What Resources to Use for Building Sustainably

Think back to your first time picking up a hammer on a jobsite. How many times did you need to strike a nail before you drove it home? Better yet, how many nails did you bend or break in the process? There had to have been some point when you looked up and saw how smoothly and quickly others on the job were able to do this most basic of tasks, and you wondered, “Will I ever be as good?”

The answer was, of course, “Yes, with practice.”

The New American Home The New American Home achieved Emerald status – which is the highest levels of green building achievement recognized by the ICC 700 National Green Building Standard. Find out more by reading the case study.

It’s rare when someone takes to a task on their first try like they’ve been doing it for years. This is true of hammering nails; sports; fishing; playing an instrument, and many other things. It’s even true when it comes to sustainable construction.

The concept of sustainability, in the construction world, falls under the “building science” category. A number of other topics, like HVAC systems, enclosure systems (the envelope), and indoor air quality also fall under that category. It’s worth noting that many of those other topics, sometimes alone but typically together, fall under the umbrella of sustainability.

With so many disciplines involved in “sustainability,” one small tweak can affect the entire system. For example, a 30,000-square-foot office building with an energy-efficient wall-and-roof system might be able to specify a mechanical system smaller than what’s typical of a building that size because the more energy-efficient envelope better preserves the conditioned air. And sustainable construction is chock-full of nuances like those.

Because there’s so much to consider, having the answers to all the questions that could come up can be tough. As with anything, it pays to have experience, but even the most experienced contractor sometimes needs help. Thankfully, resources exist that those new to sustainability, and seasoned veterans alike, can turn to for guidance.

How Manufacturers Can Help

Product manufacturers want to ensure that projects using their products succeed and that their products perform as expected. Manufacturers offer training sessions, continuing education, installation and technical manuals, and expert consultants to help ensure that contractors properly use and install their systems. Inexperience can lead to improper product selection and installation, which, in the mind of the client, can have a negative impact on the manufacturer as well as the contractor. And the microscope on how well a building actually performs compared to the initial claims is even greater on sustainable projects.

Rating Systems to Follow

While these organizations primarily serve to help users develop projects that conform to their particular brand of “green,” sites for USGBC’s LEED program, the GBI’s Green Globes program, the Passive House Institute U.S., the International Living Future Institute, and the EPA’s ENERGY STAR® program all offer valuable insight regarding different philosophies behind building sustainably. Additionally, these sources can be helpful in achieving the project’s goals of achieving one or more of these certifications if the client has informed the project team in advance.

Associations to Reference

This broad number of groups is probably best pared down by focusing on the relevant aspect of the project. For example, contractors should consider consulting the Metal Construction Association as a safe bet when dealing with metal—obviously. But you might not be aware that organizations, like the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), provide an entire website for helping contractors interested in sustainable construction. These websites offer a number of tools and resources to help people like you.

The information you need to succeed is out there. Thankfully, unlike decades ago, that information can most likely be found without too much legwork. All it takes is knowing a few key places to start. The rest is up to you.

Metal Roofs and Water Conservation: A Hidden Green Roof Benefit

When the conversation turns to sustainability, there’s a lesser known benefit to metal roofing that helps with the environment – and the building owner’s operations costs.

Water ConservationThere are a number of reasons why metal roofs are sustainable. The most obvious reasons are that they’re long-lasting and durable, recyclable, and they’re  a natural pairing with roof-mounted photovoltaic (PV) systems for alternative energy. A metal roof is like the Swiss Army knife of sustainable architectural products because of its versatile environmental benefits.

Conserve Water with Metal Roofing

Yet, one of the more important environmental benefits that sometimes gets overshadowed by these other qualities is a metal roof’s capacity for water conservation.

Many cities in the U.S. encourage water conservation  in one form or another. Such practices come in handy during extended water scarcity, like the one California has experienced for the past few years (if not longer, depending on one’s definition of “scarcity”).

Reduce Flooding with Metal Roofing

Other places have the opposite problem. Flooding has most recently occurred in the Houston area, but is also a continuous problem in places like New York City, New Jersey and others. These flooding problems stem from unusually large amounts of rainfall, obviously, but also from the built environment’s inability to cope with rainfall because of the impermeable nature of surfaces in cities.

A metal roof can help when coupled with a storage device that captures the water and delays when it’s sent from the site into the city’s stormwater system. That captured water can be reused onsite for non-potable purposes, such as landscaping and toilet flushing.

