at the sound of thunder. I often found storms a good excuse to turn off the TV and lights, open the blinds and marvel at the sheer power of nature. If you read my January/February “Raise the Roof”, however, you know I have had a love-hate relationship with rain since moving in with my husband (we married in August 2015). I found myself awake on rainy nights, counting the seconds between pumps of our sump
    pump. If less than 20 seconds passed, I knew the basement was flooding and dreaded the morning’s cleanup. (I work from home and my office is in the basement.)

    In March, a waterproofing company spent two days installing its patented drain- age system and a new sump pump inside our basement. We monitored the system throughout the month of April, which was rainy, to ensure there were no leaks in the system. It worked like a charm! During April, we also hired contractors to create my new home office, a guestroom and walk-in closet within the basement. So far, we have new windows, lighting and insulation; the contractors are finishing up drywall and ceiling installation as I type.

    I know what it’s like when you can’t trust your house to weather a storm. There’s nothing worse than feeling powerless, and seeing your belongings destroyed is gut-wrenching. As the nation braces against another summer of intense weather, it’s comforting to know the construction industry—specifically roofing—is researching and innovating to protect people’s homes and businesses from Mother Nature’s wrath.

    For example, in “Business Sense”, Jared O. Blum, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Polyisocyanurate Insulation Manufacturers Association, writes about initiatives to improve the resiliency of our building stock and infrastructure through codes, standards and proactive design.

    The Clinton, Ohio-based Roofing Industry Committee on Weather Issues Inc., better known as RICOWI, recently sent 30 researchers to the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex after an April hailstorm. According to Joan Cook, RICOWI’s executive director, the 10 teams of three inspected 3 million square feet of low and steep-slope roofing during the investigation. The teams’ findings will result in a report to help the industry better understand what causes roofs to perform or fail in severe hail events, leading to overall improvements in roof system durability. Learn how RICOWI mobilizes and studies roofs in “Special Report”.

    There are many other stories within this issue about roof systems working along- side other building components to create durable, sustainable and energy-efficient buildings. Humans have a long history of innovating and evolving to meet the needs of their current situation. I have no doubt that in my lifetime our buildings will be built to withstand nearly any catastrophic event. Meanwhile, I’m happy to report we received 4 1/2 inches of rain in three hours last week and our basement remained bone dry. Thanks to innovations in basement waterproofing, I may start to enjoy storms just a bit again!

    PIMA, IMT and CEIR Release I-Codes Design Guide

    The Polyisocyanurate Insulation Manufacturers Association (PIMA), the Institute for Market Transformation (IMT), and the Center for Environmental Innovation in Roofing have released the Roof and Wall Thermal Design Guide: Applying the Prescriptive Insulation Standards of the 2015 I-Codes.

    The non-proprietary I-Codes Design Guide provides information regarding the prescriptive thermal value tables in the 2015 International Energy Conservation Code and the references to these tables in the 2015 International Green Construction Code. The guide translates this information into simple and straightforward roof and wall R-value tables covering the most common forms of commercial opaque roof and wall construction.

    “Since 1994, the International Codes have served as models for all state and local building codes in the U.S.,” says Jared Blum, president PIMA. “Codes are key for ensuring we meet today’s rigorous standards. In a guide such as this one, it is easier to interpret and implement the codes as they apply to roof and wall insulation.”

    The 2015 edition of the International Codes (I-Codes) includes several advances to increase energy efficiency in commercial buildings. First, the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) includes new and higher standards for several components in the building envelope, most notably for roofs with insulation above deck. In addition, these enhanced standards are further increased in the International Green Construction Code (IGCC), which is intended to serve as an overall or “above the code” standard for sustainable buildings.

    “The building thermal envelope—which may go unchanged for decades—is one of the most critical aspects of achieving long-term energy efficiency in commercial buildings,” says Cliff Majersik, executive director, IMT. “In a time where local building departments have increasingly strained resources, the Roof and Wall Thermal Design Guide is a simple resource that code officials can use to explain the commercial roof and wall requirements of the 2015 IECC. State adoption of the 2015 IECC is increasing quickly, making this guide an essential resource for educating local code officials and industry.”

