Insulation Today and Tomorrow
For its annual High Performance Building Envelope Special Section this year, the editors of Environmental Design + Construction and Walls & Ceilings sought to profile a handful of insulation producer’s latest products. Spanning from cellulose, batts and foam, seven companies stepped forward to expand on its latest in insulation technology. In no particular order, here is what these companies have to say.
Owens Corning’s trademark Pink Fiberglas Insulation comes in several forms: batts, rolls, and blown-in. The company also provides Foamular rigid foam board insulation for sheathing and foundation insulation.
When asked about the green attributes of its product line, Gale Tedhams, director of sustainable communities and green products says that “insulation is inherently a green product in that it saves many times more energy than it takes to create it … in its first year of life alone ... and keeps on saving energy throughout the life of the product.”
To be specific, the company says its Pink Fiberglas line has the highest level of certified recycled content in North America as verified by leading, independent third-party certifier Scientific Certification Systems. Furthermore, the company says that all Fiberglas brand insulation is made of at least 40 percent recycled content. Its Foamular rigid foam contains at least 15 percent certified recycled content.
“Building insulation helps save energy and money and also helps reduce green house gas emissions,” says Tedhams. “With 40 percent of energy in the U.S. consumed by homes and commercial buildings, according to the Department of Energy, making sure buildings are properly insulated is critical to achieving energy efficient and green buildings. A global study by the McKinsey Institute identifies building insulation as the most cost-effective solution to reduce greenhouse gases.”
When asked how the current economy has treated the company and its bottom line, Owens Corning sees both sides of the coin.
“While there is no question that the housing market has slowed, the demand for sustainable and energy efficient products and homes continue to increase,” says Tedhams. “Homeowners are staying put and seeking remodeling projects that help make their homes greener and more energy efficient while reducing their energy-related costs. Insulation meets these needs by helping improve the energy efficiency of buildings, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and reducing heating and cooling energy-related bills all year long.
“There are more than 80 million U.S. homes that are estimated to be under insulated according to Department of Energy recommendations which are costing homeowners unnecessarily in their heating and cooling energy-related bills. This certainly creates an opportunity for insulation, HVAC, roofing and other contractors to drive their business by helping homeowners identify which projects will help them increase the energy efficiency of their homes-from the attic to crawlspaces and the basement.”
Making a very strong impression from all reports at last year’s GreenBuild, Knauf stepped up with its new product. Its EcoBatt Glasswool Insulation line, with Ecose, is for residential and commercial applications. The EcoBatt Glass Wool Insulation products are claimed to improve on the environmental credentials of fiberglass because they are produced with a new binder; the Ecose technology. This reduces embodied energy, contains no formaldehyde, phenols or artificial colors, and delivers environmental sustainability, the company says.
Knauf’s line of insulation products is made with up to 30 percent post-consumer recycled glass, sand, and the new technology. The company says EcoBatt Insulation Products are more sustainable because they use Ecose, which is up to 70 percent less energy intensive than traditional binders.
“Ecose Technology is changing the face of the insulation industry,” says Bob Claxton, Knauf Insulation’s president, North America. “The demand for greater sustainability in building construction is clear, and will be the driving force for new construction in the foreseeable future.”
EcoBatt Insulation line was introduced to the residential market in the Pacific Northwest last November. The company plans to introduce the insulation to other markets this year, adding it will be available statewide before year end.
“With energy costs rising, and energy sources diminishing, conservation is critical for our earth’s future. Insulating buildings is the single most important factor in ensuring a sustainable future,” says Scott Miller, director of sustainability and product affairs with Knauf. “Insulation is a known technology that has an immediate economic impact and provides a substantial environmental payback. With Ecose Technology, we extend our product benefits further because it is made using rapidly-renewable organic materials, instead of the conventional non-renewable petroleum-based chemicals used in traditional binders. That eliminates petroleum-based binder chemicals from our process, and helps preserve our world’s energy resources. [The] technology creates a more advanced and sustainable product; and since no phenol or formaldehyde is used, it also eliminates manufacturing emissions of those chemicals.”
Manufacturer of mineral wool insulation in boards and batts, Thermafiber says the benefits of using its product line is that it’s durable.
“Mineral wool insulation offers superior fire protection when compared to other types of insulation,” says Austin Hess, marketing development analyst at Thermafiber. “Mineral wool can withstand temperatures more than 2,000 degrees F while maintaining its integrity. It is commonly used in fire containment systems that protect building occupants in the event of a fire. Mineral wool batts are also denser than glass fiber batts which give them a higher R-value and better sound attenuating properties.”
In regards to its sustainable attributes, Hess says Thermafiber’s mineral wool insulation offers the highest available recycled content of any commercial insulation. The company’s products contain a post-industrial recycled content of up to 90 percent. He adds insulation is also the most effective product for reducing CO² and Greenhouse Gas emissions from buildings.
