“The essence of sustainability is durability, longevity, and performance,” says Barry Reid, sustainability manager at Georgia-Pacific Gypsum. “If you have to replace it, it’s not sustainable.”
One of the factors driving the evolution of gypsum over the past decade was the influx of mold lawsuits. Though the crisis wasn’t caused by drywall—blame construction practices, particularly faulty window installations and poor ventilation—it was the walls that got moldy as a result of water infiltration.
The first step, naturally, is to manage the moisture so that it doesn’t enter the wall system in the first place. As a backup, manufacturers developed wallboard featuring moisture-resistant cores combined with treated paper facings or integrated fiberglass mat surfaces.
Though a novelty at first, more builders are starting to catch on to the idea, says CertainTeed’s Amy Lee. “It saves callbacks and problems down the road,” the marketing communications manager says of the company’s M2Tech drywall.
Most of these specialty panels carry a premium, but can be substituted for traditional products in areas where moisture and humidity may become a problem, including bathrooms (except behind the tub and shower surround), above kitchen sinks, in laundry rooms, and in finished basements.
Other keys for durability, says Lee, are to keep the materials dry during installation and to verify compatibility of materials and compounds.
In addition to improving product life span, preventing mold and mildew growth also helps promote optimal indoor air quality, the industry says. And while traditional wallboard is considered a low-emitting material, several manufacturers have obtained product verification for IAQ from Greenguard or third-party laboratories like MAS to reassure buyers, particularly as polymers and other features have been added for moisture resistance and sound attenuation.