Consider PEX for buried, gray-water uses

The durability and flexibility of PEX piping makes it an excellent choice for buried/in-slab applications.

The durability and flexibility of PEX piping makes it an excellent choice for buried/in-slab applications.

In the past 15 years, PEX (cross-linked polyethylene) piping has become an increasingly popular product in the commercial building sector due to its flexibility; superior resistance to freeze damage, scaling, and corrosion; and stable material costs.
   Though PEX is a great product to replace metallic piping in the typical overhead applications, its real benefit comes with in-slab and below-grade installations where the product’s flexibility and continuous lengths can be utilized.

Below-grade Applications
For below-grade applications, certain PEX products can be directly buried in soil environments free of solvents (check with local code for burial approvals). For installations requiring a watertight piping system, look to a pre-insulated product that offers nominal diameters of 3/4 to 4 in., with a corrugated HDPE outer jacket and inner closed-cell PEX-foam insulation.
   Ideal building types for below-grade installations are single-level, retail-type layouts with large footprints and grouped fixtures. The PEX piping is typically routed from the building’s mechanical room through a trench to the various wet walls throughout the building. Installers can cut considerable amounts of time from projects by eliminating the need for lifts to install overhead hangers and supports.

In-slab Applications
Some PEX piping can also be installed directly in concrete. It’s best to take advantage of the flexibility of PEX piping to arrange the piping scheme so that fittings are out of the slab. However, if fittings must be buried in the slab, they must be approved for concrete burial. Another option is to use PEX products with an HDPE corrugated outer jacket. This jacket protects the piping from being damaged during the construction process.
   In-slab PEX piping is ideal for many applications, ranging from single-level churches and schools to high-rise multifamily buildings where pipe can be placed in the concrete slab, reducing the amount of overhead work required.

Gray-Water Applications
PEX products also are an excellent option for reclaimed water (or gray water) applications. In a gray-water system, water from sinks and showers is diverted to a holding tank where it goes through a filtering process. PEX reclaimed-water pipe distributes the filtered, reclaimed water from the holding tank to laundry, toilets and irrigation systems. For gray-water applications, reclaimed-water pipe is available in 1/2-, 3/4-, and 1-in. nominal sizes. Pipe for use with reclaimed water should be listed to NSF 14 (noted by cNSFus marking on the pipe) and NSF-rw for non-potable applications.
   For more assistance with using PEX for these types of applications, use the Uponor Plumbing Design Assistance Manual (PDAM), which is available at no cost at

Daniel Worm is associate product manager for plumbing at Uponor Inc., Apple Valley, MN. He can be reached at

USDA announces partnership to promote the use of wood

usdaUnited States Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack recently announced a $1 million U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service program to provide training for architects, engineers and builders in the use of advanced wood materials. The Wood Products Council’s WoodWorks initiative will be a partner in this program.

The program is part of the president’s goal of preserving the role of forests in mitigating climate change and meets an objective of the recently-signed 2014 Farm Bill to create rural jobs. In particular, it will create a new Made-in-Rural America export investment initiative, whose goal is helping rural businesses and leaders gain new customers and develop new markets, both at home and abroad.

Using wood from sustainably managed forests helps keep carbon out of the atmosphere because wood products require less fossil fuels to manufacture than other major building materials, resulting in less greenhouse gas emissions, and because wood continues to store carbon absorbed from the atmosphere while the tree was growing. In the case of buildings, this carbon remains stored for the lifetime of the structure—or longer if the wood is reclaimed and re-used or manufactured into other products.

To encourage further advancement, the announcement also includes plans for a prize competition to design and build wood high-rise demonstration projects.

PNNL and PPG to develop dynamically responsive IR window coating

pnnlThe Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and PPG have been awarded up to $750,000 to design a coating that can “switch” from a solar IR-reflecting state to a solar IR-transmitting state while maintaining high levels of daylight transmittance in either condition. PPG will provide an additional $78,000 in cost-sharing.

The development of such a coating would represent a major advance compared to current thermochromic window technology, which involves coatings that darken and block visible light when exposed to high volumes of IR energy, and existing electrochromic window technology, which relies on external power sources such as electricity to balance tinting and light transmittance.

The new PPG/PNNL coating technology also has the potential to be inexpensive, which will help ensure that dynamically responsive IR windows are an economical option for use in residential and commercial retrofit applications.

