The Insulation Sector: Growth and Innovation
Insulation is a huge factor in energy efficiency efforts and, consequently, on the amount of money an organization spends on heating and cooling. The news seems to be good in this sector on a couple of fronts: Two research projects – one focused on premise interiors and one on exteriors — are showing results in Europe. The sector is growing and growing in the United States and around the world.
The project that focuses on premise interiors is being run by a number of companies under the OSIRYS banner. According to the group, modern structures host a number of airborne threats, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and formaldehyde. OSIRYS focuses reducing the risk by using forest bioproducts:
Within OSIRYS proposal a holistic solution for facades and interior partitions will be developed ready to be applied in building retroffiting and new construction by means of the development of forest based biocomposites with different functionalities able to meet the strictest requisites of the Building Code and improve indoor air quality by VOC and microorganisms elimination, increase thermal and acoustic insulation and control breathability of the construction systems.
The external project is VIP4ALL. It also features the use of organic products for insulation. Phys.org describes the project, which focuses on providing small and medium size building retrofits with new vacuum insulated panel (VIP) technology.
The panels have been recognised for their excellent thermal insulation properties (achieving lambda value 7 mW/mK) at a thickness of less than one third of conventional air-filled insulation panels. In addition, the new panels offer excellent fire resistance, which is vital for building application acceptance.
The lambda value is a measure of thermal conductivity, according to CCF, an insulation product distributor in the United Kingdom. The project was completed last November. The participating companies hope that the research – which also seeks to ease product handling and lower costs – will have a long term impact on the retrofit industry in the United Kingdom and, no doubt, beyond.
Not all the research is in Europe, of course. Last summer, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory tested LiquidArmor, a product from The Dow Chemical Company. It is, according to an article at the lab’s website, aimed a filling the cracks in a buildings envelop to reduce leakage and heightened efficiency:
It is a one-step liquid flashing that can be brushed or sprayed on surfaces to seal gaps, cracks, and seams in the building envelope, and is especially effective on rough openings where windows and doors are installed. The fluid nature of the product allows it to “fill” as well as “bridge” gaps, providing additional robustness of seal.
The story doesn’t provide data on the tests, but does say that the results enabled Dow to subject the product “to more rigorous evaluation that included aging due to pressure and temperature cycles.”
Overall, the insulation industry is healthy and growing. This autumn, The Freedonia Group released research that painted a picture of a healthy insulation market in the United States. The firm predicts that the sector will experience a 6.6 percent annual growth rate through 2019 and, at that point, be worth $10.3 billion.
The twin drivers of the growth are building construction that is rising due to “resurgent demand” after the recession and the impact of new building codes “Double-digit growth in building construction expenditures will boost the number of buildings that require insulation, and the increased adoption of the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) will encourage more insulation use per structure,” Nick Cunningham, an industry analyst for the firm and author of the report told Energy Manager Today.
The research found that the residential market will outstrip the commercial sector. The residential market is hot – the report points to double digit growth in housing starts – and more insulation-intensive. “While some form of insulation is used in virtually all buildings, nonresidential building codes traditionally have less stringent energy efficiency regulations, with lower insulation requirements for structures with few human occupants, such as warehouses,” Cunningham wrote.
Fiberglass and foam plastic account for 93 percent of the market measured by value. According to Cunningham, fiberglass will dominate insulations by weight. The value of each category will remain roughly equal, however, because foamed plastic is more expensive.
The global view is positive as well. In November, Grandview Research predicted that the worldwide insulation market will reach $67.16 billion by 2020. The firm points to a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.5 percent from 2014 to that year.
Increased consumer awareness of the value of insulation and favorable regulatory environments in most regions are drivers. The report points specifically to increasing infrastructure spending in Asia Pacific and Latin America as growth factors.
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