Special Report

The BuildingGreen Guide to Thermal Insulation

The BuildingGreen Guide to Thermal Insulation provides detailed guidance on insulation products and practices, including recommendations on what insulation to use and what to avoid. It's a treasure trove of information for architects and designers, builders, and anyone who is actively considering the impact of insulation on the quality of your indoor environment and the world.

If you are interested in sharing this Guide within your organization and adding a copy to your library, please purchase the site-license guide

Even well informed professionals have knowledge gaps on the material properties of insulation products as well as building science dynamics relating to insulation, moisture, and air barriers. Filling these gaps, this special report acknowledges that there are no universal right or wrong answers for every project. Instead, it offers guidance to support appropriate material choices—as well as best practices—depending on the project and the budget.

Insulation has a job to do in our buildings: it must perform well and be durable. Our report helps you understand:

  • Moisture dynamics—and how to protect insulation
  • How insulation decomposition and decay occurs
  • Fire resistance
  • R-value drift

At the heart of the report are 13 pages of reference tables and recommendations covering:

  • All major (and key niche) insulation types and their properties
  • Key performance attributes (we compile this from dozens of individual sources—you won't find this elsewhere): vapor permeability and air barrier attributes
  • Quick reference tips on what to use and what to avoid from a health and environmental standpoint

After all the background, we provide insulation recommendations for every major application, including: sub-slab, exterior and interior of foundations, attic floors, rafters, cavity-fill (residential and non-residential), and continuous exterior insulation.

How much insulation is enough? How airtight should you be? What window and door specifications should you look for? BuildingGreen’s building envelope recommendations are aimed at defining high-performance goals that we believe all buildings can reasonably achieve.

BuildingGreen's Insulation Guide offers detailed advice on understanding insulation in all major categories:

  • Fiberglass, cellulose, cotton, and other fiber-based materials
  • Polyisocyanurate, polystyrene, mineral wool, and other board stock materials
  • Closed-cell and open-cell spray polyurethane, cementitious foam, and other spray-in-place products
  • Radiant barriers, gas-filled panels, vacuum insulation, and other products

For each category, we cover key health and sustainability considerations, performance issues, and installation recommendations.

Unlike other biased manufacturer information sources or single-issue environmental sources, BuildingGreen looks at all angles on insulation. The guide considers health and environmental impacts with insulation materials in terms of:

  • Energy savings
  • Raw material acquisition
  • Hazardous constituents
  • Ozone-depleting substances
  • Greenhouse gases and global warming potential
  • Chemical byproducts and residuals
  • Fiber shedding
  • Moisture and mold
  • End-of-life issues with insulation materials

New and updated in the Fourth Edition

Originally published in 2011, our report is now in its fourth edition! Here's what's new and updated:

  • Coverage of developments in several insulation types, including polystyrene
  • Updates on the status of toxic flame retardants in plastic foams
  • New consideration of the global warming potential of blowing agents
  • Added performance data on natural insulation types, such as wood and hemp

Continuing education credits

The report is approved for continuing education credits through:

  • AIA – 5 LU/HSW
  • GBCI – 5 CEUs

If you are interested in sharing this Insulation Guide within your organization and adding a copy to your library, please purchase the site-license guide.

Buy it now for $129
If you’re already a Premium member, log in now to get the discounted price.