The fabric-first route to healthy interiors

As well as improving sustainability, PIR insulation can create interiors that excel in terms of comfort and wellbeing, as Jon Parsons of Recticel Insulation explains

The average UK household spends around £1,230 on fuel bills each year, which can be up to 50 per cent more than necessary due to the lack of energy-saving measures being implemented in the home. Poor insulation is a major contributor to domestic energy wastage. To help combat this, the construction industry is increasingly turning to PIR, rather than mineral fibre-based insulation. There are numerous benefits associated with PIR insulation board. Its closed-cell structure means it doesn’t absorb water, allowing the thermal performance and reliability of the panel to be retained over time. It’s light and easy to transport, as well as being simple to install, helping save on-site labour costs. Unlike fibrous insulation, which deteriorates over time when damp sets in, PIR insulation’s structural strength enables a consistent performance that will last the lifetime of a building, negating costly repairs and maintaining its thermal performance. PIR insulation is also renowned for its flexible qualities, providing the ideal solution for a range of applications such as floors, walls, pitched and flat roofing.

Feel good factor

A draught-free, well-insulated building is crucial for controlling interior temperature differentials. This not only helps reduce heating costs, an evenly regulated living or working space enhances the year-round comfort for occupants. In a commercial building, a happy, healthy indoor environment is proven to reduce staff sickness, which in-turn leads to greater productivity. It was estimated staff absenteeism cost the UK economy £18bn in 2017, proving it really does pay to improve a building’s thermal performance. In terms of domestic properties, particularly multiple tenancies, the need to create a healthy indoor climate becomes greater. The standard of living in multi-storey housing developments can be severely reduced if the insulation is unable to absorb the increased noise, for example. Comfort and wellbeing issues aside, high-performance (PIR) insulation panels are essential for compliance with Part L1A of the Building Regulations 2013 in England and Part L1A of the Building Regulations 2014 in Wales. With the Green Building Council estimating that by mid-century, 25 million UK homes will fall short of insulation standards, there is an urgent need to address energy inefficiency. This is heightened by the Government’s pledge to reduce the country’s UK greenhouse gas emissions to below 1990 levels by 2050.

Case study: Gerrards Cross

An example of the compelling energy efficiency credentials of PIR insulation was Mentmore Homes’ construction of two energy-efficient, detached five-bedroom homes in Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire. The high-quality, traditionally constructed homes feature external walls built using brick/block cavity construction. Cavity wall is the UK’s most common method of wall construction for residential dwellings. For Mentmore Homes, a significant challenge was to retain a standard-sized cavity while complying with the latest Building Regulations. To maximise the thermal performance of the external walls without increasing the width of the 100 mm wide cavity, Mentmore Homes specified Eurowall+ full-fill insulation. Using this high-performance PIR insulation board enabled the developer to meet the thermal performance required to achieve regulatory compliance. A total of 500 m2 of insulation boards were used in the wall construction of the two houses.

Jon Parsons is specification manager at Recticel Insulation