Winter is Here & StoPanel Can Help

StoPanel installation can save valuable time and money, especially in the winter months.

As inclement weather descends upon construction projects across the country, now is a good time to remember the incredible value of prefabricated, insulated exterior wall systems by Sto.

Because panel manufacturing is done off-site and indoors, there are fewer weather delays.  Because the time to install a panel system is far less than a conventional building envelope, it enables builders to better weather the winter months and make the most of their construction calendar.

Regardless of the weather, prefabricated wall systems can compress a construction schedule, and make for a faster build time.  In addition to saving time, lightweight, continuous insulation StoPanels can also save money.

There are countless testimonials and examples of how StoPanels have saved on construction costs and greatly reduced the time of building envelope installation.


STO Product Featured in Multi-Family Passive House

Passivehaus certification ensures a minimum of 90% in energy savings.

LUCHA, a leading affordable housing developer in Chicago, has just built the first multi-family Passive House in the state of Illinois. The landmark project in the Humboldt Park neighborhood has been certified by PHIUS — the Passivehaus Institute organization in the U.S. – with a projected energy savings of 90% over conventional construction.

The first multi-family Passive House in Chicago. Photo: Gordon Walek

The Passivhaus Institut was established in Germany in 1996, to promote design, construction and insulation practices that make a building envelope more energy efficient and resilient. The goal was to construct walls and windows that are airtight – keeping warm air inside during the winter and cool air contained during the summer.

In addition to an energy efficient building envelope, a “Passivehaus” building also incorporates advanced cooling and heating systems as part of the design. It encourages balanced heat- and moisture-recovery ventilation as well as solar utilization. While advanced technologies, appliances and systems such as climate-controlled zone programming are important for energy conservation, most building professionals agree that the building shell is the most critical component in achieving a zero-energy design.

The Passivehaus organizations in the U.S. and in Germany both work to educate contractors and property developers about the PH standard and train companies on how to measure and certify buildings.

Certification Process

While there are differences between the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification and PHIUS certification, the programs are aligned to encourage high energy-efficient performance in the built environment. Passive House certification also sets air quality and health standards and requires additional testing to ensure the standards are met. According to many industry experts, when it comes to green building and energy conservation, Passive House certification is rigorous, but the resulting construction delivers absolutely superior energy efficiency.

The Passive House project in Chicago was designed by Landon Bone Baker, and the six-unit multi-family residence, is part of LUCHA’s Tierra Linda Project which will include other affordable housing units in the area. To capture energy efficiencies and ensure an effective air and moisture barrier, the contractor and architect for the Passive House complex chose StoTherm® ci with StoColor® Lotusan® for the building’s exterior cladding. Having worked with Sto in the past, they knew the Sto products would ensure they received the coveted PHIUS certification.

The StoTherm® ci system integrates continuous insulation (ci) with air/moisture barriers and drainage, offering a wide range of textured finish options to create an aesthetically pleasing, sustainable wall cladding. This high-performance system not only saves energy but improves indoor comfort and air quality while maintaining maximum curb appeal and lowering overall life-cycle costs.

StoColor® Lotusan® exterior coating was chosen due to its water- and dirt-repelling characteristics, and self-cleaning qualities derived from the organic structure of the lotus leaf.  Sto Lotusan® enhances an exterior’s resistance to mold, mildew and algae with high water vapor permeability, and lowers maintenance costs by extending cleaning and re-coating cycles. Available in any color within the extensive StoColor System, Lotusan is UV-stable with excellent color retention.

With Sto’s advanced building science and materials, LUCHA was able to secure the PHIUS energy-efficiency rating. They also created a multi-family complex with pleasing aesthetics that is impervious to the extreme weather conditions of the region.

It is estimated that there are now more than 60,000 passive-house certified buildings worldwide with nearly 500 in Germany, and more elsewhere in Europe. And while there are only 46 PHIUS certified buildings in the U.S. today, there is a rising level of interest (especially in residential construction) in major metropolitan areas such as Chicago and New York.

LUCHA is to be applauded for the organization’s commitment to Passive House building and the Tierra Linda project – a sustainably-oriented development that brings affordable housing with green technology to low-income residents of Chicago.  In addition to improved heating and cooling efficiency – improving occupant comfort — this commitment will also help decrease energy costs for renters.


