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Construction Trends

New Study Shows Brick Veneer Driest of Exterior Walls Tested … but Exterior Insulation and Finish Systems Were Not Tested

A new study by the NAHB Research Center comparing moisture resistance among typical residential exteriors evaluated brick veneer as the highest in moisture resistance and dryness, but the study, which was funded by the Brick Industry Association along with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Products Laboratory and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, did not include exterior insulation and finish systems.

The EIFS Industry Members Association, Falls Church, Va., commended the research accomplished by the NAHB Research Center but lamented the absence of a proven exterior wall cladding—EIFS.

“The omission of EIFS from the research is disappointing and shows that the research is really incomplete” says David Johnston, executive director of the EIFS Industry Members Association, Falls Church, Va. “EIF systems have been proven to be the best wall cladding in moisture control and energy efficiency in studies conducted by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and not to include it in the research is a disservice not only to the design and construction industry, but to homeowners who want the best performing wall cladding.”

The brick industry’s study aimed to determine how exterior cladding can impact the moisture content of the wooden components in the wall construction. Of the eight wall systems tested, brick veneer wall assemblies performed the best overall in controlling moisture. Each tested wall assembly consisted of interior gypsum board, wood studs with fiberglass insulation between the studs, sheathed with either OSB or plywood and clad with brick veneer, vinyl siding, fiber cement, manufactured stone or stucco and was then subjected to ambient weather conditions over a one-year period. A portion of water-resistant barrier was compromised and the wall assembly behind it subjected to a daily water injection over a five-day period to evaluate its ability to dry after a leak.

Working with EIMA, the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory is concluding the third part of a three-part study on wall performance (moisture control and energy efficiency) that includes EIFS, stucco, brick, vinyl siding and fiber cement board. The results of this study will be released this spring. Earlier phases of this study concluded that EIFS control thermal energy flow and moisture better than brick, stucco and fiber cement siding in certain climate zones. View this entire study at

The BIA’s report at attributes the lower moisture content in the wood components to brick’s inherent thermal mass properties, the 1-inch air space in the brick veneer wall and the increased thermal absorption of the test brick’s red color.

Housing Moving to Higher Ground in 2011

Housing will see gradual improvements in activity this year as the nation’s economy and job market continue to move to higher ground, establishing momentum that will produce more considerable gains in 2012, according to economists who appeared at the NAHB International Builders’ Show in Orlando, Fla., on Jan. 12.

“This year’s spring selling season will be better than last year’s,” said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe, with job growth providing a stronger stimulus in the housing market than last year’s tax credits for home buyers.

Crowe forecasted 575,000 single-family home starts in 2011, a 21 percent climb over an estimated 475,000 units started in 2010, which in turn showed a 7 percent gain from the 442,000 homes started in 2009.

Multifamily, which is poised to profit from a disproportionate number of Gen Y members moving into the housing market, has seen the bottom of the cycle, he said, and will see its starts rise 16 percent this year to 133,000 units, with a further 53 percent increase in 2012 to 203,000 units.

Builders’ access to the credit they need to start new homes remains the fragile component of the NAHB forecast, Crowe said. So far, small builders have experienced extreme difficulty in obtaining financing, and rectifying the situation as soon as possible is the top priority of the association.

More encouraging is a rebound in the confidence of consumers, who mid-2010 “froze in place, faced with a lot of uncertainty,” he said. A recent pickup in durable purchases for such items as automobiles and furniture indicates that consumers are less afraid today of losing jobs and income.

The recession delayed as many as two million household formations over the past few years, he added, as individuals doubled up with family and friends to weather a dismal job market. These households will begin to form as jobs improve, and they “are the next to move into a new home or apartment.” The economy should be adding a “solid” 200,000 jobs monthly in 2012, he said.

The U.S. economy will receive a boost from the massive tax package enacted at the end of last year, he said, including more income going into the pockets of wage earners thanks to a one-year 2 percent reduction in Social Security taxes. This will contribute to the gross domestic product strengthening from the 2.5 percent range to 3.5 percent to 3.8 percent by year’s end.

New-home sales, Crowe projected, “will struggle” but begin following employment gains, reaching 405,000 for the year, up from an estimate of about 320,000 for 2010.

The housing recovery will start up slowly this year, he said, because it will be driven by the relatively low housing production Plains states, with Texas the most powerful of the bunch. Traditional bulwarks of housing activity such as California and Florida, on the other hand, will not be among the states whose housing markets recover the fastest.

In addition to stimulative fiscal and monetary policy, Freddie Mac Chief Economist Frank Nothaft said that housing affordability and demographic trends will help support growing housing demand.

Thirty-year fixed-rate mortgages dipped to 4.25 percent in the final quarter of 2010, he said, the lowest level since the early 1950s. While that has since moved up closer to 5 percent, home financing is still available at “a phenomenal rate,” according to Nothaft.

