No, glass wool contains no dangerous substance at all under the stricter international regulations such as the European classification system or REACH. In private or collective premises, several studies have shown that there is extremely low level of mineral fibres in the air, much less than other fibres such as organic fibres and at about the same levels than outdoor. Glass wool products are safe to manufacture, install and live with.
Superficial and temporary itching of the skin may occur after handling glass wool. It is mechanical and not chemical and causes no allergy. It disappears once rinsed with water.
ISOVER puts on the packaging materials of its products pictograms to remind users how to improve the comfort of installation of glass wool products with some simple common sense measures. They are good sense recommendations which should apply to all workers installing any products and working situations with elevated dust-levels.
Mineral wool cannot be considered to be a radioactive product. It is made of products containing very low level of natural radioactivity such as sand. In buildings, glass wool insulation is the source of less than 0.001 of the dose we naturally receive in a year from natural sources (radon, earth…) and medical checks.
To have a representative and fair indicator, we need to use the standardised indicator “total primary energy” which takes into account all energy consumptions of a product during its complete lifecycle from the extraction of raw materials making up the material to its end of life (demolition and recycling or landfilling).
Energy consumed to make glass wool is mainly used to melt the sand and recycled glass (“cullet”) and cure the binder in an oven. The use of recycled glass reduces the melting energy consumption. The life cycle analysis of glass wool compared with most of other insulation products including those made of animal or vegetal raw materials such as hemp wool to choose a product sold by Isover, shows that glass wool consumes less energy than the others.
In addition, the energy savings related to glass wool are much higher than the energy consumed to manufacture it even if including the all life cycle. After few months of use, the savings are compensating the consumption
The greenhouse effect is the process by which the atmosphere traps some of the sun’s energy, warming the Earth and moderating our climate. A human-driven increase in ‘greenhouse gases’ has enhanced this effect artificially. These greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide, produced by burning fossil fuels and through deforestation, methane, released from agriculture, animals and landfill sites, and nitrous oxide, resulting from agricultural production plus a variety of industrial chemicals.
Every day we damage our climate by using fossil fuels (oil, coal and gas) for energy and transport. As a result, climate change is already impacting on our lives, and is expected to destroy the livelihoods of many people in the developing world, as well as ecosystems and species, in the coming decades. We therefore need to significantly reduce our greenhouse gas emissions .
Last year, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) set out an overwhelming body of scientific evidence which put the reality of human-induced climate change beyond any doubt. During 2007 the IPCC was also awarded the Nobel Peace prize in clear recognition that climate change poses a major challenge to the security of mankind in the 21st century1.
Involving over 3,800 scientists from over 150 countries and six years of work, the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, published in instalments between January and November 2007, reviewed and analysed scientific studies published up to the end of 2006, and in a few cases, to early 2007. Since the publication of this key report, scientific research on climate change and its impacts has continued and new studies are revealing that global warming is accelerating, at times far beyond forecasts outlined in earlier studies included the Fourth Assessment Report.
New numerical modelling studies also provide more detailed indications of the impacts to come if warming continues. According to the IPCC, the world’s temperature is expected to increase over the next hundred years by up to 5.8°C . This is much faster than anything experienced so far in human history. The goal of climate policy should be to keep the global mean temperature rise to less than 2°C above pre-industrial levels. At 2°C and above, damage to ecosystems and disruption to the climate system increases dramatically.
Global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions released as a consequence of human activity have been accelerating , with their growth rate increasing from 1.1% per year between 1990 and 1999, to more than 3% per year between 2000 and 2004. The actual emissions growth rate since 2000 was greater than any of the scenarios used by the IPCC in either the Third or Fourth Assessment Reports. Over the past 15 years, about half the CO2 emissions arising from human activity have been absorbed by land and ocean. However, the capability of these natural sinks is declining at a greater rate than forecast in earlier studies. This means that more of the CO2 emitted from human activities will stay in the atmosphere and contribute to global warming.
A re-examination of the climate impacts reported in the Fourth Assessment Report indicates that 80% cuts in global greenhouse gas emissions are needed by 2050 to keep global average temperature rise below 2°C – and to limit climate impacts to ‘acceptable’ levels. Such a cut would stabilise atmospheric greenhouse gas concentration at 400-470 parts per million carbon dioxide equivalents. However, even with an 80% emissions cut, damages will be significant, and much more substantial adaptation efforts than those currently planned will be required to avoid much of the damage.
Important aspects of climate change seem to have been underestimated and the impacts are being felt sooner. For example, early signs of change suggest that the less than 1°C of global warming that the world has experienced to date may have already triggered the first tipping point of the Earth’s climate system – the disappearance of summer Arctic sea ice.
This process could open the gates to rapid and abrupt climate change, rather than the gradual changes that have been forecast so far. The implication of this recent evidence is that our mitigation and adaptation responses to climate change need to be even more rapid and ambitious. This means that global emissions will have to peak and start to decline by the end of the next decade at the latest.
