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D4COST Software

  Building for Weather: Balancing Cost vs. Risk
By Reinhard Schneider

No matter what part of the world you live in, weather is an inescapable force. While modern building techniques have evolved to help protect structures from weather-related damage, it is impossible to make a building impenetrable and, quite often, the pursuit of the strongest building may lead to extra initial costs that may strain the construction budget for some building owners.

In today’s building world, how does one decide what extra precautions to take? Certainly cold or windy regions where hail may be prevalent or especially rainy areas such as Seattle require a specialized set of considerations.

A study by the Multi-hazard Mitigation Council (MMC) for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) found that every $1 spent on loss prevention saves society (individuals, states and communities) an average of $4 in future reduced losses (Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety).

But exactly where do architects and building owners draw the risk management line when constructing a new building? Smart architects make lasting buildings by balancing the anticipated needs of the building with budgetary realities and appropriate product solutions to strive for long-term performance.

Protecting Interiors from Exterior Conditions
Although wind, rainstorms and hail are all different phenomena, each is capable of causing extreme wind load, excess moisture and impact damage. The damage these events cause to the interior of buildings is more often caused by exterior failures that allow the elements to reach inside.

To protect buildings against weather, the best offense is a good defense. Using a moisture-resistant fiberglass-mat gypsum panel, such as DensGlass® Sheathing from Georgia-Pacific Gypsum, can help prevent water intrusion. Controlling moisture entry from the outside can help prevent mold growth inside.

In areas where coastal or rain-driven flooding is a danger, there’s further need to protect exterior walls against water damage. In August 2008, FEMA released new guidelines1 indicating that non-paper-faced gypsum is acceptable for use in Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHAs). Several non-paper-faced Dens® Brand gypsum panels from Georgia-Pacific Gypsum may be used under the new FEMA guidelines for wall and ceiling applications in the thousands of SFHAs in the United States. These gypsum panels are faced with fiberglass mats and feature moisture-resistant cores to resist the effects of surface water exposure during and after the construction cycle, thus providing resistance to subsequent mold growth.

One potential strategy is the use of drainable dryable wall assemblies, which use durable building materials in a unique wall configuration that allows the wall to drain and dry out after a flood or similar event. 2 The wall is built so the chair molding and the base molding can be removed. After removal, the gaps behind the chair molding and the base molding provide space where the wall can be sprayed out with a hose and left to dry.

The technique involves moving the wiring above the flood level and spraying a 2-inch-deep layer of closed-cell polyurethane foam between the studs. Leaving the remaining space empty, the fiberglass mat drywall, which offers better interior protection from moisture than traditional paper faced drywall, is applied. This creates small gaps at the top and bottom of the wall that are covered by crown molding and baseboard. If a flood occurs, the molding can be pried off and the wall cavity can be flushed out from the top; then the water is vacuumed up at the bottom, and fans are set to dry the wall quickly.

Averting Roof Remediation
According to the Ohio Insurance Institute, businesses in Ohio reported 3,100 claims totaling $11.1 million after a single windstorm in 20093. Higher wind-uplift ratings on roofs may qualify for lower insurance premiums and can help protect buildings from anticipated weather conditions. Choosing a cover board that can add to the durability of a roofing system leads to a lower total cost of ownership through easier maintenance and lowered insurance premiums.

For roofing, durability means more than just strength – it also means increased protection for the people and assets inside buildings, whether it is from wind, rain, snow or sleet. A suitable cover board, such as DensDeck® Roof Board, can help control incidental moisture and protect against impact including damage caused by hail.4 Choosing the right cover board will protect the investment in your buildings, simply because the roof will be able to perform better and last longer.

Knowledge is power in the pursuit of construction buildings suited to withstand weather. Along with many other responsibilities, architects must also be up to date on local weather risks and proper code requirements for building envelopes. Deciding whether to merely meet or exceed code, however, can be a challenge best discussed – at length – with the building’s future owner.

  1. Flood Damage-Resistant Materials Requirements, FEMA, 2008
  2. Please consult a qualified remediation contractor prior to use of this strategy or any other flood remediation strategy to consider potential contamination from flood waters and other factors. Georgia-Pacific Gypsum does not provide flood remediation services.
  3. Nationwide Insurance, Preventing Wind Damage
  4. All components used in roofing systems, including DensDeck Roof Boards, may be damaged from exposure to excess moisture and should be protected from exposure to moisture before, during and after installation. For additional information concerning moisture management and DensDeck Roof Boards, consult the DensDeck technical brochure available at www.gpgypsum.com.

About Reinhard Schneider
Reinhard Schneider is the Technical & Product Development Manager Commercial Roofing with Georgia-Pacific Gypsum LLC , a leading manufacturer of gypsum wallboard products in North America. A graduate of Kent State University's School of Architecture in Kent, Ohio, he practiced architecture internationally and in Ohio for 15 years before focusing his efforts on commercial roofing. For more than 20 years he has been involved in the development, manufacturing, testing and marketing of commercial roofing systems. He joined the Goodyear/Versico roofing division in Akron, Ohio as Marketing Manager and had responsibilities for product development and contractor training. Hundreds of contractors attended his comprehensive, hands-on training courses each year. Reinhard then took a position as National Sales and Marketing Manager for Clements National Corp. / Cadillac Products in Chicago, IL, working with a number of major membrane manufacturers to design and manufacture modified bitumen and thermoplastic welding equipment. For the last eleven years Reinhard has been heading up the Technical Development of DensDeck at the Georgia Pacific Corp. He has written several articles on roofing technology that have been published in RCI Interface, Architectural Roofing and Waterproofing and Roofing Contractor Magazine. He is a member of RCI, AIA, RICOWI and SPRI, where he is currently a member of the Executive Board. In recent years, he has conducted numerous symposiums throughout the United States and Canada addressing thousands of architects, consultants and building officials.

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