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Commercial Buliding Products: Serving Low- and Mid-Rise Construction – Article

Windows, Doors Add New Urban Distinction

To convey a small-town feel to each of the New Town planned community’s 10 unique neighborhoods, Whittaker Homes selected Kolbe’s windows and doors.


Walking to the store for a gallon of milk, playing a quick pre-dinner game of ball at the park, biking to the coffee shop for a quick lunch with friends, visiting with neighbors on the front porch. These are the picturesque results of new urbanism exemplified by Whittaker Homes on the massive, 750-acre, New Town site under construction in St. Charles, MO.

New Town’s residences will feature a variety of Kolbe’s windows and doors to help each of the 10 distinctive neighborhoods project its unique style.

Developers and designers around the world watch with interest and awe as the first residents of New Town transform a philosophical plan into a living, working reality. Already sensing its success, Whittaker is looking to duplicate the ‘New Town’ concept in other areas around the country.

In December 2005, New Town celebrated the completion of Year One in the construction of this 15-year building project. Phase two is underway and at least eight more phases are scheduled before 2020 when the former farmland will be covered with 10 distinctive, pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods.

Designed by Miami-based new urbanism champions Duany, Plater-Zyber & Co. (DPZ), New Town will feature civic green-space and lakes, community centers and churches, specialty shops and general stores, and small restaurants and cafs. Residence options range from single-family homes and cottages, to senior courtyard homes, live/work units, and townhomes.

Every building embraces a modern interpretation of the familiar, small-town comforts and presents high-tech amenities with 19th Century styling. Differentiated from other mixed-use, multi-family subdivisions, New Town’s construction relies on high-quality materials-such as Wausau,WI-based Kolbe & Kolbe Millwork Co. Inc.’s windows and doors-to articulate DPZ’s unified, yet personalized design plan for Whittaker Homes.

“When the Kolbe representative presented the windows, the first thing that caught my attention was the bottom window sash; it was more traditional than anything else on the market and perfectly complemented the architecture at The New Town at St. Charles. Once I researched the quality of the construction and the variety of trim colors, I knew Kolbe was the right supplier for New Town,” said New Town’s developer Greg Whittaker.

“Kolbe also allows for the flexibility that is necessary in a new urban community. We have several different housing types in New Town. We need a supplier that can work with us to provide a vast array of window sizes and colors,” Whittaker said.

Reviewing Kolbe’s near-limitless options, Whittaker was especially intrigued by the dual-color finish options, which allow for separate colors for the frame and the sash. Along with the seven-color palette of prescribed finishes, Kolbe’s aluminum-clad wood windows and doors were selected in specified sizes, trims, and grille patterns to communicate New Town’s architectural aesthetic across all of its buildings and homes.

“Even with the narrowed selection, this still is a lot broader range of options and a much higher quality product than we see most developers offer,” said Jack Meldrem of Jefferson City, MO-based distributor E-Blok. Ensuring Kolbe’s quality craftsmanship could be delivered at an accelerated pace, E-Blok worked closely with Whittaker, his architects, and his purchasing department for nearly two years before placing the first order.

Meldrem and his staff remain flexible and available, reviewing each order for accuracy, and talking almost every day with the Kolbe’s sales and fabrication representatives. He noted that this collaboration is essential, given the fast-track timelines. “Typically, we work with homeowners and builders on large, single-family homes. It’s not unusual to have the design and construction process take 18 to 24 months. Most homes in New Town are built in three to six months,” he said.

As of February 2006, New Town’s community included more than 600 sold housing units, plus civic and commercial buildings. “When we discovered the magnitude of the project, we were flabbergasted. We have changed our business to be more responsive than ever before. It’s an enormous undertaking,” Meldrem said.

“New Town is a 12- to 15-year project and will eventually result in 5,700 units. As the architecture evolves, each one of the ten phases will …

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Campuses Turn Up Construction Heat

Skyrocketing student numbers and a growing demand for “green” facilities are driving rapid campus expansion and renovation.


  1. Alan Whitson, RPA


Construction spending in the college market varies in dollar amounts, but is consistent in its expansion. Campus infrastructure needs constant maintenance, expansion, and modernization to meet educational demands.