Past and future CO2 concentrations. Since pre-industrial times, the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases has grown significantly. Carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration has increased by about 31%, methane concentration by about 150%, and nitrous oxide concentration by about 16% (Watson et al 2001). The present level of carbon dioxide concentration (around 375 parts per million) is the highest for 420,000 years, and probably the highest for the past 20 million years.
Temperature trends and projections. The global average surface temperature has increased over the 20th century by about 0.6 degrees Celsius. This increase in temperature is likely to have been the largest for any century in the last 1000 years. Evidence from tree ring records, used to reconstruct temperatures over this period, suggests that the 1990s was the warmest period in a millennium. It is very likely that nearly all land areas will warm more rapidly than the global average, particularly those at high northern latitudes in the cold season. There are very likely to be more hot days; fewer cold days, cold waves, and frost days; and a reduced diurnal temperature range.
Climate change is already harming people and ecosystems . Its reality can be seen in disintegrating polar ice, thawing permafrost, dying coral reefs, rising sea levels and fatal heat waves. An average global warming of 2°C threatens millions of people with an increased risk of hunger, malaria, flooding and water shortages.
Since we began recording temperature in the 1850s the ten warmest years worldwide have occurred in the past eleven years and 2006 marked the warmest year in the UK and the Netherlands and the warmest autumn in Denmark, Norway, Switzerland and Germany. Apart from heat waves, forest fires and prolonged droughts, mainly in Southern Europe, climate change has led to more extreme precipitation in Northern Europe, which has the potential to unleash devastating floods.
Never before has humanity been forced to grapple with such an immense environmental crisis. If we do not take urgent and immediate action to stop global warming, the damage could become irreversible . This can only happen through a rapid reduction in the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
According to scientists, in order to stay below 2°C global warming compared to pre-industrial temperatures – the objective endorsed by the European Union – an overall greenhouse gas emissions reduction of 30% by 2020 and 80% by 2050 compared to 1990 is needed in all developed nations.
Recognising the threats linked to climate change, the signatories to the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change agreed the Kyoto Protocol in 1997. The Protocol finally entered into force in early 2005 and its 165 member countries meet twice annually to negotiate further refinement and development of the agreement. Only one major industrialised nation, the United States, has not ratified Kyoto.
The Kyoto Protocol commits its signatories to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2% from their 1990 level by the target period of 2008-2012 . This has in turn resulted in the adoption of a series of regional and national reduction targets. In the European Union, for instance, the commitment is to an overall reduction of 8%. In order to help reach this target, the EU has also agreed a target to increase its proportion of renewable energy from 6% to 12% by 2010.
The Kyoto Protocol’s architecture relies fundamentally on legally binding emissions reduction obligations. To achieve these targets, carbon is turned into a commodity which can be traded. The aim is to encourage the most economically efficient emissions reductions, in turn leveraging the necessary investment in clean technology.
Presently the Kyoto countries are negotiating the second phase of the agreement, covering the period from 2013-2017. Signatory countries agreed a negotiating ‘mandate’, known as the Bali Action Plan, in December 2007, but they must complete these negotiations with a final agreement on the second Kyoto commitment period by the end of 2009 in Copenhagen.
Under the Kyoto Protocol the European Union (the EU-15) committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 8% by 2012 compared to 1990. More recently the European Heads of State and Government (EU-27) decided to reduce greenhouse gases by up to 30% by 2020. They also established targets of 20% renewable energy and 20% energy efficiency to be achieved by the same date.
The peak of oil discovery was passed in the 1960s, and the world started using more than was found in new fields in 1981. The gap between discovery and production has widened since.
By Colin J. Campbell (ASPO's founder, ASPO Honorary Chairman, ASPO : Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas - www.peakoil.net)
Oil was formed in the geological past under well understood processes. In fact, the bulk of current production comes from just two epochs of extreme global warming, 90 and 150 million years ago, when algae proliferated in the warm sunlit waters, and the organic remains were preserved in the stagnant depths to be converted to oil by chemical reactions. Natural gas was formed in a similar way save that it was derived from vegetal material. It follows that these are finite natural resources subject to depletion, which in turn means that production in any country or region starts following the initial discovery and ends when the resources are exhausted. The peak of production is normally passed when approximately half the total has been taken, termed the midpoint of depletion.(…)
The peak of oil discovery was passed in the 1960s, and the world started using more than was found in new fields in 1981. The gap between discovery and production has widened since . Many countries, including some important producers, have already passed their peak, suggesting that the world peak of production is now imminent . Were valid data available in the public domain, it would be a simple matter to determine both the date of peak and the rate of subsequent decline, but as it is, we find maze of conflicting information, ambiguous definitions and lax reporting procedures. In short, the oil companies tended to report cautiously, being subject to strict Stock Exchange rules, whereas certain OPEC countries exaggerated during the 1980s when they were competing for quota based on reported reserves. Despite the uncertainties of detail, it is now evident that the world faces the dawn of the Second Half of the Age of Oil, when this critical commodity, which plays such a fundamental part in the modern economy, heads into decline due to natural depletion. A debate rages over the precise date of peak, but rather misses the point, when what matters — and matters greatly — is the vision of the long remorseless decline that comes into sight on the other side of it. The transition to decline threatens to be a time of great international tension. Petroleum Man will be virtually extinct this Century and Homo sapiens faces a major challenge in adapting to his loss. Peak Oil is by all means an important subject.