Benefits to Reusing Rainwater

The benefits to capturing and delaying the release of rainwater don’t just end with helping a city to better manage rainfall for drought or flooding conditions—stormwater retention also helps a building owner’s checkbook.

Reusing rainwater means paying less for water that the local water utility has had to treat and send into the building. Owners can save some cash on their water bills while simultaneously easing some stress on the utility. It’s win-win.

If you’re familiar with the phrase “they get you coming and going,” well, municipalities are similar with water supplies. Sure, they charge for providing a facility with water, but many also charge to remove water in what’s called a stormwater fee. If that fee is calculated by the amount of water leaving the site (quantity), then reducing the amount exiting via the municipal system will again save the owner money.

Helping Clients and the Planet

Metal roofs with water collection systems aren’t going to miraculously solve all flooding and drought concerns, but every little bit helps. Sustainability strives to meet the triple bottom line of people, planet, and profit—and metal roofs have the capacity to meet all facets of the triple bottom line for more than what typically gets talked about. So, once you know the client’s goals and concerns on your next project, be sure to have a conversation of your own to find out how a metal roof can help achieve the client’s vision.

Geo-thermal House Heats and Cools Itself

Designed and owned by Raj and Asit Parikh, the “Zenesis House” is heated and cooled by an intricate geothermal system. It collects rainwater, heats or cools the water using a solar thermal system, and distributes the temperature-controlled water through pipes that run under the drive and walkways, as well as the floors and ceilings.

With this system in place, the Parikh’s enjoy on average $2-3 energy bills per month. The home features solar panels that were installed upon MBCI’s eco-FICIENT® Insulated BattenLok metal roof panels, and the walls are eco-FICIENT 7.2 panels. The insulated metal roof and wall panels feature concealed clips to provide continuous insulation and eliminate thermal bridges.

“The key with Zenesis House is we wanted to not buy a boiler, not buy an air conditioning system, not buy a hot water heater and do everything with the earth and sun,” Asit Parikh said [pix11.com].

Raj Parikh is a Principal of Metropolitan Building Consulting Group, PLLC, in New York City. The Zenesis House was constructed by their sister company, Zenesis Design Build in New Jersey.

Learn more about insulated metal panels and why solar panels and metal roofing are a perfect combination.

Watch the full video.

Myths About Metal Roofing: Heat, Wind and Lightning

Properly detailed and installed metal roofing is one of the most resilient, lasting, efficient and attractive kinds of roofing systems for commercial and institutional buildings. Yet there are plenty of questions about metal roofing, and building teams often find time in project meetings to address the most common, recurring topics and myths.

Facts vs Myths About Metal Roofing

I call these “mythbuster meetings,” because many of the questions are fabrications – concerns arising from less savvy professionals or from competitive “selling points.” Among the most prevalent untruths:

Myth about Wind Uplift

Myth: Wind uplift affects metal roofing more than other roofing types.

Reality: While the noncontinuous nature of metal roof attachments makes them susceptible to wind uplift concerns, most roofing types are prone to similar effects. ASCE/SEI calculations for wind loading and FEMA studies of storm areas have shown that properly applied metal roofing outlasts other roof assemblies during hurricanes and tornados.

Building geometry affects how well the roof survives, regardless of roof type. Engineering determines how many insulation board fasteners are needed, and the optimal and safest distances between clips for standing seam systems at corners and perimeters, where the forces are greatest. The interlocking or “active fastening” helps metal roofing pass severe wind and uplift tests including ASTM E1592, UL 580 and UL 1897, and the Miami/Dade County codes, according to a report from Stanford University.

Myth about Heat

Myth: Metal panels get hotter and have more thermal bridging because metal conducts heat so well.

Reality: Depending upon the surface finish, metal roofing can “provide enhanced energy efficiency with its solar reflectance and infrared emittance properties […] to meet the climate requirements of the building,” according to the Stanford University paper and research highlighted by the Cool Metal Roofing Coalition.

As compared to other roofing types, metal roofing tends to be highly reflective and is available with high emissivity. Insulated metal roofing panels have foam insulation that delivers R-values up to R-8.515 per inch thickness and total roof U-factors that exceed those of many other roofing types, helping projects meet strict energy code rules.

Myth about Lightning

Myth: Metal roofs are more likely to get hit by lighting than any other roof types.