Skyrocketing student numbers and a growing demand for “green” facilities are driving rapid campus expansion and renovation.

In 2005, enrollment in the 4,216 colleges and universities that make up the American higher education market hit an all-time high at 17.3 million students. Construction spending for 2005 was $14.4 billion, and is projected to be at an annualized rate of $14.7 billion per year for 2006 through 2008.

How hot is the college market? Campus officials at Texas State University forecast that enrollment at their Round Rock campus will double in the next five years. To address growing enrollment and aging infrastructure, the Texas state legislature earmarked $1.8 billion for new campus projects.

Yet, classroom education is only one of the activities taking place on the nation’s college campuses. Colleges build and maintain many types of facilities, including research laboratories, art studios, utility generation and transmission plants, dormitories, and water-distribution systems. The large research institutions also have specialized facilities such as medical centers, agricultural centers, nuclear reactors, and high-security biomedical laboratories.

Here are some of the trends that will drive the secondary-education market in the next few years.

  • Social, economic, and demographic factors will cause total college enrollment to reach 19.5 million students by 2014, a 12.7% increase. The shift to more female students than male will continue and will be more pronounced with part-time and older students.
  • The relationship between a college and its surrounding community is becoming more complex on several levels. This is especially true when it comes to real estate issues:
    • Some institutions are finding that property they purchased “just in case” is becoming a source of revenue, as developers want to use it, creating more private/public types of arrangements.
    • George Washington Univ., a large landowner in the hot Washington real estate market, is now seen as a “corporate developer first, not an educational facility,” by some of its neighbors.
    • Repeatedly, studies have revealed that college towns are “cool cities,” retirement magnets, or “enlightened” places to live.
    • Migration into college towns will make them more economically desirable than they are now. Colleges may face increasing pressures for affordable staff and faculty housing.
  • Hurricane Katrina’s impact on building materials and supplies and increases in the cost of oil and natural gas have created unexpected deficiencies in operating and capital budgets for the current fiscal year:
    • The “set-it-and-forget-it” approach to operating and capital budgeting is over. Look for increased and ongoing interest from administrators as to when and where the money is being spent and how it ties back to the original budget.
    • Look for a more direct connection between design and construction and operations/maintenance.
    • More staff positions on campus will be created with the goal of improving energy efficiency, including working with students and staff to reduce their energy use. Alternatively, this effort may be outsourced.
    • Interest in alternative energy sources, such as solar, wind, geo-thermal, co-generation, and bio-diesel will grow as prices of petroleum-based products stay high or go higher. This also will drive the trend for “greener” campuses.
    • In an effort to control costs, a college in Scotland is creating two open-space office buildings out of which all staff and faculty will work, i.e., no one on campus will have a private office.
  • There is a growing effort in colleges to examine the design of the learning space-virtual and physical, formal and informal-and the effects of that design on learning:
    • The design trend is to create a sense of place inside classrooms, as well as in student unions and campus open spaces. This is akin to the “branding” of retail and corporate spaces.
    • Look for more research and analysis on what students do and where they are throughout the day, and attempts to find ways to instill learning in all of their environments. Note that this trend may go to extremes and create a backlash against the “plugged-in” culture and the data overload it can create.
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School Goes “Green,” Recycles Runoff Water

In an effort to provide a good example for students and the community, Londonberry School installed a reflective, energy-efficient roof on its new building.


The Londonderry School in Harrisburg, PA, recently opened the doors to a new facility and ushered in a new era of environmentally friendly considerations in school design. Established in 1971, the school occupied leased space for classes extending from preschool through eighth grade. As the population grew and classroom space became tighter, school board members and staff began plans to construct a new building.

The white, 60-mil membrane that was installed over 8,555 sq. ft. of the Londonderry School’s roof provides exterior solar and heat reflection, which helps reduce HVAC energy consumption and water collection for sanitary facilities.