“On a time scale starting at year 0, experts are convinced there will be a peak in the production of oil between 2000 and 2100.” Kjell Aleklett, President of ASPO
“I think that easy oil and easy gas - that is, fuels that are relatively cheap to produce and very easy to get to the market - will peak somewhere in the coming ten years.”
Jeroen van der Veer, Chief Executive, Royal Dutch Shell plc
WE ARE LEAVING THE ERA OF CHEAP OIL
By Lord Ron Oxburgh, Former Chairman, SHELL
(Foreword of the first report of the UK Industry Taskforce on Peak Oil & Energy Security (ITPOES))
There isn’t any shortage of oil, but there is a real shortage of the cheap oil that for too long we have taken for granted. During the 20th century, cheap oil - $20 – 30/barrel in today’s terms - allowed the internal combustion engine to replace the steam engine and sparked a transport revolution that fostered and fed the innate human desire to travel. We loved it.
Crude Oil Barrel price - US $ (Source: ASPO – June 2008)
By the middle of the century warning bells began to ring and some such as King Hubbert1 began to point out that world oil was a finite resource and furthermore that it was possible to estimate how much remained. At the time Hubbert was regarded by many as a crank and the industry line was that new discoveries would continue to replace what had been used. We now know differently . A great deal more oil has been discovered since Hubbert’s day but his basic thesis still holds. The difference is that today, with more exploration and more sophisticated exploration tools, we know the Earth much better and it is pretty clear that there is not much chance of finding any significant quantity of new cheap oil. Any new or unconventional oil is going to be expensive.
A more immediate concern is that today the world supply of oil is only just meeting demand and this is keeping the price very high. Earlier this year (2008) the price nearly hit $150/per barrel and even with the subsequent fall back below $100, the forward price is high. These prices partly reflect short term market jitters about political instabilities and vulnerability of supplies to natural or man-made disasters, but more fundamentally there is a concern that even though supplies may increase they may not increase as rapidly as the demand from large developing countries. It is this looming prospect of an early overhang of unsatisfied demand that is keeping forward prices high. All that could change this view of the future is a major world economic recession, and even the effects of that on demand have to be put in the context of a rapidly rising global population.
There is also another change from the past. Today around 80% of the world’s oil and gas reserves are controlled by governments through national oil companies. This is in marked contrast to a couple of decades ago when international oil companies had the major influence. Disregarding the potential use of fuel supplies as political levers, it is entirely reasonable that national governments should have legitimate policies different from those of oil majors when it comes to exploiting the natural resources of their countries. They are starting to regard their shrinking oil and gas resources as something to be husbanded. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia recently described his response to new finds: “No, leave it in the ground … our children need it.” In other words, even those who have less expensive oil may wish to exploit it slowly and get the best possible price for it – a marked contrast with the past when oil was sold in a highly competitive market for little more than it cost to get it out of the ground.
Today’s high prices are sending a message to the world that words alone have failed to convey, namely that not only are we leaving the era of cheap energy but that we have to wean ourselves off fossil fuels. For once what is right is also what is expedient - we know that we have to stop burning fossil fuels because of the irreversible environmental damage they cause, and now it may be cheaper to do so as well!
“Easy oil is past – what’s vital now?”
Jeremy Bentham, Vice-President Global Business Environment, Royal Dutch Shell plc
1In 1956 M. King Hubbert, a geologist for Shell Oil, predicted the peaking of US Oil production would occur in the late 1960\'s. Although derided by most in the industry he was correct. He was the first to assert that oil discovery, and therefore production, would follow a bell shaped curve over its life. After his success in forecasting the US peak, this analysis became known as the Hubbert's Peak
Energy efficient buildings (new constructions or renovated existing buildings) can be defined as buildings that are designed to provide a significant reduction of the energy need for heating and cooling, independently of the energy and of the equipments that will be chosen to heat or cool the building.
This can be achieved through the following elements:
bioclimatic architecture: shape and orientation of the building, solar protections, passive solar systems
high performing building envelope: thorough insulation, high performing glazing and windows, air-sealed construction, avoidance of thermal bridges
high performance controlled ventilation: mechanical insulation, heat recovery
Only when the building has been designed to minimise the energy loss, it makes sense to start looking at the energy source (including renewable energy) and at the heating and cooling equipments. We designate this approach as the Trias Energetica concept.