The company currently is working on third-party certification for its line, estimating that it will be this year.
When asked if the green building boom forced Thermafiber to re-evaluate its product catalog, Hess says yes and no.
“Our products have always been ‘green’,” he says, reiterating the company’s insulation has the highest recycled content for commercial insulation. “We have modified our marketing message to educate people about the green attributes our products have always provided.”
He confirms that Thermafiber will be introducing several new products in 2009.
For Hess, the future of insulation in the green building market will grow.
“Green building and energy conservation will increase demand for insulation,” Hess says. “Insulation requirements will be increased for new buildings. Many existing buildings will be retrofitted with additional insulation to improve energy efficiency.”
Manufacturing giant Dow Building Solutions offers different kinds of insulation for both residential and commercial markets. Its latest products include its rigid foam insulation Styrofoam SIS Structural Insulated Sheathing and Thermax Wall System. In spray insulation, the latest is the Froth-Pak FS Foam Insulation and Styrofoam Spray Polyurethane Foam.
The Styrofoam SIS sheathing is a residential wall system that combines the structural and water-resistive properties of wood sheathing and housewrap, with the added benefit of insulation. The three-in-one system, as targeted to architects and builders, offers an energy-efficient design into usual building practices with little or no added cost, the company says. It is up to 80 percent post-consumer content (by weight) and is Energy-Star qualified. Additionally, the system is targeted to help builders earn LEED credits in the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED program. The company estimates that the system will reduce homeowner’s energy bills by $200 to $500 each year (depending on the particular HVAC system).
For steel stud commercial buildings, Dow’s Thermax Wall System enables the building team to create energy-efficient, moisture-managed walls with fewer materials and installation steps. Providing protection against thermal bridging, moisture damage and air infiltration, the product integrates Thermax ci Exterior Insulation, Styrofoam Spray Polyurethane Foam (CM Series) and Weathermate Flashing in one system. The wall system is also Energy-Star -qualified and users can earn credits in the USGBC’s LEED program.
Froth-Pak FS Foam Insulation is a two-component, quick-cure polyurethane foam that expands to fill cavities, cracks and expansion joints within the building envelope to create a truly complete thermal barrier. By conforming to any shape or substrate area, this foam insulation ensures seamless insulation and moisture management. It is available in portable, self-contained kits or larger, refillable cylinders. Dow says it is ideal for gaps, cracks and penetrations greater than 3 inches and in hard-to-reach areas, such as rim joists and band joists. The Class A rating (flame spread of 25 or less) allows its use in residential wall, attic and crawl space, and light commercial building applications.
As evident, Dow offers insulation for all markets and unique applications.
The company says the economic downturn and jettisoned fuel costs have put energy efficiency at the forefront of builders’ minds-as well as the company’s.
“We have seen an impact as a result of projects on hold in the commercial segment and residential projects still in decline,” says Mike Kontranowski, senior market manager at Dow Building Solutions.
The Midland, Mich.-based company has introduced several new products to address the growing market, and has been involved in several initiatives to help stimulate growth in the building and construction industry.
How does Dow see the future of the insulation building market?
“We do see an increased interest in how to design buildings for improved energy efficiency,” says Kontranowski. “In commercial, initiatives such as Architecture 2030 [are] trying to reduce green house gas emissions, and the new interest from the new presidential administration on energy efficiency has piqued awareness on trying to meet these goals. Insulation is one of the most cost effective ways to meet the demands and improve efficiency, lower GHG emissions, reduce our impact on the environment, and our dependency on fossil fuels.”
Susanne Robins, marketing manager of Canadian-based Icynene Inc. says that even though the building industry in general has faced increasing challenges, the company is still on course for continued growth.
“The green building market is expected to grow to $70 billion by 2013 and green products like renewable-based, high-performance insulation will have a significant impact on keeping up this momentum,” Robins says.
The company offers spray foam insulation products that are designed to help create healthier, quieter and energy efficient environments. The company’s latest offering is the LD-R-50, a renewable-based, half-pound, water-blown spray foam insulation and air barrier material, formulated using a high-yield castor oil. The product provides an effective air barrier insulation to minimize air infiltration through walls and ceilings. The product is estimated to save homeowners up to 50 percent in energy costs and minimizes humid indoor/outdoor air from entering walls and ceilings and condensing.
“With Icynene LD-R-50 castor oil has been used in place of a portion of the petroleum-based polyol and exceeds USDA and ICC code requirements for a rapidly renewable product,” says Robins in regards to its sustainable attributes. “[The product] can contribute toward a building’s achievement of credits/points under various national green building programs, including: The LEED system of building certification from the U.S. Green Building Council and the NAHB National Green Building Standard.
“The latest research tells us that today’s homeowners judge green products first by their performance and ability to deliver cost savings and rapid payback,” Robins says. “Ecological benefits are no longer the basis of but provide a key tipping point to solidifying consumer green purchases.”
