A NEW STANDARD
Unlike some building product categories, gypsum wallboard doesn’t have an over-arching product certification program or even a single-attribute label that all manufacturers strive for; as previously indicated, some firms have chosen to undergo indoor air quality or material reuse testing, but those labels aren’t widespread enough to fully aid selection. UL Environment recognized this need and slotted wallboard to become one of its first green product standards.
Released in mid-October, the technical standard for ULE100, UL’s Sustainable Standard for Gypsum Wallboard, provides a multi-attribute label for wallboard that evaluates a number of product traits—including recycled content and indoor air quality—as well as elements of the manufacturing process and a manufacturer’s social responsibility.
The consensus-based standard is currently undergoing ANSI approval.
RECYCLING AND REUSE
Like many areas of the built environment, the first step to keeping gypsum out of landfills is to create as little waste as possible through proper planning and design. Still, some scraps and leftovers are inevitable, so consideration must be given to recycling and other disposal methods.
Recycling options vary from market to market. There is no national reuse stream, but some manufacturers will work with select builders and drywall contractors to take back unused product to be reused in manufacturing. Enhanced products, such as those with non-paper facers, may be harder to recycle than traditional boards.
Local waste recyclers are another option. The Gypsum Association recommends checking the National Institute of Building Sciences’ searchable Construction Waste Management Database at www.wbdg.org.
Finally, some builders opt to grind up the material on site for soil amendment.
A lesser-known component of sustainable building, sound attenuation for applications such as shared walls, media rooms, and under second-floor laundry rooms can lead to a more comfortable home consumers will want to live in longer.
Like moisture resistance, sound control starts with smart building practices, says Chris Pinckney, product manager at National Gypsum. For example, start with 24-inch-o.c. installation and then a product like the company’s SoundBreakXP. Ensure joints are backed by framing members, limit penetrations, and caulk the wall perimeter, he says.
For a system approach, GreenGlue offers a noise-proofing viscoelastic compound, noise-proofing clips, sealant to fill gaps between floors and walls, and joist tape.
Following the recent developments of mold- and moisture-resistant boards, manufacturers have continued to experiment with wallboard to move its purpose beyond simply a surface.
Taking IAQ an additional step forward, CertainTeed recently introduced AirRenew, a product the company claims absorbs formaldehyde emitted from other interior products, encapsulates it, and renders it inert.
At Greenbuild last year, National Gypsum unveiled ThermalCore, which has a Micronal PCM paraffin wax in its core that acts as a thermal mass to absorb heat when it isn’t needed and release it when temperatures drop below 73 degrees F. The product, appropriate for climates with high daily temperature swings, is still in testing and may be available next year.
With developments such as these, a continual focus on durability, and increasing attention being paid to sustainable attributes, gypsum has moved quickly from commodity afterthought to high-performance material.
Katy Tomasulo is Deputy Editor for EcoHome.