The Cavity Wall Conundrum

Complex, modern building designs require balancing the need to keep the building dry, airtight, thermally efficient, and code compliant. Photo © Vladimir Sazonov Shutterstock.com

A new e-book called the “Evolution of Building Enclosures”, published by Construction Specifier, offers a four-part series, including an article on what the magazine calls “the cavity wall conundrum”. Authored by Todd Skopic, a building science manager, the article provides an in-depth, technical look at the use of open-joint rain screens coupled with unconventional wall orientations. While these configurations can be appealing, they also pose a potentially dangerous combination; abating water ingress is an important issue to address, but these systems must be compliant with building codes, including those that test for combustibility.

Balancing the need to keep the building dry, airtight, thermally efficient, and code compliant can create what Skopic calls a cavity wall conundrum. As more architectural firms push the limits of building design, ensuring a safe and efficient building envelope is becoming more complex. The growing practice of combining open-joint rain screens with unconventional wall orientations, such as a backward-sloping configuration, offers a prime example.

In such structures, design teams want to prevent water ingress, but they also need to follow the latest building codes. Staying compliant with certain ones, such as the energy code, complicates matters by introducing certain materials that increase potential safety risks.

Managing water with building enclosures involves the three Ds: deflection, drainage, and drying. Open-joint rain screen systems offer an increasingly popular means to achieve the three Ds and behind every open-joint rain screen, is an air and moisture barrier to defend against water ingress. All of these solutions are subject to and must comply with an abundance of codes and regulations.

The 2012 International Building Code (IBC) requires buildings in Climate Zones 4 to 7 to have a continuous air barrier, which in most cases also takes the form of a water-resistive barrier. The 2012 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), is also driving the use of continuous insulation (ci), which in some cases is combustible. It needs to comply with the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 285 – a standard fire-test method for evaluating the fire propagation characteristics of exterior, non-loadbearing wall assemblies containing combustible components.

In other words, today’s design teams are trying to design building envelopes that are watertight, airtight, thermally efficient to meet code requirements, and to be NFPA 285-compliant. Solving this ‘cavity wall conundrum’ is possible, but it requires some familiarity with the competing design challenges and different industry standards.

This in-depth, technical article discusses rain screen design, and the standards for managing air and water, in context of the codes for continuous insulation (ci), air barriers, and water-resistive barriers, as well as life safety issues related to combustibility. For instance, how do cladding attachments impact a system? What is the the value of a continuous insulation system with adhesive-backed sheet membrane that isn’t penetrated? What are the differences between sprayed polyurethane foam (SPF) and expanded polystyrene (EPS) when used as insulation in cavity wall assemblies, vis a vis thermoplastic extruded polystyrene (XPS) which is a thermoplastic foam rigid insulation board? And how do these compare with mineral wool or fire-enhanced polyisocyanurate (polyiso) mineral wool in performance and code compliance? And what are all the codes?

Solving the Conundrum

Building designers are increasingly aware of the competing requirements and standards involved in modern cavity wall design. They should know continuous air barriers and insulation systems, along with NFPA 285 code and other compliance issues, which must be balanced with the goal of keeping water out of a building. Achieving this balance will help designers create the safest, most effective building envelope possible and thus solve the cavity wall conundrum. And on the building materials front, manufacturers need to test all their products to ensure they meet the extensive industry standards and testing.

The other chapters in the new e-book cover the benefits of specifying complete masonry veneer wall systems, defining and testing construction tape and flashing durability, and moisture in new concrete roof decks.


Sto Introduces New Air Barrier & Waterproofing Product — RapidGuard

Sto has introduced a new, state-of-the art air barrier and waterproofing material.

Now you can stay ahead of fast-paced construction schedules with a new easy-to-use air and moisture barrier product from Sto. Sto RapidGuard™ is a single-component, multi-use air barrier and waterproofing material that seals rough openings, seams, sheathing joints, cracks, penetrations, and transitions in above-grade wall construction.  Introduced this week; it is now available in the US and Canada.

“The material is fast-drying, and its flexible coverage makes it easy to provide high-quality air and moisture control across multiple applications,” said Karine Galla, Product Manager for Sto Corp.  “It gets the job done quickly and enables applicators to finish their work despite potentially adverse weather conditions.”

RapidGuard works seamlessly with Sto waterproof air barrier membranes, including Sto Gold Coat® Sto EmeraldCoat® Sto AirSeal® and StoGuard VaporSeal®

Costly shutdowns due to rain can be avoided because Sto RapidGuard adheres to damp substrates without blistering or increasing drying time. The product can even be installed in near-freezing temperatures.