Reality: That is bunk; simply untrue. You can read my detailed blog on the subject, or for serious mythbusters refer to the Metal Construction Association’s Technical Bulletin MCA13a, which gives a full and authoritative overview.

As the MCA summarizes, “Because metal roofing is an electrical conductor and a noncombustible material, the risks associated with its use and behavior during a lightning event make it the most desirable construction available.” That’s right: The best option for lightning risks.

I hope some of the above information provided insight and assurance about building with metal roofs. If you have any additional questions or concerns, submit them here to our technical experts.

3 Energy-Saving Technologies to Consider with Metal Roofs

A roof’s primary function is to keep a building weatherproof. A roof’s secondary function—and approaching nearly equal importance—is to be an energy-efficient element of the building envelope. From an energy efficiency standpoint, we’re accustomed to the inclusion of insulation. Are we as accustomed to the ideas that roof color and air leakage matter for energy efficiency? The building industry is embracing all of these technologies in an effort to save energy.  So how does an installer make it all work?


Photo Courtesy of NAIMA

Insulation requirements for roofs on metal buildings (according to the 2015 IECC) range from R-19+R-11 LS up to R-30+R-11 LS, depending on climate zone. The first layer is draped over the purlins and requires a thermal spacer block with an R-3.5. A second layer is installed at perpendicular and is required to include a liner system (LS), which is a continuous vapor barrier installed below the purlins and is uninterrupted by framing members. The crisscrossed layers help reduce convective air movement within the insulation layer, making the insulation layer more effective. And, good news!—the vapor barrier can also be an air barrier. So, on to air barriers.

Air Barriers

Even small air leaks in buildings can account for a 30 to 40% heat loss during heating season (winter), regardless of the amount of insulation. It can’t be overstated—air barriers are critical to an energy-efficient roof and overall building envelope. The LS, or vapor barrier, can be an air barrier only if the seams of the LS are sealed to prevent air passage. The junction between the air barrier in the roof and walls is critical; it must be joined to be continuous. Often, a separate material (adhered membranes or spray-applied foams) is used as the transition from wall to roof. Or, the roof and wall air barriers might end on opposite sides of a perimeter beam or purlin, connecting the two air barriers. Also, any penetrations through the roof need to be sealed to the air barrier. Being continuous/having continuity is key to constructing a properly functioning air barrier!

Roof Color

We’ve heard a lot about roof color. Where air conditioning is prevalent (e.g., the Southwest), highly reflective roofs make sense, especially if there is minimal insulation. Where heating is prevalent, roof color becomes less effective for energy efficiency for a couple reasons. One, buildings require significant amounts of insulation, and two, there is much less direct heat gain from the sun over the course of a year. Where heating and cooling are both used regularly (e.g., Nashville, Chicago), it’s not a matter of “black or white.” There are many metal roof colors that are moderately reflective, so they balance reflectivity and heat gain as the seasons change.

Contemplate the interaction of insulation, roof color and air barriers on each metal roofing project.

Passive Aggressive: Metal Buildings Suit Passive House Standards

Today’s big push toward Passive House standards — the formerly German building certification that recently gave rise to a U.S. counterpart, Passive House Institute US, with its PHIUS+ certification — is also creating more interest in the highly efficient, highly insulated metal buildings. The projects range from metal-clad houses to IMP commercial facilities to the first Passive House high-rise in the world, Cornell University’s 26-story residence tower, clad in metal panels.

Metal? That’s right. While this surprises few design and construction professionals, consider these facts: (1) IMPs and metal roofs protect their insulation backup better than many kinds of construction methods, ensuring good long-term thermal resistance, or LTTR. (2) Passive House requires airtight construction with minimal air infiltration, which is ideal for the tight, engineered construction and inherent air barrier quality of metal panels. (3) Metal roofs and walls are available with high-efficiency Energy Star windows and skylights that are designed to integrate with the cladding and roofing systems.

Photo courtesy of www.phius.org
Photo courtesy of www.phius.org

These reasons also explain why IMPs have been used extensively for net-zero energy buildings in recent years, which also demand highly energy-efficient enclosures along with the means to produce energy with solar heating, photovoltaics, geothermal and wind turbines.