The trias Energetica Concept
Following the principles of the Trias Energetica concept we have developed the following 5-step approach:
Bioclimatic architecture takes into account climate and environmental conditions to help achieve thermal and visual comfort inside. Bioclimatic design takes into account the local climate to make the best possible use of solar energy and other environmental sources, rather than working against them. Bioclimatic design includes the following principles:
The shape of the building has to be compact to reduce the surfaces in contact with the exterior; the building and especially its openings are given an appropriate orientation (preferably towards the south); interior spaces are laid out according to their heating requirements ;
Appropriate techniques are applied to the external envelope and its openings to protect the building from solar heat in winter as well as in summer; passive solar systems collect solar radiation, acting as “free” heating and lighting systems; the building is protected from the summer sun, primarily by shading but also by the appropriate treatment of the building envelope (i.e. use of reflective colours and surfaces).
Thermal insulation is a low-cost, widely available, proven technology that begins saving energy and money, and reducing emissions the moment it is installed.
Well installed insulation ensures energy efficiency in every part of the building envelope including ground decks, roofs lofts, walls and facades. It is also well suited for pipes and boilers to reduce the energy loss of a building’s technical installations. Insulation is as relevant in cold regions as in hot ones. In cold/cool regions, insulation keeps a building warm and limits the need for energy for heating whereas in hot/warm regions the same insulation systems keep the heat out and reduce the need for air conditioning.
An exterior wall is well insulated when its thermal resistance (R value) is high, meaning the heat losses through it are small (reduced U value). Insulation is a key component of the wall to achieve a high R value (or a low U value) for the complete wall. The thermal resistance R of the installed insulation products has to be as high as possible.
To limit the thickness of the insulation within acceptable dimensions, Saint-Gobain Isover constantly improves the thermal conductivity of its materials (lower lambda value) thus allowing increased thermal resistance within the same space.
Air tightness reduces air leakage – the uncontrolled flow of air through gaps and cracks in the construction (sometimes referred to as infiltration, exfiltration or draughts).
Air leakages need to be reduced as much as possible in order to create efficient, controllable, comfortable, healthy and durable buildings With more stringent building regulations requiring better energy efficiency , air tightness is an increasingly important issue.
Details that are vital to achieving good air tightness need to be identified at early design stage. The next and equally important step is to ensure these details are carried over into the construction phase. Careful attention must be paid to sealing gaps and ensuring the continuity of the air barrier. It is far simpler to design and build an airtight construction than to carry out remedial measures in a draughty home.
Saint-Gobain Isover has developed systems with innovative accessories that allow appropriate installation of the insulation while guaranteeing excellent air tightness and allowing proper moisture management (see the Vario system presentation).
Consequences of air leakages : cold outside air may be drawn into the home through gaps in the walls, ground floor and ceiling (infiltration), resulting in cold draughts. In some cases, infiltration can cool the surfaces of elements in the structure, leading to condensation. Warm air leaking out through gaps in the dwelling’s envelope (exfiltration) is a major cause of heat loss and, consequently, wasted energy.
Most existing buildings, even those built recently, are far from being airtight and because of unwanted air infiltration generate huge costs to owners and occupants, in environmental, financial and health terms.
A leaky dwelling will result in higher CO2 emissions. The additional heat loss will mean that a correctly sized heating system may not be able to meet the demand temperature. Draughts and localised cold spots can cause discomfort. In extreme cases, excessive infiltration may make rooms uncomfortably cold during cooler periods. Excessive air leakage can allow damp air to penetrate the building fabric, degrading the structure and reducing the effectiveness of the insulation. Air leakage paths often lead to dust marks on carpets and wall coverings that look unsightly.
Ventilation is the intended and controlled ingress and egress of air through buildings, delivering fresh air, and exhausting stale air through purpose-built ventilators in combination with the designed heating system and humidity control, and the fabric of the building itself.
If you do not insulate properly and ventilate too little, you can risk warm humid air condensing on cold, poorly insulated surfaces which will create moisture that allows for moulds and fungi to grow.
A controlled ventilation strategy will satisfy the fresh air requirements of an airtight building. Air infiltration or opening of the window cannot be considered an acceptable alternative to designed ventilation.
As the saying goes: ‘build tight, ventilate right.’
Very low energy buildings are designed to provide a significantly higher standard of energy efficiency than the minimum required by national Building Regulations. They are very often designed without traditional heating systems and without active cooling. They result in a saving of energy consumption of 70 to 90% compared to the existing building stock.
Examples of such buildings are: Passiv Haus (Germany), BBC - Bâtiment Basse Consommation - Effinergie (France), “zero” carbon house (UK), Minergie (CH) …
The definition of very low energy buildings varies significantly across Europe. The variation exists in terms of the absolute possible level of energy consumption; the calculation methods and the energy flows included in the requirements vary from country to country…
Most of the official calculation methods deal with the calculation of the primary energy consumption of buildings. However, what processes and how the corresponding energy demand is converted into primary energy differ from country to country. In some cases the primary energy consumption is converted into CO2 emission. The definition and consequently the calculation of primary energy consumption is strongly dependant on the chosen boundary for calculation.
Therefore, direct comparison between the different “standards” is not possible.
Comparison of the energy calculation methods of Minergie and Effiinergie, with the two energy frames as defined in the Passive House standard (total energy consumption and heating consumption per year).
