Designing Products That Stand Up to Mother Nature?quality=70&width=1500

Designing Products That Stand Up to Mother Nature

By Bridget Kulla / 12/18/2017

Technical Services Manager Chad Diercks works as part of the research and development team at James Hardie, designing new products to resist a variety of challenging environmental conditions. In this interview, Diercks reveals some of the trends he and his team are observing—and how they are responding.

How is your team working to design the next generation of products?

Chad Diercks
: It's not just about the products but the entire building ecosystem working as one within a given climate zone. We always try to think holistically to ensure not only the products will stand up to harsh conditions, but also how they will fit within the system.

From a product standpoint, we consider how the material responds to freezing and thawing, ultraviolet rays, heat, wind, fire, standing and receding water, and much more.

Which types of conditions present the biggest challenge for product design?

: The combination of conditions presents the biggest challenge. Given the broad climate landscape in the United States, our products need to be designed and prepared for variability. From hurricanes on the East Coast, tornadoes in the Midwest, wildfires in the West, freezing rain in the North, and blistering sun in the South, products that can handle shifting temperature and moisture levels are critical. Most importantly, we provide products that are engineered for climate, where product performance attributes exceed the climate exposure.

What types of products can building professionals and consumers expect to see in the future?

: Products and supporting systems continue to evolve to handle both changing temperatures and water better than ever. We have seen systems designed to drain rainfall differently and even those with integrated drainage built in. Since high winds are common in severe storms, we see products coming to market with lock joints, improving upon the traditional shiplap joint design.

What other trends are you monitoring?

: Fire resistance continues to be exceptionally important. With higher density growth, property lines are narrowing. These close property lines increase the chances of a fire spreading from one home to the house next door. So the trend is to drive both the product and the system to be more fire resistant. Our products are noncombustible; they will not ignite or burn. That's the highest rating a material can have.


"James Hardie understands the need to change with you as the way you build a wall changes" - Chad Diercks, technical service manager

Energy independence is another big trend we are observing. Since commercial and residential buildings are a big source of energy consumption, there’s been a push to reduce the amount of energy we consume. James Hardie understands the need to change with you as the way you build a wall changes. Supporting installers in how to use products to increase efficiency is something we take seriously.

What are product engineers able to learn from natural disasters?

 Similar to other natural disasters, our team went out just after Hurricane Harvey to talk with builders and to see the aftermath firsthand. Our goal was to understand how it affects people. Ultimately, we want to take this knowledge and create products that help alleviate some of the damage and suffering from natural disasters.

Our observations were similar to those after Hurricane Andrew—unfortunately, homeowners don't often think about the exterior until there is a natural disaster. Then we see a shift as communities observe failures, whether it be shifting away from wood products, which don't stand up to flames, or looking for products that better withstand wind.

For us, that means continuing to evolve our already robust product line to increase these benefits and help protect property and the lives of the people who live there.

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