So when it comes to Passive House and the PHIUS+ certification, often the choice of insulated metal panel (IMP) systems is among the first major project choices. Two immediate benefits arise, says the Metal Construction Association, for solar reflectance (SR) and thermal emittance (TE). “Metal cladding has very dependable and high SR and TE values, and it employs polyurethane foam, one of the most efficient types of insulation, which maximizes building energy efficiency,” says Ken Buchinger, general manager of Technical Services with MBCI.

Coupled with the robust barrier provided by coil metal and the tight construction afforded by pre-engineered, prefabricated panel systems, the resulting enclosure type is among the most efficient available. And that’s not just for new construction: A large number of Passive House projects have retrofitted IMPs over leaky existing buildings of masonry, brick or stucco. In its certification guide for PHIUS+, the Passive House Institute US specifically cites metal roofing and metal cladding systems to meet the rigorous criteria.

For the net-zero approach, Buchinger adds that solar photovoltaic systems and solar water heating systems can be installed on a metal roof, penetration-free, resulting in high performance with minimal risk. “Metal roofing, known to last 60 years or longer, is the only roof type that can outlive a PV system mounted on it, meaning zero maintenance and low in-place cost for the roof and PV system together,” he explains.

Whether the approach is passive or zero, we’re seeing a new generation of super-efficient buildings today. New certification rules were unveiled this year for the Passive House standard have lots of buzz. And the latest projects, many with metal wall and roof panels, have resulted in facilities using as little as 10% of the energy required for comparable projects, according to PHIUS.

That’s why passive design sounds pretty aggressive for going green.

Top four reasons to attend trade shows

Trade Show BoothWith phone calls and emails growingly replacing client visits, I think it’s important not to lose sight of the benefits of face-to-face interactions in the business space. With METALCON, a trade show for metal construction products, technologies and solutions, less than a month away (October 14-16 to be exact), I thought it’d be relevant to discuss the top reasons why trade shows are productive for businesses and, specifically, why you should attend METALCON in Tampa, Florida, this year.

Not to jeopardize our audience, I would like to be forthcoming; as a title sponsor at METALCON we have vested interest in driving traffic to the show. That being said, we would not invest in a title sponsorship if we did not wholly support and value meeting and seeing our colleagues and customers in this forum.

  1. Educational opportunities. Although trade shows are widely known as a space for companies to display and educate audiences on their product line, they also provide additional educational offerings on industry challenges and trends. At METALCON, for instance, they offer an entire lineup of relevant courses taught by industry experts to help strengthen your business and two free Learning Zones that host brief, 15-minute sessions that cover topics on roofing details, field techniques and product applications. To view METALCON’s full course schedule, click here.
  1. Putting a face with a name. Trade shows are a forum for customers and sales representatives to interact directly and learn about one another. According to David Brock of Partners in Excellence, “When you know who the customer–the individual—is, what she looks like, what he’s responsible for, how our products help her do her job, the relationship changes.  It’s not a faceless entity, but an individual trying to do his or her job, trying to achieve their goals, trying to reach their dreams–and they need our products to do this.” This personalization deepens the business relationship and improves future communications.
  1. Network and exchange ideas. Aside from interacting with potential and current suppliers, trade shows welcome engagement between colleagues and business peers beyond the show floor. Receptions, such as METALCON’s 25th Anniversary event, frequently follow exhibiting hours daily and give attendees a more relaxed environment to meet others, exchange ideas and form business contacts. In a room full of individuals with shared interests, who knows what brilliant ideas might be born on the back of a cocktail napkin?
  1. Informed purchasing. 81 percent of trade show attendees have buying authority, according to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research. Trade shows bring the latest in product developments, technology advancements and industry trends to you. Housed in one location, attendees can compare the competition directly and formulate educated purchasing decisions based on their findings. With four out of five attendees seeking products or services, the takeaway could save time and provide clarity when selecting suppliers. Click here to view the full list of 252 exhibitors at METALCON.

If the above peaked your interest and you would like to attend METALCON for FREE as our guest click here to register and be automatically entered to win a prize at the show.

Students from NCSU Design/Build Program Complete Animal Husbandry Facility

NCSU Design Build 2015 Summer Studio's team
NCSU Design Build 2015 Summer Studio’s team.

The North Carolina State University Design/Build program’s 2015 Summer Studio project constructed a 400 square foot animal husbandry facility for the NCSU College of Veterinary Medicine. The new building, called the Wild Carnivore Facility, provides veterinary students with greater efficiency and opportunities to serve university animals, specifically wolves and bobcats. In addition to pens for the wildlife, the facility includes a toolshed and space for day-to-day operations.

