ailures in the 1980s and 1990s associated with fire retardant-treated plywood, OSB siding, hardboard siding, and exterior insulated finishing systems have made durability an important concern of builders and consumers. This summer industry and government building experts will begin PATH-sponsored research to more accurately predict the service life of housing components.

The multiyear PATH Durability Research Program, called PATH-D, will enable manufacturers and suppliers to provide information on the service life of materials and components to designers and builders as well as allow consumers to evaluate housing plans from a durability perspective. The National Institute of Standards and Technol-ogy’s (NIST’s) Building and Fire Laboratory will coordinate the private and public laboratory research effort to achieve the PATH goal of improving durability and reducing maintenance costs by 50 percent by 2010.

Builders, trade contractors, manufacturers, insurers, and federal agency researchers laid the groundwork for the PATH-D program at the March 31, 1999, "Durability Summit" and at a follow-up planning session May 20, sponsored by NIST and hosted by the NAHB Research Center in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. A detailed, durability research action plan is expected by early fall.

The tentative PATH-D agenda calls for researchers to begin to develop an industrywide consensus on what constitutes durable materials or products, how durability should be measured, and how products should be rated. Researchers will look at the durability of roof and wall components themselves and at how well they attach to one another. The service life of sealants, the main line of defense in preventing moisture penetration around window and doorframes, will also be considered. The durability evaluation work will include such aspects of home exteriors as paint and joint sealants, roof coverings, concrete slabs, wooden components, window seals, and steel ties in masonry walls. They are particularly interested in developing a method for evaluating the service life of steep roof coverings.

NAHB Research Center President Liza Bowles said, "It is critically important that the housing industry find ways to lower maintenance and repair costs and give builders and homeowners a basis for making educated judgments about choosing products. The active participation of all sectors of the housing community in the PATH-D program bodes well for the creation of an industry-approved durability rating system that is both practical and beneficial to all."

NAHB Research Center will work with the housing sector to collect, analyze, and summarize data on the durability of selected key products used in residential construction.

NIST will use the data to develop durability evaluation tools, methods of analysis, and finally a computer integrated knowledge system (CIKS) for the housing components. Demonstration projects will showcase the results of the program.

Eventually people will be able to use CIKS to evaluate different housing components. Designers and builders will be able to make better informed decisions concerning different products. It will allow the selection of the best set of components to get the longest life for a house.

The NAHB Research Center plans to disseminate durability information through its HOMEBASE website.

PATH Goals
By 2010 PATH goals are to use new technology:

  • To reduce the monthly cost of new housing by 20 percent or more.

  • To cut the environmental impact and energy use of new housing by 50 percent or more and by 30 percent in 15 million existing homes.

  • To improve housing durability and reduce maintenance costs by 50 percent.

  • To reduce the risk of loss of life, injury, and property destruction from natural hazards by at least 10 percent.

  • To decrease residential construction work illnesses and injuries by at least 20 percent.

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PATHways Vol. 1, Issue 2