Introduction

A well-insulated house or office will protect your health, comfort and lifestyle but how many of us know and understand how to achieve this?

Ecomerchant and Steico UK have joined forces to launch the ‘Protexion Campaign’. It aims to champion the benefits of using natural insulation products.

How we select insulation needs to be about having a real choice and for specifiers to be equipped with the right knowledge to compare materials on a like-for-like basis.

To design a well-insulated building, you need to make informed decisions throughout all phases of a construction project to ensure your building performs as you envisage.

However, selecting the right insulation is about more than just reaching building regulation compliance or ‘keeping in the heat’. It’s about ensuring a building protects its occupant’s’ entire well-being and comfort.

For a free audit of whether natural insulation’s right for your project please email protexion@ecomerchant.co.uk or call 01793 847 445

Insulation has eight key roles. These are: –

  1. Thermal
  2. Acoustic
  3. Fire
  4. Health
  5. Comfort
  6. Breathability
  7. Durability
  8. Sustainability

Why do we need to increase awareness?

A recent survey of UK builders found that over 54% of respondents thought that insulation was only about keeping the heat in and nothing else.

How did we get to the stage where the sector knows so little about a fundamental part of building design, construction and comfort? Maybe there is a reason, maybe a little bit of history might help shed some light on this.

A brief timeline for insulation in the UK

Today, the most common impression people have about insulation is that they only have a choice of glass or mineral wool or foil backed board.

The results from the Ecomerchant survey revealed just how little awareness there is about insulation, even in the trade. The Protexion Campaign aims to open up the possibilities for natural insulation materials. Here you will find information to help you explore how natural insulation works and the benefits that it can bring to realise the possibility of building better.

Globally, wood fibre is the most common natural insulation material that is commercially available. It works just as well as petrochemical insulation, however, it additionally offers (as do many natural insulation materials), features and benefits which are not found in synthetic insulation. Most importantly, it adheres to all the eight roles insulation should contribute to a building.

Within the eight roles there are a wealth of features provided by wood fibre that contribute to fulfilling the role, for example ‘breathability’ an inherent capacity of wood fibre to absorb, attenuate (store) and release moisture with no prejudicial effects at all, this feature is a key part of delivering improved comfort, health, durability and thermal performance. You can read more about how the features of wood fibre provide the key benefits identified in the eight roles in our ‘articles’ section.

Related articles:

2019 the year of healthy building: our current buildings fall short of delivering high standards of occupant health, this piece explores easy ways to create healthy buildings by making modest changes to design and materials to drastically improve the well being of the occupants. You can also find links to companies who have a proven track record in delivering energy efficient healthy buildings.

Designing and building with natural insulation materials: A comprehensive look at designing and specifying natural insulation materials and their beneficial effects on building performance and occupant health.

The health and well-being benefits of natural insulation: Exactly what the title says.

Insulation that doesn’t work is just ‘stuff’: Not only is the choice of material important but how it is installed, which includes technical characteristics, compatibility with the build system, ease of use and buildability. Failure in any of these can mean loss of performance or worse exposure to future structural problems. At the very least insulation should be installed so it works, otherwise its just expensive stuff in a building. Why do we need to point this out? because buildings require different insulation materials appropriately fitted all too often this is not the case and poor choices and fitting lead to underperforming buildings.

Designing to prevent overheating: A basic run through the physics of overheating in buildings, why we are at risk and examples of how to mitigate or prevent it happening.

Steico Wood Fibre: Accreditations and certifications

Sustainable sourcing – FSC & PEFC

All STEICO products are certified to FSC or PEFC standards with full chain of custody paperwork. This process provides you with the assurance that the raw material for all Steico products originate from sustainable forestry

Compliance

The production and development of Steico products are independently audited by TÜV South Germany under the quality management system ISO 9001:2015.

Life cycle assessment and environmental impact

All Steico insulation materials have an EPD, (Environmental Product Declaration) which is an independently verified and registered document that communicates transparent and comparable information about the life-cycle environmental impact of products. EPD’s have largely replaced older Declaration of Performance and Declaration of Conformity certificates.

Energy Efficiency

PassivHaus approved component products that carry the Certified Passive House Component seal have been tested according to uniform criteria; they are comparable in terms of their specific values and are of excellent quality regarding energy efficiency.

The Passive House Standard is characterised by very high energy savings compared with conventional new builds. This is achieved by means of highly efficient building systems, careful planning and highly efficient components. As a rule, these components are two to three times more efficient than the corresponding commonly used products. This high level of efficiency is critical to achieving the Passive House Standard.

However, for the designer, it is often very difficult to assess the energy-efficiency, durability and the necessary energy parameters of a component as the available standard parameters are frequently unrealistic or are not accurate enough; reliable project planning using manufacturers’ information alone is often not possible.

As an independent authority, the Passive House Institute tests and certifies products in respect of their suitability for use in Passive Houses. Their use facilitates the designer’s task and contributes significantly to ensuring the faultless functioning of the resultant Passive House.

Human health – Seal of Approval

The IBR seal of approval was created by the Institut für Baubiologie Rosenheim GmbH in 1982 to enable consumers with awareness of health and ecological matters to protect themselves against health hazards caused by building materials and furniture in the built environment.
The seal of approval is awarded to products which ensure healthy living with respect to building biology and at the same time protect the environment.

When awarding the seal of approval, the Institut für Baubiologie only uses scientific and technical analytical methods based on normative regulations as well as the current state-of-the-art of laboratory analytics so that they should be understood both by third-party experts and by end users.

The aim of awarding the seal of approval “TESTED AND RECOMMENDED BY THE IBR” to as many products as possible is to enable an increasing number of consumers and end users to make criteria related to building biology a critical part of their decision when purchasing products for building and furnishing their homes.

The tests listed in the Institut für Baubiologie expert reports are not supposed to supersede the requirements in terms of building physics, supervision, legal regulations, or safety. They are merely a complementary set of tests related to health, physiology, building biology, and ecology aspects which have been neglected.

The seal of approval “TESTED AND APPROVED BY THE IBR” is based on a holistic perspective. Besides its focus on the tests that determine the potential physiological impact of the products on human beings and/or the environment, the expert report associated with granting the seal also honours any product whose production, processing, use, and ecological recycling have no or only a limited, tolerable adverse effect on the environment.

The emission of harmful substances, e.g. with a carcinogenic and/or mutagenic potential, is always to be considered as a criterion for exclusion. The seal of approval will under no circumstances be awarded to such products.