Improving the Thermal Efficiency and Environmental Sustainability of Building Insulation

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date


Publication Title

Construction Research Congress 2016: Old and New Construction Technologies Converge in Historic San Juan






With an increasing consumer demand for environmentally friendly building products and materials, sustainability is becoming a paramount concern to key stakeholders in the construction industry. Insulation materials used in homes and commercial buildings play a primary role in their overall energy efficiency, and the production and disposal of the voluminous amount of insulation materials poses a significant environmental challenge. In this context, this study utilized a proposed sustainable design process to investigate the metrics associated with an alternative insulation for use in buildings. A prototype exploring the use of evacuated packets of a silica compound substituting for conventional insulation was assessed. Assessment criteria included experimental comparison of heat transfer characteristics, as compared to a control facility. Additionally, a comprehensive environmental life cycle assessment and disassembly analysis was performed. Pilot study results indicate that in the new insulation design applied to the unit, heat flux decreased by an average of 4%, and improved environmental sustainability, resulting in a savings of 1.2 metric tons of CO2e over 20 years per 100 ft2 of insulation replaced. Results provide an alternative insulation design for use in construction, and a framework by which to assess the efficiency and environmental performance of sustainable building products.