Author Archives: CS Editor

Grant project follows lifecycle of urban wood

Urban lumber harvesting has emerged as an option for cities like Wisconsin.  Photos courtesy Kubala-Washatko Architects

Urban lumber harvesting has emerged as an option for cities like Milwaukee. Photo courtesy M Magazine.

By Rebecca Konya

In the October 2014 issue of The Construction Specifier, the article, “Seeing the Urban Forests for the Trees,” by J. Gerard Capell, FCSI, AIA, CCS, examined how urban lumber harvesting has emerged as an option for resources otherwise devastated by the emerald ash borer. It takes a particular look at how Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is becoming an important player in finding new opportunities for wood—carpentry, casework, and flooring included.

While sustainability is clearly important, when Milwaukee first began diverting diseased and damaged city trees from the wood chipper or the landfill for more useful purposes, it was cost savings primarily driving the effort. It turns out routing urban wood to area sawmills like Kettle Moraine Hardwoods costs about half as much as traditional disposal efforts. This was good news for both the city, which cuts down about 3600 trees annually, and urban wood itself.

“It saves us money and captures whatever value these urban logs may have,” says David Sivyer, Milwaukee’s forestry services manager.

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Whether ravaged by emerald ash borer or taken down for other reasons, urban trees can find new life in building projects as finishes, furnishes, or carpentry.

Whether ravaged by emerald ash borer or taken down for other reasons, urban trees can find new life in building projects as finishes, furnishes, or carpentry.
Photos courtesy Kubala-Washatko Architects

With Milwaukee’s urban wood utilization effort now firmly established, and plenty of ready-to-use urban wood available, there is a new effort underway to create awareness and build demand for urban wood products.

One of the movement’s most vocal advocates, Dwayne Sperber, won a 2014 Wisconsin Urban Forestry Grant from the state’s Department of Natural Resources (authorized under s. 23.097, Wis. Stat.) to study the urban wood market from removal to end-use; it culminates in an urban wood application in a commercial building project—a Colectivo coffee shop currently under construction in a Milwaukee suburb.

“This grant project is meant to bring public awareness to urban wood as a sustainable resource,” says Sperber. “There’s a real opportunity to transform fallen or condemned trees into functional products.”

Wood from reclaimed urban trees competes in a marketplace already saturated with widely recognized materials like sustainable wood from traditionally managed forests. As a result, another component of the urban forestry grant project is to develop the language necessary for architects and designers to confidently specify urban forest products in their building designs.

“Architects, designers, and contractors need to understand the particularities of sourcing urban wood,” says Sperber. “The grant is a means of educating the building industry about urban wood so it can gain greater market acceptance.”

Though the construction documentation being written as part of the grant project applies specifically to the Colectivo project, the specification will be made available to all building industry professionals via the Wisconsin Urban Wood (WUW) website. An effort by a separate but related grant project, WUW is a growing network of industry professionals committed to preserving and protecting the urban forest as a sustainable resource.

“There are specifications and guidelines for how wood is cut, how it is dried, and how it is structurally labeled,” says Capell, who is developing the urban wood specification for the Colectivo project.

Tom Kubala, a principal with the Kubala-Washatko Architects, Inc., says many architects hesitate to specify urban wood for projects because it does not have the right documents.

“The idea of establishing some kind of specification that could be followed by whoever is obtaining the wood, drying the wood, or milling it gives a little more confidence to a specifying architect,” he says.

Partnering with Kubala-Washatko to incorporate urban wood into one of their commercial building projects is another means of gaining industry validation. The firm will use donated urban ash in the interior of the Colectivo coffee shop that is part of a new town center development in the city of Mequon.

“The Mequon Colectivo is a living example of an urban wood application,” explains Sperber.

With specification language and the support of a renowned architectural firm, he is optimistic other architects and contractors will follow suit using urban wood in their own building projects. There is, after all, a certain satisfaction of using local resources rather than wasting them—especially considering the sustainability aspects of using locally sourced lumber.

