June 30, 2017 declaration of independence

A Declaration of Independence from Foam Plastic Insulation (2017)

In the spirit of 1776, 475 High Performance Building Supply is proud to reprint an update to our Declaration of Independence from Foam Plastic Insulation, first published for July 4th, in 2013.   (…and picked up by Treehugger).  Enjoy: ———————————————— In BROOKLYN, NY, July 4th, 2017. A DECLARATION. WHEN in the course of constructing and renovating buildings, it […]

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April 17, 2017

Builder Testimonial: Brad Hankins on the INTELLO Energy Revolution

475 is excited to present this guest blog post by Brad Hankins, a designer-builder from Langley, WA. Long committed to sustainability, Brad knows the environmental benefits of high-performance construction. But Brad was also interested in understanding how quickly investments in energy efficient design pays for themselves, an important factor in convincing homeowners to jump on the high-performance bandwagon. […]

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April 17, 2017 Family exiled to trailer after home becomes unlivable.

Why Foam Fails. Reason #7: Unhealthy Off-Gassing & Dust

Spray foam throws off two forms of toxic poison:  off-gassing of the volatile organic compounds and uncured chemical dust. Spray foam is a two-component chemical system: Part A and Part B.  When the chemicals are properly prepared and precisely mixed, under the right site conditions, the chemicals will have a complete reaction eventually and become inert, ceasing to […]

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April 14, 2017 smartwall3d

A Smart Enclosure Starts with Smart Walls: Green High-Performance Done Right For Our Sustainable Future

For thousands of years buildings were made with a keen regard for nature and historically building science was intimately attuned to natural phenomenon.  Then, the 20th century builders, with giant resources of energy and rapid scientific advancements tried to conquer the vagaries of nature.  Natural solutions were ignored and flaunted – they made up, down, and down, up – if they felt […]

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February 12, 2017 foam_cracking_2

Foam Fails Reason #6: Inflexible and Prone to Cracking

It’s important that a building’s air barrier and insulation be dimensionally stable – or resilient to movement. Foam is neither. The curing process after spray foam is applied inherently entails shrinkage and hardening.  Not only can such shrinkage result in pulling back from stud bays and other connections – which often leads to gaps in the […]

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December 24, 2016 foam-fire-nyc

Foam Board Fire in New York City

On December 14th a NYU Langone Medical Center roof caught fire.  As reported on dnainfo by Ben Fractenberg and Aidan Gardiner: Workers were cutting metal when a spark flew onto a roofing insulation material called “rigid board” and caught fire on the seventh floor of 560 First Ave. near East 30th Street, a vacant property that’s […]

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July 8, 2016 babywoolinspector

Introducing Havelock Wool: A Truly Sustainable Insulation

In the green building world we sometimes take time, effort, and research to replicate natural processes. Bill McDonaugh puts this eloquently when he notes we should create objects that aspire to the performance abilities and services of trees: What if our homes and workplaces were like trees, living organisms participating productively in their surroundings? Imagine a building, enmeshed in […]

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June 28, 2016

A Declaration of Independence from Foam Plastic Insulation (2016)

In the spirit of 1776, 475 High Performance Building Supply is proud to reprint an update to our Declaration of Independence from Foam Plastic Insulation, first published for July 4th 2013 (Treehugger).  Enjoy: In BROOKLYN, NY, July 4th, 2016. A DECLARATION. WHEN in the course of constructing and renovating buildings, it becomes necessary for architects, consultants […]

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January 8, 2016 explosion

Make Better Choices: Toward A Less Toxic World

Nature is toxic enough – it would seem sensible that we try to limit the amount of toxicity industry contributes.  Almost nothing is completely good.  But in the building industry as with much of modern life there are a dizzying array of invented chemical compounds that may provide great benefits but also deliver varying degrees of […]

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January 6, 2016 fifth circuit

Is Spray Foam Pollution? The Fifth Circuit Has Spoken.