Nevertheless, one thing is common to all of them: they follow the principles of the Trias Energetica. They all require high performing building envelops and reduced energy needs for heating and cooling.
With its unique experience in energy efficiency in the building sector, Saint-Gobain ISOVER is definitely engaged in the promotion of very low energy buildings (new construction and renovation projects). We consider that cost effective technologies already exist that allow achieving (at the building level) very ambitious objectives in terms of reduced energy consumption and low CO2 emissions (under the condition that the previously described principles of the Trias Energetica have been followed).
ISOVER is engaged
We consider that very low energy building standards should become the common rules in all countries before 2020: we push for national building regulations to be improved in this direction.
We also strongly commit ourselves to demonstrate that very low energy constructions and renovations are already technically and economically feasible:
We have developed the Multi-comfort House concept that we are promoting in all the countries where we are active; the Multi-Comfort House is a very low energy house with enhanced comfort for the occupants ; it can be built under any climate as we have adapted the concept to different climate conditions (moderate, hot and cold climates); we carry out pilot projects in different country: by building locally Multi-comfort Houses, we demonstrate to all the stakeholders in the building chain that dreams can become reality…
We constantly further improve the thermal performances of our insulation solutions and products to make the design and the construction of very low energy buildings always easier and more cost-effective;
Moving towards very low energy constructions is a very challenging market transformation for all the partners in the building sector: we invest in promotional and training activities to support those who are starting the “learning curve” to progress quickly down the curve;
We support national initiatives to develop voluntary certification and labelling schemes for very low energy constructions (PassivHaus in Germany and in Austria, Minergie in Switzerland, Effinergie in France…); we encourage Governments to adopt financial schemes (loans with low interest rates, governmental subsidies, lower taxes…) to make these kinds of buildings more attractive and to turn the voluntary certification schemes into mandatory ones.
Benefits of low energy buildings
Lower energy bills : owners or occupants of low energy building can keep their energy costs under control and become less vulnerable to future fluctuations of energy prices; Excellent indoor climate : in a building without draughts, the use of mechanical ventilation flows the air pollutants away and provides fresh air indoor; Pleasant warmth : both in winter and in summer, large fluctuations in temperature are not practically non existent.
Better acoustical and visual comfort : bioclimatic design and performing insulation of the glazed and opaque wal
Insulation is necessary to reduce energy consumption, sound pollution and improve the comfort and quality of life in new or existing buildings regardless of the construction system.
Insulation fights global warming as it reduces greenhouse gases. Insulating your home is an ecological process. The signing of the Kyoto agreements was a major stage in collective awareness of the need to protect the environment by fighting global warming.
Thermal insulation, by reducing heat wastage, minimises energy consumption (demand for heating) and therefore reduces the heating bill, consumption and pollution by up to 80%.
Comfort in summer and winter
Comfort in the home depends on maintaining a good inside temperature regardless of the season. Winter and summer comfort depend on very high resistant thermal insulation for all surfaces (including windows) + ventilation adapted to the season + outside blocking elements (doors, shutters) + the building’s air tightness.
In the last 25 years, noise has become one of the major sources of pollution. Humans, who cannot physiologically block out noise as they can the light by closing their eyes, have felt the need to protect themselves.
The aim of fire protection for buildings is to save life of occupants and limit as much as possible any fire-related damages to their health. In order to achieve this objective, the following is necessary:
Reduce evacuation time;
Increase safety of evacuation conditions;
Reduce the quantity and opacity of smoke, gas emissions and rapid temperature increase;
Guarantee stability of the building, at least until its evacuation.
Energy efficiency is a fundamental element in our global fight against climate change. It plays a critical role in minimising the societal and environmental impacts of economic growth in developing and developed nations. Energy efficiency also has a crucial role improving every nation’s security of energy supply. In addition, these benefits can come without a price tag as is the case for insulation where it is easily possible to get five times your investment back in money saved.
The role of energy efficiency in combating climate change and promoting sustainable development is well understood but it is often forgotten how important this role can be. For example, within the European Union such vast quantities of energy are being lost through roofs and walls alone that Europe’s entire Kyoto commitment could be achieved through improving insulation standards. Not only could these reductions be made but recent research into their cost-effectiveness demonstrates that they can be made whilst saving the EU over 8 billion EURO a year by 2010 and creating over 530 000 new jobs.
It is equally concerning that few are even aware of the role that energy efficiency can play in reducing other environmental impacts and protecting quality of life. In the U.S. alone, $5.9 billion could be saved annually in healthcare and economic costs linked to air pollution simply by improving insulation.
Energy efficiency also has a pivotal role in maintaining and increasing standards of living. As developing nations in particular strive to increase standards of living, ensuring the efficient use of energy will be vital if this growth is to be decoupled from environmental and social degradation.
Energy efficiency is not an alternative to energy security; it is a vital component in achieving it. The European Union currently imports 50% of its energy and estimates this will rise to 70% in the next two decades if no further action is taken. The EU’s economic stability and prosperity will therefore be increasingly dependent on the political and economic strategies of its suppliers, and vulnerable to both.