Citing research from the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, Nothaft also said that households should be growing at an average annual rate of 1.2 million to 1.5 million over the next five to 10 years, suggesting the need for a sharp increase in housing production; half of the 500,000 to 600,000 starts of the past two years were needed just to replace the number of homes being removed from the housing stock.

While there will continue to be supply overhangs in some important large markets, by and large the housing price slump should bottom out by the middle of this year, he said, and price increases are already occurring in some local areas. That should attract prospective buyers who have been procrastinating until they see prices hit bottom.

“Potential buyers who have resources to buy but want to buy at the bottom are likely to start coming into the market in the springtime,” he said, which for fence sitters will be “the time to come into the market.”

Fixed-rate mortgages will move up from their current 4.75 percent to the 5.75 percent range by the end of this year, he forecasted. This will push total single-family mortgage originations down about 30 percent below the 2010 level as refinancings fall sharply in the face of rising mortgage rates.

While a 20 percent increase in housing production in 2011 is good news for housing, to put things in perspective, Nothaft said that this gain is from an extremely low level, with single-family production declining about 80 percent from peak to trough.

Green Building’s Top 10 Trends for 2011

Green building and sustainability consultant Jerry Yudelson says that the green building industry will rebound in 2011 in spite of the continuing economic difficulties in most developed countries, citing 10 major trends.

Speaking about his annual Top 10 list of green building trends, the green building expert and author said, “What we’re seeing is that more people are going green each year, and there is nothing on the horizon that will stop this trend.” Yudelson, who is the principal of Tucson-Ariz.–based green building consulting company Yudelson Associates, continued, “However, in 2010, the slowdown in commercial real estate put a crimp in the start-up rate for new green building projects.”

He added, “In putting together my Top Ten trends for 2011, I’m taking advantage of conversations I’ve had with green building industry leaders in the United States, Canada, Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Australia as I have given green building keynotes and presentations all over the world during the past year.”

Yudelson’s Top Ten Green Building Trends for 2011 include the following:

1. The worldwide green building movement will continue to accelerate, as more countries begin to create their own green building incentives and develop their own Green Building Councils. More than 70 countries, on all continents, will show considerable green building growth in 2010.

2. Green building will rebound in 2011, as measured by the new LEED project registrations as a proxy for this growth. “The reduction in commercial real estate building in many countries,” he said, “was not offset by other sectors such as government, and so the growth rate of new green building projects fell dramatically in 2010.”

3. The focus of the green building industry will continue to switch from new buildings to greening existing buildings. “The fastest growing LEED rating system in 2010 was the LEED for Existing Buildings program, and I expect this trend to continue in 2011,” said Yudelson.

4. Blue will become the new green. Awareness of the coming global crisis in fresh water supply will continue to grow, leading building designers and managers to take further steps to reduce water consumption to increase sustainability. This will be done in buildings through the use of more conservation-oriented fixtures, rainwater recovery systems and innovative new water technologies. 5. Green building in the United States will continue to benefit from the Obama presidency with a continued focus on greening the executive branch. New announcements of a commitment to a minimum of LEED Gold for all new federal projects and major renovations confirm and highlight this macro-trend.

6. Zero-net-energy designs for new buildings become increasingly commonplace, in both residential and commercial sectors, as LEED and ENERGY STAR ratings become too common to confer competitive advantage.

7. Performance disclosure will be the fastest emerging trend, highlighted by new requirements in California and other states. Commercial building owners will have to disclose actual building performance to all new tenants and buyers.

8. Certified Green Schools will grow rapidly as part the LEED System. This trend will accelerate as understanding of the health and educational benefits of green schools grows. Already by mid-year 2010, green schools represented nearly 40 percent of all new LEED projects in the United States.

9. Local and state governments will step up their mandates for green buildings for both themselves and the private sector. We’ll see at least 20 major new cities with commercial sector green building mandates. The desire to reduce carbon emissions by going green will lead more government agencies to require green buildings.

10. Solar power use in buildings will continue to grow. This trend will be enhanced by the increasing focus of municipal utilities as they need to comply with state-level renewable power standards for 2015 and 2020. As before, third-party financing partnerships will continue to grow and provide capital for large rooftop systems such as on warehouses. However, we may very well see a slowing of large solar and wind systems, as federal grant support, in lieu of tax credits, is phased out.

Yudelson added two “bonus picks” to his list: “First, there will be a continually growing use of software and the Internet ‘cloud’ in green building design, construction and operations. Second, the revolution in sustainable building materials is gaining momentum each year, one that gives higher performance at ever lower costs.”

For more information contact Yudelson at (520) 207.9759 or, or visit

Construction Starts Slide 9 Percent in November

At a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $375.9 billion, new construction starts in November fell 9 percent from the previous month, according to McGraw-Hill Construction, a division of The McGraw-Hill Companies. Some modest growth, however, was evident in several market sectors.