On December 23, 2015 the United States Court of Appeals Fifth Circuit Judges Davis, Barksdale and Dennis filed a ruling affirming a lower courts decision that the Evanston Insurance Company is not obligated to honor insurance policies with the spray foam manufacturer Lapolla Industries and defend Lapolla in a lawsuit brought by Michael and Kimberly Commaroto […]

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December 3, 2015 trapped

Insulating Unvented Roof Assemblies: Foam Free

We’re big fans of Fine Homebuilding.  In the most recent issue of Fine Homebuilding, Martin Holladay wrote a piece on Insulating Unvented Roof Assemblies.  We agree that avoiding sheathing rot is critical, and that air permeable insulation such as fiberglass or cellulose cannot be used alone.  But in it, unfortunately, all four options provided are dominated […]

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June 30, 2015 declaration-of-independence

A Declaration of Independence from Foam Plastic Insulation (2015)

In the spirit of 1776, 475 High Performance Building Supply is proud to reprint an update to our Declaration of Independence from Foam Plastic Insulation, first published for July 4th 2013 (Treehugger).  Enjoy: In BROOKLYN, NY, July 4th, 2015. A DECLARATION. WHEN in the course of constructing and renovating buildings, it becomes necessary for architects, consultants […]

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March 2, 2015 foam_evil

Is Foam Evil? A New Paradigm of Foam – Less is Best

“Is Foam Evil?” was the initial title of a panel discussion I participated in at NESEA’s Building Energy 15 Conference – before it was renamed “Tiny Bubbles” (see Green Building Advisor’s highlights toward the end of this article). Here at 475 High Performance Building Supply, we are famously anti-foam, with particular emphasis given to closed cell spray […]

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October 8, 2014 Foam-up-close-200x200

Foam Fails Reason #5: Excessive Shrinkage

With the growing use of foam plastic insulation in building construction, first in commercial roofing and then too often metastasizing over the entire building enclosure, it is being used increasingly as an air barrier component. This is a problem for many reasons – see Foam Fails – and one of them is excessive shrinkage. Essential to maintaining airtightness is maintaining […]

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July 1, 2014 declaration of independence

A Declaration of Independence from Foam Plastic Insulation (2014)

In the spirit of 1776, 475 High Performance Building Supply is proud to reprint our Declaration of Independence from Foam Plastic Insulation, first published for July 4th 2013 (Treehugger).  Enjoy: In BROOKLYN, NY, July 4th, 2014. A DECLARATION. WHEN in the course of constructing and renovating buildings, it becomes necessary for architects, consultants and builders to […]

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November 14, 2013

DWG Construction Details for Deep Energy Retrofit (DER) Foam-Free Assemblies

DER renovations are particular animals. While navigating often mysterious and disjointed existing assemblies, there’s much head scratching about how to achieve the long-term performance one wants with renovation work that accommodates occupied and/or finished interiors. 475 is very happy to release a new addition to our free, downloadable collection of construction details: a DWG file for a […]

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September 19, 2013

Reason Foam Fails #4 – Counterproductive Vapor Retarder

As insulation levels increase, building enclosures get colder and are more resistant to drying out – staying wetter longer, and posing greater risks for mold and structural damage.  With the structure unable to “bake/air” dry in the old energy inefficient manner, the assembly drying capacity – its resiliency – becomes reliant on vapor diffusion-driven drying. […]

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September 4, 2013

DWG Construction Details for Low-Energy & Passive House Foam-Free Assemblies

475 High Performance Building Supply (475) works  to make high-performance construction less complicated and more understandable – working to help you achieve the highest levels of success. In our latest effort, focusing on Climate Zones 4 and up, we are introducing downloadable electronic construction details in DWG format for use by architects, engineers, consultants and […]

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July 3, 2013

A Declaration of Independence from Foam Plastic Insulation

When in the course of constructing and renovating buildings, it becomes necessary for architects, consultants and builders to stop using materials and methods which have defined high-performance building in our time, and determine to set a new course separate and free from foam plastic insulation and the chemical companies that push it, the consideration of […]

