AI Content Chat (Beta) logo


Powering the insulation revolution | Insulation for the 21st century

CONTENT 03 Introduction 12 The value of Innovation 04 Executive summary 16 Case study 07 Background 21 Wall build-up 09 Legislation 27 Conclusion 2

Today is an extraordinary time to work The challenge is a formidable one and in the built environment. In the face of an orchestrated response from the the climate change and fire-safety entire sector is needed. emergencies, the entire sector is Hand-in-hand with legislative seeking to raise the standard for momentum, innovative solutions and environmental performance without novel materials can accelerate the compromising fire safety. transition to a sustainable built environment that does not Our built environment is one of the compromise fire safety. major contributors to Green House Gas emissions in the UK as well as For our homes, the roadmap to Europe-wide. The operation of net-zero is given in The Future Homes buildings makes up 17% of the UK’s Standard (FHS). The FHS translates emissions of CO -equivalents UK’s emission goals into requirements 2 (CO -eq): 87 megatonnes in 2019 for the performance of buildings and 2 (CCC, 2020); with the majority of these their fabric. The FHS will deliver emissions coming from space new-built homes that emit 75% less heating. CO than new homes built to current 2 Building Regulations by 2025. The 75% Policy makers recognise that our reduction in CO emissions is only 2 homes and offices must respond to achievable if our homes need less the climate emergency and legislative energy to stay at a comfortable momentum is building. Most recently, temperature. In other words, we can the government has announced that only reach our net-zero commitments the UK’s CO -eq emissions are to be if our homes are well insulated. 2 reduced by 78% by 2035 (in line with the sixth Carbon Budget), a major step The response to the climate crisis is on the UK’s journey towards the legally taking place at the same time as the binding target of net-zero emissions industry responds to another crisis: by 2050. the fire safety emergency. Evidence from the Grenfell Inquiry suggests that it is likely that the insulation Improving the insulation contributed to the spread of the fire. With the Inquiry still ongoing, it is of our homes will be (and imperative that energy efficiency must be) a part of the improvements do not come at the journey to net-zero. cost of fire safety. 3


This White Paper presents the case for There is a third the use of innovative materials as legislation places increasingly strict option: novel requirements on the energy insulation materials. performance of buildings. To achieve better energy performance of building envelopes, it is necessary to improve Their raw material cost is greater than the insulation of our homes. traditional insulation materials but Traditional insulation materials like next-generation insulation unlocks phenolics and plastic foams or great value in the building: additional mineral wool can often only achieve floorspace. better thermal insulation at the expense of fire safety (plastics-based insulation) or with a significantly thicker wall build-up at the expense of Next generation of usable floorspace (mineral wools). insulation unlocks value Innovative insulation brings economic in the buiding: additional benefits that are so great that they far floorspace. outweigh the initial additional material costs. This case study demonstrates that next-generation mineral-based insulation has a positive return on 2 investment & innovation (ROI ) of 150%+. 5



This white paper is delivered by Thermulon in collaboration with Ryder Architecture. Ryder Architecture is an international Thermulon's aim is to bring to market design practice, driven by an insulation material that makes entrepreneurial spirit and pioneering buildings energy efficient without of new technologies. Ryder’s aim is to compromising on fire safety. improve the quality of the world Additionally, Thermulon’s production around us and, in doing so, improve process can minimize the carbon people’s lives. On top of being a embodied in the insulation and can leading architectural practice, Ryder is be produced using construction waste a research-led. Ryder focuses on as a starting material, supporting the improving building performance and circular economy model. Thermulon's the team are keen innovators aerogels are the next generation of committed to delivering Net Zero mineral-based insulation. solutions to the construction sector. Thermulon’s material is currently Thermulon is an early stage UK under development; performance start-up. Thermulon’s team has metrics quoted in this report are invented a novel production process realistic target performances. for aerogels: nanoporous high-performance insulation from silica. 8


Announced in 2019 by the Chancellor, One of the main variables regulated the Future Homes Standard (FHS) under Part L is the U-value. U-value gives a set of defined requirements measures the thermal transmittance that new homes must meet by 2025 to of a building element: the rate of be classed as “zero carbon ready” transfer of heat for a given thickness (zero carbon over time as the of material. Lower U-value indicates electricity grid decarbonizes, without better insulation and, subsequently, further retrofit). The FHS introduces less energy and lower carbon footprint stricter requirements for Part F of the to heat the building. A wall element Building Regulations (Ventilation) and, that doesn’t meet U-value most notably for this White Paper, Part requirements must get more material L (Conservation of Fuel and Power). All (insulation) to stop heat escaping new homes must be designed to emit through the walls. Under FHS, the 75-80% less CO during their operation U-value requirements for external 2 than those compliant with Building walls will be 16% stricter than today. Regulations today. This will have a huge impact on the thickness of insulation and wall build- This White Paper considers ups. the thermal performance of external walls. Proposed ‘zero Current 2013 2021 Part L Indicative FHS carbon homes’ Part L standard Standard specification standard’ Floor U-value 0.13 0.13 0.13 0.11 2 (W/m.K) Extemal wall U-value 0.18 0.18 0.18 0.15 2 (W/m.K) Roof U-value 0.13 0.13 0.11 0.11 2 (W/m.K) Window U-value 1.4 1.4 1.2 0.8 2 (W/m.K) 10

For buildings taller than 18m, good thermal performance can only be achieved with a material that achieves fire performance classification of A2-s1, d0 or better. Grenfell Tower was re-clad in flammable insulation and is a stark reminder that building improvements must never compromise on fire safety. This White Paper considers fire performance regulation in relation to increasing U-value regulation as many materials that are highly thermally efficient do not meet the requirement for non-combustibility. 11


