Insulation reinforces energy-efficient green building

Insulation reinforces energy-efficient green building

Graphic courtesy of USGBC

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, project managers are paying closer attention to how tight they can make their building envelopes to drive down energy usage and costs, reports the American Chemistry Council (ACC).

The 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.

A building’s envelope consist of its walls, windows, all the insulation in between its walls, the sealants used on walls, air and vapor barriers in its walls, roofing material and much more. Product specifiers should look for envelope components that support occupant comfort, ensure clean air and keep moisture out, avoid hazardous materials and reduce heating and cooling loads—all while using resources efficiently and generating low-embodied materials impact.

The American Chemistry Council is working with its member companies to offer marketplace solutions that project teams can use to increase the energy efficiency profile of buildings and help achieve global goals for sustainable manufacturing.

“The products and materials that ACC’s member companies offer in the market directly contribute to more sustainable outcomes for the building and construction industry,” said Mahesh Ramanujam, COO of the U.S. Green Building Council. “These products consistently raise the bar on how our buildings perform, especially from an energy efficiency standpoint, and help the building and construction industry to meet their sustainability goals. By continuing to provide innovative product solutions, ACC’s member companies are accelerating market transformation for the built environment.”

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 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, one 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, research shows.

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. SPF is an insulating air-sealing product that creates air barriers within a building’s envelope by sealing and insulating difficult areas, such as windows, doors and penetrations. SPF lowers heating and cooling costs by preventing air leakage and maintaining comfortable temperatures indoors.


Topics: Architectural Firms, Associations / Organizations, Building Owners and Managers, Construction Firms, Consulting - Green & Sustainable Strategies and Solutions, Energy Saving Products, Engineering Firms, Government Buildings - Federal / State / Local, Great Commercial Buildings, Healthy & Comfortable Buildings, Indoor Air Quality (IAQ), Insulation, Interiors, Sustainable Communities, Thermal Envelope - Building Envelope, Urban Planning and Design

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