New products are the lifeblood of this magazine - who is launching what, who has made which new and delightful discovery - but it is no secret that a lot of the products are not, in truth, all that new. They may serve a valuable purpose, comply with new legislation, be more effective than their predecessor or even just (and it is a very important just) look better. From the point of view of the profession, their launch may be of considerable significance and this magazine is, of course, always delighted to inform you about them.
What they do not do, however, is offer real novelty and innovation. Even in sustainability, a field that is rightly coming to dominate many architects' thinking, the solutions are not that new. Insulation, sealants, solar panels and wind turbines have all been with us for decades, if not longer. Like all other products they have undergone refinements and improvements, but they are not revolutionary.
It is this that makes Energain, the latest launch from DuPont, so exciting. First glimpsed at Interbuild in the spring, it is a method of introducing thermal mass into a building without adding much weight. This seeming contradiction is resolved by using a slender panel of a phasechange material that absorbs energy at around 22¦C as it melts and re-emits it at a slightly lower temperature when it solidifies again.
Evidently, as a principle this is not new either, since it employs school-level physics.
But the refinement, producing an easily cut, clean board that does not seep and can be fixed behind plasterboard, means that for the first time the method can be applied to real buildings.
There is still more to be learnt. DuPont has calculated the payback in terms of money but not in terms of the embodied energy in the product, which - since it uses aluminium and paraffin wax - will be considerable. Nevertheless, the achievement is to be applauded.