Realizing that construction of a new facility would provide an opportunity to integrate environmental consciousness and affordability in design, school officials systematically studied available options. The result, according to school officials, was “a model to challenge and revolutionize traditional thinking in school construction.” After careful analysis, construction materials and methods were selected to help reduce operating costs for energy consumption.

This innovative approach qualified the school as a “green” building with the U.S. Green Building Council, in Washington, and secured a silver rating from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program. LEED is a national standard for developing high-performance, sustainable buildings, including educational facilities.

One of the components of this green building effort was the use of Carlisle, PA-based Carlisle SynTec Inc.’s Sure-Weld TPO mechanically fastened roofing system. The white, 60-mil membrane was installed over 8,555 sq. ft. of the building’s roof, offering Londonderry School a twofold benefit: exterior solar and heat reflection, which helps reduce HVAC energy consumption, and water collection for sanitary facilities. Rainwater from the sloped roof is collected in a cistern and used to flush toilets in the school’s lavatories and to provide water for the heating system. The roof was installed by Progressive Services, Inc., Dover, PA, a Carlisle-authorized applicator.

The first step of the roofing installation was to secure polyisocyanurate insulation to the deck using fasteners and plates. Once in place, the reinforced membrane was attached to the insulation using the company’s fasteners with piranha plates and then heat welded along the seams. TPO accessories and flashings were installed to complete the roofing portion of the project.

Larry Toot, president of Progressive Services, was pleased with the opportunity to work on the school project. “The Londonderry School was the first LEED project we were involved in. Since the entire program was designed around the “green building” concept, we were able to take advantage of the company’s total roof system package that meets Energy Star guidelines and includes membrane and insulation, as well as a total system warranty,” he said.

In addition to the white TPO membrane and its unique application for recycling runoff water, the building’s insulation values are very high, offering additional energy-saving benefits to the school. Toot added, “We used two layers of four-inch polyiso, throughout. And, since everything is manufactured by one company, I am only dealing with one representative. Also, the fifteen-year total system warranty gives everyone peace of mind.”

Designed by the architectural firm of Murray Associates, Inc., Harrisburg, PA, and erected under the general supervision of the contracting firm of A.P. Williams, Inc., also of Harrisburg, PA, the Londonderry School was given a $500,000 loan from the Sustainable Energy Fund. That led an area bank to finance the remainder of the $3-million project.
The masonry exterior, accented by clerestory windows and large amounts of energy-efficient glazing throughout, provides a balance to the wooded pastoral setting just minutes from Pennsylvania’s state capital. With a “green” building; a silver rating; and a white, Energy Star roof, Londonderry School and Carlisle set a good example of how environmentally friendly products can be integrated into design plans to reduce energy consumption and costs.…

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Flooring “Rocks” at Hall of Fame

When the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s original rubber-tile flooring began to show signs of aging and abuse, the museum turned to Stonhard for a solution that fit the facility’s design and was easy to clean, impact resistant, and sound reducing.


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Can you imagine memorabilia from Chuck Berry, Ray Charles, Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Aretha Franklin, and Bruce Springsteen, all in one place? Atlantic records founder Ahmet Ertegun did and, along with a small group of music industry professionals, created the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland. This $84-million, 150,000-sq.-ft. museum opened its doors in 1995, and is a dazzling show house of rock-and-roll memorabilia and a major attraction for Cleveland’s North Coast Harbor.

The contemporary and sculptural styled museum was designed by I.M. Pei, the architect responsible for the National Gallery of Art’s East Building in Washington and the expansion of the Louvre museum in Paris. “In designing the building, it was my intention to echo the energy of rock and roll. I have consciously used an architectural vocabulary that is bold and new,” Pei said.

One of the design team’s considerations was what type of flooring to use in this modern structure. It was determined early on that the floors in the museum had to be design worthy to match the vision set out by Pei. However, they were also required to be easy to clean, impact resistant, and sound reducing.

Stonblend RTZ flooring from Stonhard, Maple Shade, NJ, covers all public areas at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. Working in stages, installers made the process invisible to museum staff and visitors. The result is a smooth, seamless, easy-to-maintain surface.

