When it comes to creating an energy-efficient building, say a quiet medical facility or a tornado-resistant school, there’s a one-size-fits-most solution: well-designed walls.
Many of the environmental and human-health benefits building owners and architects seek can be achieved with the right choice of wall material. Walls aren’t exactly a hot topic, though, so their importance is often overlooked. Now, one new Texas-based firm hopes to change that.
With smart-design, Bautex Systems has combined multiple benefits—insulation, mold and mildew resistance, fire resistance, sound-proofing and windstorm protection—into its wall system.
Simplicity plants a seed for added benefits
“The absolute genesis for our style of construction is it’s simplicity,” says Paul Brown, Bautex president and a director of the U.S. Green Building Council’s Texas chapter.
The Bautex Wall System uses proprietary Bautex Blocks, which are a composite of 15 percent cement and 85 percent polystyrene. Because the block is essentially filled with polystyrene, it’s highly insulated. In fact, the Bautex Wall System is up to two-and-a-half times more insulating than most current building code requirements.
That’s true even in Texas, which updated its energy codes in late 2016. Brown says some architects and contractors in the South worry they’ll have to change their building practices every three to six years as building and energy codes are updated. Because the Bautex Wall System exceeds what’s already required, it’s likely the industry will be able to use the system long into the future.
By contrast, contractors using conventional wall construction methods might have to adjust again and again.
Muffling noise makes for happier, healthier patients
Insulation certainly isn’t the only benefit to the Bautex Wall System, which consists of the composite cement-polystyrene blocks which are reinforced with steel and poured with structural concrete. Thanks to the insulation and dense concrete core, the Bautex Wall System received high sound transmission class (STC) and outdoor-indoor transmission class (OITC) ratings from ETS-Lindgren Acoustic Research Laboratory, an accredited third-party testing lab.
Progressive building standards like those by the International WELL Building Institute now make sound reduction a priority. According to WELL Building guidelines, “loud or repetitive exterior noises can be a source of stress and a risk factor for certain health outcomes,” including higher risk for diabetes, stroke, heart attack and hypertension.
Increasingly, healthcare providers are recognizing the strong correlation between the quality of their facility and both patient satisfaction and health outcomes. Experts like Rosalyn Cama, a healthcare interior designer and author of “Evidence-based Health Care Design,” acknowledge that quiet waiting and treatment rooms are key to creating a healing ambience.
So, medical professionals like Dr. Tri Nguyen of Texas Surgical Dermatology have opted for Bautex Blocks as a way to create quiet facilities with a solid presence that only concrete construction is said to provide.
Huffs and puffs won’t blow Bautex down
Schools see the benefits of quiet classrooms too, but for schools and other buildings in disaster-prone areas, the Bautex Wall System has another benefit: windstorm protection. The Bautex Wall System is rated to withstand windborne debris by both Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, and the International Code Council (ICC).
In Texas specifically, buildings along the coast endure strong hurricane winds, and in tornado-prone areas, winds can reach up to 250 miles per hour. According to Brown, the state’s latest building codes require that all school buildings have safe rooms to protect occupants from windstorms and the debris they hurl.
“All of the school districts in the Dallas-Fort Worth area that are building new schools due to recent population growth have to design these buildings with safe rooms in mind, and that’s been a real shock for the industry,” he says. “That’s a pretty high standard.”
With the Bautex Wall System, districts can develop small safe rooms throughout a school or make entire classroom wings that qualify as “safe rooms.”
For building owners, the list of benefits goes on. As they become more educated, Brown suspects they’ll push architects and contractors towards specifying innovative products like the Bautex Wall System. Chances are architects and engineers will also embrace the benefits of the Bautex Wall System. As it does for building owners, the Bautex Wall System has a list of benefits for the builders, too. Read about those in another US Builders Review blog post here.