The key role insulation has to play in improving energy efficiency to reduce both carbon emissions and our reliance on dwindling fossil fuel supplies is clear. Unsurprisingly, there is now a wide range of different insulation products on the market to meet this rising demand. However, with such variation in the materials available it is important to be aware of the advantages and disadvantages of each type. Here, Phil Heath of Kingspan Insulation, challenges the idea of ‘breathability’ ....
This is a two page article. First published in September 2009
One issue that has sprung to light recently is that of breathability, which refers to the ability of a building envelope to diffuse vapour. It has been suggested in some quarters that the use of a so-called ‘breathable’ insulation material such as rock mineral fibre or sheep’s wool, as opposed to a material such as rigid PIR or phenolic insulation which is not as permeable to vapour, can have a marked effect on moisture levels and therefore have a significant impact on the health of both the building and its occupants.
Such claims need to be carefully assessed – is the type of insulation used in a building a critical factor in managing humidity and moisture levels? Furthermore, what place should breathability occupy in the broader issue of environmentally, socially and economically responsible construction?
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