The Truth About Spray-Foam

Originally published on January 26, 2015 by BNP Media through the Walls & Ceilings Blog.

Spray-foam has a reputation of providing superior insulating qualities compared to fiberglass batt, mineral wool, cellulose, and other insulation alternatives.

The truth is that spray-foam does not necessarily perform better than other types of insulation when it comes to conductive heat transfer. Think about the insulation products you’ve seen at your local home-improvement store. Remember that big number on the label that started with an ‘R’ (the roll of batt insulation might have read R-13, for instance)? That number identifies the thermal resistance value – or R-value – and it is used to communicate the rate of heat flow through a material. The greater the R-value, the smaller the rate of heat flow (but beware, this is not a linear relationship).

Inch-per-inch, the R-value of spray-foam insulation is not much different than some other common alternative insulation options. Spray-foam helps a structure perform more efficiently because it reduces another form of heat gain/loss – air leakage.

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When Will LEED v2.2 and 2009 Expire?

This column was updated on November 19, 2014 (it was first published on October 13th, 2013).

Out with the old, in with the new.

With the rollout of LEED v4 currently underway, LEED project teams should be mindful of the LEED-NC v2.2 and 2009 sunset dates.

As every new version of LEED launches, USGBC initiates a process to phase out the previous version of the rating system. This process begins by establishing a date for closing registration. After the registration closure date, GBCI will no longer take new project registrations under the previous version of LEED.

Once the registration closure date is established, all projects registered under the previous version of LEED become subject to a deadline for either achieving certification or upgrading to the new version of LEED.

Figure from the LEED® Certification Policy Manual (issued January 1, 2012).

Source: Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI)

In accordance with the latest version of the LEED Certification Policy Manual (issued January 1, 2012), “After the close of registration of a rating system, projects that are registered under a particular rating system shall be allowed to proceed through the LEED certification process until the occurrence of the rating system sunset date…”

After the sunset date, projects registered under the previous version of LEED are no longer active in the LEED project database and their registration status is no longer valid.

The LEED Certification Policy Manual also states, “The sunset date for any rating system shall occur no sooner than six (6) years after the close of registration for that rating system.”

Moreover, GBCI “reserves the right to cancel any registered project that remains inactive, as determined solely by GBCI.”

So, what are the registration closure dates and certification sunset dates for LEED NC v2.2 and 2009?

The latest version of the LEED Certification Policy Manual states the following:

LEED-NC v2.2 – Registration Opened: November 15, 2005
LEED-NC v2.2 – Registration Closed: June 27, 2009
LEED-NC v2.2 – Application Sunset Date: June 27, 2015

LEED-NC 2009 – Registration Opened: April 27, 2009
LEED-NC 2009 – Registration Closed:  TBD
LEED-NC 2009 – Application Sunset Date: TBD

Moreover, on October 29, 2014, USGBC announced that it will allow LEED users to register projects under the LEED 2009 rating system until October 31, 2016. (The original date for LEED 2009 registration to close was June 15, 2015.)

In accordance with the LEED Certification Policy Manual, the sunset date for LEED 2009 would presumably occur no sooner than October 31, 2022.

However, according to, the sunset date for v2009 rating systems will NOT change with the LEED v2009 extension. So the last day projects registered under v2009 can submit for certification remains June 30, 2021.

Therefore, we can lean on the following dates:

LEED v2.2 – Application Sunset Date: June 27, 2015

LEED 2009 – Registration Closed: October 31, 2016

LEED 2009 – Application Sunset Date: June 30, 2021


Union Station to Undergo Repairs

Browning Day Mullins Dierdorf Architects (BDMD) recently completed a study of Union Station that identified nearly $7 million in needed repairs and improvements. The building is structurally sound and emergency repairs have already been completed.

Greg Jacoby, BDMD Principal, and Adam Thies, director of the Department of Metropolitan Development, led members of the media on a tour of the building on August 20, 2014.

Watch Jacoby and Thies discuss the results of the study and the City’s plan to repair and upgrade Union Station.


Every Energy Model Is Wrong – And Here Is Why They Are Indispensable

LEED has taken some heat for buildings that do not perform as they were modeled, yet energy modeling is an essential tool for any high-performance building project.

Originally published in the August 2014 issue of Environmental Design + Construction (EDC) magazine.

