ARCHIVED – Thermal insulation research for sustainable construction v14n1-10

Volume 14, Number 1, March 2009

Archived Content

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As a cold northern country, Canada is a nation with a high per capita energy consumption. A reduction in overall energy consumption is considered to be a key to addressing the issue of climate change and its effects on the environment.

With buildings accounting for more than 30% of Canada's national energy consumption, an improvement in the performance of thermal insulation has the potential to be an important contributor to increased energy efficiency in the built environment.

Researchers at the NRC Institute for Research in Construction (NRC-IRC) have made great strides in their studies of the long-term thermal resistance of foam insulation. In recent years, they have also been investigating high-performance thermal insulation materials, characterized primarily by their high thermal resistance values compared to conventional materials. Particular progress has been made in the characterization and development of high-performance vacuum insulation panels or VIP's (see Construction Innovation, June 2006).

Although a variety of insulation products has been used in the Canadian construction industry, little is known about their environmental impact. A comprehensive analysis is needed to determine the energy consumption and environmental impacts of these products. This information, combined with data on insulation values, would help users choose a material that is not only thermally efficient for application in buildings but is also eco-friendly. This in turn would assist the construction industry to further its sustainability goals.

NRC-IRC recently embarked on a new research project whose aims are as follows:

  • to identify eco-friendly high-performance thermal insulation materials, i.e., those that are renewable, energy efficient, biodegradable and indigenous;
  • to develop a thermal insulation selection guideline for users.

The work will address other insulation products in addition to VIP's. It will include the aforementioned comprehensive "cradle-to-grave" analysis to provide information on the energy consumption and environmental impacts associated with the development, manufacture and use of these insulation materials.

This project has already attracted substantial participation from a number of organizations. To ensure better representation from the construction industry as a whole, NRC-IRC invites new industry partners to participate in the research.

If you are interested in learning more, please contact Dr. Phalguni Mukhopadhyaya at 613-993-9600, fax 613-998-6802, or e-mail