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Green Building News:

News Release:   September-12-2010

Keeping pace with their industry peers, St. Paul-based Travelers (NYSE: TRV) and Philadelphia-based ACE USA (NYSE: ACE) insurance companies in March both introduced new green building insurance policies.

Travelers now offers coverage for green building re-certification or re-commissioning as well as rebuilding vegetative roofs, none of which were previously covered in commercial building policies. ACE says its new coverage includes improvements to heating and cooling systems as well as carpets, paints and other interior finishes when customers rebuild according to green building standards. 

Fireman’s Fund Insurance Co. is planning to roll out later this year a policy for homeowners who want to rebuild to meet a green building standard, according to Susan Murdy, Fireman’s director of media relations.

The company, a member of the Allianz Group (NYSE: AZ), was the first company to offer a green building insurance policy that covers re-certification and re-commissioning of lost buildings that were certified by the U.S. Green Building Council or the Green Building Initiative.

Insulating Paint?” News Release:   9-11-10:

‘Insulating’ Paint Merchants Dupe Gullible Homeowners

Posted on Sep 11 by Martin Holladay, GBA Advisor

Putting “insulating” paint to the test. To measure the effectiveness of Nansulate and Super Therm — two paints that are touted for their “insulating” properties — researchers built 3-foot-high test boxes with 2x4 frames and OSB sheathing. The walls of the boxes were insulated with fiberglass batts, while the lids were insulated with 4 in. of extruded polystyrene. The interior walls and ceilings of the boxes were finished with painted drywall.


Scammers have been selling “insulating” paint to gullible consumers for at least 27 years. Among the exaggerated claims made by distributors of these overpriced cans of paint is that the “low-e” coatings will “lower energy bills.” In addition to liquid paint, some fraudsters sell powders or paint additives, usually described as “miracle” products containing “micro-spheres” or “ceramic beads.”


Every few years, the sleepy regulators at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) wake up long enough to send warning lettersto the most egregious paint scammers. For example, in 2002 the FTC clamped down on Kryton Coatings International, a manufacturer which claimed that its paint was equivalent to 7 in. of fiberglass insulation. In March 2009, the FTC took action against Sumpolec, a marketer of coatings that were said to “equal R-100 insulating value.”


To Find Them, Just Lift a Few Rocks

In spite of these rare actions, however, marketers of “insulating” paint continue to thrive. With a simple Google search, any Web surfer can conjure up dozens of distributors of insulating paint, including those hawking Nansulate and Super Therm.

When I was the editor of Energy Design Update (EDU) — a position I held before joining the GBA team in November 2007 — I regularly exposed exaggerated energy claims made by paint manufacturers. My March 2004 article, “R-Value Scofflaws,” fingered the manufacturer of Super Therm. In June 2008, I wrote “Scam and Exaggeration Roundup,” an article highlighting exaggerations made by Nansulate. Although both articles were forwarded to the FTC, the agency has so far failed to act against either manufacturer.


“A Barrier to Heat Transfer”

The manufacturer of Nansulate — Industrial Nanotech of Naples, Florida —describes its flagship coating as a “liquid applied home insulation.” The company’s Web site falsely claims that “Nansulate is a new technology which insulates by means of low thermal conduction. … Residential customers typically report energy savings in the 20% to 40% range, which is of course dependent on each individual application. … You can boost the energy efficiency of your home by applying Nansulate to the interior walls, ceiling, and attic area. Nansulate will act as a barrier to all three methods of heat transfer — convective, conductive, and radiant. Radiant heat transfer is one of the most significant ways that heat is lost or gained from a home or building. Nansulate can be used as attic insulation, pipe insulation, wall insulation, and duct insulation in your home, helping you lower fuel bills.”


“R-19 Equivalent Insulator!”

If anything, the claims made for Super Therm are even more outlandish than those made for Nansulate. One Super Therm distributor, Eagle Specialized Coatings of Surrey, British Columbia, advertises that “Super Therm is a true ‘insulating’ coating and not just a reflective paint as are all the competing formulas in the market. Also tested by the Thermo Physical Research Laboratory for comparative R-19 equivalent insulation factor Super Therm blocked 92% of the heat. No other R-19 equivalent insulator can claim that! No Fiberglass, No Foam, No Cellulose, No other single ceramic paint!”


