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Technical Performance Overview of Bio-Based Insulation Materials Compared to Expanded Polystyrene


Medium: journal article
Language(s): English
Published in: Buildings, , n. 5, v. 10
Page(s): 81
DOI: 10.3390/buildings10050081

The energy efficiency of buildings is well documented. However, to improve standards of energy efficiency, the embodied energy of materials included in the envelope is also increasing. Natural fibers like wood and hemp are used to make low environmental impact insulation products. Technical characterizations of five bio-based materials are described and compared to a common, traditional, synthetic-based insulation material, i.e., expanded polystyrene. The study tests the thermal conductivity and the vapor transmission performance, as well as the combustibility of the material. Achieving densities below 60 kg/m³, wood and hemp batt insulation products show thermal conductivity in the same range as expanded polystyrene (0.036 kW/mK). The vapor permeability depends on the geometry of the internal structure of the material. With long fibers are intertwined with interstices, vapor can diffuse and flow through the natural insulation up to three times more than with cellular synthetic (polymer) -based insulation. Having a short ignition times, natural insulation materials are highly combustible. On the other hand, they release a significantly lower amount of smoke and heat during combustion, making them safer than the expanded polystyrene. The behavior of a bio-based building envelopes needs to be assessed to understand the hygrothermal characteristics of these nontraditional materials which are currently being used in building systems.

Copyright: © 2020 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

This creative work has been published under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC-BY 4.0) license which allows copying, and redistribution as well as adaptation of the original work provided appropriate credit is given to the original author and the conditions of the license are met.

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