The original floors were rubber tile. After ten years of extensive daily wear and tear, along with the damp lakefront location of the facility, the floors were in dilapidated condition. The rubber tiles had delaminated. Moisture caused the tiles to peel away and the floor to have a worn and weathered appearance. Furthermore, the maintenance staff faced a significant cleaning challenge because of the dirt and moisture trapped between tiles. The decision makers for the new floors added to their list of criteria a flooring system that would address hydrostatic and osmotic problems.

Stonhard, Maple Shade, NJ, presented Stonblend RTZ, a 3/16-in. seamless, urethane system, infused with rubber aggregate chips to provide exceptional acoustic efficiency and ergonomic comfort, and a superior wear- and stain-resistant floor. The flooring would also compliment the dramatic design scheme of the museum. Multi-colored aggregate in a high-performance matrix created intricate patterns and a unique design style.

Stonhard began work in January 2005. The installation process was performed by the company’s installation team. This work was accomplished while the museum was open to the public by marking off small areas and completing the job in several stages. Masking and vigilantly draping installation areas prevented dust from landing or settling into exhibits or disrupting museum guests.

To prepare for the application, the installation team removed the existing tiles, stripped the substrate of all dirt, grease, and oils and flattened it to a smooth, dry surface using concrete blasting equipment, sanders, and grinders. An acrylic copolymer primer was applied to the substrate to produce a strong bond with the base prior to the flooring application.

Then Stonfil OP2, a three-component, polymer-modified grout, was applied. This product is a cementitious, osmotic-pressure-resistant grout developed for areas exposed to water. It permanently seals the concrete and protects against moisture. Stonblend RTZ, a three-part application incorporating curing agent, resin, and aggregate, was applied using a screed rake and spiked roller. A topcoat was rolled onto the surface. A 12-hr. cure time was required before foot traffic was permitted and in 48 hr. cleaning was allowed.

Working in stages not only ensured proper cure times but also made the process invisible to museum staff. The entire 42,500-sq.-ft. job was completed in March 2005.

Cleaning the new flooring proved to be exceptionally easy due to the smooth, seamless surface. The maintenance staff at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame no longer battles to clean between the tiles. All that is needed to keep …

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Carpet Strengthens Retailer’s Image

Starting from scratch can offer both a challenge and an opportunity. For J. C. Penney Co. Inc. executives the challenge was to find the right elements to bring their vision of a new corporate headquarters in Plano, TX, to reality. The opportunity was to create the type of headquarters that was functional and comfortable.

Among the goals when designing and building their headquarters was to create the sensation of being outdoors through the use of organic materials such as real woods; natural stones; and plant-filled, sky-lit atriums to bring in natural light. Executives sought a flexible dcor that would allow future changes. The company also felt flooring that was attractive, durable, and timeless in color, pattern, and design, was integral in reflecting the dcor planned for the facility. “When purchasing carpet, you must ensure you understand the specifications, fiber, dyes, manufacturing processes, style, everything. Although design is important, work with your designers to select colors and styles that will be timeless and not dated,” said Mary Knuff, building operations and planning manager for the home office.

J. C. Penney Co. Inc. achieved its goal of creating an inviting, comfortable workspace that continues today to receive enthusiastic approval from visitors and employees. Carpeting made from Antron carpet fiber is key to this success.

Building a new headquarters was a decision made by the company after moving from its corporate headquarters in New York to Dallas in 1987. J. C. Penney leased office space in Dallas for five years and then decided it needed to create a corporate home of its own from the ground up. After extensive research of other corporate headquarters and reviewing dozens of design concepts, J. C. Penney executed its vision of creating a comfortable and aesthetically pleasing workspace conducive to its employees’ productivity.

  1. C. Penney enlisted HKS Architects Inc.’s Dallas team to execute its vision. Once the design ideas were approved, extensive research on carpet selections was conducted. HKS developed carpet specifications and several mills competed for the project. The bids were evaluated on the specifications provided, appearance in comparison with a control sample, material and installation costs, and the recommended carpet maintenance program. Using this information, the installation team was able to conduct a total cost-of-ownership evaluation for each of the carpet choices.

