Push for Sustainability in the Building Insulation Industry
Sep 6, 2022
10 min readAdd to Favourite
Sep 6, 2022
10 min readAdd to Favourite
Globally the most common insulating materials include concrete, mineral wool, fiberglass, foam board or rigid foam made up of Polystyrene, Poly isocyanurate, Polyurethane, and Phenolic. These insulating materials are either synthesised from petroleum sources or natural sources via high-energy-intensive manufacturing processes. That results in a significant impact on the environment. Therefore it is essential to look for a sustainable alternative to conventional insulating materials.
The thermal, acoustic insulating properties of various bio-waste materials, industrial by-products or recycled alternatives are being explored by the researchers to develop green alternatives to recycled plastics.
Exhibit 1 shows different sustainable/ circular insulating material alternatives.
A variety of raw materials including Bagasse, Corn cob, Cotton stalks, Straw bale waste, etc. can be used for insulation. In some cases, Recycled glass, Recycled Denim or cotton, recycled PET, and textile fibre are used as well.
Recycled petroleum-based polymer or using industrial by-products to produce new materials can be a sustainable strategy to reduce the use of virgin material and its disposal in the landfill. Comparative analysis shows synthetic recycled materials have good thermal insulating properties compared to natural ones.
Newer alternatives like various waste biomass, agro residues, recycled plastics or polymer and other natural resources are being investigated to achieve sustainability. The unconventional material can reduce the use of oil-based and not renewable sources. While looking at different insulations, R-value is one of the features most often used to compare insulation efficiency. The sustainability performances of different insulating materials are calculated based on the carbon emission and energy consumption during the product life cycle. The material energy consumed in the extraction and manufacture of insulating materials should be low.
Exhibit 2 shows a comparison between different insulation materials based on their R-Value, health and safety concerns, overall sustainability as well as durability of the products.
In spite of extensive research around multiple types of recycled and renewable insulating materials, the lack of overall performance including durability, moisture resistance as well as cost and energy efficiency make it a little difficult to come up in the market rapidly.
The majority of the reason to move towards the green alternative is the sustainability requirement and reduce the environmental carbon footprint.
The leading insulation material players like Rockwool, Owens Corning, and Saint Gobain have been doing extensive research to reduce their carbon footprint.
Various players, start ups are emerging in the market, doing constant research activity to bring an innovative sustainable alternative to the consumer.
Denim Insulation developed by Bonded Logic Inc:
Bonded Logic Inc. markets and manufactures innovative thermal and acoustical insulation products. Bonded Logic’s UltraTouch™ Denim Insulation developed contains 80% post-consumer recycled natural fibres that provide maximum R-value performance.
Recycled PET based Insulating material developed by Thermafleece
Thermafleece one of the UK’s leading brands of natural and sustainable insulation has developed SupaSoft Recycled Plastic Insulation. SupaSoft is using recycled polyester fibres made from recycled plastic bottles to manufacture soft-touch loft insulation that’s safe and easy to install. SupaSoft contains no harmful chemicals or binders and is completely safe to handle. Converting plastic bottles into insulation helps divert many tonnes of waste plastic from landfill or incineration helping protect our environment.
Everuse provides Upcycled Insulating Materials
Dutch startup Everuse produces upcycled building materials EverUse® Insulation Board from cellulosic waste. The Insulation Board is a sturdy, resilient, 100% circular, flexible insulation mat made from cellulose waste streams from paper and cardboard.
Mycelium insulation panel developed by innovative Start up Biohm
Biohm’s mycelium is designed to replace carbon-intensive and toxic insulation boards with a high-performing natural bio-based alternative. Initial testing indicates that the mycelium panel is a highly effective thermal insulating product and has achieved thermal conductivity as low as 0.03W/m.K. it shows an acoustic absorption of at least 75% at 1000Hz (the typical frequency of road traffic noise). Also, It has demonstrated that they are at least as durable as conventional materials.
Insulation plays an important role in the construction industry in the minimization of operational energy consumption, and noise reduction. Currently, insulation is performed via mineral and fossil-derived materials, which require high manufacturing energy. Therefore attention has been paid to find out energy-efficient sustainable alternatives.
Insulating materials derived from natural resources have been identified as low-embodied energy materials that reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. Among all the natural resource-based materials mineral wool and sheep wool shows exceptional insulating properties as well as durability. Other plant-based greens and sustainable insulation materials are extremely good in terms of low-carbon and positive-energy buildings but more research activity is required to bring them to full-scale commercial production level as these are inferior to properties like moisture absorption, durability, fire protection etc.
Subsequently, recycled materials such as recycled textiles, fibre, plastics, and glass wool have been identified as the best-in-class sustainable alternative. The use of these materials can reduce the carbon footprint, avoid landfilling as well as provide the required insulating performance over a long duration of time.
Due to low carbon emission while manufacturing and abundance of material availability, future evolution will be around renewable bio-based alternatives like mycelium-based insulation.
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