Author Archives: CS Editor

ASTM proposes standard for qualifying firestop inspectors

 A new ASTM standard will assess the qualifications of firestopping inspectors. Photo courtesy BigStockPhoto

A new standard, developed and proposed by ASTM, could assess the qualifications of firestopping inspectors. Photo courtesy BigStockPhoto

A new ASTM standard could be used to assess the credentials and qualifications of inspectors who routinely employ ASTM firestop standards in their work.

ASTM WK40836, Practice for Credentials for Inspectors of Through-penetration Firestop Systems, Fire-resistive Joint Systems, and Perimeter Fire Barriers, would provide the information necessary to qualify inspectors who work with ASTM E2174, Practice for Onsite Inspection of Installed Firestops, and ASTM E2393, Practice for Onsite Inspection of Installed Fire-resistive Joint Systems and Perimeter Fire Barriers.

Both those standards were adopted into the 2012 International Building Code (IBC) for buildings 23 m (75 ft) or taller, with Category 3−4 occupancies. The IBC adoption means more jurisdictions from the local to federal level will need individuals qualified to do firestop inspections.

According to ASTM member Patrick Tesche (managing director of Global Fire Protection Group and the International Firestop Council [IFC] Inspector Committee chair), ASTM WK40836 would be used to test the knowledge of inspectors who wish to become qualified to conduct firestop inspections. The proposed standard will be directed toward building owners, developers, and design professionals as well as government agencies.

“The standard we are developing will help the authority having jurisdiction [AHJ] gauge the qualifications of a third-party firestop inspector,” says Tesche. “The components included are education, experience, and knowledge of installed firestop systems, as well as understanding conflict of interest and other acceptance criteria.”

The proposed standard is being developed by Subcommittee E06.21 on Serviceability, part of ASTM International Committee E06 on Performance of Buildings. Tesche invites all parties with expertise in passive fire protection to participate. He says the committee would particularly like to see increased participation from independent consulting and firestop inspection firms.

The Construction Specifier reached out to Bill McHugh, CSI, the executive director of the Firestop Contractors International Association (FCIA), for his comments.

“FCIA was the code proponent for the addition of the ASTM E2174 and ASTM E2393 standards for the inspection of installed penetration and joint firestops into Chapter 17 (“Special Inspections”) of the International Building Code (IBC),” he said. “IBC’s Chapter 17 requires both the special inspection agency (company) and the individual special inspector (employee) that performs special inspections demonstrate knowledge, education, and expertise in firestopping to the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ). The (IAS) Accreditation Criteria (AC) 291 for Special Inspection Agencies has a section on firestopping already for the company to demonstrate capabilities for the AHJ to accept the company as an approved agency.”

“This new ASTM Work Item, when it becomes a standard, may be a good addition to the already existing FM and UL firestop exams to provide AHJs with an easier way to approve the individual inspectors,” McHugh continued. “Don’t forget, though, it’s a package—both the special inspection agency and the individual inspector need to be approved by the AHJ. This new ASTM program only approves the individual inspectors.”

EPA helping green five state capitals

A previous recipient of the Greening America’s Capitals program, Helena, Montana, employed a design option for Last Chance Gulch with on-street parking, paving that allows water to fall through to the soil, shared lanes for bikes and vehicles, and new trees in stormwater planters that are installed in sidewalks to better manage runoff. Images courtesy EPA

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is providing technical assistance to help five capital cities develop green infrastructure, improving neighborhoods, and increasing protection against impact from climate change.

This year’s Greening America’s Capitals candidates were selected through a national competition, and the agency will work with each city to provide design assistance in specific neighborhoods. The projects focus on incorporating green infrastructure by using vegetation, soils, and natural processes to manage stormwater.

“EPA is excited about the opportunity to work with five new capital cities as they pursue their vision of a more sustainable future,” said EPA administrator Gina McCarthy. “Their projects will lay the groundwork for a greener, healthier environment that can help these cities become more resilient to climate change and other challenges, while acting as models for other communities.”