The innovative new product has excellent elongation, allowing it to bridge cracks and seams in wall construction without tearing or compromising the established air and moisture barrier.  It works seamlessly with Sto waterproofing air barrier membranes, and is compatible with concrete, concrete masonry, brick, gypsum sheathing, wood, galvanized material, and cement-based sheathings. Because it is a single-component product, there is no need for tape, mesh or fabric; it can be easily applied without the use of special tools or applicator training.


AWCI Celebrates 100 Years with Centennial Book

AWCI has published a history of the wall & ceiling industry in a new book celebrating the organization's Centennial anniversary.

In March, the AWCI (Association of the Wall & Ceiling Industry) celebrated its 100th Anniversary in at its annual convention and INTEX Construction Expo in Orlando, Florida. Part of the celebration was to mark the publication of a new book to commemorate the organization’s birth in 1918; the special edition Centennial Book provides an historical overview of the wall and ceiling industry during the past 100 years.

The handsome, large-format book documents a century of industry growth with a decade-by-decade synopsis of the wall and ceiling industry, with many vintage and contemporary photographs that also tell the story.  As illustrated in the new book, wall and ceiling construction has always been a basic service; it survived the ravages of a turbulent century, continues to innovate and remains a robust industry today.

Sto Corp. was the proud sponsor of the 1920’s section of the Centennial Book; a memorable decade that started with the introduction of Prohibition and ended with the stock market crash in 1929, with flappers, Lindbergh’s pioneering trans-Atlantic flight, and the migration of Americans from farms to cities providing memorable milestones. On the wall and ceiling front, Gold Bond gypsum wallboard was introduced, and the labor movement grew in strength. The American Federation of Labor (AFL) had 5 million union members in 1920; higher pay and shorter workdays were contested issues, and skilled tradesmen were in short supply. (Sound familiar?) In 1926, 2,500 Chicago journeymen plasterers went on strike demanding a $2/day wage increase. Overall, each decade in the book provides many insights in the development of the wall and ceiling design and construction business.

As told in this industry memoir, the AWCI has taken a leading role in setting standards since its inception, facilitating union agreements, protecting and promoting the trade. As a forum for unity and direction, the AWCI has helped transform the industry into what it is today and should be applauded for its industry leadership and support for superior building standards over the past 100 years.


High Performance Insulated Wall System a Game Changer for Architects

High performance insulated wall systems like the innovative StoTherm® ci XPS provide the air, weather and thermal tightness required for today’s most energy-efficient architecture, but are also cost-effective and provide designers with a wide range of aesthetic options.

Sto Corp. has joined forces with insulation specialists Owens Corning and Dow to produce one of the most technically advanced exterior wall systems available. The innovative StoTherm® ci XPS wall system is designed to provide the air, weather and thermal tightness required for today’s most energy-efficient architecture, but also makes for exterior walls that look good, and are cost-effective.

One of the first things architects will notice about the product is its design flexibility. The multi-layered system offers a wide range of finishes from the natural look of raw materials to boldly colored finishes, allowing for a variety of looks from traditional textured surfaces to limestone, concrete, metal and many more.

Hidden behind the beautiful outer skin, are important energy efficient properties; StoTherm® ci XPS meets rigorous sustainable design standards, including ASHRAE 90.1-2010, the new International Green Construction Code (IGCC), and the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) requirements for continuous insulation.

This smart architectural product combines high quality, technologically advanced materials, including Dow and Owens Corning insulation with a closed cell structure which helps prevent liquid movement through the material and provides exceptional thermal performance with an R-value of 5.0 per 1”. The final result is a combination of layers that delivers exceptional air and moisture control, that also meets the latest building code requirements for energy efficient continuous insulation and fire testing. The highly durable system also provides significant impact resistance that exceeds IBC and IECC codes.

How can such a high-performance product, also be economical? The high R-value of Sto’s system (R5/inch) makes for a thinner wall, reducing the overall weight and cost-per-square foot for the building envelope. Add this to lifetime savings from superior energy-efficiency, and you have a product that offers both short- and long-term cost benefits to the client.

StoTherm® ci XPS is truly a system designed with the architect in mind –its versatile and seamless combination of energy-efficient qualities and aesthetically pleasing finishes provide a true “end-to-end” solution for architects.