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What is EIFS? And why is it banned in Buffalo?

Daniel Sack
EIFS is a building material that looks like stucco.

Many buildings in Buffalo are covered with what looks like stucco, but it is usually called Dryvit. Dryvit is part of a product line called Exterior Insulation and Finish System, more often called EIFS. Use of the material is now banned in much of the city under the Green Code, but there is a fight to lift that ban.

Councilmember Richard Fontana wants the ban lifted and there are opponents, calling for expanding the ban. Fontana said it is often a question of how well installation is done.

"Doing it at cut rate cost, they might be putting it on a little bit thinner, not as strong of a material," Fontana said. "So maybe we could have a specification within the code that would be more in the lines of Mr. Paul Brown's quality as opposed to the quality of the lowest bidder, working on a plaza."

Paul Brown is business manager for Plasterers Local 9 and president of the Buffalo Building Trades Council. Brown also is pushing to have the Green Code rules dropped, opening up use of the system city-wide.

Credit Danile Sack

If EIFS is installed badly, it will not hold up. That was the point activist Daniel Sack took to the Council, along with photographs of a bad EIFS installation at a local store. Sack said it is not that the installation looks bad.

"What happens is, is when there are holes in the product like that, it gets behind it and there typically isn't a way for that moisture to escape and it causes rot and it causes mold," Sack said. "Mold can be a safety issue, a health issue."

Brown said his apprentices and journeymen know how to install the material properly so it will last. He blasted Councilmembers for trying to expand the ban, saying City Hall pushed the union to hire and train minority residents of Buffalo to do this work. Not allowing it, he said, would be unfair to those workers and to several minority contractors who have started up to install EIFS.

"You guys have encouraged us, urged us, actually badgered us to put people in our apprentice program," Brown said. "We have done that and now you're trying to take the work away from us by taking away the EIFS. If there are certain areas that they don't want to have it, I could care less. Elmwood Village? I don't care. But in general, especially in the industrial areas, they need to have that."

The president of the Buffalo Building Trades Council said opponents of the material seem to prefer metal paneling, but he said that is far more prone to leak. The issue was tabled in the Council's Legislation Committee.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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