Pinning Down the Insulation

Pinning Down the Insulation
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SPRAY FOAM MAGAZINE – DeWitt Driscoll of Positive Energy North Carolina knows how important it is to remember your roots. Driscoll grew up in Connellsville, PA, about 400 miles from where he currently calls home in Chapel Hill, NC. Earlier this year, he was contacted by an old coach from his former high school in Connellsville, who informed him that the school was planning to build a new wrestling gym. The coach, a retired custom builder, was spearheading the project, and wanted to get Driscoll’s professional opinion on how to insulate the building while leaving the cinderblock walls and exterior brick facade exposed. As an alum who graduated from Connellsville High School in 2001 with a wrestling scholarship, Driscoll was quick to offer his Positive Energy’s services gratis. In August, Driscoll and his team made the trek from North Carolina to Pennsylvania to give back to the community that had such a positive impact on Driscoll’s younger years.

Positive Energy North Carolina is an offshoot of Pennsylvania-based Positive Energy Consulting, owned by Driscoll’s mother, Cecilia Driscoll, since 2008. He expanded the business to North Carolina almost four years ago. Up north, the company primarily focuses on weatherization consultations and energy audits, while Driscoll’s NC outfit deals with all things insulation, such as crawl space encapsulation, attic improvement, and spray foam applications. Driscoll applied his knowledge of energy efficiency to determine the best material to use on the gym’s exterior, and closed-cell spray foam fit all the requirements.

When talking to the architects and builders about their expectations for the Connellsville Wrestling Club project, Driscoll noted they had specific requirements regarding thermal control. The gym itself was going to be a detached building separate from the rest of the school, though they wanted the exterior to have the same brick facade as the rest of the school buildings. Originally, they discussed using block foam, but after weighing their options, they determined they would need a material with a higher R-value. With this in mind, Driscoll proposed closed-cell spray foam because not only is the material easy to work with, it also provides a vapor barrier for moisture control between the layers of cinder block and brick. The architects agreed, so Driscoll called his supplier.

ABOVE: The team applies a layer of closed-cell foam to the gym’s exterior wall; BELOW: A rendering of the finished facility

After deciding to move forward using SPF, Driscoll called his supplier, Josh Winkler from ICP Building Solutions Group. Winkler, like Driscoll, was thrilled to hear about this project’s value to the community, and offered to donate the spray foam. ICP Building donated the materials, and Driscoll’s company donated the labor and equipment needed. The Positive Energy team met Winkler on site at the Connellsville Wrestling Club in August of 2023, and after assessing the site, they got to work.

The area had experienced some light rain the day before they were due to begin spraying, which meant that Driscoll and his team had to wait for the cinder block wall to dry completely before starting. They had to continue checking moisture levels to ensure the foam would have good surface adhesion. Once everything was sufficiently dried, they were able to start spraying. Driscoll explains, “Cinder block doesn’t typically require too much prep, so it was just a matter of making sure the spray foam had time to properly dry.”

Driscoll and his team of two applied a three-inch layer of closed-cell spray foam. The building’s wall construction consists of layers. The main walls are concrete blocks, which were then covered with a three-inch layer of closed-cell spray foam, followed by a rigid board over top of to ensure thermal control. The final layer is the brick veneer on the exterior to match the rest of the school’s facade.

Ajani Murdaugh, DeWitt Driscoll, and Victor Monnet of Positive Energy North Carolina stand in front of the half-sprayed Connellsville Wrestling Club gym

Applying the spray foam between both interior and exterior walls keeps the building insulated. The building also features a brick parapet ledge up near the roof to create a one-inch rain gap. In total, they sprayed 4,000 square feet of wall at a three-inch depth, totaling up to approximately 12,000 board feet around the length of the gym in a day and a half, despite brief delays due to weather.

Aside from slight weather-related delays in the beginning, the Positive Energy team was able to complete spraying without a hitch. They wore industry-standard personal protective equipment, such as Tyvek suits, gloves, glasses, and respirators. When all was said and done, Driscoll, his Positive Energy team, and Josh Winkler from ICP Building Solutions Group all walked away proud of the brand-new wrestling building that would be enjoyed by future generations for years to come.  

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