Icynene, holding a positive demeanor in the face of these hard economic times says its crystal ball long-term is rosy.
“The future looks incredibly bright especially for renewable-based spray foam insulation products like Icynene LD-R-50,” Robins says. She cites a report by SBI market research that finds polyurethane foam products will not only “survive” 2009 but will thrive into 2012, due to increased interest in the green building movement.
Nu-Wool offers cellulose insulation that is available in loose fill format. More recently, a batt form of the cellulose insulation was introduced. Its product line, called Nu-Wool Premium Cellulose Insulation, saves as much as 40 percent on heating and cooling costs compared to fiberglass insulation. The company believes that a cellulose-insulated building will obtain better performance, under real-world conditions, than a fiberglass insulated building of otherwise similar construction, according to university and independent studies.
The company also says the benefits of using its product is better sound control, because it greatly reduces the movement of airborne sound from one room to an adjacent room. The sharp sounds that easily transmit through fiberglass insulated structures are subdued by the increased mass of the Nu-Wool WallSeal system.
The product is made from 100 percent recycled paper.
Its additional sustainable attributes include zero waste in application process (the product bags are recyclable); manufactured using at least 10 times less embodied energy than fiberglass insulation, and; saves greenhouse gas generation in manufacturing and performance.
“The green building boom has increased the demand for Nu-Wool Premium Cellulose Insulation, because of its green attributes,” says Valerie Henderson, vice president of marketing with the company.
When asked of the economic conditions and how this has impacted the company, Henderson says that although overall construction is down, the company finds that demand for green insulation in new construction and additional insulation in existing homes and buildings has increased.
The company has recently introduced a cellulose batt, which can be used in new and existing construction in wall cavities and basement walls. Just like its loose fill insulation, these batts are Class A fire rated and meet all requirements of the International Energy Conservation Code.
Kinzler’s company High-R is a full service insulation company providing materials and installation for several insulation systems. The High-R insulation system was specifically designed for pre-engineered metal buildings. The system uses a patented metal clip to attach PVC trim to the roof purlins or wall girts that captures a rigid panel. The cavity between the exterior sheeting and the HIGH-R panels is then back filled with blown in fiberglass insulation. The placement by blowing ensures that no voids will be left that would be subject to condensation once the dew point temperature has been achieved. The consistent eighth of a pound blowing rate provides an R-value comparable to the pinched or laid-in fiberglass blanket insulation systems.
Benefits of using the company’s insulation system, says officials there, is that it offers energy efficiency for climate controlled facilities and a clean finished interior. The system is a cost-effective solution for projects in the design phase or existing facilities needing to update.
“The energy savings attributes of our insulation system help to green the world by conserving our natural resources involved in generating the power needed to climate control the space that is insulated,” says Blaine Bancks, sales and marketing manager with High-R. “The PVC face on the Dura Panel-P uses 100 percent recycled materials. The PVC trim pieces are virgin resins but could be recycled after their useful life cycle is over. The fiberglass blown in the cavity is 25 percent recycled material.”
The company currently is not certified by a third-party inspector. In regards to any new product launches, Bancks says not necessarily but the existing High-R insulation is always changing and customization is an option for customers.
So how has High-R weathered the bitter economic storm? “Rehabilitating existing facilities has become a larger percentage of our business with the uncertainty in the economy,” says Bancks. “People seem more likely to find a solution to fix what they may already own than to look to replace. This scenario plays well with the attributes of the High-R insulation system. The system is very adaptable to many structural configurations and can be installed much quicker and easier than other insulation systems with retrofits.”
Polyurethane spray foam manufacturer Fomo Products Inc. says its products help to insulate and seal corners of joining materials, wall cavities, ceiling, floors, rim and band joints, making any building much more energy-efficient. Furthermore, polyurethane spray foam stops air infiltration.
The company’s sustainable attributes are that many of Fomo’s products contribute to LEED credits and Energy Star Certification.
So how has Fomo responded to the current recession?
“With the decrease in new construction and the deflation of the housing market, we’re noticing many homeowners are adding on and remodeling,” says Sarah Jonas, marketing manager at Fomo. “They’re looking to make their homes as sustainable as possible and spray foam insulation is a great way to do that.”
Fomo has recently introduced an eco foam line of products, made of 10 percent soy renewable sources. One pound of soy-based polyol used replaces one pound of petroleum based polyol and results in 5.6 pound CO² benefit to the atmosphere. Currently, the company is working on developing this same type of product in a two-component system.
As ED+C and W&C have found, insulation suppliers are benefiting from the green building boom, shattering speculation that sustainable and green products are merely frills used in booming times. And the good news for builders-as well as manufacturers-is that as the demand increases, costs will be placed competitively and companies can resume to pumping their dollars into R&D. Watch for this industry to continue its trend in making building practices a more responsible environment. W&C