The two-year project is designed to develop dynamically responsive IR window coatings on a laboratory scale. If development is successful, the product could be scaled up and potentially commercialized within several years. PPG also collaborated recently with PNNL to develop and study waste-heat recovery technologies to save energy in the glass manufacturing process.

Aluminum sustainability white paper is available for free

American Architectural Manufacturers Assn.The Aluminum Material Council (AMC) of the American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA) has released a new white paper on aluminum’s sustainability, strength and efficiency entitled, Aluminum: The Total Solution for Sustainable, Strong and Efficient Commercial Building Design.

“The overall goal of the AMC white paper is to encapsulate the many strategic advantages when incorporating aluminum extrusions into today’s commercial fenestration products,” says Brent Slaton (Keymark), chair of AAMA’s AMC Marketing Committee. “These advantages include energy efficiency, recyclability/sustainability, cost advantages, freedom of design, strength to weight ratio and the plethora of colors and finishes available in the marketplace. Throughout this white paper, it’s easily understandable as to why aluminum extrusions have been used by design professionals for decades.”

According to the AAMA/WDMA 2011/2012 Study of the U.S. Market for Windows, Doors and Skylights, in 2011, aluminum accounted for nearly 40 percent of the nonresidential entry door market and 24 percent of the nonresidential interior door market. Aluminum framed skylights were the dominant (87 percent) configuration on the market in 2011.

Aluminum: The Total Solution for Sustainable, Strong and Efficient Commercial Building Design is available for free download in AAMA’s online Publication Store.

“The Benefits of Glass” highlights benefits of daylight

Guardian SunGuardThe use of glass as a building material positively impacts learning, healing, productivity and well-being, according to a white paper published by Guardian Industries and the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. The findings highlight the significant influence daylighting and outside views have on employees, workers, students, consumers and patients.

“The Benefits of Glass: A Literature Review on the Qualitative Benefit of Glass on Building Occupants” is a compilation of research on the occupational, physical, psychological, economic and social benefits related to daylighting and outside views, as well as other non-energy-related benefits of exterior glass.

“The Benefits of Glass” looks at evidence of improved learning and test scores, reduced hospital stays and increased patient comfort, and reduced absenteeism among the variety of positive impacts of glass on workers, patients, students and consumers. Authors Kathy Velikov, AIA, Assistant Professor of Architecture at the University of Michigan and Julie Janiski, Senior Sustainability Consultant and Project Leader at Buro Happold Consulting Engineers, focused on commonly cited literature to identify consistently proven research outcomes and opportunities for further analysis.

The body of literature encompasses recent research on the following topics: the image of glass used physically and symbolically; the importance of and preference for daylight and views; the attempts to quantify improvements in both human productivity and health as a result of both natural daylight and views. The majority of research investigated – peer-reviewed articles, industry-specific books, government-sponsored resource websites and a number of earlier literature reviews completed on similar topics – dates from 1999 onward and identifies both the state of current knowledge in this area, as well as gaps and opportunities for further work.

Guardian has made this literature review available on Guardian SunGuard advanced architectural glass products includes low-E coatings, advanced glazings and tints for commercial applications that offer a range of visible light transmissions for improved daylighting, excellent solar control and a wide variety of colors and performance levels. SunGuard products provide innovative, leading solutions for appearance, economics and energy efficiency, and are available through an international network of Guardian certified Select Fabricators. For more information, visit

Demand for weather-resistant barriers to reach nearly $5B 2016

principiaDemand for weather resistant barriers (WRB) is increasing at double-digit annual growth rates and is expected to reach nearly $5 billion by 2016, consulting firm Principia. The growing need for energy efficient buildings is driving this demand, and advances in building science, combined with new and evolving codes, are causing fundamental shifts in the demand for WRBs and construction practices for residential and commercial buildings.

Green certification, newly adopted codes, homeowner desire to reduce energy costs, and initiatives such as “Zero Energy” in commercial construction are driving WRB innovation and new product development. Whole-systems designs of the building envelope are also driving industry innovation in materials, systems and installation as the focus is moving from single components to whole-system designs.

Ken Jacobson, a Principia partner, said, “The WRB industry continues to innovate as evidenced by the wide variety of new product introductions from year to year, including fluid applied air and water barrier systems; fluid applied flashing; tapes and sealers; continuous insulation systems; integrated rain screen ventilation matting combined with house wrap; and house wrap with a 3-D pattern that retains drainage space in any wall installation. New product and system innovations will be a mainstay in this rapidly-evolving industry.”

