Home Insulation Knauf Insulation Tech Talk: Embodied carbon and insulation

Knauf Insulation Tech Talk: Embodied carbon and insulation

Changes to Approved Document L (Part L) have introduced new energy efficiency standards, which help reduce operational carbon – but this is not the only factor that determines how sustainable a building is. This month Bradley Hirst, Technical Services Manager from Knauf Insulation, discusses the role of embodied carbon.

Bradley Hirst, Technical Services Manager at Knauf Insulation.

What is embodied carbon?
The UK Green Building Council states that embodied carbon is the total greenhouse gas emissions (carbon) generated to produce a built asset. It includes the emissions from the extraction of materials, manufacturing/processing and transportation of every product and element used in that asset, as well as the construction process itself.

This differs from operational carbon which is the greenhouse gas emissions from the energy used to run the building – heating, lighting, etc. – as well as energy used by occupants.

Do you need to consider embodied carbon when choosing insulation?
Yes. While there are no legal limits, RIBA and many construction clients have introduced targets for embodied carbon, so it is something you will need to consider in the future.

Above: Chart showing the levels of embodied carbon for different insulation materials.

What affects levels of embodied carbon?
There are many factors that affect a product’s levels of embodied carbon, such as how it’s made, packaged and transported.

Unlike other types of insulation materials that are made using materials from unsustainable sources, Knauf Insulation’s Glass Mineral Wool insulation is made from up to 80% recycled content – mostly glass bottles and jars collected locally, while our Rock Mineral Wool insulation is made from materials that come from naturally abundant sources and increasingly includes recycled material from slag, a waste product from blast furnaces.

Using recycled glass cullet to manufacture Glass Mineral Wool insulation uses less energy than is needed for virgin raw materials.

Most of our products are manufactured with ECOSE Technology, Knauf Insulation’s unique bio-based binder that contains no added formaldehyde or phenol. It is made from natural raw materials that are rapidly renewable and is 70 percent less energy-intensive to manufacture than traditional binders, so it is more environmentally friendly.

We also compress our Glass Mineral Wool insulation up to a tenth of its original size so there’s more product per pack or pallet, so less packaging is used. There’s also more product per truck which means fewer vehicles on the roads.

Compression packaging reduces the number of trucks on the road and transport related carbon emissions, as well as reducing packaging used per m2 of insulation.

Which insulation products have the lowest levels of embodied carbon?
Glass Mineral Wool is a good choice because it has the lowest levels of embodied carbon of any mainstream insulation material.

The best way to check a product’s carbon footprint is through the manufacturer’s Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs), which should comply with European Standard EN 15804. You can also view third party verification such as BRE Green Guide rating, Declare ‘Red List Free’ label, BES 6001 or Made in Britain.

Knauf Insulation produces EPDs for all its products, which can be downloaded from: www.knaufinsulation.co.uk.

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