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Construction Trends

Study Shows Air Sealing Is Essential for All Insulation Types

Building Science Corporation has released a report detailing the results of a multi-year insulation research project. The most significant finding from the report is that sealed walls of the same R-value perform equally well regardless of the type of insulation used.

The study entailed a baseline set of seven test walls using various insulation types, including fiber glass, cellulose, spray foam and extruded polystyrene.

Among other findings of the report are these:

• When walls are constructed with the same installed R-value in the stud space, and are air sealed both inside and outside (there is effectively zero air leakage through the assembly), they exhibit essentially the same thermal performance regardless of the type of insulation material used.

• All of the reference test wall assemblies were subjected to significant temperature differences. Natural convective looping was not noted in any of the wall assemblies.

• Conventional energy models may over-predict the negative energy impact on walls that have a significant interaction effect (for example, air moving through insulation).

• All wall assemblies experienced a loss in thermal performance due to air movement through the assembly. This is true for all of the assemblies tested, regardless of the type of insulation material used (for example, cellulose, fiber glass, open cell spray foam, closed cell spray foam or extruded polystyrene.)

• Commercially available 2D and 3D heat transfer models provided good predictions of thermal bridging in the assemblies tested, as did the parallel path method described in the ASHRAE Handbook of Fundamentals and other texts.

• Thermal bridging through the framing resulted in a roughly 15 percent decrease in thermal performance regardless of the type of insulation material used in the stud space.

Energy cost and security issues have generated demand for building enclosures that exhibit higher levels of thermal performance. R-value has long been the industry standard for assessing the thermal performance of insulation materials. The findings of this report demonstrate that sealed walls with the same R-value perform equally well regardless of the type of insulation used, whether fiber glass, cellulose, spray foam or extruded polystyrene.
Dodge Momentum Index Reaches Highest Reading since March 2009
The Dodge Momentum Index rose 2.8 percent in November compared to the previous month.

According to McGraw Hill Construction, the Momentum Index is a monthly measure of the first (or initial) report for nonresidential building projects in planning, which have been shown to lead construction spending for nonresidential buildings by a full year. November’s increase brought the Momentum Index to 117.9 (2000=100), as it regained upward movement after pausing in October. The latest month was the highest reading for the Momentum Index since March 2009, although the current level is still well below the peak readings back in 2007 (when the Momentum Index averaged 183). The November upturn in plans for new construction may be a sign that October’s uncertainty over the budget and debt ceiling impasse is now easing—at least until those issues are raised again in January and February.

The November increase in the Momentum Index was driven by gains for both its commercial and institutional components. On the commercial side, the increases were widespread by project type, with the largest boost coming from a sharp gain in retail development. The increase in institutional plans was helped by a significant gain for education-related buildings.

Builder Confidence Rises Four Points in December

Builder confidence in the market for newly built, single-family homes improved four points to a 58 reading on the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index for December, released Dec. 17, 2013. This gain reflected improvement in all three index components: current sales conditions, sales expectations and traffic of prospective buyers.

“This is definitely an encouraging sign as we move into 2014,” said National Association of Home Builders Chairman Rick Judson, a home builder from Charlotte, N.C. “The HMI is up 11 points since December of 2012 and has been above 50 for the past seven months. This indicates that an increasing number of builders have a positive view on where the industry is going.”

“The recent spike in mortgage interest rates has not deterred consumers as rates are still near historically low levels,” said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. “Following a two-month pause in the index, this uptick is due in part to release of the pent-up demand caused by the uncertainty generated by the October government shutdown. We continue to look for a gradual improvement in the housing recovery in the year ahead.”

Derived from a monthly survey that NAHB has been conducting for 25 years, the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index gauges builder perceptions of current single-family home sales and sales expectations for the next six months as “good,” “fair” or “poor.” The survey also asks builders to rate traffic of prospective buyers as “high to very high,” “average” or “low to very low.” Scores for each component are then used to calculate a seasonally adjusted index where any number over 50 indicates that more builders view conditions as good than poor.

All three HMI components posted gains in December. The index gauging current sales conditions jumped six points to 64, while the index gauging expectations for future sales rose two points to 62. The index gauging traffic of prospective buyers gained three points to 44.

Looking at the three-month moving averages for regional HMI scores, the South edged one point higher to 57 while the Northeast, Midwest and West each fell a single point to 38, 59 and 59, respectively.

