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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.

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.