Building Enclosure: Streamlining the Research Process for Today’s Architect

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Fire ratings, performance codes and product specifying can bring on some of the most frustrating challenges to architects, taking time away from actual design and creating potential liability issues with every detail. Well known for its fiberglass material, roof shingles and insulation products, Owens Corning put serious thought into making this less appealing but hugely important process easier with a new systems solution called Owens Corning® Enclosure Solutions. This system helps “deliver confidence, convenience and choice to Architects,” says Herbert Slone, chief architect and senior manager of commercial building systems at Owens Corning.

Owens Corning unveiled Enclosure Solutions earlier this year at the 2016 AIA Convention, and is excited by the innovative opportunities it will offer future projects. “It’s very much a new approach,” Slone says. “The industry has been gravitating towards systemization, but Enclosure Solutions takes it to an unprecedented level.” Slone explains that the goal is to help architects navigate these complex systems by asking two simple questions: “What are you building? and How are you building it?” Then Owens Corning’s Enclosure Solutions has an answer, a new way of looking at a wide portfolio of roof, wall and foundation systems to complement any type of construction.

Firms Robert A.M. Stern Associates and EYP worked on the 360,000-square-foot North Quad building,at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, for more than five years, creating interiors for classroom space and student housing with a classic brick façade. They turned to Owens Corning Thermafiber with the usual challenges of thermal/moisture performance and meeting necessary fire standards.

“Steel stud, CMU backup or wood stud, there’s a lot of nuance,” Slone describes. The project team navigated these nuances to eventually select Thermafiber® RainBarrier® mineral wool insulation and a CMU backup wall for durability and performance, and, for NFPA 285 fire test compliance. The choice also helped meet the project’s energy goals for the building shell, manage cavity wall drainage and improve acoustics. And it was Owens Corning Thermafiber that supplied all of the accompanying building-science-backed research and technical support.

The architects had peace of mind knowing they were completely code compliant from the start. “It is reassuring for architects and manufacturers to work together to get everything right,” says Slone. “That’s what Owens Corning Enclosure Solutions is all about: Go to one place, get state-of-the-art building science and technical support to reduce your research time.” Part of what also makes Enclosure Solutions a one-stop shop is the wide umbrella of products Owens Corning offers. “We have quite a portfolio.”

Currently the offerings from Owens Corning include fiberglass insulation, extruded polystyrene (XPS) insulation and mineral wool insulation, but Owens Corning Enclosure Solutions will also recommend flashing, sealants, water and air resistive barriers, air/water sealing fasteners and masonry anchors that best match a project’s specific needs. As a complete service, the team looks outside of Owens Corning’s portfolio to bring the best of the market together with documentation for architects. They currently have more than 70 prequalified air barriers from other manufacturers to recommend, for instance, if a system calls for it, making Owens Corning Enclosure Solutions a completely unique offering in today’s industry.

“There are so many things in the building code today and the energy code that weren’t there 10 years ago,” says Slone. “Performance for resisting fire propagation, for resisting air leakage, water leakage … All those standards are now much more system based in the code than they were 20 years ago.” Solving these more system-based problems means that Enclosure Solutions considers the broadest range of solutions possible. And for Slone, Owens Corning is the best to lead this new approach: “Nobody has the breadth of partnerships that we have to provide the breadth of solutions that we offer.”

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