System, combined with liquid flashing/joint filling, provides effective barrier with short installation time.
Home to crisp mountain air and gorgeous natural scenery, Greeley, CO, embodies an idealized vision of the Centennial State. It’s also home to several government buildings that have started to show their age. To help bring new life to the downtown area, the city decided to build an expansive new building located in the heart of the town. Destined to house the municipal courthouse and the city’s TV station and IT and water departments, the Greeley City Center project is critical to the city’s future.
“It has the weight and gravitas of government at the center. I think people will feel really proud of it,” assistant city manager Becky Safarik told the Greeley Tribune when the project reached the halfway point in July 2018. But the project posed challenges—including a strict completion schedule and tight budget—that required its architect and contractors to solve through collaboration and ingenuity.
Innovation Over Tradition
As the Greeley City Center was ultimately a cost-saving effort, the firm hired to design the project, Denver-based Anderson Mason Dale Architects, knew they had to do all they could to help the project stay on schedule and come in under budget. Consequently, the firm was willing to consider unique approaches that would deliver a high-quality structure, despite the project’s constraints. According to Anderson Mason Dale architect Ryan Lutz, that included contemplating the use of a different water-resistive and air barrier (WRB-AB) for the building envelope than the firm had specified in the past—one that would provide high performance and offer benefits that would help address the project’s challenges.
“Early in the design, we were approached by our drywall contractor, Phase 2 Co., Inc. (Ft. Collins, CO), with an idea on how we could save money on our WRB-AB installation,” Lutz recalled. “We researched the DensElement Barrier System and determined that it would provide several design and application benefits, compared to traditional WRB-ABs, as well as cost savings.” DensElement is manufactured by Georgia-Pacific, Atlanta.
“From a design perspective, specifying the system is an easy way to integrate a WRB-AB into a project.” Lutz added. “It makes it easy to draw up the details because it’s integrated right into the sheathing. It’s an innovative product that provides a stable, consistent control layer that allows us to use a myriad of different cladding types over it.”
One Project at a Time
Lutz felt even better about his decision when he discovered that the system also addressed quality and consistency issues associated with WRB-AB solutions that are applied over the sheathing, specifically those associated with fluid-applied barriers. “When an architect specs a fluid-applied WRB-AB, there are concerns about how effective the end result will be,” Lutz explained. “Sure, after it’s been applied, we can test it with a wet-mil gauge, but we can’t test every square inch of the building to see if it received an even, consistent coat. And with other products such as building wraps and peel-and-stick membranes, you don’t know if they’ll be damaged during installation. With the DensElement system, you don’t have to worry about that because the WRB-AB is integrated.”
The system uses AquaKor technology to integrate the gypsum core and fiberglass mat to form a hydrophobic, monolithic surface that blocks bulk water while allowing vapor to pass through. When finished with the recommended R-Guard FastFlash (Prosoco, Lawrence, KS) liquid flashing to fill and seal joints, fasteners, openings, penetrations and transitions, it eliminates the need for a separate WRB-AB. In addition, installation on the 103,900-sq.-ft. project took a mere 161 days. “In general, our experience is that it’s a significant time saver,” Olmstead stated.
“I would recommend the DensElement system to other architects,” offered Lutz. “It allows for quick modifications on site and the installation learning curve is very easy. We plan to include it in our standard spec going forward.” “In our opinion,” added Chastain, the system is the natural evolution of the building-envelope process. It offers a lot of seamless characteristics that architects and general contractors are looking for. It’s the efficiency that’s attractive in addition to the performance.”