Multifamily Market Design Methodologies

Strong activity continues to drive innovative design and impact localities
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Sponsored by dormakaba, New Millennium Building Systems, TAMLYN, and ZIP System® sheathing and tape
By Peter J. Arsenault, FAIA, NCARB, LEED AP
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Integrated Sheathing Systems

The continued high level of activity in new multifamily housing construction in many cities and towns has put a particular burden on the availability of skilled labor to do the needed work. The rotation of crews from one jobsite to another and the coordination between different subcontractor specialties can have costly impacts on project schedules due to delays when labor pools are thin. In that regard, general contractors and developers have been seeking out ways to overcome those issues while still meeting or exceeding quality standards. One of the more common ways of addressing the skilled labor shortages is to rely more on integrated products that combine several materials or systems in a factory-controlled condition. This approach can provide a high-quality, high-performing product that requires less labor and less time in the field for installation, thus creating efficiency and savings overall.

One of the best examples where this shift in construction technique is playing out, particularly in multifamily construction, is in the use of integrated exterior wall and roof sheathing systems. This type of product is purposely designed to streamline the installation process of multiple exterior wall and roof performance needs by including structure, weather resistance, air leakage protection, and in some cases a continuous thermal barrier all in a single panel and tape system. This is a change from the previously traditional method of separately specifying and installing each of these critical exterior barriers. The move to incorporate these next-generation sheathing materials into more and more multifamily projects has also increased attention on some related construction details. Architectural designs and specifications that proactively anticipate the use of these integrated sheathing products can also include easy-to-install transitional flashing details into areas like deck ledgers, wall-to-concrete foundations, and windows. This attention to detail helps assure the continuous integrity of all barriers is maintained.

Efficiency through Panelization

In many locations, the use of panelized construction has taken hold as a further means of creating factory-based quality while reducing the need for onsite skilled labor. Prefabricated exterior wall and roof panels have been used for some time in residential and light commercial construction of all types. Traditional framing and sheathing methods are often employed with the preassembled panels shipped to the project site and set into place using appropriate equipment. Because integrated sheathing products already have multiple layers of protection, they also reduce steps in the panelization process. Hence it is becoming equally popular to use integrated sheathing in factory-constructed structural panels as much as it is site-built construction.

For either panelized or on-site work, integrated sheathing eliminates the need for other products such as housewrap air barriers, water-resistant membranes, or even additional exterior continuous insulation. The preinsulated products are available with different insulation thicknesses that can provide thermal resistance from R-3 to R-12. The insulation is intended to be installed against the studs creating the continuous insulation layer called for in many energy-conserving designs. But that also means the structural sheathing is separated from the studs by the thickness of the insulation. Hence, the engineered nature of such products addresses this condition with nailing requirements called out to meet prescriptive code requirements for bracing and shear values. Manufacturers’ engineering data and installation instructions should be followed closely for best results, particularly for multifamily structures four stories and above.

With or without insulation, integrated sheathing provides a water-resistant barrier and air barrier on the face of the exterior face of the sheathing. The seams and joints of the sheathing are addressed most commonly with tape products that are easily installed with very effective results. Such advanced acrylic seam-sealing tape can be combined with stretchable flashing tape that stretches in all-directions for efficient sealing of window sills, door frames, and penetrations. In addition, a liquid flashing material is available with these integrated systems for excellent air sealing around any rough openings with intricate curves and corners, such as recessed windows. Altogether, the taped and flashed sheathing can be specified to meet or exceed the requirements of an “enhanced drainage plane” according to ASTM-E2273-03 testing requirements. Sheathing and tape systems are even available with a 180-day exposure guarantee and a 30-year limited warranty as a testimony to their durability and effectiveness.

Aaron Mathews, director of commercial sales for Huber Engineered Woods, has seen the rapid growth in the use of integrated sheathing since it was first introduced in 2006. He points out, “The real distinction of these products is not only that they are innovated from a place of solving real job site problems but that manufacturers support their implementation from specification consideration on individual projects through product installation on the job site. From in-office presentation and specification consultations to preconstruction meeting participation, mock-wall trainings, and observation reports, the goal is to be a resource for design and construction teams throughout a project.”

Integrated sheathing and tape systems in multifamily construction

Photos courtesy of Huber Engineered Woods, LLC – Zip Systems ©2018

Integrated sheathing and tape systems are popular in multifamily construction because of their high performance and jobsite labor savings.


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Originally published in Architectural Record
Originally published in May 2018


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