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May 20, 2013

The Ten Golden Rules for Foam-Free Flat Roofs

When insulating a wood structure flat roof, 475’s goal as always, is to build this in the most healthy, structurally sound and ecologically friendly way, achieving truly high performance.  This means we try to generally avoid using foam above or below the roof deck (see our 475 series Foam Fails). With foam out of the […]

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May 20, 2013

Unvented Flat Roofs: A Technical Discussion

Flat roofs have often been built with the insulation all on top of the vapor closed drainage plane – as this avoids dew point condensation issues inboard of the roofing.  However in many situations the insulation may need to be primarily or entirely below the flat roof membrane and between the roof joists – if […]

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May 16, 2013

Reason Foam Fails #3 – Degrading Thermal Insulation Values

Polyisocyanurate (polyiso), XPS, and spray closed-cell foams substantially degrade over time as the insulating blowing agent gases diffuse out and plain air diffuses in.  How much does it degrade and at what rate?  To answer, industry has come up with something called Long Term Thermal Resistance (LTTR) testing.  LTTR testing takes into account degradation by […]

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April 3, 2013

Foam-Free DER: Wall & Foundation Assemblies

In this post we examine the deep energy retrofit (DER) of existing wall & foundation assemblies. As we outlined in Foam-Free DER: Series Introduction (here), we are looking at the recommended assemblies provided in the Mass Save Deep Energy Retrofit Builder Guide (the Guide), and offering foam-free alternative approaches.  Also as noted in the introduction, we are starting on the […]

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March 31, 2013

Foam-Free DER: Series Introduction

The deep energy retrofit (DER) is essential to our low energy building future – as most all buildings that will exist (in our lifetime) do already exist.  The most authoritative DER guide for  the Northeast is the Mass Save Deep Energy Retrofit Builder Guide.  (the Guide)  Download the Guide here (pdf). Produced by the Building Science Corporation,  the Guide […]

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February 12, 2013 window-detail-186x300

475 Presentation: Foam Free High Performance Building Enclosures

Foam Free High Performance Building Enclosures presents a clear and practical guide to achieving the highest levels of resilient and sustainable building enclosures while eliminating foam.   The growing performance demands of air control, vapor control, thermal control, health and sustainability are examined.   Foam insulation, dominant in today’s high-performance marketplace, is increasingly recognized as hindering many of […]

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December 26, 2012

Reason Foam Fails #2: Unacceptable Fire Hazard

Is it really too much to ask that our thermal insulation not be a fire accelerant?   After all, thermal insulation can (and should) continuously and completely envelop the buildings we occupy.    Foam feeds fires.   Foam fails.   (See the 13 reasons Foam Fails, here.) For an idea of what it means to be an […]

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December 7, 2012

Foam-Free Wall Assembly Guidelines by Climate Zone

Spanning eight climate zones, from very hot and humid to subarctic, and desert to rainforest,  the US presents widely varied demands on our building enclosures.    Anecdotally, there is much written on assemblies in cold climates but not so about hot climates.  And most of the literature today assumes foam will be the primary strategy […]

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December 3, 2012

Why Foam Fails. Reason #1: Dangerous Toxic Ingredients

The chemical companies selling polyurethane foam as green and sustainable, demonstrate chutzpah second only to that of the tobacco and coal industries.   Admittedly, if you believe in “clean coal”, foam might be what you’re looking for. But if you didn’t believe the tobacco scientists and executives that cigarettes weren’t addictive, and you think the proposition […]

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November 26, 2012 sprayfoamshrinkage

Foam Fails

If we are to address our concerns of health, climate change,  safety, energy efficiency, resiliency and reliability, then we ask you to seriously consider eliminating foam from your next high performance building enclosure. Why should you contemplate a foam free enclosure?  Because foam fails.  Let us consider the ways foam has failed*: Dangerous toxic ingredients Unacceptable […]

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