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Insulation

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There are a wide range of insulation materials now available on the market, from oil-derived foam products to natural products such as hemp or sheep’s wool

The specification of insulation can be key to reducing carbon emissions, energy use and achieving Part L. In respect of this, increasing energy efficiency requirements dictate higher levels of insulation. Manufacturers’ detailed
performance data requires close scrutiny.

There are a wide range of insulation materials now available on the market, from oil-derived foam products to natural products such as hemp or sheep’s wool.

It is the material from which the product is derived that has the most impact on its embodied energy. Some argue that for insulation the energy conserved through its use far outweighs the energy used in its manufacture, and therefore embodied energy is less important for insulation materials. But if low embodied energy is a concern, consider more natural materials which have been through less processing.

Breathable insulation materials, such as hemp, wood fibre and sheep’s wool are well suited to situations where moisture control or air quality may be an issue. However, these can require deeper levels of insulation to achieve the required u-values.

Comparison of alternative insulation types

 Insulation type
 Cellulose fibreGlass wool fibreRock mineral wool foamExtruded polystyreneExpanded polystyrenePolyurethane foamAerogel blanket
Insulation thicknesses required to achieve 0.2W/m2K235mm220mm210mm190mm180mm150mm75mm
Thermal conductivity0.038 -0.040W/m°K0.031 - 0.040W/m°K0.031 - 0.040W/m°K0.028 - 0.036W/m°K0.032 - 0.040W/m°K0.022 - 0.028W/m°K0.013W/m°K
Density32kg/m316-24 kg/m324-40 kg/m330 kg/m315-35 kg/m330-40 kg/m3180 kg/m3
Recycled contentTypically 90%Typically 30-60%23% none none
Recyclableyesyesyes reusablereusablereusable
Crade to Grave embodied energy16.64 MJ/kg49.6 MJ/kg16.8 MJ/kg95 MJ/kg108 MJ/kg101 MJ/kg53 MJ/kg

 

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