Recently, LEED has come under fire for accounts of certified buildings not performing as well as their energy models predicted. Frequently mentioned amongst the antagonistic “gotcha” coverage is an out-of-context 2007 quote by the USGBC Research Committee acknowledging: “Buildings have a poor track record of performing as predicted during design.”

Within context, the research committee clarifies the reasons for the frequency of underperforming energy models, citing “inaccurate or improperly used analysis tools, lack of integration of complex interconnected systems, value engineering after design, poor construction practices, no building commissioning, and incomplete or improper understanding of operations and maintenance practices.” Not nearly an exhaustive list, but all legitimate considerations.

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CityWay YMCA Groundbreaking

Groundbreaking of CityWay YMCA

The YMCA of Greater Indianapolis has broken ground on its newest center in the CityWay complex!

YMCA officials were joined by representatives from Eli Lilly and Company, the City of Indianapolis and Buckingham Companies at the groundbreaking ceremony, held on the site of the new 87,000 square feet full-service center that is also one of the largest in the country. Browning Day designed the $22 million facility that will be an exciting addition to this vibrant neighborhood in the heart of downtown Indianapolis.

Visitors view the towering Beacon of Hope as they approach the newest attraction at the Indianapolis Zoo.

A Sanctuary in the City

Image courtesy of the Indianapolis Star
Image courtesy of the Indianapolis Star

Native to Indonesia and Malaysia, Orangutans are currently found only in the rainforest of Borneo and Sumatra. The name Orangutan derives from “Orang” (people) and “Hutan” (forest) and literally means “people from the forest” in Mayan. Rob Shumaker​, Vice President of Conservation & Life Sciences at the Indianapolis Zoo, explained that Orangutans are one of the world’s most endangered species due to habitat loss and a slow reproductive cycle. Besides their size and long reddish hair, the most striking thing about Orangutans is their cognitive abilities.

“Look into the eyes of an orangutan, and a sentient being looks back” says Shumaker.

For Browning Day, the honor of being invited to be a part of this once in a lifetime opportunity to positively impact the world came with a big responsibility. Jonathan Hess, President of Browning Day and Lead Designer on the project went back to their natural environment for his inspired design:

“Because we had to give the Orangutans spaces that function as trees, we used materials that mimic the environment of a forest without trying to fake the look of the real thing. We had to go back to their original habitat to find inspiration.”

The design is unique and most intriguing. The challenge to maintain an architectural solution optimized for both humans and orangutans while keeping in mind the Polynesian vernacular that inspired the design – was great. Dave Long, the Project Manager, had the impossible task of coordinating all building systems – structure, circulation needs of humans and Orangutans, mechanical, electrical and plumbing engineering – for a building entirely made out of concrete and steel, with no back side and exposed walls from both sides.

A landmark project in the arena of animal husbandry, the facility affords the primates the freedom to travel in and around the exhibit building with greater mobility than their human visitors. At nearly 16,000 square feet, the design allows its inhabitants to ascend a 75-foot tall climate-controlled interior viewing space, access three outdoor yards or oases where they can go to find solace, and freely traverse and nest about an outdoor network of masts, cables and platforms – collectively referred to as the Hutan Trail.

A 2,800-foot glass curtainwall “leans forward” to allow the Orangutans to climb above patrons sitting in the lowest parts of the 8,000 square foot plaza. Designed by Jon Hutslar, the Project Landscape Architect, the plaza serves the dual purpose of patron seating and Orangutan viewing, with additional space for education and kiosk set-up. Mid- and lower-level areas can be accessed via long graceful, arching accessible ramps on either side, designed to convey the image of arms reaching out from the main exhibit building into the landscape, and inviting visitors to come inside. While the native environment of Orangutans could not be replicated in Indiana, the planting scheme created a landscape reflective of their natural habitat. The Center boasts a 12,000 square-foot sedum green roof that offers many features to the client, not the least of which is storm water sequestration. In addition, the green roof will retain a natural habitat over the site’s footprint, reduce the heat-island effect, protect and extend the life of the roof system, and add a great deal of natural beauty to the site.

Beginning in July 2014, the exhibit will also offer zoo visitors the Skyride – an aerial gondola ride that will bring visitors within 25 feet of Hutan Trail components. Through state-of-the-art exhibits and interactive computer games, visitors inside the Efroymson Family Exploration Hub are offered an unprecedented intimate level of interaction with the Orangutans. While adults are in awe at the sheer intelligence of the Orangutans, kids get tickled by being able to get the attention of such giants, each with their own personalities. Azy’s stature, dramatic features and intelligence make him a powerful and formidable figure.