Additionally, because J. C. Penney, a giant in the retail industry, has its own testing laboratory, the carpet was taken there and put through heavy use and abuse. It was trampled on, spilled on, and torn to test its stain resistance and durability, then cleaned. Carpet, constructed with Antron carpet fiber from Invista Commercial Flooring, Wichita, KS, was the standout performer and became the carpet of choice for the facility.

  1. C. Penney’s headquarters, an eight-building campus connected by a central atrium, is not only work space, but houses a fitness center, daycare facility, coffee shops, a cafeteria, and even a television studio. Carpet with Antron fiber now covers 1.3 million sq. ft. of the space, including the offices, fitness center, and atrium. Little feet tread on the carpeted hallways of the daycare facility. “Typically, carpet in such public areas lasts for approximately seven to ten years before it needs to be replaced,” Knuff said. “The carpet in the J. C. Penney headquarters has been down for 13 years and counting.”

In Knuff’s experience, “Maintenance is key. First and foremost, Antron carpet fiber is a genuinely good product. But if you want something to last, you take care of it. The carpet is vacuumed regularly and cleaned using the hot-water extraction method. High traffic areas, such as the daycare, are cleaned several times a year.”

Helping to maintain its appearance is the manner in which the carpet was manufactured. Antron uses a four-hole, hollow-filament shape that minimizes the soil-trapping area of the fiber and enhances soil resistance. The four holes refract and diffuse light to hide the effects of soil, while the smooth outer surface makes it easier for soil to be released during cleaning.

Thirteen years later, J. C. Penney’s headquarters is still beautiful and timeless, and the carpet “has proven to be a work horse. I don’t know of many installations that have 13-year-old carpet that still looks good. The colors are …

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Metal Composites Punch Up Exteriors

Smooth, sleek metal-composite panels offer an upscale look with minimal maintenance in today’s commercial building projects.


Toy Henson


Metal-composite materials are often used to give an office or commercial building a high-tech image, thanks to their ability to be bent, curved, and joined together in a limitless combination of geometric configurations. The smooth, sleek panels project a luxurious image when installed and are designed to provide excellent service with minimal maintenance for the life of a building. Cost-conscious building owners and facility managers are looking to this new generation of metal-composite wall material to make a compelling design statement for newly constructed or renovated buildings.

Cost-conscious building owners and facility managers look to metal-composite wall materials for a new generation of design products for new construction or renovation.

When introduced in North America almost 30 years ago, metal-composite materials were called aluminum-composite materials. The recent name change to metal-composite materials (MCM) reflects the introduction of new skin metals such as zinc, copper, stainless steel, and titanium. However, aluminum remains the predominant skin material.

Available in a variety of lengths and widths, MCM panels are formed by bonding two metal skins to a highly engineered plastic core. This creates a “sandwich” panel. The bonding process occurs under very precise conditions of temperature, pressure, and tension, resulting in a metal/plastic composite sheet that offers several advantages over a similar thickness of solid sheet metal.

Metal-composite materials are among the most consistent and precise metal construction products available. The sheets are flat when manufactured and remain flat after installation. There is no “oil-canning” or wrinkling because the skins are bonded to the core under tension, resulting in a balanced panel.

The panels have a consistent finish. Aluminum and steel versions can be finished in virtually any color. Developments in paint application technology ensure that finishes applied to aluminum and steel are consistent from one panel to the next. This prevents a building exterior from acquiring a checkerboard appearance. Panels made from natural materials including zinc, copper, and titanium do not require a finish to protect them from the elements, but the resulting finish may appear inconsistent.

Previously, the use of metal-composite panels was limited to high-end projects. Recent improvements in product technology, manufacturing, and installation techniques have allowed metal-composite panels to be more cost-competitive. The panels are now being installed on a wide variety of buildings and used in conjunction with various building applications, ranging from major wall-panel systems to cornices and canopies. Panels are also used to accent building materials such as glass and pre-cast panels.

Initial construction costs can often be reduced by using MCMs because the panels can typically be installed faster than exteriors such as pre-cast, granite, or brick. The lighter weight metal-composite panels can also save money by reducing the amount of structural steel needed to support these claddings.

