School boards have long considered concrete masonry a preferred building material. Concrete masonry structures are fire-resistant, quieter, more durable, and less expensive to maintain than other building systems.
But now, concrete masonry can provide another attribute: Schools built with this material will meet new sustainability guidelines.
President Obama's promise to spend billions of dollars modernizing U.S. schools is still a possibility, so the opportunity for concrete masonry's growth in this market is strong. This is especially true if federal guidelines follow existing state mandates for healthy schools. Further bolstering this effort is the U.S. Green Building Council's recent publication of a sustainable rating system designed for schools.
Concrete masonry producers now have a new ally in promoting sustainable schools. NCFI Polyurethanes, Mt. Airy, N.C., has launched the Healthy Schools for Healthy Children (HS4HC) program. Its focus is to offer a systematic apoproach to improving indoor air quality in new and renovated schools.
“We are making 2009 the year of healthier schools,” says Nelson Clark, senior vice president. “HS4HC involves informing and working with the building and education communities to make schools safer and healthier for every child by inhibiting toxic mold.”
NCFI's InsulBloc SPF insulation creates an air and moisture barrier that eliminates conditions for mold growth. It is a 2 lb/cu ft density, closed-cell foam that expands and cures in place, forming a fully-adhered, seamless insulation.
Installers apply the foam in liquid form. They can coat exterior walls because it adheres to concrete and masonry. Installers can also apply the foam to interior walls, during renovations where the exterior is not disturbed. “Architects like InsulBloc because it can conform to the most intricate designs, even curved or geodesic walls,” says Clark. The spray insulation can be used in combination with core insulation in concrete block.
On double wythe walls, masons can place brick veneer over the foam using standard anchoring techniques. It makes masons' lives easier “by covering the most difficult and intricate things they do, such as bridging gaps in material connections,” Clark says. Because it provides insulation and waterproofing, it also saves material and labor cost.
InsulBloc can help schools earn sustainability points in several areas, beginning with improved air quality. The extra layer of insulation reduces energy consumption and extends the life cycle of the building by keeping moisture out.
This also saves schools from spending their maintenance budgets on repairing or replacing walls, Clark says. InsulBloc uses renewable agricultural products, like sugar beets and corn, and contains no ozone-depleting chemicals.
The program will expand in 2009 to include producers, contractors, and design consultants. HS4HC partners can share best practices and innovations in building healthy schools.
“This is not a paid membership or certification program,” says Don Schumacher, NCFI's director of marketing. “Kids need a good environment, and that means building schools with the right construction techniques and building materials.” Partners display the HS4HC logo to show their commitment to creating healthy schools.