In the EU, energy efficiency (in the graph below described as Negajoules) is already the largest contributor to energy supply security:
Development of primary energy demand and avoided energy use in the EU25, 1971 to 2005.
Negajoules: energy savings calculated on the basis of 1971 energy intensity
Source: COM(2006) 545 and Enerdata 2006
Improving energy performance in EU
The EU works to improve the overall energy performance of its member states in order to:
Tackle climate change
Face up to the challenge of secure, sustainable and competitive energy
Make the European economy a model for sustainable development in the 21st century
By the year 2020, the EU aims to reduce its CO2 emission by 20% compared to the 1990 level, and to increase energy efficiency by 20%. Two key European directives address the building challenge: the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (2002/91/EC) and the Energy End-Use Efficiency and Energy Services Directive (2006/32/EC).
The Energy Performance of Buildings Directive
Put into action in January 2006, the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) requires all 25 EU countries plus Norway and Switzerland to update their national building codes on a regular basis. Currently (2008), the EPBD is undergoing a revision. This revision is expected to introduce further requirements to the EU member states to enable the EU to reach its goals by ensuring even better energy efficiency in buildings.
The Energy End-use and Energy Services Directive
The Energy End-use and Energy Services Directive (ESD) seeks to reduce the amounts of energy required to deliver energy services to European citizens and businesses. A major part of the savings sought in this directive can be achieved through implementing practical energy saving measures, in particular in new and existing buildings. This directive is intended to facilitate the installation of the cost-effective measures available. Each member state must prepare a national energy efficiency action plan every three years.
The choice of insulating material in terms of thermal performance involves studying two factors: thermal resistance R and the thickness of the insulating material.
Thermal resistance (R)
To evaluate the thermal insulation of a material, it is necessary to know its resistance to heat flow (m2.K/W) presented by a material in a given thickness. The higher the thermal resistance R, the better insulation is provided by the material.
Thermal conductivity (λ )
Thermal conductivity or λ is the quantity of heat W/m.K that may be transferred into a material, at a given time. The lower the λ value, the
Insulation products should be chosen according to their adaptability to an application in the building. These features are set out by professional standards together with the performance required for a given application. They should also be provided by the manufacturer. All the features are assessed and measured according to international and European standards applicable to all types of insulation.
Depending on the type of insulation
No one product is ideal for all applications. Some insulation materials , by their very nature, production, features, performance and presentation (rolls, panels or bulk) have more or less dedicated applications.
For reach application, it is necessary to check that the features and performance of the product match the level required by professional standards or regulations for the application. (See “How to know the thermal performance of insulating material ”)
Besides these features which should be checked case by case, product by product, the table below summarises common and traditional uses for the various product families:
Application/ Type of insulation material
Floors: on top
Contact with water/moisture
Thin insulation (PMR)
Depending on the presentation
Mineral wools are available in various forms depending on the application in the building and technical features required.
Application / Presentation
Soft felt (roll)
(unused loft floor or insulation under shingles)
Semi-rigid felt (panel, roll)
(peripheral walls, partitions and surfaces needing high thermal resistance)
(insulation between rafters in double layer roof insulation)
To obtain a thermally homogenous home and reduce heat losses properly, provide comfort in winter and summer, all surfaces in contact with the outside (roof, wall, loft) must be insulated.
All walls and the roof in particular must be insulated
The thermal performance of insulation must be very high in the roof. In winter and summer, strong thermal resistance in the loft is essential.
In winter, losses are at their maximum through all opaque and glazed surfaces and structural links.
In the summer, direct sunlight on the walls and roofs - particularly exposed - can overheat the interior temperature. The same goes for windows which need outside shutters, blinds, awnings, etc to deflect direct sunlight from the house.
The specific case of old houses
Very old walls can be thick (about 1 metre). But despite their thickness, they do not provide sufficient insulation and comfort nor do they reduce energy consumption properly. They therefore need to be insulated. This is especially true for buildings erected after 1945 which often do have very thin concrete walls.
Thermal resistance and wall thickness
To obtain satisfactory performance with respect to current construction criteria (thermal resistance at R=3), the following wall thicknesses would be needed:
10.5 metres in granite,
4.2 metres in concrete
and only 12 cm of insulation (λ =40)
In a home that is not properly insulated, heat escapes through:
In a properly insulated home, heat transfers are reduced on all surfaces, both in summer and winter. Controlled mechanical ventilation optimises air renewal to keep losses down to a minimum.
Depending on the orientation, the size of windows and the occupiers’ lifestyle, free energy through sunlight can represent up to 20% of energy consumption and reduce the heating bill accordingly.
The golden rule for good insulation is:
High performance products within an insulation system including fitting accessories to ensure air-tightness of surfaces while respecting all professional guidelines and manufacturer recommendations as well as the implementation conditions set out in technical leaflets, taking particular care with all junctions.
Effective home insulation requires a high performance insulation system complying with fitting rules to guarantee the home’s thermal continuity and reduce thermal bridges.