Housing Markets Continue to Show Gradual Improvement

Markets in 56 out of the approximately 350 metro areas nationwide returned to or exceeded their last normal levels of economic and housing activity, according to the National Association of Home Builders/First American Leading Markets Index, released Jan. 7, 2014. This represents a net gain of two from the previous month. The index’s nationwide score of .86 indicates that, based on current permits, prices and employment data, the nationwide average is running at 86 percent of normal economic and housing activity.

Baton Rouge, La., tops the list of major metros on the LMI, with a score of 1.42—or 42 percent better than its last normal market level. Other major metros at the top of the list include Honolulu, Oklahoma City, Austin and Houston, Texas, as well as Harrisburg, Pa., and Pittsburgh—all of whose LMI scores indicate that their market activity now exceeds previous norms.

Looking at smaller metros, both Odessa and Midland, Texas, boast LMI scores of 2.0 or better, meaning that their markets are now at double their strength prior to the recession. Also at the top of the list of smaller metros are Casper, Wyo.; Bismarck, N.D.; and Grand Forks, N.D., respectively.

The LMI shifts the focus from identifying markets that have recently begun to recover, which was the aim of a previous gauge known as the Improving Markets Index, to identifying those areas that are now approaching and exceeding their previous normal levels of economic and housing activity. More than 350 metro areas are scored by taking their average permit, price and employment levels for the past 12 months and dividing each by their annual average over the last period of normal growth. For single-family permits and home prices, 2000–2003 is used as the last normal period, and for employment, 2007 is the base comparison. The three components are then averaged to provide an overall score for each market; a national score is calculated based on national measures of the three metrics. An index value above one indicates that a market has advanced beyond its previous normal level of economic activity.

Visit for historical information and charts.

November Construction Starts Retreat 11 Percent

The downturn followed heightened activity in October, which showed the strongest pace for construction starts so far during 2013. However, overall construction starts are trending upward.

New construction starts in November were valued at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $524.8 billion, according to McGraw Hill Construction.

Both nonresidential building and nonbuilding construction pulled back from their elevated October amounts. At the same time, residential building showed modest growth in November, continuing the steady upward trend that’s been present during most of 2013. For the first 11 months of 2013, total construction starts on an unadjusted basis came in at $475.3 billion, up 6 percent from the same period a year ago. If the volatile electric utility category is excluded from the year-to-date statistics, total construction starts for the first 11 months of 2013 would be up 14 percent.

November’s data produced a reading of 111 for the Dodge Index (2000=100), compared to 125 in October and 118 in September. For the first eight months of 2013 the Dodge Index had averaged 105, as it hovered within the fairly narrow range of 100 to 108. While November showed a decline from the prior two months, the level of activity was still above what had been reported earlier in the year.

Nonresidential building in November dropped 17 percent to $179.3 billion (annual rate), following its elevated activity in October. The manufacturing plant category plunged 86 percent, after being lifted in October by the start of three massive projects each valued in excess of $1 billion. Excluding the manufacturing category, nonresidential building in November would have been up 16 percent, supported by the month’s 31 percent jump for the commercial building group. Hotel construction in November surged 212 percent. Office construction in November climbed 26 percent, maintaining the growing momentum that’s been present during the second half of 2013. Warehouse construction was particularly strong in November. Store construction was the one commercial category to decline in November, dropping 23 percent.

The institutional building group in November slipped 3 percent. Healthcare facilities fell 41 percent, sliding back for the second month in a row after a particularly strong amount in September. The educational building category in November decreased 8 percent from its improved pace in October. The smaller institutional categories showed strong percentage gains in November after a generally weak October: amusement-related construction advanced 84 percent; the public buildings and religious categories in November showed large percentage gains from very low October levels, rising 21 percent and 33 percent respectively.

During the first 11 months of 2013, nonresidential building climbed 8 percent relative to the same period a year ago. The commercial categories as a whole were up 16 percent, featuring these across-the-board gains: warehouses, up 32 percent; hotels, up 24 percent; office buildings, up 23 percent; and stores, up 1 percent. The 2013 increase for stores was restrained by the comparison to 2012. The manufacturing building category year-to-date climbed 49 percent; the institutional building group year-to-date was down 2 percent, with the two largest institutional categories performing as follows: educational buildings, unchanged from the previous year; and healthcare facilities, down 4 percent. The smaller institutional categories showed this year-to-date pattern: amusement-related projects, up 24 percent; transportation terminals, up 5 percent; religious buildings, down 8 percent; and public buildings, down 23 percent.

Residential building in November improved 1 percent to $218.5 billion (annual rate). The upward push came from the multifamily side of the housing market, which climbed 18 percent. Single-family housing in November receded 3 percent, pulling back after a 4 percent gain in October. The November pace for single-family housing was still 12 percent above what was reported at the outset of 2013.