The stunning centerpiece of the Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center is the iconic 150-foot tall Nina Mason Pulliam Beacon of Hope. This towering structure is illuminated each night by the orangutans with a tablet. Every time you see the lighted beacon, remember that a donation as little as $5 helps advance the Zoo’s conservation efforts in Borneo and Sumatra.

Daniel Overbey, the Project Architect, remembers when his 3-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son visited the exhibit on its opening day.

“It was especially fun for Norah – she doesn’t know what daddy does at work, but she knows daddy is helping the Orangutans with their new home. They were both excited. That morning will always be a special memory for me.”

Like most architectural projects, it was a dream, an idea, an aspiration. The task seemed huge, but Browning Day rose to the challenge. The design and collaboration between scientists and the overall project team turned an otherwise regular zoo exhibit into a classroom, a place of hope and a comfortable home for these primates nearing extinction.

Browning Day Announces Promotions

Browning Day Mullins Dierdorf recently recognized several employees with promotions in the firm. Browning Day is committed to the recognition and empowerment of their talented and dedicated staff and is proud to welcome these team members into new positions.

The following employees have been promoted to Senior Associate:

Steve Hoersten, Senior Project Manager
Tim Ritchotte RA, Senior Project Manager
Jon Hutslar PLA, Senior Project Manager

The following employees have been promoted to Associate:

Drew Braley PLA ASLA, Project Manager
Ryan Cambridge PLA ASLA, Director of Open Space Planning
Todd Oakley, Project Manager
Daniel Overbey AIA, LEED AP, Director of Sustainability
Mike Walker, Project Manager
Nick Worden LEED AP, Project Manager
Jonathan Young AIA, LEED AP, Project Manager

Congratulations to the 2014 Class of Senior Associates and Associates. Way to go!


Community Connection

Photograph property of Browning Day Mullins Dierdorf Architects

Case Study: Lincoln Heritage Public Library Chrisney Branch

Originally published in the Summer 2014 issue of High Performance Buildings (HPB) magazine, a publication of ASHRAE.

By Daniel J. Overbey, AIA; and William M. Brown, AIA

For the people of Chrisney, Ind., opportunity for social and economic investment has not been knocking. This community of fewer than 500 has been in a gradual economic decline over the past several decades. Having already lost its high school in the 1970s due to a push for school consolidation, the town took another blow in 2011 when an expansion of U.S. 231 rerouted the four-lane corridor around the town, which was once a thriving rural community in southern Indiana.

Located 15 miles from the nearest public library, the community saw its children slipping on reading scores because they lacked access to the library district’s summer reading programs. Gradually, families were moving away from Chrisney, their children never to return. The town realized it needed a library — a new source of pride and a center for community. What it ended up with was a net zero energy library.

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INASLA Celebrates National Landscape Architecture Month

April is National Landscape Architecture Month and for the  occasion, the Indiana Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (INASLA) commissioned Outside the Box, a local non-profit that assists people with developmental disabilities, to create an art piece that shows all components of landscape architecture. This art piece is currently on display in the Central Library in downtown Indianapolis. BDMD’s landscape architecture studio took a stroll to the library to support this initiative and admire the piece. In photo from left to right: Ryan Cambridge, Brett Schlachter, Drew Braley, Jonathan Hutslar and Mark Beer. #NLAM #landarch


Visualizing “Seasonal Lag” Effect


I recently completed teaching a unit on the topic of solar geometry. Among the various facets of the subject matter, I talked to the class at length about the Earth’s orbit around the Sun (which, evidently, is a revelation to 1/4 of American population), the northern hemisphere’s 23.5° tilt toward and away from the Sun during the summer and winter, respectively, and how the distribution of radiant flux is affected by the relative tilt of the Earth’s surface at a given location (i.e., the “cosine effect”).

As we discuss the Sun’s journey across the sky in northern latitudes, it becomes clear that solar income should theoretically be most available at the summer solstice (i.e., June 21) – when the Sun has its longest course, its highest altitude, and is shining most normal (e.g., closest to perpendicular) to the Earth’s surface at a given location north of the equator.

Strangely, the air temperatures at the Earth’s surface typically lag behind June 21 by several weeks. For instance, in Indianapolis, Indiana, peak temperatures typically occur in July and August. Both months’ average temperature is higher than that of June.

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