The program has been in place since 2010, with 18 capital cities and the District of Columbia benefiting from community designs that helped clean the air and water, stimulate economic development, and make existing neighborhoods more vibrant places.

Austin, Texas
Austin will receive assistance to create design options to improve pedestrian and bike connections in the South Central Waterfront area, and to incorporate green infrastructure that reduces stormwater runoff and localized flooding, improves water quality, and increases shade.

Carson City, Nevada
Carson City will be improving William Street—a former state highway that connects to the downtown area. The project will help the city explore how to incorporate green infrastructure through the use of native plants, and to enhance the neighborhood’s economic vitality.

 Another past winner of Greening America’s Capitals, Des Moines, Iowa’s 6th Avenue redesign provides landscaped areas to absorb and clean stormwater, local art within public infrastructure, and new bus shelters.

Another past winner of Greening America’s Capitals, Des Moines, Iowa’s 6th Avenue redesign provides landscaped areas to absorb and clean stormwater, local art within public infrastructure, and new bus shelters.

Columbus, Ohio
Columbus intends to develop design options for the Milo-Grogan neighborhood; it will explore using green infrastructure to improve stormwater quality, reduce flooding risks, and encourage walking and cycling.

Pierre, South Dakota
Pierre will receive assistance to redesign its historic main street, South Pierre, in a way that uses green infrastructure to reduce stormwater runoff and improve resiliency to extreme climate conditions.

Richmond, Virginia
Richmond will receive assistance to design options for more parks and open spaces, and to incorporate green infrastructure to better manage stormwater runoff on Jefferson Avenue—the street serving as the gateway to some of Richmond’s oldest and most historic neighborhoods.

For more information, visit www.epa.gov/smartgrowth/greencapitals.htm.

Association Cooperation

In the October issue of The Construction Specifier, authors Ward R. Malisch, PhD, PE, and Bruce A. Suprenant, PhD, PE (both of the American Society of Concrete Contractors [ASCC]) wrote our cover story, “Bridging the Specification Gap between Divisions 03 and 09: Concrete and Floorcovering Associations Unite.” The piece looked at how their association teamed up with six other flooring groups to find a solution to a ‘specification gap’ between Divisions 03 and 09 in terms of floor surface flatness requirements.

For space reasons, we had to hold off including a little more background on how these associations collaborated. That ‘missing’ information follows, in the words of Malisch and Suprenant:

The impetus for developing the American Society of Concrete Contractors (ASCC) Position Statements came from a group of contractor members who became aware of a paper published by a national wood flooring organization—not, it should be noted, the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA)—that stated the organization did not believe in F-numbers and felt they should not be used to measure slabs for gym floors. Rather than trying to decide how they could build a floor that meets unreasonable requirements, ASCC contractors realized they needed to spend their time and resources to educate the industry on the limitations of concrete floors. Thus was born this series, including ASCC Position Statement 6, Division 3 versus Division 9 Floor Flatness Tolerances.

Then, rather than continuing to fight their fellow contractors in the floorcovering industry, ASCC made an effort to get them on board, realizing the greater strength of a united front. ASCC first approached NWFA. With only minor rewriting, that association was eager to endorse the Position Statement.

“For the first time, instead of disagreeing, the two sides have come together to find a common solution to a problem that has cost both groups hundreds of thousands of dollars in rework,” said NWFA president/CEO Michael Martin.

Shortly thereafter, ASCC invited the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) to participate in a panel discussion on this topic featuring contractors and technical personnel from both disciplines. Both sides acknowledged the wisdom of a bid allowance to compensate for the incompatibility of the measuring methods, and NTCA became the second flooring association to sign on.

Bart Bettiga, NTCA executive director, commented on the reasons for the document’s usefulness.

“It is our belief this position statement is one of the most important documents we have supported in the past several years,” he said. “This statement accomplishes its goals on many levels. It educates the construction professional about important considerations that must be taken when specifying floorcovering products over concrete substrates.”

