High performance vacuum insulation panels tested in Arctic Canada

Volume 16, Number 4, December 2011

The Canadian construction industry is increasingly looking toward technologies that can improve energy efficiency in buildings and meet the requirements of the National Energy Code for Buildings 2011.

Researchers at the NRC Institute for Research in Construction (NRC-IRC) are conducting research that may accelerate adaptation of new energy-efficient technologies by the industry. The application of vacuum insulation panels (VIPs), proven to be up to ten times more energy efficient than traditional insulating materials in building envelope construction, is an attractive option for significantly reducing energy consumption.

VIPs were previously tested in a wall and a roof in separate NRC-IRC facilities in Ottawa to assess their long-term performance and effectiveness. More recently, NRC-IRC researchers have installed VIPs in an institutional building retrofit project in Whitehorse, Yukon, to further investigate their performance in an extreme cold northern climate (Figure 1). In this retrofit, VIPs are sandwiched between two layers of rigid foam insulation boards to prevent mechanical or physical damage to the VIPs. Thermal efficiency of VIPs is reduced by up to 90% if they are punctured or damaged, which results in a loss of vacuum.

Northern Partners

  • Yukon Research Centre, Yukon College
  • Yukon Housing Corporation
  • Panasonic Canada
  • Energy Solutions Centre

Initial observations using thermal imaging (Figure 2) indicate a reduction in heat loss through the studs of the wall assembly (Figure 2a–without VIP and Figure 2b–with VIP). The area with the greatest heat loss in the VIP insulated wall assembly is over the support members, which are not covered with VIPs.

Successful adaptation of VIP technology in arctic construction has the potential to help advance the development of Canada’s northern regions. Performance of VIPs installed in this project will be continually monitored. NRC-IRC researchers will use these observations to optimize material selection criteria, construction details and process integration for the use of VIPs in sustainable and energy-efficient construction in Canada.

For more information

Contact Dr. Phalguni Mukhopadhyaya at phalguni.mukhopadhyaya@nrc-cnrc.gc.ca or 613-993-9600.