History and Benefits
A need for thermally efficient and cost-effective claddings, after World War II, were the primary forces for the development of Exterior insulation and Finish systems in Europe. The basic premise was that insulation placed on the outside of the wall is much more energy efficient versus traditional methods, reducing energy consumption by as much as 30%. Throughout the ’50s and ’60s, the concept of applying an energy-efficient, cost-effective cladding system on buildings soon became a very popular method of construction in Europe.
EIFS acts as an energy-efficient thermal blanket reducing air infiltration and thermal bridging which stabilizes the interior environment, thus reducing energy consumption costs. Traditional “between the studs” insulation, leaves thermal breaks — gaps where heat and cold are lost between the outside and the space within the studs, wall joints, and outlets. Since walls are one of the greatest areas of heat loss, EIF systems prove to be very meaningful in terms of energy conservation.
It wasn’t until the late ’60s and early ’70s that EIFS manufacturers began entering into the North American market and became extensively involved in testing these systems for structural stability, mildew/fungus resistance, water vapour transmission, impact resistance, accelerated weathering, freeze/thaw, salt/spray, water resistance, water penetration, tensile bond, abrasion resistance, wind load, flame spread and fire resistance.
During the past two decades, the EIFS Industry experienced a rapid growth in North America, largely because of their energy-efficiency, cost-effectiveness and design flexibility. EIF systems are far more versatile than other materials. EIF systems come in a wide variety of textures and limitless colours, and can be created in virtually any shape or design. Architects have created many exterior architectural details that would often be cost-prohibitive using conventional construction. The use of light-weight architectural shapes like cornices, arches, columns, keystones and decorative accents, which are fabricated out of insulation board, by computer-controlled cutting equipment allows the architect and design professional to create a striking appearance for any building, old or new.
In recent years, there have been unsettling reports of moisture intrusion in homes clad with EIFS, placing the industry at the centre of a controversy as to whether or not its products are an effective wall cladding. Can any cladding, for that matter, be an effective barrier against moisture intrusion if builders and contractors fail to adhere to sound construction practices? Compelling evidence is now surfacing that moisture intrusion, especially in the wall cavity, is a problem that reflects sub-standard construction practices, rather than the merits of any particular wall cladding system.
In 1987, EIF system manufacturers, component suppliers, contractors and installers formed an association called The EIFS Council of Canada. Its primary goal is to improve and maintain high quality standards in the industry. This year, through the development of a Quality Assurance Program (QAP), the council hopes to restore the confidence in the industry by ensuring that EIF systems meet the requirements of current industry standards and practices. The QAP, which is based on the ISO model for quality-assurance, is comprised of a number of modules which include: research and development, standards and specifications, licensing of manufacturers, the certification of contractors and installers, field auditing and warranty programs.
Working with EIFS supplied and installed by an EIFS Council member is the greatest assurance Architects and Specification Writers have that the systems used on these projects are made of quality components and are installed by certified contractors. Today all EIFS manufacturers have expanded their range of products to incorporate EIFS with drainage capabilities, however, they maintain that when traditional barrier systems are applied by certified contractors and in accordance with manufacturer specifications and proper building practices, they do not experience moisture intrusion and, therefore, do not require drainage capabilities for successful long-term performance.
EIFS has been used on buildings across North America for more than 30 years. Hundreds of thousands of buildings are performing adequately today because professional contractors installed the systems in accordance to EIFS manufacturer specifications. The explosive growth this industry has enjoyed in the North American market place should indicate to all critics and advocates that EIFS are here to stay.
Visit us at www.eifscouncil.org