Evolution of Home Building and Sealants
Over the last 25 years, homes and the materials used in building them have changed significantly. Two key drivers to the change have been a consumer desire for more efficient homes in response to rising energy costs and a general move toward more environmental regulation. Homes today are marked by more and larger windows (forecasted demand for 2016 is 65 million units), a wider range of siding, and more-energy efficient design and materials.
Obviously, as home design and materials have changed, the methods used in home building and material installation have also evolved. Today’s contractors are true practitioners of building science, delivering homes that are more tightly built and that satisfy the demands of specifiers and homeowners alike.
This evolution can be illustrated by looking at how sealants and their application have advanced. Sealing a building envelope more tightly requires both high-performance sealants that can better withstand the elements and advanced installation techniques that apply today’s best practices. Let’s consider each of these:
Sealants face an increasingly complex set of challenges. Today’s wide range of intense weather extremes combined with difficult-to-bond building materials requires sealants to be equally effective in hot, cold, wet and dry conditions. Regulations require them to comply with strict limits on VOC emissions. This has led to the development of sealants that are more flexible, have improved adhesion, off-gas less and are more durable. Combined with similar advances in flashing and insulation materials, these new technologies can form a long-lasting, energy efficient seal.
The changes to windows, doors, siding and sealant systems have led to changes in installation methods as well. Today’s contractors need to be armed with knowledge of a wider range of application techniques than ever before, and keeping up with these techniques requires ongoing education. Many of the most innovative manufacturers today offer training and/or certification that helps keep contractors in step with changing materials and designs.
But education is not a one-way street. Contractors have a lot to teach to manufacturers, too. By spending time on the jobsite and hearing first-hand from the people who have the deepest experience with products and understand the challenges of working with them most thoroughly, manufacturers can gain insights that help them refine their technologies and improve their products.