The manufacturer of Super Therm, Superior Products International of Shawnee, Kansas, claims that “Super Therm is a ceramic based, water-borne, insulating coating, designed to block heat load, moisture penetration, and air infiltration over a surface and to reduce energy costs. … Super Therm can provide energy savings of 20-70%. According to use and application. R-19 Equivalent Rating — Super Therm reflects over 95% of radiation from the sun replacing the 6 to 8 inches of traditional insulation to block initial heat load.”

How can these paint manufacturers get away with such wild exaggerations? Although the problem is due in part to the FTC’s lax enforcement of existing regulations, other factors play a role. According to an article in the September 2009 issue of EDU, “Such claims, as a rule, receive relatively little attention from energy experts. That’s partly because they are numerous enough that any attempt to debunk them individually would quickly develop into an open-ended game of Whack-a-Mole, and partly because the product claims are so outlandish that it’s difficult to imagine anyone taking them seriously.”


The Same As Ordinary Paint

Every researcher who has examined these products has concluded that there is no such thing as insulating paint. For example, tests at the Florida Solar Energy Center confirm that these paints are nothing special: “The Florida Solar Energy Center has tested ceramic paints and found them to have no significant advantage over ordinary paint in terms of their ability to retard heat gains through exterior building surfaces.”

The latest research lab to shine light on the insulating paint scammers is the Cold Climate Housing Research Center (CCHRC) in Fairbanks, Alaska. As explained in the September 2009 issue of EDU, CCHRC researchers decided to focus on two products that often generate customer complaints: Nansulate and Super Therm.


Are They Low-E?

In theory, the lower the emittance (emissivity) achieved by a paint, the better its performance. When CCHRC researchers tested the emittance of dried samples of Nansulate and Super Therm, however, they discovered that neither coating is low-e. An independent laboratory “tested the emittance of the coatings on three different samples for each coating. Super Therm had an average emittance of 0.9 and Nansulate had an average emittance of 0.92, which demonstrates that neither product is a good inhibitor of infrared radiant heat loss.”

The measured emittance values of these paints are truly dismal — far higher than the legal maximum for a radiant barrier, which is 0.10. (As it turns out, no paint on the market can meet the radiant barrier standard.) Some paint manufacturers classify their products as “radiation control coatings,” a category requiring an emissivity rating of 0.25 or less — a less stringent emissivity rating than radiant barriers. However, neither Nansulate nor Super Therm comes anywhere close to even this less stringent standard.

In any case, the emittance of residential paint is a moot point. A low-e coating is only effective if there is a large temperature difference between the surface being coated and the environment it faces. Such a large temperature difference can only occur on an uninsulated wall — and if your house has uninsulated walls, you have far more problems than can be solved by a few cans of paint.


Can Paint Have An R-Value?

In order to leave no stone unturned, the Alaska researchers measured the R-value of dried paint samples. Employing a Fox 314 heat flow meter, the researchers followed the standard ASTM C518 procedure for measuring R-value. (For more information on the ASTM C518 test, see “Understanding R-Value.”) Since a thin coat of dried paint is fragile, the paint was applied to 1/2-in. drywall before testing.

The results will undoubtedly disappoint the marketers of “insulating” paint. “Application of Super Therm increased thethermal conductivity of the gypsum board and therefore decreased the overall R-value,” the researchers reported. “Application of Nansulate resulted in no significant difference, as the change in thermal conductivity for the Nansulate-coated gypsum board is within the 1% measurement error of the Fox 314.”


If a Tree Falls In the Forest …

Of course, R-value results are often ridiculed by those selling “alternative” insulation products. As Jon Vara, the current editor of EDU, recently explained, “Manufacturers of insulating paints typically claim that, although their performance can’t be quantified by some standardized tests, they are effective in the real world. A possible explanation: they only insulate when no one is looking.”

