By: Chris Casey, Sales Representative – Architectural Products
Over the past several years, there has been a dramatic increase in the use of EPS Geofoam for many different applications, from road construction to stadium seating, lateral pressure reduction to side hill stabilization, and everything in between. While on the surface this is a great thing for the industry, like most things in life, the good is sometimes counter-balanced by a negative aspect.
One of the less positive developments that has sprung-up from the growth of Geofoam is the use of substandard geofoam for engineered applications. Just by looking at two pieces of foam side-by-side an industry professional could not definitively tell you what grade or density of material they are looking at. Even if the professional was given the opportunity to touch the samples, chances are that they cannot say with conviction what density the material is or what amount of recycled content is included.
This issue is important for all architectural applications of EPS, but even more so for geofoam. Geofoam is typically used in a structural capacity, as a load bearing component. If an engineer specifies EPS 29 (2lb nominal density), but the material arrives at the jobsite unlabeled, it is a virtual certainty that neither the engineer, the architect, or the contractor will be able to tell that they have indeed received EPS 29 Geofoam. If the material shipped does not meet the intent of the design as a structural component, this could lead to a potentially catastrophic failure of the installation.
Taking this a step further, the same idea applies to insect resistance. Here in the Southeast, termites are a huge problem. That is why all EPS that has contact directly with the ground should be manufactured with a code listed termite resistant additive. No one wants critters burrowing channels through a structural component of a building!
For these reasons, it is very important to write a specification that includes requirements for proper product labeling, including the ASTM Type, UL label, and plant identification number. Taking this simple step during the design process helps ensure that the geofoam material is purchased from a reputable EPS manufacturer that has performed the appropriate product testing, and whose manufacturing process meets industry standards.