A great commercial building is the right balance between aesthetic appeal and commercial viability. While innovative facades and new designs are essential for the aesthetic, a functionally sound structure includes detailed services and is well planned for occupant and energy efficiency.
One of the key aspects of energy efficiency is insulation. Building insulation refers broadly to any object or material in a building used to insulate or protect for any purpose. While, building insulation is primarily used for thermal purposes. It is also used for acoustic, fire and impact insulation.
Insulation was traditionally used in homes with extreme climes – too hot or too cold. The thermal insulation was important to maintain a liveable temperature inside the house. In cold conditions, insulation aims to reduce heat flow out of the building. Windows, doors, roofs, walls, etc. are sources of heat loss. In warm regions, the greatest source of heat energy is solar radiation. This enters buildings directly through windows or it can heat the building shell to a higher temperature than the ambient, increasing the heat transfer through the building envelope.
Acoustic insulation is also referred to as soundproofing. It includes methods of reducing the sound pressure with respect to a specified sound source and receptor. There are two distinct reasons for soundproofing – to improve sound within a room, and to reduce sound leakage to/from adjacent rooms.
Also known as Fireproofing, it is a method of using insulation to make building resistant to fire. Fire insulation is a method of Passive Fire Protection which is an integral component of structural fire protection. It aims to retard or contain the spread of the fire by limiting building damage and providing more time for the safer evacuation of the building occupants.
Impact Insulation is used for cushioning from shock and vibration. This is particularly useful in industrial and manufacturing buildings to reduce the vibration from heavy machinery which creates a lot of stress on the structure of the building.
Advantages of insulation in commercial buildings
Adhering to the latest building energy codes drives greater energy efficiency. Building to code only meets the legal minimum, it does not deliver customer value. Besides using high quality commercial building insulation, it is important that one can deliver buildings that are more energy efficient, quieter and healthier.
1. Greater energy efficiency, lower energy bills
As the cost of energy goes up, both customers and regulatory authorities have become conscious of carbon impact. Cost saving is a primary mandate for any business. Many companies incorporate energy efficiency to manage overhead costs. The value of insulation in this context is obvious: it saves building occupants money on energy bills. According to http://insulationinstitute.org, “Lease rates for “green” spaces can be up to 20% above average, 5 manifesting in high rental prices and decreased vacancy rates.”
2. Meeting occupant needs for comfort
Regulated temperature in the commercial building will ensure occupants are comfortable. Thermal comfort is a major driver of occupant satisfaction. While localized control of heating and cooling may appear to be an easier solution to manage building temperatures, there is a high chance of temperature fluctuations without proper insulation and air sealing. A building that has significant temperature variations is likely to result in disgruntled occupants.
3. Acoustic Impact
A recent survey by Cambridge Sound Management revealed “30% of office workers are distracted by coworkers’ conversations. Similarly, another survey stated 60% of employees report being more productive when the office is quiet. As the trend toward more open workspaces, floating walls and glass elements continues to grow, so does the issue of noise.” A combination of acoustic insulation, sound masking and smart and systematic acoustic design, can help the building in mitigating people from losing their concentration and focus from their work project. It is also important to keep confidential conversations secure to the intended listeners.
4. Sustainability and Responsibility
Australia is the world’s most sustainable property market. In 2016, the Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB) said Australia’s property industry had continued its “unbroken streak of global leadership”. Green Building Council of Australia strategic plan envisions to move towards a carbon positive industry, this entails that building design must incorporate sustainable practices and must understand and work towards a healthy, safe and thriving environment.
Types of Insulation
1. Blanket: batts and rolls
Blanket insulation — the most common and widely available type of insulation — comes in the form of batts or rolls. It consists of flexible fibers, most commonly fiberglass.
You also can find batts and rolls made from mineral (rock and slag) wool, plastic fibers, and natural fibers, such as cotton and sheep’s wool.
2. Concrete block insulation and insulating concrete blocks
The cores of the concrete blocks are filled with insulating material – such as polystyrene, polyisocyanurate or polyiso, and polyurethane. The hollow cores of concrete blocks can be filled by pouring and/or injecting loose foam beads or liquid foam. Some manufacturers make concrete blocks that accommodate rigid foam inserts. The primary task of the insulation is to bring down the temperature in the structure.
3. Foam board or rigid foam
Foam boards — rigid panels of insulation — can be used to insulate almost any part of the building, from the roof down to the foundation. It is very effective in exterior wall sheathing, interior sheathing for basement walls, and special applications such as attic hatches.
4. Loose-fill and blown-in
Loose-fill insulation consists of small particles of fiber, foam, or other materials. These small particles form an insulation material that can conform to any space without disturbing structures or finishes. This ability to conform makes loose-fill insulation well suited for retrofits and locations where it would be difficult to install other types of insulation.
5. Reflective system
Unlike most common insulation systems, which resist conductive and sometimes convective heat flow, radiant barriers and reflective insulation work by reflecting radiant heat away from the living space. Radiant barriers are more effective in hot climates, especially when cooling air ducts are located in the attic. Some studies show that radiant barriers can lower cooling costs 5% to 10% when used in a warm, sunny climate. The reduced heat gain may even allow for a smaller air conditioning system.
6. Fiber insulation
Rigid fiber or fibrous board insulation consists of either fiberglass or mineral wool material and is primarily used for insulating air ducts. It is also used when there’s a need for insulation that can withstand high temperatures.
7. Sprayed foam and foamed-in-place
Liquid foam insulation materials can be sprayed, foamed-in-place, injected, or poured. Foam-in-place insulation can be blown into walls, on attic surfaces, or under floors to insulate and reduce air leakage.
8. Structural insulated panels (SIPs)
Structural insulated panels (SIPs) are prefabricated insulated structural elements for use in building walls, ceilings, floors, and roofs. They provide superior and uniform insulation compared to more traditional construction methods (stud or “stick frame”), offering energy savings of 12% to 14%.
9. Other Innovative Insulation Solutions
AEROGEL is a synthetic porous ultralight material derived from a gel, in which the liquid component of the gel has been replaced with a gas. Once sealed in glass or fibreglass panels, it is an ideal roof insulation solution also bringing in lot of natural light into the building.
Green roof/ Living roof provides a roof covered with vegetation and growing medium, planted over a waterproofing membrane. Green roofing has been gaining popularity in Australia and it is an innovative insulation solution.