During the first 11 months of 2013, residential building advanced 25 percent compared to the previous year. 2013 single-family housing will come close to matching 2012’s strong percentage gain (up 29 percent), reporting a 27 percent increase in 2013’s January–November period. Multifamily housing year-to-date climbed 21 percent, a strong rate of increase although revealing some deceleration from the sharp rise (up 37 percent) reported for the full year 2012.

Updated Standard Arbitration Language to Reflect Case Law and Industry Choices

The ConsensusDocs coalition has announced important updates to the standard arbitration provisions in their agreements. Twenty-one revised contracts have been published. Revisions reflect the applicable statute of limitations from state law and how it should apply to arbitration. Currently, there is a split in some state laws interpreting this issue. The revised language also now contains a “savings clause” in case it is unclear whether a claim must go through arbitration or the courts.

Additionally, ConsensusDocs is revising its arbitration language regarding the application of arbitration rules and administration. The revised language empowers users to choose from an expanded arbitration menu that now specifies a consistent application of rules and administration, including the American Arbitration Association and JAMS. This is the first time that JAMS has been explicitly listed in a standard construction contract.

Visit for more information.

IPAF Training Centers Set Record and Close Gap on Half a Million PAL Cards

International Powered Access Federation–approved training centers trained people in 2013, an increase of 12.8 percent over the 112,887 people trained in 2012. Training available from IPAF-approved centers includes operator courses for which a PAL Card (Powered Access Licensed-Registration) is issued, and harness and management courses for which a certificate is issued.

The IPAF issued a record 121,744 PAL Cards worldwide through its approved training centers in 2013, an increase of 12.7 percent over the 108,065 PAL Cards issued in 2012.

A valid PAL Card is proof that the cardholder has been trained to operate powered access equipment safely and effectively. PAL Cards can be issued in standard or Smart PAL Card (machine-readable) versions. They are valid for five years and can be verified online at IPAF’s PAL Card operator training program is certified by TÜV as conforming to ISO 18878. At the end of 2013, IPAF had 1,037 members and 615 training centers worldwide.

People in the News

Chicago Metallic Company LLC is expanding its North American marketing team and product offering to align with Rockfon® Group, providing a range of ceiling tiles, metal panels and grid suspension systems.

The marketing team includes Cory Nevins, director of marketing; Mark Kemerling, tile and new products manager; Mark Taylor, grid product manager; Pat Wallis, metal ceilings product manager; Gary Madaras, acoustical product manager; and Nancy Henry, communications manager.

Nevins has been promoted to director of marketing from regional sales manager. Joining the executive team, he reports directly to Jim Moynihan, vice president and general manager. He works closely with the company’s North American leaders of sales, operations, engineering and with his predecessor, Megan Nichols, who moves to director of service, logistics and inside sales. Mike Reynolds assumes Nevins’ previous position as regional sales manager.

Kemerling’s existing role as product manager has grown with the addition of Rockfon acoustic ceiling and wall solutions. In addition to his focus on Rockfon products, Kemerling leads Chicago Metallic’s new product development marketing efforts.

Taylor continues to concentrate on Chicago Metallic’s commercial ceiling suspension systems.

Wallis brings to his new position an extensive product marketing background along with a strong understanding of metal products.

Madaras joins the marketing team as acoustical product manager following three years with Chicago Metallic’s engineering team. He provides acoustical training for Chicago Metallic’s employees, customers and other influential industry leaders.

Henry joins Chicago Metallic’s marketing team as communications manager. Based in Toronto, she has served as Rockfon’s marketing manager helping introduce its ceiling tile products to the North American market. With the expanded product offering, her responsibilities also have expanded to ensure brand alignment and consistency across the organization and throughout the industry.

Hunter Douglas promoted Ron Kass to president and chief operating officer. The change became effective Jan. 1, 2014. Kass will continue to report directly to Marv Hopkins, the company’s former president and chief executive officer who was promoted to chairman in addition to his ongoing role as chief executive officer.

Kass, who first joined Hunter Douglas in 2005, currently serves as president of both the Hunter Douglas Design Products Group and the Independent Fabricator Group of companies and as executive vice president of marketing, where he guides and directs all brand marketing, advertising and communications for the company.

Parex USA, Inc. announces that Tom Robertson has returned to Parex USA from the Parex Group in France, where he held the position of international EIFS marketing manager.

Robertson will take on the position of export sales manager and will report to Buck Buchanan, senior vice president of marketing and supply chain, and will be based out of the Parex plant in Redan, Ga.