Another audience the grant project is seeking to educate about urban wood is the general public, who may not immediately see the beauty in its imperfections. Unlike standard lumber that is uniform in size and look, urban wood typically has distinctive qualities like knots, gnarls, and wormwood holes.

For the use of urban wood to grow in popularity, it is necessary to change customers’ perceptions, enabling use of less-than-visually-perfect boards. It becomes important to explain how these ‘imperfections’ actually add some look and character to the finished piece.

The grant project aims to accomplish this goal through public outreach efforts like the Urban Wood Encounter at the Lynden Sculpture Garden. The exhibit, which runs from November to January 2015, is designed to introduce the public to the environmental value of urban wood within the context of a showcase of fine furniture. It challenges furniture-makers and designers to create inspiring, thoughtful, and beautiful furniture from a previously underutilized natural resource.

RKonya3Rebecca Konya is a freelance writer, and the head of Konya Communications. She can be reached at mail@konyacommunications.com.

Creating a showplace: G2 Construction builds a new headquarters

The structural system accommodates a stucco-and-stone exterior to create an architecturally unique appearance, at the new G2 headquarters facility in Kennewick, Washington. Photos courtesy Butler Manufacturing

The structural system accommodates a stucco-and-stone exterior to create an architecturally unique appearance, at the new G2 headquarters facility in Kennewick, Washington. Photos courtesy Butler Manufacturing

by Kevin Hutchings

For almost a decade, G2 Construction (Kennewick, Washington), has been creating facilities for medical and dental practices, hospitals, government entities, colleges, and retail operations. However, in 2011, this general contractor needed a building of its own.

The 18-employee company found itself quickly outgrowing its leased 139-m2 (1500-sf) office space. Its president, Doug Gunther, wanted to construct a building to reflect the company’s work.
“The new facility would help us demonstrate the benefits that we can provide in terms of versatility, building cost, and construction duration,” he said.

For the headquarters, Gunther chose a 0.4-ha (1-acre) property bordering a former municipal airport being developed for mixed-use commercial and retail buildings. The goal was to construct an energy-efficient headquarters that allowed for future expansion. Due to the cramped conditions in the company’s old space, Gunther wanted to complete the project in seven months—without taking manpower and equipment away from client projects.

G2 turned to another local business, CKJT Architects, to design a 782-m2 (8421-sf) space with room to grow. G2 would occupy approximately half of the space, including two offices for future employees, as well as a large conference room for client meetings. Two additional suites were made available for other businesses to lease.

G2 plans to monitor for energy savings made possible with the daylighting system, which is installed in its suite.

G2 plans to monitor for energy savings made possible with the daylighting system, which is installed in its suite.

A versatile structural system was specified, which was ideal for facilities where expansions or extensions would be important, such as industrial plants, warehouses, retail stores, and office complexes. Its design flexibility provided the opportunity to outfit the structure with a stucco and stone exterior to create a high-end, professional appearance to attract clients and tenants.

A standing-seam metal roof system offered enhanced energy efficiency with R-38 ceiling insulation and R-30 wall insulation. The movable clips of the roof system enable movement under changing temperatures, and the 360-degree double-lock seam helps ensure weathertight performance.

Another key reason for the roof system’s choice was because it provided an opportunity for daylighting and additional energy savings. Installation of a daylighting system also increased occupant comfort.

Research has shown access to natural light during the workday can increase productivity and have a positive impact on overall health for building occupants. The daylighting system can provide a short return on investment (ROI)—an average of three to five years. Additionally, when combined with lighting controls, it can save up to 70 percent in lighting costs.

G2 was able to meet its ambitious completion deadline and move within about seven months after breaking ground.

“From the time the foundation and concrete slab were complete, erecting the structural system and the roof system took less than three weeks,” Gunther said. “Using conventional construction methods would have easily added another three to five weeks to the project timeline.”

G2 occupies half of the new space, and leases the remaining space to two tenants.

CROP-150x150Kevin Hutchings is the training manager for Butler Manufacturing and is responsible for product, builder management, and sales training. He joined Butler as an order technician for the buildings division and in the retrofit roof group, where he gained substantial experience in metal roof design and detailing. Hutchings has also served as project services manager for the roof division of Butler, managing a number of large and complex retrofit roof projects. He has been training manager at Butler for more than 15 years. Hutchings can be contacted at jkhutchings@butlermfg.com.

