Self-sealing pipe insulation was used in this 43-story condo project to keep out moisture and thwart mold.

High-rise concrete structures offer excellent thermal efficiency but present a number of challenges during construction, particularly with respect to moisture intrusion. Because these structures tend to be extra tight, it is important that construction crews protect any permeable materials from moisture or rain during the construction process. If, for instance, insulation gets wet and is then installed before it dries, that moisture could lead to mold problems that may go undetected for months or even years.

Moisture intrusion was a concern for the owner of the 43-story Murano condominiums in center city Philadelphia. As each level of a poured concrete building was added, there were times when the building was not closed in at the top, leaving the interior exposed to rain. This situation can cause major delays in construction since workers cannot work with permeable materials under these conditions.  That was part of the reason that foam glass insulation was originally specified for the Murano project. Foam glass resists moisture and is an effective insulation in terms of stopping heat gain or heat loss. However, handling the product is hazardous and requires special protective clothing, which increases overall installation costs.

“Foam glass literally takes the teeth off of a handsaw. It will also wipe off your fingerprints, so you can’t handle it without gloves,” said Art Sweeney, manager of Tempered Insulation. “The labor would have been astronomical, since it requires so much equipment like respirators, gloves, eye protection, and special tools.”Tempered Insulation opted to value engineer the project using AP Armaflex instead of the foam glass. The decision not only saved the client money, but also helped keep construction on schedule.

AP Armaflex SS (SelfSeal) pipe insulation was used throughout the high-end condominium. This included insulation for all the domestic water piping in the walls and between the floors, which amounted to 60,000 ft of _-in. self-adhering Armaflex product sold through Insulation Materials Corporation in Aston, PA.

Armaflex was also used to insulate the heating water, chilled water, and condensate drain piping for the nearly 500 fancoil units from International Environmental Corporation installed to heat and cool the individual condos. These stacked, four-pipe fancoils are supplied with chilled water from two Trane Series R air cooled screw chillers from which are mounted on the roof and have low ambient control and dual point connections. The fancoils are supplied with hot water from multi-ple steam-to-water heat exchangers. Trigen, a community energy provider in Philadelpia supplies 200 lb, high-pressure steam to the building.The steam comes in from under the street and travels to multiple heat exchanger to convert steam heat into hydronic heat.

A Proactive Approach Toward Mold

PreventionClosed-cell AP Armaflex is not only fiber-free, but its smooth, non-particulating surface is designed to be extremely easy to clean. It is also the only insulation made with Microban® antimicrobial product protection. It can be cleaned and sanitized like any hard surface material, potentially saving facilities thousands of dollars in mold remediation.

Sweeney had an interest in using the AP Armaflex with the Microban additive since Armacell first started incorporating it into the Armaflex product in 2006. Increasing concern over mold in buildings fed his interest.

“Problems with mold and mildew have reached almost epidemic proportions in the last few years. The problem has been exacerbated by tighter buildings, as well as demanding building and project management schedules,” said Sweeney.

Using Armaflex allowed Sweeney to keep crews working even in the rain without going to the trouble of securing the building because there was no paper jacket as with other insulations. Had the value engineering involved a paper-jacketed fiberglass instead of closed-cell elastomeric foam, the crew would not have had this flexibility.

With units selling anywhere from the upper $300,000s to over two million dollars for the penthouse suites, it’s no surprise that the owner was eager to keep the project on schedule. The choice real estate property, due for completion in summer of 2008, was 60% sold as of April 2008. Part of what gives Murano its appeal is the fact that it is a just over an hour train ride to N.Y.C’s Penn Station. High-end kitchens, private balconies, and glass tiled showers are just a few of the more obvious amenities to the 302 units. However, moisture-resistant insulation is one of the unsung (and unseen) heroes that helped keep the project on schedule. It should also offer owners a bit more peace of mind given the fact that few things can cause as much destruction to a building as undetected moisture.