Companies in the News

Armstrong World Industries, Lancaster, Pa., was honored with the 2013 Mantec Manufacturing Award for Excellence in Sustainability. The award is presented to manufacturers in South Central Pennsylvania that have embraced sustainable practices as part of their environmental goals, and have found ways to make these practices profitable for their organization.

The annual Mantec Manufacturing Awards, which were developed in 2010, recognize manufacturers in South Central Pennsylvania that have demonstrated a commitment to competitive manufacturing, and have positioned themselves to capitalize on opportunities available in the dynamic markets of today and tomorrow. Sustainability is one of eight manufacturing categories included in the awards.

To learn more about the awards, visit

CertainTeed Gypsum, Tampa, Fla., has been named the 2013 Commodities Vendor of the Year by Do it Best Corp. at its annual Member and Vendor Excellence Awards. Do it Best Corp., the United States’ second largest home improvement industry co-op, recognized the company’s gypsum product division for outstanding performance based on its product quality, service level, sales growth and sales/customer service.

Rhino Linings Corporation, a manufacturer in the protective coatings industry, has acquired the assets of Expo Industries Inc., a San Diego-based manufacturer of interior and exterior stucco products, sealers, bonders, patch products and plaster mixes. The acquisition expands Rhino Linings line of building products, which already includes waterproofing products, spray polyurethane foam insulation, decorative concrete and epoxy flooring systems.

All Expo Stucco products are now available from Rhino Linings. Twelve Expo Stucco employees joined Rhino Linings and will continue manufacturing and packaging operations at the Expo Stucco facilities, located less than a mile from the Rhino Linings headquarters.

Additional terms of the acquisition were not released.

United Process, Inc. (operating under the trade name Sound Seal), Agawam, Mass., a designer and fabricator of acoustical and noise control solutions for industrial and architectural applications, has sold the business to management and an investor group led by Hamilton Robinson Capital Partners. Sound Seal will remain an independent company with continued ownership by the retiring founders. The new company will be named Sound Seal, Inc., and all employees will be retained.

Joe Lupone is the newly appointed CEO of Sound Seal.

Products in the News

CertainTeed, Tampa, Fla., is the first manufacturer to complete the UL Environmental Claim Validation process for its full line of gypsum products. Specifically, UL Environment provided third-party verification for environmental claims including recycled content, regional materials and mold resistance. Additionally, the company secured Permanent Formaldehyde Absorption Capacity validation for its industry-only AirRenew®, which features VOC-scavenging technology that helps improve indoor air quality. The independent, third-party validation process involved rigorous audits conducted at 13 manufacturing facilities across the United States and Canada.

CertainTeed® gypsum building materials are now listed in applicable categories on UL Environment’s Sustainable Products Database. The online tool allows users to identify sustainable products by product category, company name, product name or evaluation type.

The validation process has been completed at all of CertainTeed Gypsum’s manufacturing facilities.

And in other CertainTeed news, CertainTeed Ceilings has issued the industry’s first Health Product Declarations. The HPDs offer detailed information on the makeup of the vast majority (24) of the company’s ceiling product families and their potential health and environmental impacts, helping architects and designers make informed decisions when specifying products. The HPDs will also contribute to important materials and resources credits under the newest version of LEED, which places greater emphasis on product transparency.

For more information on CertainTeed’s library of EPDs and HPDs, go to

The Gypsum Association has completed the development of a product category rules document for North American gypsum boards. The intended application of the PCR is to provide a common set of specific rules, requirements and guidelines for developing ISO 14025 conformance Type III environmental product declarations for North American produced gypsum board products and to specify the underlying requirements of the life cycle assessment in conformance with The International Organization for Standardization 14040 series of LCA standards. Next, the Gypsum Association will develop a generic Environmental Product Declaration for gypsum board. The new PCR for North American Gypsum Boards is available at


The National Fenestration Rating Council has created a new website,, dedicated to making it easier for building code officials to meet compliance on commercial fenestration projects.

Constructed as a resource specifically for educating building code officials, the site allows users to search for label certificates, provides resources for determining state codes, and offers guidance on dealing with windows with no ratings.

You can search for window energy performance ratings using the label certificate number, project name, zip code, and location or search for a label certificate by product or state.

Learn more by contacting Ray McGowan at or (240) 821.9510.

Sto Corp. has launched a new website for Sto Canada,, which is Canada-centric and greatly improves the user experience. The website emphasizes Canada codes and relationships in Canada. New construction, restoration, services and distribution are highlighted, and there are sections for design professionals, contractors and property owners.

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