Solid Advantages with Solid Phenolic Wall Panels

Solid phenolic wall panels can be quickly and precisely aligned to create a cohesive installation for almost any environment. Photos courtesy Spec-Rite Designs LLC

Solid phenolic wall panels can be quickly and precisely aligned to create a cohesive installation for almost any environment. Photos courtesy Spec-Rite Designs LLC

By Jen Clark

Out of the many types of building materials available to architects and specifiers, solid phenolic wall panels have become increasingly popular due to their durability, ease of maintenance, versatility, and code-compliance.

This material begins as a paper immersed in thermosetting resins, homogenously reinforced with cellulose fibers, and manufactured under high pressure and temperature. (Depending on the panel manufacturer, the paper may contain recycled material and be certified by the Forest Stewardship Council [FSC].) As a result of this unique process, solid phenolic material becomes a product that can withstand very harsh treatment while providing an excellent solution for almost any design requirements. Also, the material can be thought of as ‘sustainable’ due to its composition and product lifespan of 40 to 60 years.

Solid phenolic is an innovative interior and exterior material solution that has been steadily gaining popularity with facility managers. Wall panels made from this material are highly useful in various facilities and public spaces as aesthetically appealing components of effective sound absorption systems. The panels also have a standard Class B fire rating, with Class A options available to meet any fire code compliance requirements under ASTM E84, Standard Test Method for Surface Burning Characteristics of Building Materials. In recent tests comparing phenolic material to ASTM test data for other building materials, solid phenolic panels proved equal or superior to other products in the areas of scratch, impact, graffiti, and stain resistance—areas particularly important for high-traffic spaces.

Wall panels made from this material are highly useful as aesthetically appealing components of effective sound absorption systems. /span>

Wall panels made from this material are highly useful as aesthetically appealing components of effective sound absorption systems.

In terms of flame resistance, coated metal or stainless steel tend to deliver the best fire code compliance. However, these materials are very rarely suitable for a wall lining or acoustical panel application due to durability and maintenance issues. Compared to materials like wood or composites that are regularly employed for these purposes, solid phenolic offers a clear advantage in the areas of flame resistance and smoke spread. Due to the construction of the material and the additives in the resins used in the manufacturing process, the panels hold an ASTM Class A or B fire rating.

Tests were recently performed using standards from the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) to verify these comparisons between solid phenolic and other materials such as metal, wood, and plastics. The standards included:
● ASTM D6578-00, Standard Practice for Determination of Graffiti Resistance;
● ASTM D2197-98, Standard Test Method for Adhesion of Organic Coatings by Scrape Adhesion; and
● ASTM D2794-93, Standard Test Method for Resistance of Organic Coatings to the Effects of Rapid Deformation (Impact).

Solid phenolic material was proven to match the code compliance of many industry standard materials in surface burning characteristics.

The tests performed on solid phenolic material to compare its performance in the areas of flame spread and smoke development proved that the material outperforms plastic laminate, high-density polyethylene (HDPE), and hardwoods while nearly matching the performance of metal and stainless steel.

The dense construction of solid phenolic material, combined with its ability to be customized into countless shapes and configurations, makes it an excellent candidate for acoustic sound-absorption systems. A manufacturer of solid phenolic products will be able to work with an architect or designer to create customized diffusers, wall panel systems, or acoustic ceilings to effectively control sound while providing an appealing visual presence.

Custom routering capabilities further enable solid phenolic material to become a useful part of an acoustical wall or ceiling system. Using precise Computer Numerical Control (CNC) technology, a manufacturer can router grooves and patterns into solid phenolic panels to reduce noise levels in interior applications. In addition to this functionality, the material’s durability ensures it becomes a lasting addition to the facility rather than needing frequent replacement.

