Are There Viable Insulation Alternatives for Green Construction?
Traditional construction techniques can contribute to global warming. For example, the extruded polystyrene commonly used for insulating homes has a global warming potential that’s 1,430 times greater than carbon dioxide.
However, failing to insulate properly costs precious energy, depleting nonrenewable resources like heating oil. Are there viable insulation alternatives for green construction? Here are eight things to consider.
1. Start at the Bottom
Anyone who has slept in a bedroom above an uninsulated garage knows that a cold floor can result in all-over chills. Concrete foundations aren’t particularly warm, and homes with crawl spaces allow frigid temperatures to creep beneath your floorboards.
Consider flooring choices like carpet, which keep your rooms toastier in winter while deadening sound. The latter quality comes in handy in office environments where the clatter of heels on concrete or tile can create an uncomfortable din.
If you choose another material like laminate, consider installing an underlayment to insulate further and mute sound. You’ll also create a more giving surface, which is helpful for folks with sore lower backs or knees.
2. Sheep’s Wool
Human beings have long used wool to insulate their bodies. It’s a natural leap to use it for insulating homes, too.
Sheep’s wool offers an R-value equal to or greater than many fiberglass and cellulose counterparts. It also features a water-repelling exterior that helps maintain humidity levels in your home. It’s durable and resistant to fire and mold, but it’s also pricey.
Denim was chosen for jeans because of its rugged durability. That same quality is part of the reason this material makes a viable insulation alternative for green construction.
The technology used to produce this insulation keeps 200 tons of denim a month from landfills. It contains 85% recycled material and each cotton fiber is 100% recyclable at the end of its usable life. Recycled denim insulation contains no volatile organic compounds (VOCs), keeping your indoor air safer for you and your family. Although it sounds exotic, denim appears in many common insulation products.
Cork is a highly renewable resource. It comes from tree bark that manufacturers can harvest without harming the tree. These trees become ready to use in 25 years, and you can collect from them every nine years without harming the plant.
Cork is excellent protection against the damp, making it ideal for use in humid conditions. Think about the way corks keep liquid safely inside a wine bottle.
Furthermore, you don’t have to wear protective gear while installing cork insulation. It produces no dust and releases no VOCs.
Mycelium is a fast-growing fungus like a mushroom that manufacturers can grow in agricultural secondaries like straw. Insulation made from this material offers superior soundproofing and fire protection. It’s also carbon-negative, since it traps 16 metric tons or more of carbon per month.
Mycelium insulation comes in panels for easy installation. Manufacturers also use this stuff for making packaging materials – an ecological alternative to packing peanuts. While this insulation isn’t yet widely available, you can expect to see more of it in the coming years.
6. Fiberglass From Recycled Glass
Fiberglass comes from hundreds of tiny glass fibers – hence the name. During installation, you need to use caution. Don protective face coverings to prevent the slivers from entering your eyes or nasal passages.
This type of insulation qualifies as green because it requires little energy to produce. However, some manufacturers go a step further in their sustainability initiatives by making their products from recycled glass. Such processes reduce energy needs further while keeping discarded bottles out of landfills.
7. Cellulose Fiber
Cellulose is one of the three most frequently used insulation materials in modern home ceilings and walls. Fortunately, it’s also highly sustainable. It’s made from recycled newspapers and denim, keeping tons of material out of landfills each year. It’s also biodegradable and inexpensive to produce.
One reason this green insulation alternative is so popular is that you don’t have to remove an entire wall to install it. It comes in various types, including a loose-fill version that you can use specialty blowers to add to existing structures. You can also find dense-packed cellulose, which flows into cavities like liquid, or wet-spray cellulose, which uses water to adhere to inside walls.
8. Look Skyward
Today’s modern soaring ceilings can mean feeling chilly in your living room, no matter how much insulation you install. However, a few handy tricks will help you distribute heat more evenly, enhancing your comfort.
Set your ceiling fans to spin slowly clockwise during the winter. This distributes the warm air collected at the ceiling throughout the room. Keep furniture away from your vents and check your doors and windows for tight seals.
Viable Insulation Alternatives for Green Construction
Traditional insulation types like polystyrene can wreak environmental disaster. However, there are several viable insulation alternatives for green construction. Consider the options above for your next builds. You’ll protect the planet while enhancing your customers’ comfort in their new homes.