Home Insulation

Modern Building Materials Used To Insulate

Building materials are readily available materials for construction. They can be naturally obtained e.g. timber, sand, rocks and clay or manufactured in industries. Building insulation materials are thermal insulation materials used in retrofitting and reduce heat transfer in buildings by various modes; conduction, convection or radiation with a general goal of attaining home thermal comfort and reduced energy consumption.

Choosing building insulation materials

Before choosing the type of building insulation material, a lot of factors are considered. Some of these factors include;

  • Climatic conditions; regional weather conditions
  • Ease of replacement at the end of its life
  • Material flammability; for safety protection against accidental fires
  • Material toxicity;
  • Cost and effectiveness; this is the material affordability
  • Environmental effects and sustainability; whether they are environmental friendly.
  • Material durability; how effective it is in resisting degradation from decomposition, moisture and compression.
  • Ease of installation

Sometimes, when a single building material does notattain desired results, a combination of materials is advised for optimal solutions. Some examples of building insulation materials are explained below;

I. Hebel

For large scale construction projects e.g. warehouses, production centres and facilities, sports halls and events training centres among others, consider the use of hebel products. Building materials are delivered and assembled on site before being used in construction. In terms of efficiency and insulation, Hebel products are inflammable thus protect against fire.

II. Silka

These are calcium silicate blocks used in building slim highly stable walls with extreme sound absorbent properties. Silka, being a good material for storing heat, has over the years been used for thermal insulation in modern buildings. It being environmental friendly is made up of lime, water and sand.

III. Ytong

ClassicYtong building block as a construction material is very reliable and can be obtained at relatively low costs and can be used to attain very high quality construction requirements. The fact that it is easily compatible with other building materials and withstands high pressure makes it effective for use in a wide range of construction and renovation applications for both new and old buildings.
As an insulator, Ytong AAC (from sand, cement, lime and water) exhibits thermal insulation efficiency and its non-inflammable nature makes it offer good protection from accidental fires.

IV. Multipor

Multipor adds to classic Ytong building block. As a more innovative product with special properties, it forms multipor mineral insulation boards and panels for insulating new buildings and old buildings, also commercial and industrial structures and for energy modernization.
Multipor panels are free from harmful substances and contain no fibers; their production is also from environmentally safe raw materials.
Its properties make it to be considered an epitome in thermal insulation as it exhibits structural strength and optimum insulation performance.

Home Being Insulated while Building

V. Structural insulated panels (SIPS)

Structural insulated panels (SIPs) are also referred to as stressed skin walls. The concept of foam-core external doors is extended to the entire house i.e. floors, walls, ceilings and roofs.
The panels are made from plywood, oriented strand-boards or drywall glued together and sandwiched with cores of expanded polystyrene or polyurethane, compressed wheat straws or proxy.
Proxy can also be used as an insulator on its own since it has a high R-value of between 7 and 9 and can resist chemicals and moisture. Its only setback is that of higher initial costs.
Materials used in making structured insulated panels (expanded polystyrene, polyurethane wheat straw, or epoxy) enable SIPs insulation properties. The following are other benefits

  • Exhibit true R-values and lower energy costs in the long run
  • No CFCs, HFCFs or formaldehyde substances used in its production
  • Can be assembled on site and offers a faster or quicker construction option
  • Impermeable to moisture and creates a solid insulation shell around the house ensuring an energy efficient home.

Despite their high costs compared to other insulation materials and the fact that thermal bridging may occur at lumber fastening points, their efficiency, effectiveness and R-value makes them desirable home insulation materials for modern houses.

VI. Straw bales

Straw bales usually construct thick walls from rice or wheat straws highly compressed together. They were used in traditional houses but different experimental projects have made them popular and are now embraced in modern structures due to low costs involved and the high R-value exhibited.
Before construction they are allowed to dry to get rid of moisture and then tightly packed to remove air gaps which might lead to reduced energy insulation efficiency.

VII. Insulating concrete form

Also called insulated concrete form (ICF), it is basically reinforced concrete unit form with thermal insulation properties for interior and exterior walls and also floors. They are manufactured from any of the below material;

  • Expanded Polystyrene or Polyurethane foam
  • Cement-bonded polystyrene beads or wood fiber
  • Cellular concrete

For flexural strength, concrete is poured onto steel bars erected in forms, it’s then cured and depending on the form material used, it offers thermal and sound insulation, improved interior air quality, backing for drywall, protection against fire and regulated humidity levels that reduce mold growth.
Insulating concrete form are categorized by shape of concrete inside form or by the characteristics they exhibit

Categorization by shape

Examples include

  • Waffle Grid System; concrete shape is obtained from a hybrid of screen grid and flat wall systems
  • Post and Lintel System; concrete contains lintel
  • Flat wall system; the concrete takes the shape of a flat wall
  • Grid system; the concrete takes the shape of the metal in a screen. The solid form material separates channels of reinforced concrete.

Categorization by characteristics

Examples include

  • Blocks; ICF block edges interlock thus no need of bonding material. They are manufactured from materials that exhibit low gravity
  • Panels; panel ICFs are flat and rectangular
  • Plank; have characteristics of both block ICFs and Panel ICFs in terms of dimensions

VIII. Ceramics

Clay manufactures bricks and special tiles used in floors, walls and roofs. All these materials exhibit good insulation properties.

IX. Building Papers and membranes

Building papers and membranes are used for Damp-proofing and water-proofing. Examples include;

  • Red Rosin Paper; used for protecting a job-site during construction and as an underlayment in roofs, floors and exterior walls.
  • Tar paper; invented in the 19th century and used as red rosin paper.

X. Styrofoam

Styrofoam which is 90 percent air is a very light material use in pipe insulation. It has an R-value of five per inch and can be used in road construction to prevent soil disturbances due to thawing. Styrofoam has the following characteristics;

  • High thermal resistance; making it a good material for saving energy
  • Thermal mass; for energy reductions especially when combined with passive solar designs
  • No or minimal air leaks; reduces heat loss and improved home comfort.
  • Strength and Durability; Styrofoam lasts longer and its component materials do not rot even when wet. Compared to wood framed structures, its structures last ten times longer
  • Also has high resistance to forces of nature.

Because of above characteristics and other qualities, Styrofoam has different uses as explained below;
Sound absorption; Styrofoam has low acoustic transmission and sound transmission coefficients (STC) of between 46 and 72 making it good for insulation against noise and unwanted sounds compared to Drywalls and fiberglass with an STC of 36.
Air quality; Styrofoam walls regulate humidity levels reducing the chances of mold growth therefore ensuring more comfortable home interiors
Fire protection; walls from Styrofoam have up to six hours fire resistant rating
Reduced landfills; it can be manufactured from recycled materials hence reduced environmental hazards.

XI. Glass

Glass is manufactured from sand and silicate mixtures subjected to very high temperatures in a kiln. To make it bulletproof, some additives are included in the mixture.
In modern construction, glass is used to cover small building openings allowing light into the building interior at the same time protecting against inclement and sometimes as a ‘curtain wall’ when used in covering the entire wall section of a building.

If you would like to see some great ideas and watch a few videos on this topic, have a look at this You Tube channel which is aimed at those who are looking for eco design ideas but also covers many insulation related topics.