Phenolic wall systems are available with multiple attachment systems, allowing users to address challenges arising with installation. From a cost perspective, these materials fall in the middle of the pack—many other wall finishes either more or less expensive. With phenolic, there are no indoor air quality (IAQ) or moisture concerns due to the completely non-porous panels (some of which are GreenGuard-certified).

For interior installations, various wall lining systems allow solid phenolic panels to be quickly and precisely aligned to create a cohesive wall lining installation for almost any environment. This ease of use combined with superior performance in flame resistance and extensive customization options establishes solid phenolic material as an excellent solution for any application.

jenSMALL_768Jen Clark is the operations manager at Spec-Rite Designs LLC. She has more than 18 years of multi-faceted experience, including value engineering, cost estimating, project management, and architectural planning and design. Having pursued a degree in mechanical engineering at Ohio State University, Clark recently became the recipient of the Six Sigma Master Black Belt Certification. She is also a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Accredited Professional with a focus on sustainable design and construction.

New standard for electrical impedance scanners for roofing moisture surveys

A proposed ASTM standard will create best practices for electrical impedance scanners used in roofing/waterproofing surveys. Photo © BigStockPhoto

A proposed ASTM standard will create best practices for electrical impedance scanners used in roofing/waterproofing surveys. Photo © BigStockPhoto

Excess moisture trapped in roofing or waterproofing assemblies can have a negative impact on performance, and also lead to premature failures. Employing an electrical impedance scanner is a an efficient way to conduct moisture surveys of roofing and waterproofing systems.

A new ASTM International standard—D7954/D7954M, Practice for Moisture Surveying of Roofing and Waterproofing Systems Using Non-Destructive Electrical Impedance Scanners—covers the use of electrical impedance scanners to monitor the moisture level of a roofing system over various stages of its lifespan.

“As the practice of using electrical impedance scanners to locate moisture and evaluate the comparative moisture levels within roofing and waterproofing systems is widely used, it is important to have an ASTM standard in place that would qualify the types of moisture scanner suitable for this purpose,” explained Sean Fallon, a member of Subcommittee D08.20 on Roofing Membrane Systems.

In the described procedure, an electrical impedance scanner is moved across a roof surface. Low-frequency signals are transmitted non-destructively through the surface, measuring the electrical alternating current impedance. The strength of the signal varies in proportion to the moisture level under the footprint of the scanner, with greater amounts of moisture resulting in higher comparative moisture readings.

ASTM D7954/D7954M can be used during a roofing/waterproofing assembly’s installation to determine whether there was moisture intrusion into the system or materials. However, it can also be employed at regular intervals as part of a preventive maintenance program or before repair work to determine the extent of amelioration necessary.

California: Design-build authorization for infrastructure delivery

A new senate bill is expected to increase use of design-build for California. Photo © BigStockPhoto

A new senate bill is expected to increase use of design-build for California. Photo © BigStockPhoto

On September 30, Senate Bill (SB) 785, Design-build, was passed in the California Legislature, standardizing the state’s design-build laws and clarifying opportunities for project owners and practitioners. According to the Design Build Institute of America (DBIA), it is the eighth bill passed in California in the past year that expands authority for the practice, which involves combining design and construction services into a single contract with one point of responsibility.

This type of project delivery system was first authorized in the Golden State more than two decades ago, but DBIA says succeeding statutes included numerous limitations to employing design-build, and resulted in many challenges, inconsistencies, and confusion.

“In practical terms, [prior to SB 775] this patchwork of laws was so confusing that agency heads and practitioners would often use a less-efficient delivery method… simply to avoid the legal confusion design-build caused in California,” said Richard Thomas, DBIA’s director of state/local legislative affairs. “Project managers often wanted to use design-build to deliver higher-quality projects in less time with fewer change-orders, but wading through the myriad regulations simply became too time-consuming.”

SB 785 allows those state agencies previously precluded from combining design and construction services to now do so.

Proponents of design-build say the method can mean faster delivery, cost savings, and better quality because a single entity decreases owners’ administrative burdens, enabling them to focus on successfully delivering the project, rather than managing separate contracts. The approach is also lauded by its practitioners for reducing risk and resulting in fewer litigation claims.