The Use of Polyurethane Foam in Historic Renovation and Remediation Projects

Course Description/Abstract

This presentation focuses on techniques for using field-applied polyurethane foam to improve and repair the exterior thermal envelopes and interior boundaries of climate-controlled spaces in historic buildings. It begins with a brief overview of the building science principles that must be addressed to avoid causing damage to the structures when retrofitting existing buildings. The physical properties of polyurethane foam are related to the building science theory to further an understanding of how the material can be used successfully in many historic applications. While all of the case studies include at least some foam in the remediation work, the basic building science principles are applicable to the use of all building materials in similar situations.

The program demonstrates the procedures for implementing air sealing, vapor control, and insulation solutions with a series of photo essays which illustrate the evidence of the problems, the methods for gaining access to the work areas, and the completed repairs. Diagnostic and quality assurance testing procedures are explained in each essay.

Case studies of historic buildings including art galleries, history and science museums, courthouses, churches, and libraries provide examples of envelope problems and the required remediation work. These projects are carefully planned to maintain the historic integrity of the buildings, utilizing innovative applications of urethane foams to accomplish this goal. Some case studies demonstrate solutions that were designed to maintain reversibility. All projects involve collaboration with architects, building science experts, and engineers who specialize in historic landmarks and buildings. Their contributions are an important part of the development of these foam applications.

Architects, engineers, and builders concerned with building problems from both a theoretical and practical perspective will benefit from the content presented. Providing examples of the building problems, supported by in-depth discussions of the principles at work, is an interesting and informative way to communicate how and why building problems occur. Patterns in design/construction flaws and characteristic remediation approaches become apparent, enabling the audience to gain a better understanding of why problems occur and how they can be prevented and/or repaired. An examination of why standard details and methods are not always successful in a given building application is the first topic for the question and answer period.

This PowerPoint presentation is supplemented with related handouts and an exhibition of foam and fire protection products. Diagnostic/quality-assurance test equipment (infrared, blower door, theatrical fog, etc.) are also displayed and demonstrated to provide attendees with a hands-on opportunity to understand how their projects might benefit from the use of such equipment.

Learning Objectives:

1. Participants will be able to incorporate foam into their plans for renovations and remediation work in historic buildings.

2. Participants will be able to identify the basic building science issues that foam installations must address in order to assure that the design, product selection, and installation method(s) are appropriate.

3. Participants will be able to implement repairs to existing building envelope installations without creating new moisture-related problems.

4. Participants will be able to relate their projects to similar applications illustrated in the real-world case studies used to demonstrate installation methods and applications.

5. Participants will be able to establish a post-renovation airtightness performance standard for their historic projects. This standard will then be used to right-size updated mechanical systems and reduce overall project costs.

6. Participants will be able to avoid problems related to bi-directional vapor drive and the related moisture problems by using foam in historic buildings with climate control requirements.

7. Participants will be able to employ methods that allow the solutions to be reversible.

8. Participants will be able to determine which type of foam is appropriate for the specific building uses and applications.

9. Participants will be able to utilize the most appropriate material technology and application methods related to historic projects.

10. Participants will be able to determine when foam plastic requires a vapor retarder in the climate zone their projects occur in.

11. Participants will able to avoid the most common code and standard violations encountered in foam projects.

12. Participants will be able to detail and specify the AVID System for historic buildings where water ingress is an issue.

13. Participants will be able to plan applications of foam insulation on mass-masonry/concrete walls, floors, and roofs without risking spalling, freeze-thaw, or efflorescence problems.

14. Participants will be able to validate the use of foam in their future projects by citing major historic buildings where foam installations have been used successfully to address specific building envelope and building science issues.

Projects and related problems addressed include some or all of the following, as time allows:

*Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum New York , NY

Improving climate control and preventing condensation in the gallery areas.
Bruce Museum of Art and Science Greenwich, CT

Metal-framed roof and wall construction with condensation problems
Museum of Our National Heritage Lexington, MA

Damage from condensation in the air handling systems
*Mariposa Museum Peterborough, NH

Improving energy performance and climate control
*Park Avenue Armory New York, NY

Improving energy performance and climate control
*Currier Gallery of Art Manchester, NH

Improving climate control in the galleries to allow year-round art exhibition and reduction of heat loss and condensation in the attics
Allen Memorial Art Gallery Oberlin, OH

Improving climate control in the galleries to allow year-round art exhibition; moisture migration into masonry facade
Rippin Gallery Oberlin, OH

Inaccessible and un-ventable vaulted ceilings under a flat roof deck with plaster damage from condensation
AVA Gallery and Art Center Lebanon, NH

Improving energy performance and climate control
*Vermont History Center – VT Historical Society Barre, VT

Improving energy performance and climate control
*New Hampshire Historical Society – Eagle Square/Stone Warehouse Concord, NH

Masonry walls with water infiltration air barrier requirements and inadequate framing sizes to meet conventional standards; add climate-controlled spaces
*Sagadahoc County Courthouse Bath, ME

Moisture migration and excessive heat loss
*Essex County Courthouse Guildhall, NH

Ice dam prevention in an un-ventable roof, air barrier requirements, and inadequate framing sizes to meet conventional energy performance standards
*Norman Williams Public Library Woodstock VT

Masonry structure and un-ventable roof
*Roswell Flower Library Watertown, NY

Pitch-coated domed ceiling with excessive heat loss moisture migration and ice formation problems
*The Wells National Estuarary Research Reserve York ME

Un-ventable roof and historic fixtures / finishes
Lyme Congregational Church Lyme NH

Heat loss and pipe freeze ups in a granite foundation. basement/crawl space
*Camp Katia – Great Camps of the Adirondacks Lake Placid, NY

Improving energy performance, moisture control
“Stoneacre” – Brady Residence Gloucester, MA

(Masonry structure with un-ventable slate roof stone foundation)
*Cobblestone Residence Brattleboro,VT

Improving energy performance
*The Weeks Estate – NH Dept of Natural Resources Lancaster, NH

Moisture control radon
* On the National Register or In The Historic District