ERA | EPDM Roofing Association

Air Leakage: Advancing the Standard

Air Leakage: Advancing the Standard

February 18, 2016 14:44

As Associate Executive Director of ERA, my central focus is advancing an understanding of EPDM products. One extremely important aspect of my job focuses on working with regulatory, standard, and code setting bodies to ensure that their actions reflect the most up-to-date science-based information about EPDM membranes. ASHRAE is, of course, one of the leading standard setting groups, so the last week of January found me at the Orlando Convention Center, attending ASHRAE’s hugely important winter meeting.

My focus at this event was ASHRAE’s Standard 90.1, important to the roofing industry because it sets minimum requirements for energy efficient designs for all buildings “except for low-rise residential buildings.” For EPDM manufacturers, that means 90.1 covers virtually every building where their products are used. Many states and municipalities follow ASHRAE’s lead when they set building codes for commercial and government buildings. Likewise, the USGBC takes into account ASHRAE standards in its LEED program, and ICC codes are often based on ASHRAE’s standards.

The original Standard for energy efficient buildings, ASHRAE 90, was published in 1975 and has been updated frequently since then to keep up with new and more efficient energy-saving technologies. In 2001, the Standard was renamed ASHRAE 90.1. Most important from ERA’s point of view:  90.1 is one of the standards that ASHRAE has designated for “continuous maintenance”, allowing it to be updated on an on-going basis.

Continuous maintenance of an ASHRAE standard that potentially impacts EPDM means constant attention from ERA. In Orlando, I observed meetings of various committees that impact 90.1, and participated in working group discussions. This is a two-way exchange of information. At these meetings, I provide input based on ERA’s research on the best use of EPDM products.  I am also the “eyes and ears” of our members, advising them about any actions that are taken, and keeping them up-to-date on issues that are on the horizon but have not yet impacted the Standard.  My major takeaway from the ASHRAE meetings? Concerns about air-tightness, especially in the parts of a building where the roof and walls come together, are emerging as a focus in discussions on energy efficiency. And, along with these concerns, there is a corresponding sense that the air leakage section of 90.1 needs to be revised to include a provision for air intrusion. (Not to be confused with air leakage, which is when air infiltrates or exfiltrates the building; air intrusion occurs when air escapes through the thermal envelope of a building, cools and then has to be re-heated, resulting in increased energy costs to maintain the interior temperature of the building).  ASHRAE has convened a working group to provide advice on how to revise 90.1 and I will be participating in these sessions.

So what are the implications for our members? In order to serve their customers better, they may want to initiate research on how various types of flashings, or installation methods of insulation and air barriers impact the air tightness of a structure, or even look toward developing new products based on this area of interest.  As always, ERA wants to be out-in-front on issues that impact our customers, and invest in the research we need to provide science-based guidance about the use of EPDM products.  

Next up on my calendar as I work to stay ahead on the air leakage issue? I’m currently back in Orlando, this time to attend IRE, to talk to contractors about what they need from our manufacturers to help them deal with these issues. If you’re going to be there, DM us on Twitter @epdmroofs. Watch this space for updates ERA continues its work to make sure that our members and our customers remain in the forefront of offering durable, energy-efficient, sustainable products.  

Ellen Thorp


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