“The most important point emphasized in this position statement centers on the disparity related to meeting industry standards in the respective divisions,” Bettiga continued. “Equally important is the call for communication between the related parties and for a proactive approach to be determined prior to the commencement of the work. We strongly support the use of this statement to our members in their communication to the general contractor and architect/specifier on their projects.”

These two organizations were followed by the Flooring Contractors Association. Then, last year, Scott Conwell, director of industry development and technical services for the International Masonry Institute (IMI) contacted the ASCC, asking to add the group’s name, along with those of the Tile Contractors Association of America (TCAA) and the International Union Of Bricklayers and Allied Craftsmen (BAC) to the list of supporters.

“This ASCC Position Statement succinctly brings to light the disparity in requirements for floor flatness between the concrete and the ceramic tile trades,” says Conwell. “The paper effectively brings expectations in line, leading to increased cooperation on the job site to make any corrections to the floor that may be necessary prior to installation of the tile finish.”

Two trades with distinctively different practices and obstacles to overcome but with one goal: to deliver a high-quality product to a satisfied owner.

The importance of indoor air quality

Indoor air quality (IAQ) is an important consideration for building owners and design teams. IAQ can easily decrease within elevator cabs and machine rooms. Photos courtesy ThyssenKrupp Elevator

Indoor air quality (IAQ) is an important consideration for building owners and design teams. IAQ can easily decrease within elevator cabs and machine rooms. Photos courtesy ThyssenKrupp Elevator

by Sasha Bailey, LEED AP

Indoor air quality (IAQ) has become increasingly important for building owners and occupants in recent years. With more information available to the public on air quality issues—including the potential negative effects of off-gassing and the evaporation of volatile chemicals and other emissions—it is imperative for building product manufacturers to focus on eliminating issues associated with their products.

To better understand IAQ issues, it is beneficial to have some history on how it relates to buildings and building occupants. Sick building syndrome (SBS) has been studied for the last few decades and is relevant to occupant health. Anyone can be affected by SBS, but those in office buildings are most at risk because they usually do not have control over work environments. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines SBS as:

Situations in which building occupants experience acute health and comfort effects that appear to be linked to time spent in a building, but no specific illness or cause can be identified. The complaints may be localized in a particular room or zone, or may be widespread throughout the building.

Common complaints related to indoor air quality and SBS include:
● headaches;
● eye, nose, and throat irritation;
● dizziness;
● nausea;
● fatigue;
● skin problems; and
● difficulty concentrating.

Most cases of SBS occur in offices and common contributing factors include:
● inadequate ventilation;
● chemical contaminants from indoor sources like carpeting or paint;
● chemical contaminants from outdoor sources such as vehicle exhaust or plumbing vents; and
● biological contaminants like mold, bacteria, and viruses.

One of the main culprits in decreased indoor air quality and SBS is volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs are emitted as gas from various solid and liquid products. Some examples include paints, carpeting, furnishings, wood products, and adhesives, as well as indoor maintenance agents such as pesticides, cleaning products, office equipment, and even permanent markers. Some of the effects associated with the emission of VOCs mirror those found in SBS cases. It is important to note not all organic chemicals contribute to adverse health effects—it is contingent on the substance’s toxicity level and the concentrations and exposure for humans.

It is no secret Americans spend the majority of their time indoors. Unfortunately, EPA studies have shown several VOC levels are two to five times higher indoors than outdoors. As a result, the agency has developed many resources, such as the Building Air Quality Action Plan, available to building owners who want an easy-to-understand path for transforming their building.

Affected products, in elevators and elsewhere throughout the building, can include paints, coatings, adhesives, and sealants used by the manufacturer, and wood or agrifiber products in the floor, walls, or ceiling.

Affected products, in elevators and elsewhere throughout the building, can include paints, coatings, adhesives, and sealants used by the manufacturer, and wood or agrifiber products in the floor, walls, or ceiling.