    The guide is intended to provide specific information regarding commercial wall and roof energy requirements of the 2015 I-Codes. In order to make this guide effective, individuals should identify the type of roof for wall assembly they current have, identify their current climate zone, and check the building’s occupancy.

    PIMA Names Chairman of the Organization

    During its annual meeting, the Polyisocyanurate Insulation Manufacturers Association (PIMA) announced that Helene Pierce, vice president of Technical Services, Codes and Industry Relations at GAF, assumed the chairmanship of the organization on Jan. 1, 2016. She succeeds Jim Whitton of Hunter Panels, who has served as the PIMA chairman for the last two years.

    “Helene has extensive and deep technical understanding of the polyiso insulation industry and has served the association on numerous task groups and initiatives—she is the perfect choice to lead PIMA,” says Jared Blum, PIMA president. “We look forward to her leadership as the building, architecture and specifying communities continues to embrace and reiterate the value of building thermal performance.”

    Pierce has spent more than 34 years in the roofing industry and has been very active in many of the industry’s organizations. She received the ASTM Award of Merit and title of Fellow from ASTM Committee D08, the James Q. McCawley award from the Midwest Roofing Contractors Association and the title of Fellow of the Institute from the Roof Consultants Institute.

    Among the many groups in which she has been active include ARMA; ASTM International; CSI; the RCI Foundation; CEIR; SPRI; RCMA; PIMA; and the CRRC. Pierce has also authored and presented numerous papers for the roofing industry and is a frequent contributor to industry publications.

    “PIMA represents North America’s insulation of choice and its diverse membership provides a truly collaborative environment for all of our members,” says Pierce. “Given the importance of energy efficiency in the building envelope, the demand for continuous high-performance insulation for the roof and walls continues to grow. As the voice for polyiso insulation used in the building envelope and through its many initiatives in education, building codes and standards, technical resources, and QualityMark, PIMA’s support of the polyiso industry will certainly continue to grow.”

    Attended by more than 100 members—polyiso manufacturers and suppliers to the industry—PIMA’s two-day annual meeting featured an educational session, which presented perspectives on energy infrastructure issues impacting the industry. During the annual meeting, members heard from:

    • Lisa Jacobson, president, Business Counsel for Sustainable Energy
    • Brad Markell, executive director, AFL-CIO Industrial Union Council
    • Amy L. Duvall, senior director, Federal Affairs, American Chemistry Council
    • Sarah Brozena, senior director Regulatory and Technical Affairs, American Chemistry Council

    “Energy efficiency remains a critical issue as illustrated during the recent COP21 meeting, where there was a palpable shift in the attitude of the business community towards energy-efficiency practices and policies,” adds Blum. “Our industry stands ready to support any agreement stemming from the COP21 meeting and our role as a trade association is to ensure our members have access to the resources they need.”

    SOPREMA Joins the Polyisocyanurate Insulation Manufacturers Association

    The Polyisocyanurate Insulation Manufacturers Association announced that SOPREMA has joined the group as a manufacturing member.

    “The addition of SOPREMA to the polyiso industry and the PIMA family reflects the continuing growth of polyiso as North America’s insulation product of choice,” says Jared Blum, president PIMA. “SOPREMA’s construction industry leadership role is well acknowledged, and the PIMA Board of Directors looks forward to the active involvement of the company.”

    SOPREMA joins PIMA’s six manufacturing members: Atlas Roofing, Firestone Building Products, GAF, Hunter Panels, Johns Manville and Rmax.

    SOPREMA is an international manufacturer specializing in the development and production of innovative products for waterproofing, insulation, soundproofing and vegetated solutions for the roofing, building envelope and civil engineering sectors. Founded in 1908 in Strasbourg, France, SOPREMA now operates in more than 90 countries.

