Oct 2, 2023
Insulation’s Place in a Construction Landscape With Evolving Energy Codes
The role of insulation is more important than ever during a time when energy consumption is being constantly scrutinized, energy costs are rising, and there is a heightened level of sensitivity to climate impact.
By: OX Engineered Products
Construction industry stakeholders are leaning on high-performance insulation solutions to help solve for two critical issues facing society: energy usage and the rising costs associated with it.
A Solution for Changing Energy Codes
Due to a greater need to reduce energy consumption, energy codes are continuously being updated in the United States and elsewhere. This is playing an important role in enhancing the minimum requirements for buildings’ energy performance. Updated codes are driving product specifiers to select higher-performing windows and doors, HVAC equipment, and of course, insulation.
Insulation plays a crucial role in keeping structures thermally efficient, healthy, and dry, and choosing the right solution has implications for the performance of the structure over its lifespan. That is why some of today’s most modern insulation products are combining multiple layers into one, delivering more than just thermal performance. Integrated products are changing the conversation by combining continuous insulation, structural sheathing, an air barrier, and a water barrier in a single solution. In turn, this is helping building professionals unlock superior building performance, allowing them to meet stringent energy codes and earn valuable government-backed tax credits, such as 45L, for building sustainable homes. In fact, builders who meet ENERGY STAR Certified Homes V3.1 2021 IECC are eligible for $2,500 back per home, and meeting the DOE’s Zero Energy Ready Home (ZERH) program can secure $5,000 per build.
Code compliance is imperative for the adoption and advancement of energy-efficient construction, highlighting the importance of providing proper education to builders. This is particularly vital after a new set of codes are released, which happens every three years.
A major differentiator in building performance is when builders can identify and implement the right insulation solutions for a building.
Insulation offers energy efficiency through an entire structure, reducing heating and cooling costs, boosting sound attenuation, and supporting greater air quality for occupants. Stricter energy codes are driving the need for tighter and better insulated structures, emphasizing the importance of insulation in all sectors of modern-day construction, including residential, multifamily, and commercial. Continuous insulation solutions are gaining ground across the industry because they provide a seamless, unbroken layer of insulation, significantly minimizing thermal breaks at the exterior walls of a building.
However, insulation is no longer just a one-dimensional conversation, driving manufacturers to avoid creating one-dimensional insulation products, such as standard spray-foam, blown-in, or batt insulation.
Out With the Old, in With the New
Integrated structural continuous insulation products meet building code requirements for multiple layers of exterior wall construction. Therefore, builders can rely on a single-source manufacturer to meet code for structural sheathing, continuous insulation, water barrier, and air barrier performance. This streamlines coordination during installation and offers a sole integrated insulation system with a warranty from a single manufacturer.
Industry-leading products of this ilk incorporate a closed-cell, moisture-resistant polyisocyanurate foam core that possesses high compressive strength, lending long-term R-value and a continuous weather barrier to a structure. The addition of a cellulosic fiber substrate layer adds strength and eliminates the need to install sheathing separately. This significantly cuts back on installation time and costs for the project team compared to using OSB and housewrap.
Future-Proofing Building Exteriors
Energy codes will continue to be updated, and innovations in insulation technology are working to combat energy consumption and the rising costs associated with it. Integrated structural continuous insulation not only meets evolving energy codes, but it streamlines construction timelines, saves costs, and reduces the number of products a builder needs to purchase. This helps crews achieve the established performance standards and potentially gain access to valuable government tax incentives such as 45L.
As the industry prepares for the next shift in building code standards, integrated structural continuous insulation systems are promising a brighter, greener future for the built environment.
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