Advice from the Field: What Insulation Professionals Wish You Knew

June 1, 2018

We asked several National Insulation Association industry leaders what design issues they face and what information that they would like engineers, system designers, and specifiers to know. Their responses are below.

Steve Luse is the fourth-generation CEO of Luse Thermal Technologies (www.luse.com), a NIA Union Contractor member company founded in 1923, and a multifaceted construction, product distribution, and safety consulting solutions provider headquartered in Illinois. Mr. Luse is a Past President of NIA, a member of the NIA Board of Directors and Executive Committee, and Chairman of NIA’s Union Contractors Committee. He can be reached at steve@luse.com.

Pete Gauchel is the President of L & C Insulation, Inc. (www.lcinsulation.com), a NIA Merit Contractor member company specializing in commercial and industrial insulation in Wisconsin, southeast Minnesota, and northeast Iowa. For the last 30 years, L & C Insulation has been specializing in industrial and commercial insulation and firestopping. Mr. Gauchel is a NIA Past President, a former Chairman of the Merit Contractors Committee, a former President of the Midwest Insulation Contractors Association (MICA), and Chairman of the MICA Manual Standards Committee. He can be reached at peteg@lcinsulation.com.

Rudy Nigl is the Vice President of L & C Insulation, Inc. (www.lcinsulation.com),  a NIA Merit Contractor member company specializing in commercial and industrial insulation in Wisconsin, southeast Minnesota, and northeast Iowa. For the last 30 years, L & C Insulation has been specializing in industrial and commercial insulation and firestopping. Mr. Nigl has been in the industry for 5 years and has expertise in leadership, project management, and estimating. He is a NIA Board Member, Chair of the Merit Contractors Committee, member of the Young Professionals Committee, and a MICA Board Member. He can be reached at rudyn@lcinsulation.com.

Steve Kennedy is the President, CEO, and Founder of Kennedy InsulationSystems, Inc. a NIA Merit Contractor member company located in Iowa that focuses on food processing, meat kill and processing, colleges, schools, chemical companies, power-house pipe, hospitals, and commercial applications. Mr. Kennedy has 43 years of experience in the mechanical insulation industry and can be reached at steve@kennedyinsulation.com.

Ray Stuckenschmidt is the President/Owner of Systems Undercover, Inc., a NIA Merit Contractor member company that was founded in 1986 as a mechanical insulation contractor serving the Rocky Mountain and Midwest region. They specialize in commercial mechanical insulation, firestopping, and heat-tracing. Mr. Stuckenschmidt is a graduate of the University of Nebraska Lincoln College of Engineering with a degree in Construction Management. He has 42 years of experience focusing in commercial, cold storage/refrigeration, and industrial mechanical insulation. He has served on the Editorial Board for MICA’s National Commercial & Industrial Insulation Standards” since 1997 and chaired the 7th Edition. He can be reached at ray@systemsundercover.net.

Lee Stuckenschmidt is the Operations Manager for Systems Undercover, Inc., a NIA Merit Contractor member company specializing in commercial mechanical insulation, firestopping, and heat-tracing in the Rocky Mountain and Midwest region. He has 21 years of experience in the commercial mechanical insulation industry and has spent 10 years in his current position. Mr. Stuckenschmidt can be reached at lee@systemsundercover.net.


Steve Luse, CEO, Luse Thermal Technologies

Looking specifically at the insulation industry, we must continue to get the word out on the value of insulation and the cost savings from using the right product on the right system.

Pete Gauchel, President, L & C Insulation, Inc.

This group should know that the MICA Manual has everything that they need. If they would incorporate the MICA manual plates in their submittal packages, then they would have a direct communication line with the insulation contractor and their people in the field who are installing the insulation for the project.

Rudy Nigl, Vice President, L & C Insulation, Inc.

This audience needs to be continually educated to learn both the importance of proper insulation systems and the importance of quality insulation. We see a lot of poor craftsmanship from untrained insulation companies or ones that do cheap work.

Quality insulation is a great investment for not only the bottom line, but also the environment in terms of the energy savings it creates in a short time (with the correct installation).

Steve Kennedy, President and CEO, Kennedy Insulation Systems, Inc.

I remember NIA Past President Rex Sayre always used to say that the insulation contractors are usually the last people to be consulted or believed about insulation. This is still true today. I have 42 years of field and management experience in this business. I read emails and sit in job-site meetings concerning insulation questions, and sometime it’s like I’m invisible until I speak up and point out something that makes pretty good sense, which they usually go with. We have a solid relationship with most of the mechanical engineers that specify work in Iowa. The same is true for field foremen, estimators, and plant managers. The new challenge is that many of those we have developed relationships with for 30 years are retired or deceased and have been replaced with someone newer to the industry who we do not have the same rapport with.

Ray Stuckenschmidt, President, Systems Undercover, Inc.

I’d like them to know and understand their responsibility as it relates to the product selection and proper installation of materials within their projects. Quality control has been pushed to the back room and the quality of finished work in our industry demonstrates this. Commissioning may be an answer, but it has similar problems with a lack of knowledge and experience, which can lead to lower-quality systems. Internal quality controls compete with demand for production to meet low estimates (bids) created with overly optimistic budgets. The design community can set the quality expectation bar high if they choose to do so and, in turn, are compensated accordingly by owners. Quality is dependent on correct product selection, correct installation methods, management through inspection/correction, competence, and integrity to do the job right.

Lee Stuckenschmidt, Operations Manager, Systems Undercover, Inc.

When talking to the people responsible for maintaining and designing facilities, we often find they lack true industry knowledge about what we do. Having to explain the differences between the facts on paper and the actual conditions that products are installed under can be difficult. We also sometimes find there hasn’t been an effective knowledge transfer between newer and more experienced engineers. They may sometimes use an older “cut and paste” specification without evaluating whether it contains the best design options or temperature conditions for the system in question, which can lead to design inefficiencies and system problems over time.

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