InsulationBuilding insulation follows the same principle as how we might dress to go outside on a cold day. While we layer up with coats, hats, scarfs & gloves to keep our bodies warm, on buildings we layer up with thermal insulation, which acts as a nice thick blanket surrounding the space we live in to keep us warm indoors. Both examples perform the same role. That is to minimise the loss of heat generated from within. Heat from our bodies in the case of clothing and heat generated by central heating / fires etc. in the case of our buildings.
If we don’t have adequate layers of insulation, then we might experience high levels of heat loss as the heat seeks to escape from the building wherever it can. Traditionally, to counteract this heat loss, we invest more energy to keep the internal temperature at a constant level and the occupants comfortable. Yet, we are currently witnessing extreme rises in fuel prices, making it much more costly to heat the spaces we occupy.
It is unlikely that the price of fuel will decline in price, and the trajectory suggests much greater costs in the future. Therefore we need to consider ways in which we can minimise our energy demand, thereby taking control over our ability to maintain warm and comfortable buildings.
Of course, minimising energy use also equates to lower carbon emissions and harm to our environment, which is a very important factor in energy efficiency. However it often takes hard economics to make people realise the need to lower demand.
At Fox Ecological Architects, we take a fabric first approach to all of our projects, and as such put a lot of thought into the specification of building insulation (in combination with air-tightness) as we strive for highly efficient architecture.
Building insulation comes in all manner of different forms. There’s now a lot more to choose from than the typical rockwool, foam and polystyrene options. We are passionate about natural materials, which invariably offer improved breathability and moisture control over more man-made products. Natural materials also contain fewer products that might contribute to an unhealthy indoor environment. As such, we favour insulation materials such as wood fibre, sheep’s wool, recycled newspaper and straw.
If you get the insulation (and air-tightness) right, you won’t need much internal heating before a comfortable temperature is achieved. Therefore the energy demand becomes insignificant.