Nonresidential building weakened for the second month in a row, while nonbuilding construction (public works and electric utilities) retreated after its elevated pace in October. Meanwhile, residential building in November showed modest growth. For the first 11 months of 2010, total construction on an unadjusted basis was reported at $378.7 billion, down 4 percent from the corresponding period of 2009.

November’s data lowered the Dodge Index to 80 (2000=100), after October’s reading of 88.

Nonresidential building in November dropped 12 percent to $130.1 billion (annual rate), falling back for the second straight month after improved activity was reported in September. Also, for the first 11 months of 2010, nonresidential building was down 12 percent from a year ago.

Residential building in November advanced 3 percent to $122.8 billion (annual rate). Single-family housing grew 4 percent while multifamily housing slipped 4 percent.

During the first 11 months of 2010, residential building came in 7 percent above its dollar amount for the same period a year ago. Single-family housing was up 7 percent year-to-date as the result of this performance by geography: the Northeast, up 11 percent; the South Atlantic, up 10 percent; the Midwest, up 8 percent; the West, up 7 percent; and the South Central, up 2 percent. Multifamily housing was up 8 percent year-to-date, as the result of this performance by geography: the Midwest, up 17 percent; the West, up 15 percent; the South Central, up 13 percent; the South Atlantic, up 8 percent; and the Northeast, down 6 percent.

Proposed New ASTM Standard to Facilitate Design and Installation of Firestop Systems

A proposed new ASTM International standard will facilitate coordination between designers and installers of firestop systems in construction projects.

ASTM WK30772, Guide for Installation of Firestop Systems, is being developed by Subcommittee E06.21 on Serviceability, part of ASTM International Committee E06 on Performance of Buildings.

“The goal is to have an ASTM document that can become a standard to reference during the process of planning and later installing firestopping systems,” says James P. Stahl Jr., vice president of engineering, Specified Technologies Inc., and a member of E06. “ASTM WK30772 will provide background about the properties of the materials, as this is a key consideration on many construction projects.”

In addition to being used by those who design projects where firestopping is required and those who install firestopping systems, the proposed new standard will be a useful reference document for those who supply firestopping products to the construction industry.
Stahl encourages an all-encompassing cross-section of experts to join in the development of ASTM WK30772. For more information on becoming an ASTM member, visit

Gypsum Association Updates Online CEU Programs

The Gypsum Association has updated its three online education courses: “Understanding the GA-600 Fire Resistance Design Manual” (FRDM06); “Understanding the Finishing of Gypsum Panel Products Using GA-216 and GA-214, Recommended Levels of Gypsum Board Finish” (LFGP07), and “Application of Gypsum Panel Products” (GA216E). Each of these courses has been approved by the American Institute of Architects as being eligible for AIA CEU credits upon completion with a score of 80 percent or better. Completion of FRDM06 earns a two-hour Health Safety and Welfare (HSW) credit, and both LFGP07 and GA216E earn a one-hour HSW credit.

Each of these courses has been updated to reflect revisions of documents that they reference and changes in the model codes that have occurred since their initial posting. None of the changes substantially alter the content of the courses as initially posted.

The Gypsum Association’s online courses are available to anyone with Internet access by going to There, first-time visitors will be required to create an account using an e-mail address for a User ID and an eight-digit number for a password. AIA members are advised to use their AIA membership numbers for their passwords, which facilitates automatic reporting of the successful completion of the courses with AIA. The programs are designed to pick up where they are left off so that participants may take the courses at their own pace in several sessions.

People in the News

Wind-lock, Leesport, Pa., announces the following additions and changes to their team: Denise Dean has been hired as a national accounts manager for drywall tools. Matthew Thomas was hired as the national product manager for drywall tools. Ashley Feit was named director of marketing for Wind-lock and Black Lab Apparel. Donny Cavallo has accepted the new position of national Dow sales representative.

Phillips Manufacturing Co., Omaha, Neb., announces the appointment of Henri Jung to chief operating officer. Jung officially joined the team as COO in January 2011.

Armstrong World Industries, Inc., Lancaster, Pa., has named Victor “Vic” Grizzle executive vice president, Armstrong Building Products. The appointment became effective Jan. 17, 2011.

Companies in the News

The Bilco Company, New Haven, Conn., has marked 85 years of service to the building industry. A third-generation family-owned company, Bilco is widely known for designing and manufacturing specialty access products for residential and commercial construction markets.

New on the ‘Net

The North American Insulation Manufacturers Association announces the launch of its new website, The website provides the latest information on fiber glass, rock wool and slag wool insulation products for homes, buildings, and industry and contains a wealth of independent and industry-developed information on the tools, technologies, and applications for these products.

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