Continuous improvements in paints and coatings have lowered maintenance costs. Today’s MCM panels retain their luster for decades, ensuring buildings maintain their aesthetic appeal and property value. That is especially important when it’s time to sell. A good-looking, well-maintained facility may not require expensive re-sale refurbishing.

Properly designed and installed, metal-composite panels provide a reliable building envelope that protects against air and water infiltration and guards against mold and mildew buildup. The panels also are environmentally responsible and sustainable, as evidenced by the fact that approximately 70% of an aluminum-composite wall panel is manufactured from recycled content.…

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What Is A Cool Roof, And How Do I Get One?

Cool roofing is a hot trend in green building.


Cary Black, Chemical Fabrics and Film Associatio


Lowered air-conditioning demand. Reduced urban heat-island effect. Cool roofing can deliver both of these features to the environmentally conscious specifier or owner.

Replacing St. John’s Regional Medical Center’s existing built-up roof involved a tear-off and installation of a watertight, reflective-vinyl roof and a cellular lightweight concrete (CLWC) system that provided superior insulation.

Reflective, or cool, roofing delivers high solar reflectance and thermal emittance values. Solar reflectance, also known as albedo, is a measure of a material’s ability to reflect the visible, infrared, and ultraviolet wavelengths of sunlight. Thermal emittance is a measure of a material’s ability to release absorbed, or non-reflected, heat. Both properties are measured on a scale of 0 to 1; the coolest roofs have the highest values. A third measure, solar reflectance index (SRI), may be used, and represents solar reflectance and emittance in a single value.

As one of the fastest-growing building and construction trends today, owners of large commercial buildings have more reasons than ever to incorporate cool roofs into their building design. It is a sure-fire way to reduce heat gain in interior spaces and curb the roofing surface’s contribution to the urban heat-island effect. That effect consists of the measurable increase in ambient urban air temperature that comes when natural vegetation in the environment is replaced with heat-absorbing roofs, roads, and parking surfaces.

What is a cool roof?

At present, there is no industry-wide definition of cool roofs, but many sustainable-construction guidance documents and standards recommend them. Reflective roofing technologies are increasingly called for in federal, state, and local energy codes, most notably California’s building energy code, Title 24. The code prescribes a cool roof for many low-slope, non-residential applications, and specifiers are turning to the Cool Roof Rating Council’s (CRRC, Oakland, CA) product-rating database to help make purchasing decisions.

CRRC measures the solar reflectance and thermal emittance of roofing products, and reports information using an online directory ( Each year, CRRC conducts random testing to ensure the credibility of the directory. The program allows manufacturers and sellers to label their roofing products according to the specific properties CRRC measures. Roofs qualifying for Title 24 in California must be tested by a CRRC-approved lab and receive a CRRC label. CRRC does not specify minimum requirements for solar reflectance or thermal emittance, however.

A product rating system that does specify minimum requirements is Energy Star, the joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, and the U.S. Dept. of Energy, Washington, designed to help businesses and consumers make energy-efficient product choices.

For low-slope roof applications, a roof product qualifying for the Energy Star label under its Roof Products Program must have an initial solar reflectivity of at least 0.65, and weathered reflectance of at least 0.50. Emittance is not a current criterion for this program, although that may change. Title 24’s requirements, in comparison, call for initial thermal emittance of 0.75 or better, and initial solar reflectance of 0.70 or better. Beginning in August 2009, aged reflectance-0.55-will be used for products that are CRRC-registered.

How cool makes a difference

How can you get a quantitative analysis of the potential energy savings for a building without performing a detailed building-energy simulation? Simple web-based tools developed by federal agencies can help assign an estimated value on the annual energy savings that can accrue during the life of a typical white reflective roof vs. a non-reflective black roof. EPA’s Roofing Comparison Calculator calculates the net cooling savings from installing an Energy Star-labeled roof product on an air-conditioned building, and considers any resulting differences in heating costs. The U.S. Dept. of Energy also has a calculator tool. These calculators can be accessed at in the Cool Roofing section.

