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Sustainability is at the very core of Tremco’s existence. The vast offering of products and systems formulated and tested to ensure superior performance and compatibility are just the start. Understanding that the quality of the entire building envelope will determine how well a building functions as well as its lifespan, Tremco has committed significant resources to develop superior technology and integrated systems that provide true solutions to the most troublesome gaps in building protection. Because Tremco is uniquely positioned with capabilities on wall systems, on glazing systems for windows, on waterproofing systems and so much more, developing bridges or connectors between these typically adjacent but unconnected building elements is not only a logical, but necessary outcome.
Added to this unique breadth is a “cradle to grave” approach to the construction process to ensure sustainable building design. This starts with assistance in product selection and design of high performance integrated solutions and continues through to assistance on-site with the contracting community to ensure proper installation.
No individual components used in the building’s design can provide absolute protection, reduce energy consumption or ensure longevity. Just using green building materials won’t ensure sustainability. The concept of sustainability extends far beyond the characteristics of individual materials. Sustainability actually depends on three distinct factors:
The sustainability of the structure itself has a tremendous impact on operating efficiency of the building (which translates into a reduction in overall operating expenses), depletion of earth’s natural resources and enhanced occupant comfort. Air leakage means the mechanical systems work harder. A proper building envelope can translate into the ability to use a heating system 20-30% smaller and creates less wear on the HVAC system due to less usage.
Today, energy performance and the carbon footprint of buildings is becoming more and more important as realization is growing of the importance of reducing our dependence on diminishing energy resources. Even before the current growing recognition of the necessity to conserve energy, studies showed that 40% of energy consumption in buildings was caused by air leakage. Canada has required air barriers to control air and moisture infiltration for decades and in 2001 Massachusetts became the first state to require air barriers by code. Several states now require them on commercial buildings and the U.S. Government requires them on federally owned properties.
“The key to preventing air and moisture infiltration which can lead to decreases in energy efficiency, structural damage and other mold problems is providing continuity throughout the building envelope and not just within the air barrier assembly itself,” states Chuck Houk, president of Tremco Commercial Sealants & Waterproofing. “A multitude of wall and window systems have been developed by manufacturers that meet or exceed performance requirements, yet building envelope repair and replacement cost in North America remains a multi-billion dollar expenditure. Providing comprehensive air barrier systems is not enough. The transition from the air barrier or wall assembly to the window system is critical and a sealant is not always the sole answer.”
Extensive development time was invested in the design of a transition assembly which could eliminate the potential for air and moisture leakage at the window-wall interface despite such things as irregular window geometries or dynamic movement. “Even a small gap at this critical transition can compromise the integrity of the wall,” added Houk. “If the goal is to build sustainable structures then we need to push the envelope in a very literal sense. Just meeting VOC requirements and testing component systems is not enough.”
The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) had developed ASTM E 2357 Standard Test Method for Determining Air Leakage of Air Barrier Assemblies to ensure that a particular air barrier assembly would effectively prevent air leakage. To ensure ultimate protection throughout the complete wall assembly, Tremco took the test a step further to include this patented transition assembly so that test results would include the air leakage that results from all the components being joined together as well as the amount of air that passes through the materials. This ensures the design team has the critical data needed so trial and error can be eliminated and ultimately risk to the sustainability of the structure.
The Department of Energy introduced the Energy Smart Hospital program to reduce energy consumption. Not only is energy savings important, but the fragile immune systems of patients. Uncontrolled infiltration of air and moisture can lead to the formation of condensation in wall cavities which can result in the development of mold and other negative impacts on air quality which can compromise patient outcomes.
Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin in Milwaukee added an expansion tower to include two expanded pediatric intensive care units and a larger, more comprehensive heart center. The expansion was complex with a lot of varied geometries, open columns and a multitude of dissimilar materials. Air and moisture infiltration was not an option.
The architectural firm Shepley Bulfinch Richardson & Abbott and construction manager, The Boldt Company, incorporated the transition assembly developed by Tremco to ensure a durable solution that would “last the life of the building” and it helps achieve the Energy Smart Hospital goal of reduced energy consumption, according to Brian Stroik, senior quality process manager for Boldt. Having a pre-engineered system also made it easier to specify, ensured quality of installation and as Stroik put it, “There’s no room for error – we have to do it right the first time. It’s all about accountability.”
Beyond air barriers and transition assemblies, over three-fourths of the products and systems available from Tremco meet the strictest VOC laws required by the California Air Districts.
Polyurethane coatings have been the industry staple for decades in waterproofing, providing protection to vehicular and pedestrian deck systems. A “Green Coatings” category for environmentally preferable coating technologies being proposed by the South Coast Air Quality Management District will set the VOC level at 50g/L or half of what it is currently.
Tremco is pushing the envelope in this category as well. In addition to the development of a deck coating, Vulkem 950, with a VOC content of 16g/L which was once thought impossible, the petroleum base has been reduced by 45% by utilizing a renewable feedstock-based polyol. The utilization of these polyols has also resulted in a harder curing product with twice the product life, reducing the need for replacement material. During abrasion testing, a new category had to be created for this coating once it surpassed 100,000 cycles.
Enhancing the sustainability of construction doesn’t always mean new technology. There are other Tremco products or systems which reduce the impact of construction and the long-term existence of the building on the local ecosystem. One of the most obvious is highly reflective white coatings complying with EnergyStar® and ASHRAE 90.1 guidelines for use on parking areas and other exposed concrete or asphaltic surfaces to reduce the heat island effect.
Certain below-grade waterproofing membranes are tested and approved for use to prevent infiltration of pollutants such as methane, petroleum distillates/solvents and fuels during brownfield redevelopment. Some waterproofing membranes are designed for sealing the below-grade area in lagging applications, thereby requiring a smaller excavation for the building or more property left undisturbed. Potable water is of critical importance in our world today and prefabricated drainage board (with recycled content) for below-grade applications can act as an insulating layer, remove thermally conductive moisture from contact with the below-grade wall and, in certain applications, collect and redirect rain water for other purposes.
Rather than fighting growing regulations domestically and abroad (REACH, SCAQMD, CARB, etc.), Tremco is paying close attention to the direction being taken and acceptance of such measures. “Our goal is not to just respond to regulation, but to instead understand the regulatory direction and use this knowledge to shape our strategy moving forward. In this way, we can anticipate where we need to be so we are ready with appropriate (and superior) products and technologies,” concluded Houk.