As more becomes known about the adverse effects of poor IAQ on tenant health, productivity, and attendance, it is clear a responsibility lies with the construction and leasing industry. Building product manufacturers act as the front line on this issue and are therefore in a unique position to make positive changes. Forward-thinking companies have begun to use tools like lifecycle assessments (LCAs) to help them identify potential issues with their products. Some of those issues include emissions or off-gassing that can continue after a product’s installation. The LCA technique allows companies to assess environmental impacts associated with all the stages of a product’s life, from cradle to grave.

In the past, it was acceptable for manufacturers to claim responsibility only for what occurred within their own facilities, but this is no longer the case. Manufacturing companies are now expected to not only be aware of everything happening within their own walls, but to hold their suppliers accountable as well. To this end, quite a few companies/organizations have begun working to identify and create lists of concerning chemicals. To date, there are more than 20 such lists compiled by states, corporations, EPA, and European Union (EU). This data has made it easier for manufacturers to gradually phase-out or replace chemicals of concern. In the past, finding alternative materials or products could be challenging. However, with the growing global emphasis on sustainability and green construction, more companies are now offering healthier products at the same or slightly increased pricing.

Once a manufacturer has found an appropriate replacement product it is necessary to rely on reputable third parties to test and validate any indoor air quality claims. Long-established product-certification services, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL), have entered the environmental certification arena. Products can now be submitted to UL for placement within their testing chambers to evaluate emissions, off-gassing, toxicity, IAQ, and other elements.

Environmental claims can vary based on applicable product standards. For instance, the State of California has set strict standards for buildings’ indoor air quality commonly referenced as Section 01350, part of the State’s Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS) program. Section 01350 covers public health and environmental considerations for building projects, including indoor air quality goals and procedures. Parts of these goals include limits on VOC levels and procedures for how to test building products for VOC-emission rates. Such standards allow testing and certification bodies like UL to validate and certify against them. This makes it is possible for product manufacturers to provide not only an environmental claim, but also a third-party reviewed and validated label for their claim.

In the case of elevators, indoor air quality can be easily diminished in several places within the cab and the machine room. Affected products can include paints, coatings, adhesives, and sealants used by the manufacturer, and wood or agrifiber products in the floor, walls, or ceiling.

Qualifying questions related to indoor air quality can include:
1. Does the manufacturer use powder-coat processing or traditional solvent-based paints for their cab interiors?
2. Do wood-based products—such as particleboard or plywood—contain added urea-formaldehyde?
3. What kind of sealants and adhesives are used to adhere interiors items?

Programs like the U.S Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system contain details and limit levels for indoor-source contaminants. In particular, the Indoor Environmental Quality (EQ) section on low-emitting materials can provide detailed information.

For instance, EQ Credit 4.1, Low-emitting Materials: Adhesives and Sealants, specifically identify the VOC limit in grams per liter less water for various adhesives. Additionally, EQ Credit 4.2, Low-emitting Materials: Paints and Coatings, identify standard VOC limits for paints in various forms. By following strict guidelines established by commonly accepted standards like LEED, EPA or California’s Section 01350, it is easy to ensure optimal IAQ attributes in specified products for all new construction or renovation projects.

When selecting products, specifiers should always ask the manufacturer to provide Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) and attribute information sheets. This documentation can be used to substantiate indoor environmental quality or low-emissions claims beyond what is found in traditional brochures. By including the request for such documentation, the burden of proof relies on the product manufacturer rather than the organization responsible for specifying or purchasing the product.

By working together, building owners, and product manufacturers have the opportunity to make significant changes in buildings. Seeking qualified and educated partners in product decisions means relying on manufacturers who can provide fact-based technical data. It is through educated industry partnerships the health and wellness of building occupants will continue to improve in the coming years.

RS87800_CW_20140410_11427_ppSasha Bailey, LEED AP, is in the strategic communications manager for ThyssenKrupp Elevators Americas’ Business Unit. Prior to moving into her current role, she was the sustainability manager for the company and spent time working on strategy for the internal and external sustainability programs. Bailey holds a bachelor’s degree from University of Texas at Dallas. She can be contacted via e-mail at sasha.bailey@thyssenkrupp.com.