Navigating the Incentives

The Obama Administration has promised a significantly heightened emphasis on green-building technologies, increasing the likelihood of further interest in cool roofing. Any initiatives will build on the economic stimulus initiatives of the 110th Congress which, using the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, extended until 2014 the federal tax deduction for energy-efficient commercial buildings with qualifying systems, including roofs. The amount deductible is as much as

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Valve Nails Water Hammer

Utah Valley State College used flush valves from Moen to put its water-hammer problem to rest.


Some pipes, such as organ and vocal, are meant to be heard. Others, namely plumbing pipes, are not.

Utah Valley State College, Orem, UT, was facing the latter type of pipe noise. Water hammer became a problem in the basement restoration of the main education building used by many of the school’s 25,000 students. Any time one of the five basement urinals was flushed, water hammer occurred.

FreeHand electronic flush valves were installed to quiet the water hammer problem in basement restrooms.

Water hammer happens when toilets or urinals are flushed and a pipe is suddenly closed at the outlet (downstream). The resulting mass of water before the closure is still moving forward with some velocity, building up high pressure with shock waves that cause the noise. Left unaddressed, the constant excess pressure can lead to bursting pipes and result in structural damage.

The maintenance crew’s first effort to combat the problem was to replace the flush valves, but the noise did not subside. Despite using a variety of techniques and applications to alleviate the problem, including the installation of water-hammer arrestors, expansion tanks, and even heavier diaphragms, the noise continued.

Industrial plumbing and piping distributor Mountainland Supply Co., Orem, UT, recommended a FreeHand electronic flush valve from Moen Inc., North Olmsted, OH. The flush valve features an advanced sensor-eye that offers reliable and hygienic service. In addition, the FreeHand sensor flush valves have a slow-closing piston flush mechanism and operating pressures that range from 10 to 120 psi.

After installation of just one sensor valve, the water-hammer noise stopped completely. The piston allows just the right amount of water through the system, while adapting to a range of pressures to eliminate water surge and stabilize the entire system.

Since installing the FreeHand flush valves in the college’s bathroom, no maintenance has been required and water hammer has been eliminated. With only four maintenance workers for the campus, finding reliable products is a must. Because the Moen flush valve worked so well, maintenance workers have ordered 70 more valves to retrofit the remaining restrooms in the education building.…

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Upgrade to Addressable Fire Alarms

This alarm-system technology was developed in response to the need to announce a fire or emergency condition in a shorter time, as dictated by new Underwriters Laboratories (UL), Northbrook, IL, requirements. These new requirements are an outgrowth of guidelines set forth by organizations such as the National Fire Protection Association, Quincy, MA.

Ultimately, the new UL requirements reflect the improved standards and forward-thinking approaches that the fire-protection industry as a whole seeks to embrace.

One of the new requirements states that notification circuits, which contain horns, speakers, and strobe lights, must be activated within 10 sec. from the time of indication, i.e., a detector sensing smoke. To meet this standard required a new polling protocol that was capable of polling ten devices at a time. This results in the ability to notify building occupants ten times faster than with single-device polling technology.

Further expanding the capability of technology, when 12-AWG, fire-power-limited riser or fire-power-limited plenum wire is installed, this protocol can work over a system loop equipped with as much as 10,000 ft. of wire. As a result, the MS-9600LS fire-control panel, which accommodates 318 devices on each of two loops (198 of which can be detectors), can incorporate 636 total devices. This is more than sufficient to protect most mid- to large-sized facilities.

The LiteSpeed system also makes it easier to incorporate new device types. In conventional addressable systems, devices make use of a “smart head,” equipped with a microprocessor. The decision to sound an alarm is made in the detector head. Should the user wish to add a new feature to the system, each of the device heads must be taken down and reprogrammed.

Conversely, with LiteSpeed-enabled products, devices are used solely as data collectors. The alarm is not processed in the device head but rather in the control panel, based on the digital data values sent by the device. Adding a system-wide feature requires some simple reprogramming and updating in the panel software. Whether it’s an addressable ion detector, smoke detector, or pull station, adding it to the system is far less time consuming and costly.

