November 17, 2015
by Brad Johnson
Is there a connection between building design and human health?
We know the answer must be yes, but figuring out how the connection works is the job of experts like the team behind the WELL Building Standard®, a new certification that takes on the question. Among the solutions that can help make a building better? Metal roofing and siding, according to many healthy building experts.
First, let’s learn about WELL. According to the International WELL Building Institute, the WELL Building Standard “takes a holistic approach to health in the built environment addressing behavior, operations and design.” Their performance-based system measures and monitors such building features as air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mind. Two ratings have been offered: WELL Certified™ spaces and WELL Core and Shell Compliant™ developments. Done properly, these “improve the nutrition, fitness, mood, sleep patterns, and performance of occupants.”
Pilot programs are currently available for retail, multifamily residential, educational, restaurants and commercial kitchens projects. In many of these projects, the use of metal claddings and insulated metal panels (IMPs) is recommended by many health-focused professionals. Why?
IMPs tend to have excellent R-values and very good thermal efficiency – including long-term thermal resistance, or LTTR, a key measure of how the building will perform over time. For the wellness factor from pure thermal comfort, IMPs are highly effective over conventional construction.
IMPs are often made with recycled metals and improve the energy performance of the building. With energy cost savings ranging from 5 percent to 30 percent, they cut the carbon footprint of the facility. Plus the interior and exterior skins include up to 35 percent recycled content – and they are 100 percent recyclable – reducing impact on the global carbon load.
Using metal roofs with skylights or light-transmitting panels in conjunction with integrated dimming lighting is a highly cost-effective strategy, and IMP systems also have integrated window systems that increase available sunlight within building interiors. Light is essential for healthy buildings, and daylight is the best kind of all.
In addition, because rigid insulation per inch offers more R-value than per inch of fiberglass insulation and IMPs have metal liner skins, day-lighting fixtures such as light tubes can be integrated more easily with these roofs.
Issues such as leaky walls and wet, moldy construction materials are anathema to wellness, and must be controlled for healthy building certifications. Mold has a negative impact on indoor air quality and indoor environmental quality, and one of the main culprits is trapped moisture. This can also corrode the metal studs and furring members, even if they are galvanized, leading to structural issues such as reduced fastener pullout resistance and leaks.
IMPs used as either rainscreens or as sealed barrier walls backing up a rainscreen are shown to protect against moisture issues and mold over time. They also serve as a continuous layer of insulation and air barrier. In this way, the single-component system can eliminate the need “for air barriers, gypsum sheathing, fiberglass insulation, vapor barriers, and other elements of a traditional multicomponent wall system,” says one industry executive. In fact, many masonry buildings are being upgraded with IMP retrofits on the exterior, directly over the old concrete, brick or stone.
All of these traits of IMPs certainly contribute to more healthy buildings, but do they add up to WELL Building certification levels, such as Silver, Gold or Platinum?
To get there, building teams must undergo an on-site WELL Commissioning process with rigorous post-occupancy performance testing of all the features. If it meets the “preconditions” — the WELL features necessary for baseline certification — WELL Certification is given. If the team pursues “optimization features,” the higher levels of achievement are granted.