Good air tightness is indispensable for an efficient insulation system: insulation that is not air-tight regardless of its insulation factor can represent energy consumption of 1 to kWh/m2.year i.e. 7 to 11% of the building’s consumption. Air tightness therefore needs to be taken on board right from the design stage of the building but also by strictly following professional guidelines during construction.
Measuring air tightness at the end of a building work is a means of checking the general quality of work. Here coordination is key and each profession should be aware that it can make a positive or negative impact. Doing things properly also saves time.
The purpose of ventilation is to evacuate humidity, steam and pollution linked to the occupation of buildings, guaranteeing hygienic premises and healthy occupiers. Losses linked to air renewal can represent between 15 and 20% of a home’s total losses.
Good fitting of insulation systems (including insulation material, accessories, breather membranes, joins, etc.) is essential to guarantee perfect draught proofing.
Regardless of the application, porous insulation, such as a fibrous mat capable of trapping immobile air, for example, to absorb noise, should be preferred. This structure should be soft enough to play its role depending on the insulation required (insulating against air-borne noise, impact noise or acoustic correction) and sufficiently rigid to guarantee good mechanical behaviour of the surfaces.
The choice of insulation objectives
Insulation corresponds to the level of acoustic performance targeted to insulate premises from neighbouring premises. The better the insulation between two buildings, the better the comfort.
Acoustic insulation comprises all techniques and processes implemented to obtain the required sound insulation.
The insulating properties of construction and insulating materials are expressed by performance factors expressed in dB. These indices, measured in laboratories, characterise the ability of construction elements to reduce sounds:
For air-borne noise, acoustic absorption factor Rw, expressed in dB. The higher the Rw, the better the material’s noise reduction performance.
For knocks, shock noise efficacy factor ? Lw, expressed in dB.
In terms of acoustic correction, the absorbing power of the material is measured. Expressed in the form of a general factor ? w, it ranges between 0 (total reflection: the material is not recommended for acoustic correction) and 1 (total absorption: the material can contribute effectively to acoustic correction). The closer the factor is to 1, the better the absorption and especially the acoustic correction of the premises.
These factors are standardised to compare all materials and construction elements with a single rule. They indicate the performance of materials according to each application.
In terms of renovation, there are no set requirements. It is therefore recommended, when insulating, to comply with acoustic regulation requirements applicable for new housing.
For a successful acoustic site, it is necessary to follow 6 stages:
identify the type of noise (interior or external air-borne, impact, equipment noises) ;
identify the cause of the noise, the surfaces through which it is transmitted in order to treat them;
assess the intensity of the noise perceived (in dB), define the maximum level of noise acceptable for premises or housing and thus define the insulation input needed;
identify the nature of existing surfaces to be treated (breeze blocks or hollow bricks, concrete, cellular partitions, plaster boards, wooden or hollow flooring, etc.) ;
choose the appropriate solution and performance for the type of surface.
Thermal bridges are junctions where insulation is not continuous and causes heat loss. The main problem for fitters, thermal bridges have an impact on the loss percentage if the house is well insulated.
What is a thermal bridge?
A thermal bridge occurs when there is a gap between materials and structural surfaces. The main thermal bridges in a building are found at the junctions of facings and floors, facings and cross walls; facings and roofs, facings and low floors. They also occur each time there is a hole (doors, windows, loggias…). These are structural thermal bridges. These thermal bridges vary in importance according to the type of wall or roof (insulated or not).
In a building that is not properly insulated, thermal bridges represent low comparative losses (usually below 20%) as total losses via the walls and roof are very high (about >1W/m2K).
However, when the walls and roof are very well insulated, the percentage of loss due to thermal bridges becomes high (more than 30%) but general losses are very low (less than 0.3 W/m2K).
That is why in low energy consuming buildings, it is important to have very high thermal resistances for walls and roofs to have low heat losses via the junctions.
Integrated thermal bridges
A wall or floor almost always consists of several components pasted, screwed or mechanically assembled together. If they are not well designed, these assembly systems can produced thermal bridges within the system, hence their name of integrated thermal bridges.
How to act on thermal bridges?
At the design level, it is imperative to choose construction processes and components that reduce surface losses as much as possible and integrate the smallest possible losses in the junctions of these surfaces. Whatever insulation systems are used, there are relevant thermal, acoustic and/or fire safety solutions.
Generally speaking, in the case of individual homes, very good floor insulation is needed and, depending on the wall insulation, the floor should be covered with a floating floor or a bricked system with built-in insulation.
To avoid condensation, the appearance of humidity or mould, it is necessary to evacuate steam produced by activity within the buildings (showers, cooking, washing, drying, etc.)
Ventilation: indispensable to reduce condensation
On average, a 4-person family produces steam worth about 12l of water: under no circumstances should this steam be evacuated through the walls and roof!
Only a ventilation system adapted to the home and its occupation can reduce this interior pollution, avoid water streaming down the walls, damaging coverings and, ultimately, the building.