Troubleshooting and installation are also relatively easy. Once all the devices are addressed and connected, the installer simply touches the Auto Program button. The system sends out a signal that will locate and identify all attached devices. If there is a problem with a device, or even if two devices are similarly addressed (convincing the system that there is a duplicate, unnecessary device), the system will quickly find it.

The LiteSpeed technology makes upgrading to an addressable system much more approachable for facility owners from installation and maintenance perspectives. The faster occupant notification also provides an improved sense of security for the building occupants.…

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Control Daylight, Save Money

A properly designed and tested daylight-control system can result in energy savings approaching 70% in most commercial buildings.


Pekka Hakkarainen


Commercial buildings are forced to face the high cost of energy every day. It’s the nature of operating a business. Despite the fact that most lighting fixtures in schools, offices, and retail stores use energy-efficient fluorescent lamps, lighting remains the single largest source of energy consumption for these buildings, accounting for 35% to 65% of overall energy use.

In a typical commercial building, lighting consumes the greatest amount of energy, ranging from 35% to 65%.

The good news is that there are several ways to reduce and manage the amount of energy used by a facility, as well as the associated operating costs. One of the most effective strategies for achieving energy efficiency is to include a daylighting-control system into a building’s plans.

Despite the high cost of energy, electric light typically is wasted by being operated at 100% of capacity all day, even when there is available sunlight to offset the need for full output. This is an extremely uneconomical practice, especially during peak hours when electricity and corresponding demand charges are high. Daylighting design takes advantage of the available sunlight, making it possible to reduce electric light levels and save energy.

Daylighting was once considered merely a method for bringing more sunlight into a building using architectural features such as light shelves, large window-to-wall ratios, and skylights. Now, however, daylighting is more accurately described as a comprehensive design technique in which the goal is to create an efficient lighting system around the concept of incorporating as much daylight as possible, thereby reducing or supplementing the need for electric light. Effective daylighting systems today integrate with lighting control and controllable window systems to bring light into a building and to effectively manage that light.

Saving energy

Sustainable design is no longer an option for many commercial projects-especially as green building codes and guidelines become more prevalent. The federal energy bill, passed by Congress and signed by President Bush on August 8, 2005, supports sustainable design by offering tax deductions for constructing energy-efficient commercial buildings. The legislation provides a tax deduction of as much as $1.80/sq. ft. for new or renovated buildings that exceed the ASHRAE 90.1-2001 standard by 50%, with additional deductions for lighting, HVAC systems, and the building envelope. Lighting improvements alone can save building owners $0.60/sq. ft.

California actually mandates the use of skylights and daylighting-control systems in single-story commercial buildings with a ceiling height greater than 15 ft. in the 2005 edition of Title 24, the state’s energy code.

Retail buildings that incorporate high-performance designs and energy-efficient lighting systems can actually reduce energy consumption by 50%, when compared with conventional building designs, according to the U.S. Dept. of Energy. By effectively managing both sunlight and electric light, typically by integrating daylighting design with a quality lighting-control system, such as fluorescent lighting control with digital dimmable ballasts, facilities can save as much as 70% of current energy use.

Productivity and sales

Beyond saving energy by taking advantage of available sunlight, facilities can actually improve productivity, satisfaction, and sales while improving the overall health and morale of the building’s occupants.

Dozens of studies have confirmed that classrooms are more effective learning environments with greater amounts of daylight. Likewise, office environments and employee productivity have been shown to directly improve with the proper balance of daylight and electric light in the workplace. Some studies show that bringing more daylight into retail stores has a positive effect on sales.

The cost of an employee (including salary, benefits, and overhead) far exceeds the energy cost in any building. That is why ergonomic lighting-lighting that is designed and installed in a way that considers the physical and psychological needs of the occupants-pays big dividends for companies today.


Due to its remarkable evolution over the past five years or so, daylighting design has garnered much attention in the commercial-building arena. Effective daylighting systems today provide a comprehensive and integrated system for balancing building-wide efficiency by regulating an appropriate balance between natural and artificial light levels within the interior of a building.

Integrated daylighting-control systems consist of controllable lighting fixtures (such …

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