    With its first polyisocyanurate insulation plant in North America, SOPREMA will expand its presence in the construction market by offering complete roofing solutions to its clients, while managing all production phases.

    “SOPREMA is proud to join PIMA and contribute to the energy performance of buildings and the reduction of greenhouse gases as a manufacturer of high-performance insulation boards,” says Richard Voyer, executive vice president and CEO of SOPREMA North America.

    PIMA Report: Effect of Roof Traffic and Moisture on Roof Insulations

    The Polyisocyanurate Insulation Manufacturers Association (PIMA) released a research report suggesting that low-slope roofs using popular single-ply roof coverings may not be suitable for the use of mineral fiber (also known as mineral wool or rock wool) board insulation when subject to roof traffic and/or moisture accumulation.

    The PIMA report titled “The Effect of Roof Traffic and Moisture on Roof Insulations,” was developed as a follow-up to previous research studies from Europe that evaluated the performance of mineral fiber subjected to a combination of simulated roof traffic and increased roof moisture content. The study suggests that moisture vapor may significantly reduce the compressive strength of mineral fiber insulation leading to a significant increase in overall roofing failures.

    The research report concludes that:

    • After exposure to 95 percent humidity for 48 hours, single-ply roofing assemblies installed over two different types of rigid mineral fiber board insulation lost over 85 percent of their initial compressive strength when tested for only five cycles of a walkability test, recently developed in Europe to evaluate the effects of roof traffic on roofing systems.
    • Based on this observed loss of compressive strength, all of the roofing assemblies tested were rated as “Not Suitable” for roof traffic using a classification protocol developed in conjunction with the walkability test.
    • The reduction in walkability observed in this testing was slightly mitigated by increasing the thickness of the single-ply roof covering, but the benefit appeared to be minimal.

    “It is well-known that moisture may collect inside roofing systems either from internal condensation or from external leaks,” says Jared Blum, president of PIMA. “As a consequence, the presence of water vapor inside roofing assemblies may be relatively commonplace. The data from this study, combined with prior work done in Europe, suggest that moisture vapor may significantly reduce the compressive strength of mineral fiber insulation. As a consequence, great care should be taken when using mineral fiber insulation if any significant level of roof traffic and/or internal moisture is anticipated.”

    A copy of the research report, “The Effect of Roof Traffic and Moisture on Roof Insulations” is available for download at PIMA’s website and is also available from PIMA members.

    Learning and Trying New Things

    The start of a new school year is always an exciting time. As I see my friends post photos on Facebook of their kids’ first days of school, I am reminded of the excitement I felt way back when. I loved wearing a new outfit, seeing friends I hadn’t seen in awhile and anticipating all the fun—and learning—in the year ahead. In a way, I get to recreate those feelings each time I put together a new issue of Roofing. I’m continually learning about the industry and this issue is no different.

    For example, in “From the Hutchinson Files”, Thomas W. Hutchinson, AIA, FRCI, RRC, CSI, RRP, principal of Hutchinson Design Group, Barrington, Ill., and a Roofing editorial advisor, explains the virtues of cover boards. As he points out in his article, the use of cover boards can now be considered a good roofing practice.

    Meanwhile, Jared O. Blum, president of the Polyisocyanurate Insulation Manufacturers Association, Bethesda, Md., explains a new white paper about polyisocyanurate insulation R-values in “Cool Roofing”. He states the R-value of polyiso roof insulation is reduced at some point at lower temperatures, but within any reasonable temperature range associated with typical building operating conditions in almost any climate in North America the difference appears to be very small.

    In addition, we here at Roofing like to learn and try new things. As a result, this issue is interactive! Please download the free Layar Augmented Reality app, which was designed to bring print to life. Then hover over page 45 in the print edition with your smartphone or tablet to view a video about Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University’s Indoor Practice Facility in Blacksburg, Va., which features almost 1,000 squares of 238-foot-long, curved, standing-seam metal panels. We’re really excited about this new capability and would love to know what you think.