In preparing the report, Principia conducted interviews with 200 professionals representing building product manufacturers, distributors, dealers, and contractors, builders and architects. The Resistant Barriers 2014 – Residential and Commercial Construction launches in the third quarter of 2013 and will be delivered to subscribers by in the first quarter of 2014.

30 Building Product Manufacturers Pilot New Health Product Declaration

Thirty leading building product manufacturers have begun a two month Pilot Program to test and improve the Health Product Declaration (HPD) Open Standard, a voluntary format for disclosing product content and related health concerns that are typically not reported even when a product, or a building, is certified “green.”

The Health Product Declaration Working Group, a volunteer organization comprised of experts from the community of designers, specifiers and building owner/operators, is administering the program. The working group developed the HPD Open Standard format, which made its debut at Greenbuild 2011.

The companies participating in the Pilot Program manufacture a diverse array of building products, including structural components, finishes, and office systems. Each has agreed to complete an HPD for as many as three products, and to provide the HPD Working Group with feedback. The Working Group will evaluate and synthesize the feedback, and revise the draft HPD into a final version that will be officially ratified and made available to the public later this year.

During the Pilot Program, HPD Working Group members are providing the manufacturers with a reference guide, webinars and technical collaboration with the goal of refining the HPD Open Standard to provide information to customers that is reliable and actionable, through a process that is reasonable and fair to all manufacturers. The companies will also receive support from the Pharos Project, a project of the Healthy Building Network, which will provide automated access to its extensive chemical and materials library through its web-based Pharos System.

For more information on the HPD, the HPD Working Group and the Pilot Program, visit

NY Times: Commercial Builders Looking at Prefab

NY TimesA recent New York times article, “Squeezing Costs, Builders Take New Look at Prefab” reports that while currently only 1% of commercial building is prefab, many builders are now giving it a closer look. One of the reasons for this is an emphasis on materials conservation and reuse. Another is that developers are looking to squeeze costs any way they can.

The article also says,

A developer can expect to shave up to 20 percent off construction costs with modular building largely because labor costs are lower. A unionized New York City carpenter makes about $85 an hour, including benefits, when he works at a construction site. At Capsys in Brooklyn, the only modular factory in the city, a comparable worker makes less than $30 an hour plus benefits. Many modular factories are not unionized and pay even less.

Copper Industry Launches New DIY Videos

Copper Development Assn.The “Do It Proper with Copper” video series is back with its second installment of DIY architectural and plumbing how-to videos. These short, instructional videos illustrate exactly how to use this versatile metal in plumbing, architecture and building and construction projects.

The new series covers building techniques such as: vertical lap seams, flat seams and standing seams for architectural copper systems and; bending & flaring, structural adhesives and a continuation of brazing techniques used in plumbing applications.

Each video explains which tools are needed for the application, while giving a step-by-step tutorial that is easy to understand for anyone from the average do-it-yourselfer to the seasoned professional. The videos break down the different copper methods, and make sure no small details are overlooked. For example, the standing seam video not only discusses how the seam is constructed, but also how cleats should be used to attach the sheet copper to the substrate of the roof or wall.

The Do it Proper with Copper video series is available for free download on the Copper Development Association website, and are also featured on the CDA’s YouTube channel. The CDA is the information, education, market and technical development arm of the copper, brass and bronze industries in the USA.

Collaboration Makes FDNY Firehouse Safer and Healthier

FDNY Engine 53, Ladder 43Firefighters at New York City’s Engine 53 and Ladder 43 firehouse are in better shape thanks to a charitable collaboration between Regupol America LLC, the inventor of high-performance recycled rubber surfacing materials, and installer, Abacus Sports Installations, Ltd.

F.D.N.Y. Engine 53 and Ladder 43, also known as “El Barrio’s Bravest”, houses two of the busiest companies in New York in an area known as Spanish Harlem. They are the first FDNY companies to adopt the CrossFit exercise program. In 2009, the firehouse began a search for a sports and fitness flooring company willing to replace their out-of-date gym flooring with a sustainable, health-conscious flooring option to support the program.

Regupol America and Abacus Sports Installations stepped up and donated 700 square feet, 175 tiles, of Regupol Gray Hound AktivLok and the installation. Regupol America produces the sports and fitness flooring for many CrossFit programs nationwide and is providing 12,000 square feet of its product Aktiv™ for the 2010 CrossFit games.