NCSU Wild Carnivore Facility
The NCSU Design Build team’s 2015 Summer program built a Wild Carnivore Facility.

A group of 18 undergraduate and graduate students from the Architecture, Landscape Architecture and Veterinary Medicine programs collaborated with BuildSense Architecture of Durham, N.C., to design and build the entire project. This was the first time since the Design/Build program started in 2010 students from the College of Design and the College of Veterinary Medicine worked together.

The new husbandry facility features MBCI’s PBC metal roof panels in Galvalume® Plus. The PBC panels are attached to the structure with exposed fasteners, and the soffit panels and roof beam were made from recycled mill flooring. The students impressively handcrafted the steel brackets and roof beam end caps. They also attentively landscaped the area to provide an abundant water supply and functional design elements including sitting boulders.

To learn more about the project and NCSU’s Design/Build program visit Professor of Wildlife and Aquatic Medicine, Dr. Michael Stoskpf’s blog. To view other projects with metal panels, visit http://www.mbci.com/projects/.

Design to Your Client’s Mindset

Spring Fire Department Station 78

As an architect, when did you last hear your client say, “Money is no object?”  This happens … almost never!  More likely what you hear is “I want high quality for low cost.”  The challenge of the architect is to provide your client with high quality at a reasonable and appropriate price.  A large part of finding that balance is determining the values, goals and long-term perspective of your client.

If a building owner wants a metal roof, it’s likely they already have a reason why.  Perhaps their existing roof didn’t provide the service life they expected it to, or it was damaged disproportionately.  Or the building owner understands that a metal roof can last a really long time.  Or they like the look of a metal panel or metal shingle roof, with all the colors and shapes available.  As an architect, it is important to determine your client’s mindset.  In the end, the question comes down to, “How long will you own this building (or home)?”  And, although less common, a building owner may just want to build a high-end, long-lasting building no matter their desired length of ownership.

The large part of the cost of a metal roof, similar to other roof types, is the labor to remove the existing roof and install the new one.   Upgrading from a 24-gauge metal to 22-gauge metal is a minimal increase in material costs that is easily justifiable for the long term.  Metal thickness, coating type and thickness, and penetration and edge details are the areas where upgrades and enhancements occur.

Argue against value engineering.  Roofs certainly can be out of sight, out of mind to most owners, but building owners who are considering metal roof systems understand the concept of life-cycle analysis, whether they know it or not.  Overtly reinforce their long-term outlook to help ensure that high-end penetration details and edge details are designed and installed.  Look to the industry standards—SMACNA, NRCA—for details that will last the life of the metal panels.  Realize that metal panels don’t leak; joinery and flashings are the potential leak locations.  Upgrade the details to be of the highest quality.

Understanding the mindset of your client is critical to determining the level of design.  This is definitely a cost issue.  The “university” client thinks long term; the “developer” client thinks short term.  However, there is much middle ground that requires inquisitive discussion with an owner to determine his/her goals.  Ask the questions, and design a metal roof based on your client’s mindset.

Demand for Roofing: Something to be Happy About


With the economic troubles of Greece and now China filling our news feeds, it’s nice to come across good news.  And let’s face it—over the last several years, particularly since 2009, there hasn’t been a whole lot of good news for roofers or the construction industry overall.

Recession Effects & A Positive Outlook

Roofing demand fell between 2009 and 2014 as nonresidential building construction spending and residential reroofing activity declined due to the recession, according to an article recently published on Building-Products.com. But this same article says U.S. demand for roofing is projected to rise 3.9 percent annually to 252 million squares in 2019, valued at $21.4 billion, according to a new Freedonia Group study.

Metal Roofing Outlook

In particular, metal roofing will see above-average demand gains through 2019. The article goes on to say metal roofing demand will be helped by its durability and ability to support solar panels used to generate electricity.  Building Products also sites metal roofing systems provide additional insulation as a boost to energy savings.

New building construction activity is expected to account for increased demand for roofing through 2019. New non-residential demand will come in the areas of office and commercial construction. Demand in the institutional and industrial segments will also increase as more schools, hospitals and manufacturing sites are built, correlating to an increased demand for such low slope products as metal roofing.

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