Building green with energy-efficient materials: Insulation
USGBC, September 7, 2016
Did you know that the energy lost through a building’s walls, roofs and windows is the largest single waste of energy in most buildings—especially in hot summer months? As a result, the energy efficiency of a building often depends on the materials that help create its envelope. With the recent LEED® 2009 minimum energy update, projects are paying even closer attention to how tight they can make their envelope to drive down energy usage and costs. The results can be staggering: use of energy-saving products and technologies in building envelopes help save enough energy annually to power, heat and cool up to 56 million households or run up to 135 million vehicles each year.
Material Profile: Insulation
When looking to green a building’s envelope, project teams should start by considering the insulation products they are using. Insulation reduces the exchange of heat (both heat gain and heat loss) through the many surfaces in a building—walls, ducts, roof, etc. In a well-insulated building, less warm air escapes during the winter, and less cool air escapes during the summer, reducing the amount of energy needed for heating and cooling. Insulation can actually be one of the most practical and cost-effective ways to improve a building’s energy efficiency: by improving the insulation in new and existing buildings, you can enjoy significant savings and reductions in energy usage. In addition, insulation can also keep moisture out and improve air quality, leading to significant health benefits such as increased worker productivity and a reduced risk of the spread of diseases.
Framing accounts for 25 percent of a building’s wall surface and, when left un-insulated, contributes significantly to energy loss. Dow STYROFOAM™ Brand XPS Foam Insulation is one example of a product that reduces energy flow through the walls of a building by providing a complete, solid layer of insulation. This durable rigid foam solution helps residential and commercial architects, designers, builders and contractors minimize heat transfer, increase energy efficiency, prevent moisture intrusion and withstand heavy loads. It also helps reduce air infiltration, which accounts for 25 to 40 percent of the energy used for heating and cooling a typical home.
Insulation materials can also generate impressive savings. The Department of Defense (DoD) uses more than two-thirds the energy of all countries in the world and accounts for 80 percent of our government’s energy use. Because of this, DoD is committed to energy-efficiency: by switching to BASF’s spray polyurethane foam (SPF) to insulate U.S. Army tents and hospitals, DoD was able to save more than $1 billion in fuel costs annually. Products like SPF can help project teams save big. SPF are insulating air-sealing products that create air barriers within a building’s envelope by sealing and insulating difficult areas, such as windows, doors, penetrations and more. SPF lowers heating and cooling costs by preventing air leakage and maintaining comfortable temperatures indoors.