Integrated Products Contribute to Better Architecture

In what we do, there are two approaches to composing construction assemblies: pursuit of the cutting edge, and reliance on a well-tested, reliable system. In today’s seemingly ever-changing building and energy code requirements, we remain facile to either approach, as yesterday’s reliable systems may not be the answer to today’s new challenges.

We focus a great deal of energy on investigating innovative solutions to new challenges of the codes and the development marketplace. One such trending category that we follow are integrated products and prefabricated assemblies. Those that demonstrate a real contribution to project success make it into our buildings.

Integrated products assembled off-site in ideal conditions minimize waste and maximize efficiency. Using integrated products or prefab components expedites and reduces on-site labor, yielding schedule savings that ripple through to other trades, and aggregate to increase whole-project cost benefits. Realized budget savings can then transfer to those areas of the design where added interest is desirable, bringing further value to the architecture.

For example, exterior wall air infiltration barrier materials have evolved for over a century, with the latest advances coming in response to newly-created building and energy code requirements:

A century ago, building paper was used in wall assemblies between clapboards and spaced wood board sheathing to reduce drafts. Later when impregnated felts and coatings became available, building papers also played a role in controlling water penetration.

Synthetic building wraps, serving as both weather and air barriers, took the place of building paper over the last forty years. Peel-and-stick weather resistant barrier products have been around for almost as long but were originally intended for limited use on roofs.   Fluid-applied weather resistant/air barriers, although of similar age, have only become more widely used in this century with thin-film coatings.

The latest trend in weather resistant/air barriers, though, comes with the introduction of a couple of commercial products that integrate the weather resistant/air barrier and exterior wall sheathing into one integrated product. One incorporates the barriers below the exterior surface of the sheathing, and the other exposed on the surface. Many benefits are being marketed, in addition to factory quality control resulting in more reliable building performance and energy use.

Perhaps most significantly, is that deploying the product means at least one less pass of labor across the façade, yielding improved construction scheduling, better quality, and faster time to dry-in; saving time and money. One manufacturer’s example claims 25% faster installation compared to building wrap and 40% faster than on-site fluid-applied.

We work hard to make sure our project teams, clients, and contractor partners are aware of the latest opportunities to work smarter and create a stronger end result. No product is going to be ideal for every situation, but we’ll keep learning and keep advancing our commitment to safe, smart, comfortable buildings.

I’m eager to hear from manufacturers and distributors about what advances your companies are making, and I look forward to discussing with our clients – new and old – how the next project will be our best. Feel free to send me a note at

Timothy Blatner, CSI, CDT, LEED AP