But a ventilation system should not dispense people from having to air their homes by opening windows when possible (if outside noise and smells, and possibility of intrusion make it possible) to completely renew the air, especially when doing housework or DIY. It is impossible to control the quantity of air by opening windows though and the renewal of air is punctual and incomplete and, in winter, calories are lost. Airing is therefore complementary to ventilation but cannot replace it.
NB: With or without a ventilation system, it is essential to open windows 8 minutes every day.
Which ventilation system?
With an extractor?
This type of ventilation is usually used for very humid rooms (e.g. bathrooms or kitchens) or even basements and cellars. The system is noisy, even though there are sound-proofed boxes that reduce noise. There is a major disadvantage: the air flow is not controlled. It only evacuates condensation or humidity and does not purify the air and does therefore not protect the building in the long term.
By natural extraction?
With a grid on the bottom and top of the wall, this system is a random ventilation that does not satisfy real needs. The air flow is not controlled, which can cause excess heating consumption in the winter and no ventilation in the summer.
This system is mainly due to the presence of a gas cooker which, for safety reasons, requires sufficient air outlets.
By joins in the walls and so-called “breathing walls?
No ventilation due to defective air tightness of walls, windows, joinery, shutters, doors, etc. can be considered to be ventilation. It causes parasite air to infiltrate which does not allow good airing and could damage the durability of the building, the operation of smoke and ventilation ducts. Under no circumstances should so-called “breathing” walls be considered as airing solutions for houses.
By mechanical ventilation?
Good airing is only possible with controlled mechanical ventilation (CMV) to create permanent airing, modulated according to use and controlled in time.
NB: There are two types of CMV: single or double flow .
Controlled mechanical ventilation (CMV) can be a simple or double flow system. It ensures optimal air renewal and comfort in the home when combined with appropriate insulation.
Why controlled mechanical insulation?
The best choice of ventilation is one that is integrated into a general comfort and savings approach. Ventilating the home properly and economically requires a compromise: renewing air necessary for well-being and health of the occupiers and evacuating excess steam. Permanent controlled mechanical ventilation is the best solution.
The air renewal rate is controlled and the home is permanently ventilated, all year round, in all the rooms. Furthermore, the operating cost of controlled mechanical ventilation is very low. It always produces heating and maintenance savings for the building.
What is a single flow or double flow CMV?
CMV extracts stale air. Clean air enters through inlets located above the windows. When the clean air is also extracted by ducts, this CMV is called a double flow system (incoming air / outgoing air).
Single flow CMV
The outside air enters through air vents located in the main rooms, crosses the air and is then rejected outdoors via service areas (bathrooms, kitchens) thanks to a ventilator block. This can be hidden in the loft.
There are two types of single flow CMV.
self-adjustable CMV guarantees constant air flow regardless of outside and inside humidity conditions.
hygro-adjustable or “smart” CMV automatically adapts the air flow to occupiers’ needs according to variations in the humidity rate.
Double flow CMV
The principle is identical to the single flow CMV. The presence of an exchanger recovers the heat from extracted air to “warm” incoming outside air. This technique helps to optimise air renewal and save energy.
With this configuration, effective insulation, air tight walls, optimised ventilation produce comfort, energy savings and reduced CO2 emissions.
How to choose?
Double flow CMV is more complex to install and requires more complicated maintenance. It is also more expensive.
Double flow CMV is particularly recommended if it is not possible to open windows owing to noise, olfactory pollution or possibilities of intrusion.
Is a vapour barrier necessary?
The vapour barrier prevents steam from crossing and stagnating in the walls of the house. Factor Sd is the reference indicator for vapour barriers. The higher the Sd factor, the less steam is let through.
A sheet or membrane that is steam-tight. Vapour barriers prevent steam from crossing or stagnating in the walls. They are therefore placed facing inwards, on the warm side, in front of the insulation.
When is a vapour barrier necessary?
Whatever ventilation and wall processing system is used, it is necessary to make sure that the steam does not enter the walls.
In over 90% of cases, good ventilation, combined with thermal continuity and air tightness, is enough to avoid condensation but, in all other cases as in professional kitchens, swimming pools, ice rinks, mountain constructions, etc. where the interior temperature and humidity vary greatly from the outside and for wood frame or mobile houses, when is necessary to stop humidity from damaging the wood, completely vapour-proofed walls are needed. For that, vapour barriers are placed on the warm side of the wall (in front of the insulation).
How to choose a vapour barrier?
Vapour barriers are characterised by their ability to resist steam diffusion. The Sd factor, expressed in metres, represents the resistance of a vapour barrier in comparison with the resistance produced by the equivalent thickness of an air layer.
The higher the Sd value, the less steam is let through by the product. It is more or less resistant to the diffusion of steam.
The lower the Sd factor, the more steam is let through by the product. It is permeable to its diffusion.
NB: When it is necessary to set up a vapour barrier, it should be independent, placed on the wall surface and perfectly joined. There should be no holes at all. If the vapour barrier is perforated, it is necessary to do a join around the perforation. Any perforations could cause a concentrated steam leak which could develop pathologies.
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