Intuitively, a stricter U-value requirement translates into a thicker layer of insulation and therefore a thicker wall. The cost for thicker insulation is threefold: the cost of additional material, cost of additional installation time onsite and the hidden cost of floorspace taken up by the additional insulation. A thicker insulation build-up reduces the amount of floorspace within the building's footprint. This, in turn, directly affects the property's value. The raw material cost of advanced insulation materials is higher than that of traditional insulation materials: both when we consider £/m3 and price / U-value. However, this case study shows that the additional cost is greatly outweighed by the value of Net Internal Area that is added to the floorplan by using more efficient insulation and thus, a thinner wall buildup. 13

Intuitively, a stricter U-value This case study is built on the use of requirement translates into a thicker insulation panels based on layer of insulation and therefore a lightweight, mineral-based materials thicker wall. that are highly-insulating: aerogels. The cost for thicker insulation is threefold: the cost of additional material, cost of additional installation Aerogels are the next time onsite and the hidden cost of floorspace taken up by the additional generation of insulation. A thicker insulation mineral-based build-up reduces the amount of insulation. floorspace within the building's footprint. This, in turn, directly affects the property's value. The raw material cost of advanced Aerogels are the most insulating insulation materials is higher than that material known to man. Nanoporous of traditional insulation materials: both with an extremely light material when we consider £/m3 and price / backbone, aerogels are 95%+ made of U-value. However, this case study air. Thanks to these material shows that the additional cost is properties, aerogels minimize two greatly outweighed by the value of Net mechanisms of heat transfer: Internal Area that is added to the convection (heat transfer through air floorplan by using more efficient where the aerogel pore sizes are so insulation and thus, a thinner wall small as to effectively stop air transfer buildup. – Knudsen effect) and conduction (there’s very little material backbone to transfer heat). This case study presents Aerogels for building applications are evidence that the use of made from silica - an inorganic next generation material that inherently cannot burn. mineral-based insulation With a very low percentage of organic delivers a positive ROI2 additives, aerogels are capable of (Return on Investment achieving Euroclass A1 or A2 fire-rating (permissible for use in and on Innovation). buildings 18m+) when incorporated into a final building product. 14

We foresee that the use of next-generation mineral based Compared to traditional insulation will bring additional benefits mineral-based insulation that are not considered in this case like mineral fibre, study, for example: aerogel-based insulation Reduction of labour costs associated can significantly reduce with reduced wall build-up Stability of thermal performance over the wall build-up while time (no degradation of the also meeting fire safety insulation’s thermal performance over requirements. This means time). Low embodied carbon less insulation material is Good end-of-life for solutions, required and more floor potential for further material re-use. space is saved. 15


This White paper presents evidence that replacing today’s go-to insulation materials like mineral wool with innovative aerogel-based materials provide a 2 positive ROI (Return on Investment & Innovation). Next-generation mineral insulation panels have superior performance compared to conventional mineral-wool insulation. The case study rests on materials’ insulating properties, characterized by λ (‘lambda’ - Thermal Conductivity). Lower λ means that a thinner insulation layer is required to achieve the same insulation performance. The table below directly compares the most commonly used incumbent product (mineral wool) against next-generation mineral insulation using aerogles in terms of their thermal and fire-performance. Note that the case study for buildings of 18m+ in height (6+ storeys). Current Building Regulations mandate that external wall materials (incl. insulation) have a fire rating of Euroclass A2-s1, d0 or better: only materials that are non-combustible or have limited combustibility can be used. Petroleum based materials like PIR or phenolic foam have a worse fire rating and are not acceptable for use. 17

Tradition mineral Next-generation Details insulation mineral insulation (mineral wool) Product Insulation is installed is fixed Slab (dual Rigid board (high characteristics to the external wall of density) aerogel content) rainscreen cladding, facing into the cavity 2 2 l - Thermal Ability of a material to 0.035 W/m K 0.020 W/m K Conductivity conduct heat, which is (k-value) inherent to a material regardless of thickness. Lower = better insulant. 2 2 U-value Thermal transmittance 2 1.17 W/m K 0.67 W/m K (for 300 mm of Rate of heat transfer for 1m material) of material, for a given thickness and a given λ. Lower U-value = better insulation Fire Rating Classification of reaction to A1 A1 or A2 fire of construction products, (non-combustible) (non-combustible following testing standard or limited BS EN 13501-1 combustibility) 18

Case study context The aim of the case study is to take a building currently under development in the 2 UK and to model how a thinner wall-buildup will provide a positive ROI in the build to sell market and the Build-to-Rent (BTR) market. This case study answers the question: This case study considers the raw how much value is gained by trade-off between additional material switching from a traditional to a costs and the value of additional next-generation insulation material? floorspace. We do not consider e.g. The short answer is: if we consider reduction of installation costs with additional material cost for the advanced insulation material (less advanced insulation, the value gained labour is needed to install a thinner in additional floorspace is much insulation layer). We believe that if greater. In fact, this case study shows these ancillary costs were considered, that for every £1 invested in the the outcome would be an ever advanced insulation material, £1.50+ stronger case for advanced insulation. is gained in value of additional We look forward to investigating these floorspace. In other words, the Return variables in the case studies that will on Investment and Innovation is follow. 150%+. The project is made out of 4 multi-occupancy residential blocks, with sizes ranging from one- to three-bedroom apartments. The assumed project location is Manchester. The development has 8,787 sq m of opaque external wall area covered with rainscreen cladding. 19

The residential units will be sold to individual tenants where the value of each transaction that takes place is based on the Net Internal Area (NIA). Thinner insulation increases the NIA of each individual apartment. The price of each apartment is based on the NIA and more sqm means a sales value. 20