Protect the Roof

slaton patterson sutterlinFAILURES
Deborah Slaton, David S. Patterson, AIA, and Jeffrey N. Sutterlin, PE

One of the most critical (but often neglected) components in ensuring ‘watertightness,’ the roof assembly is typically installed early to protect the unfinished building from water penetration, enabling interior work to advance. However, this early sequencing requires the installed roof to withstand construction traffic and potential abuse for the remainder of construction while vertical wall assemblies, mechanical equipment, and other systems are being completed. Additionally, because roof surfaces provide convenient storage areas for building materials and equipment, and support for suspended scaffold or other means of access, completed roof assemblies can be vulnerable to damage from such construction-related activities.

Although the roof membrane is protected from damage from some material and provided with general pathways for workers, sheet metal panels and other construction-related materials are staged away from the pathways without any protection of the single-ply roof membrane. Photos courtesy Jeffrey N. Sutterlin

Although the roof membrane is protected from damage from some material and provided with general pathways for workers, sheet metal panels and other construction-related materials are staged away from the pathways without any protection of the single-ply roof membrane. Photos courtesy Jeffrey N. Sutterlin

Over the past decades, single-ply membranes have increased in popularity for low-slope applications due to perceived advantages in installation, scheduling, energy efficiency, and pricing. In contrast to multi-layered built-up roofs (BURs), single-ply membranes—typically thermoset or thermoplastic polymer—consist of a relatively thin, single layer of waterproofing protection, resulting in an increased susceptibility to damage during construction. Although many single-ply membranes are reinforced to add strength, puncture resistance, and dimensional stability, when membrane damage does occur, it can result in leakage to the underlying roof assembly and building interior.

While the roofing industry generally acknowledges the importance of properly protecting a completed membrane from construction traffic and unintentional abuse, there are few guidelines regarding temporary protection. Instead, the industry appears to rely on the conventional wisdom of competent field personnel. However, common sense does not always prevail.

A hard-wheeled lift is used to access higher reaches of the roof enclosure without benefit of protection of the membrane. Workers are welding over the unprotected membrane—an activity that resulted in holes in the membrane from weld spatter.

A hard-wheeled lift is used to access higher reaches of the roof enclosure without benefit of protection of the membrane. Workers are welding over the unprotected membrane—an activity that resulted in holes in the membrane from weld spatter.

Recommended practices to protect single-ply roof membranes include:

1. Storage of material and equipment on completed roof membranes should be avoided. Where unavoidable, caution should be taken not to overload the assembly or underlying structural system and to provide proper membrane protection. Structural plywood sheathing over high-density rigid insulation has been found to provide low-cost, but effective, protection.

2. If construction traffic is anticipated in certain roof areas or pathways, a temporary walkway or layered protection should be provided.

3. The completed roof membrane should be constantly monitored and cleaned to prevent accumulation of sharp objects and/or debris that could damage the membrane.

4. Materials that may adversely affect the roof membrane should be identified and their proper use (and required membrane protection) understood and closely monitored.

5. On completion of construction activities, the roof should be thoroughly cleaned and inspected, with any damage repaired. Should membrane damage occur, infrared thermography or low/high-voltage scanning equipment can be useful for identifying moisture within the assembly.

6. Specifications and quality control procedures can be strengthened to ensure proper protection of completed roof assemblies.

The opinions expressed in Failures are based on the authors’ experiences and do not necessarily reflect those of the CSI or The Construction Specifier.

Deborah Slaton is an architectural conservator and principal with Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates (WJE) in Northbrook, Illinois, specializing in historic preservation and materials conservation. She can be reached at dslaton@wje.com.

David S. Patterson, AIA, is an architect and senior principal with the Princeton, New Jersey, office of WJE, specializing in investigation and repair of the building envelope. He can be reached at dpatterson@wje.com.

Jeffrey N. Sutterlin is an architectural engineer and senior associate with the Princeton office of WJE, specializing in investigation and repair of the building envelope. He can be reached at jsutterlin@wje.com.