One of the many experiments in eco-friendly insulation: Filler panels made from recycled cotton denim.

In our ongoing effort to be comfortable, we have developed complex HVAC systems and structures that today account for almost 40% of the CO2 emissions in urban areas today. Concrete buildings, and the systems and technologies used to keep the interiors in a comfortable temperature range is one of the most serious issues that needs to be addressed during discussions of global warming and climate change.

Urban concrete and brick walls are heat absorbers: The traditional building materials, concrete and bricks absorb huge amounts of heat and disperse this over a period of time after the heat source is longer around. To prevent this transmission of heat through right levels of insulation, experts have been experimenting with different kinds of insulation materials, for decades.

These experiments have taken form of foam filled cavities in walls, glass structures with dual external facades designed to facilitate ventilation and protect the core structure from direct sunlight and heat gain, innovative wall panels that insulate against outside temperatures, to name a few. Emissions levels of the insulation material used, during the building’s lifetime is another aspect that needs to be considered, as also the reactions of materials to heat, light, cold and fire.

The effectiveness of insulation: How effective a certain type of insulation will be is determined by many factors, with the most important being its thermal conductivity. This value denotes the resistance the material has against heat transfer across the material.

Further, it is not just the insulation material that independently defines the energy consumption of a building. Glazed tinted windows, or lack thereof, gaps in window and door frames, type of flooring – all play a part in keeping a structure at a desired temperature.

In the pages that follow, we have attempted to share with you the different ideas and materials that are being applied to keep inner living and working spaces at ideal temperatures while keeping the CO2 emissions low.

We trust you will find much here to explore and may be even apply in your own projects as you do your bit to make our planet a little greener.

Types of insulation

There are many types of insulation that are currently used in building design. Early construction practices may have relied on thickness of lumber (log construction) as the primary insulating factor. Modern buildings may rely on concrete, fiberglass, cellulose, or other materials.  High-performance polymer insulation of a house or business significantly reduces the heating and cooling required, thereby reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Globally, insulation of buildings is, at 2.4 GtCO2e (gigatons of CO2 equivalent), the largest contributor to the net emissions savings attributed to the chemistry industry. Insulation greatly reduces the heat lost by buildings, and so significantly decreases the need for energy for heating.




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