In order to test this unlikely possibility, the Alaska researchers built three insulated test boxes lined with drywall. The drywall in the control box was painted with ordinary latex paint, while the two test boxes were painted with Nansulate and Super Therm. “The boxes were placed outside and the heaters operated overnight maintaining the inside temperature at an average of 74°F,” the researchers reported. “Data were not collected during the day to avoid interference from solar heat gain. This control testing was conducted over the course of a week to ascertain that the boxes required the same amount of energy to maintain temperature. … Following the painting, all three boxes were set up with the sensors and heaters just as they were in the control tests, and tested outside overnight once every two weeks for a 30-day period.”


“No Discernable Difference”

Guess what — paint is a lousy insulator. The CCHRC researchers concluded that “there was no discernable difference in the performance of the Super Therm or Nansulate in comparison to regular latex paint during the energy monitoring tests.”


The ball is now in the FTC’s court. Anyone who wants to give the FTC a nudge should contact Hampton Newsome, the FTC attorney who handles enforcement of the R-Value Rule. Newsome can be reached by phone at 202-326-2889; his e-mail address is hnewsome@ftc.gov.


The full CCHRC research report, “Product Test: Nansulate and Super Therm,” is available online.

Tags: ceramic beads, ceramic paint, energy-saving paint, fraud, insulating paint, low-e paint, microspheres, scam

BLUwood News Release:   06-09-08

BlueLinx Buyout Bid Extended; Panel Couldn't Decide Whether To Recommend Accepting Offer

Tender offer by 55% owner lengthened by one week, until Sept. 3


By Craig Webb

The investment group that owns 55% of BlueLinx Holdings extended today by one week the expiration date of its offer to buy all other outstanding shares and take the Atlanta-based distributor private. Cerberus ABP Investor LLC (CAI) did so after a special committee of the BlueLinx board of directorsnotified stockholders that it hasn't been able to decide yet how to respond to the $49.6 million offer.

CAI's offer had been scheduled to expire at midnight ET on Aug. 27 and now will expire at midnight ET on Friday, Sept. 3. The price offered for BlueLinx shares--$3.40--remains the same. BlueLinx shares rose as high as $3.64 today before closing at $3.39.

"The extension of the offer was made at the request of the special committee," BlueLinx said. "The special committee today notified the stockholders of the company that it has determined that it is unable at the current time to take a position with respect to the offer. The extension will thus provide the special committee with additional time to develop its position or recommendation, if any, with respect to the offer."

CAI, a unit of Cerberus Capital Management L.P., filed its tender offer on July 21 and launched it on Aug. 2. BlueLinx provides products from more than 750 suppliers to 11,500 customers nationwide. It reported on Aug. 5 a net loss of $3.4 million for the second quarter, swinging from a year-earlier profit of $600,000. That loss occurred despite a 27.7% increase in revenues to $540.8 million.

Today's news comes three days after the owner of 5% of the shares BlueLinx filed a complaint in Delaware Chancery Court seeking to stop CAI's move, arguing its $49.6 million tender offer values BlueLinx far too cheaply. BlueLinx actually is worth at least seven times the $3.40 per share price that CAI is making in the tender offer now under way, Stadium Capital Partners (SCP) argued. (Story)

SCP based its judgment on BlueLinx management projections that 1.3 million housing starts in 2014 would enable the company to post revenue of $4.37 billion and EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization--a popular measure of cash flow) of $170.5 million.

"These EBITDA levels are similar to what the company achieved in its 2004 and 2005 fiscal years, during which years BlueLinx was consistently valued in the range of approximately 6.5x to 9.5x EBITDA," SCP's complaint said. "Employing this range of 6.5x to 9.5x EBITDA multiple and BlueLinx's projected 2014 EBITDA of $170.5 million results in a total enterprise value of $1,108 million to $1,620 million. Deducting the company's projected 2014 net debt of $318.4 million results in an equity value of $790million to $1,301 million, or approximately $24.16 to $39.78 per share -- i.e., more than 7.1x to 11.7x the current $3.40 per share offer price." BlueLinx's real estate assets alone would be worth 1.6 to 2.6 times the $3.40/share offer if that real estate was put on the books at its appraised value, SCP argued.


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