Report by Liz white, editor
Building codes in the US are becoming increasingly stringent, particularly in terms of energy conservation, and this is a major factor driving up demand for all types of insulation, including rigid polyurethane foam.
Spray PU foam (SPF) technology, which has been around for perhaps 20 years, is now achieving widespread use, said Monica Karamagi, insulation marketing manager for Huntsman in the Americas.
She believes this uptake results from a combination of factors.
One is the change in building codes: “these are a strong driver,” and are “going to become even more stringent in 2012,” Karamagi said.
As Frost & Sullivan analyst Ashwini Ravishankar puts it, enforcement of energy efficiency codes in residential and commercial construction is playing “a key role in the adoption of higher R-value insulation materials.” (R-value is a unit of thermal resistance measured in the US in ft2.F.h/Btu)).
Overall, increased enforcement of more stringent building codes is likely: “as a result of rigid polyoiso (isocyanaurate, PIR) and SPF are expected to post high growth rates in the future,” Ravishankar added.
A simple advantage for polyurethane is that it offers more R-value compared to other insulation products. As R-value requirements increase, insulation needs to be thicker to meet the demands, and space becomes a concern. “With PU you get the most insulation in the narrowest distance,” Karamagi explained.
The current drive to improve building insulation offers “one of the best banks for the book in terms of saving on carbon [emissions] and energy consumption,” agreed Michael Fischer of Kellen Co, the code regulatory consultant for the Center for the Polyurethanes Industry (CPI) and the Polyisocyanurate Manufacturers’ Association. “So it is actually a huge opportunity,” for polyurethane insulation, he added.
Karamagi said the cost of utilities is another driver: high energy costs produce greater awareness of what’s driving energy usage in the building.
Also there is, “greater understanding of the building science and the role of better or well-insulate building envelopes,” Karamagi said. In general, society is increasingly aware of energy efficiency, and consumers have, “more desire to be green and efficient in resources,” she added.
Fischer also noted the benefits of PU foam in terms of our value per inch.
And he said, “As developers, builders and specifiers look for ways of providing structures that meet these new requirements, one of these considerations is going to be not just how they meet energy codes, but all other codes.” Wind resistance is important, he said, for example, in areas around the Gulf such as Florida, which experience hurricanes: “so there’s been a lot of work, with the foam sheathing coalition, PIMA and CPI supporting it,” Fischer said.
Karamagi and Fisher spoke to UTI 11th of October at the conference of the centre for the polyurethane industry held with the Utech 2010 event in Houston, Texas.
Airtightness becomes mandatory
US codes for energy efficiency in construction address both new building and remodelling, and developed by the IECC (International Energy Conservation Council) and the ICC (International Code Council), Fischer said.
Karamagi said codes are now starting to call for airtightness, a measure which “will particularly make spray PU a preferred product,” she said
With other insulation materials, and building would have to be wrapped with some kind of barrier to pass the airtightness test, the Huntsman insulation expert noted.
Airtightness is especially being mandated in the military, Karamagi said, where the new standard of the US Army Corps of Engineers requires 0.25 ft.³/min/ft² of airtightness. That is a much more stringent standard than for commercial buildings, which are typically 3 to 4 times as leaky, the Huntsman expert added. “So those kind of codes will stir things in the favour of PU,” she said.
F&S analyst Deepan Kannan also mentioned the mandate for air barriers in commercial buildings, noting that this favours these of SPF insulation, as it is a better and barrier.
On the commercial construction side, Karamagi said that ASHRAE 90.1 will for the first time require complete continuous insulation on the exterior of all commercial buildings.(ASHRAE is the American Society For Heating Refrigeration And Air-Conditioning Engineers, while 90.1 is the 2010 version of that standard).
Continuous insulation is used to mitigate the thermal shortening effect in steel-stud buildings.” When you insulate cavity, you still have a conduit for heat loss for each and every stud,” she said.
It is now mandatory that insulation is fitted outside. “That will lead to a huge expansion. They are estimating a tripling of the market between now and 2020,” she added.
On the commercial side, this is a huge development, Karamagi said. The 2007 version, “only had that requirement in the colder climate zones,” but now it is nationwide.
The codes are mandatory, Karamagi said.
“What happens is that the International Building Code (IBC) will reference ASHRAE 90.1.”
IBCs are the required standards for all commercial buildings in the US, she added. But states have different levels of code adoption, with some – California, Georgia – using strict specifications Ravishankar commented.
Ravishankar also noted in written answers for UTI that future IECC: codes aim at increasing energy savings of 30% over the 2006 version.
Karamagi also noted this change, saying that, on the residential side, the 30% boost in energy savings requires better insulation and better windows.
Fischer said that the US Department of energy is “the driving force” pushing for this 30% improvement in building energy efficiency he also noted that the CPI is a participant in the energy-efficient codes coalition which promotes better technology and energy-saving (EECC’s web 30persolution.org)
“This coalition is driving some of the solutions on the structural side that will facilitate the use of PU foams in walls and construction,” Fisher added
Karamagi commented that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 as specific requirements for states to adopt the most current codes, before they could accept ARRA cash. “That is starting to come into effect now,” she said.
“So that means legislation is lifting up insulation, usage” she said.
Fischer also noted this roots energy efficiency: the 30% saving will come in because the federal government has tied certain funding to it being achieved, “so the carrot is there, the financial incentive,” he said.
Also, the Home Star Bill will give credits for home retrofits of $4000, Karamagi added.
That will also increase insulation usage, because owners will have an incentive to upgrade their homes, Karamagi said, adding that potentially over 60 million US homes are not properly insulated and could be improved.
Since only about half-a-million homes are being built in the US a year now, compared to the 1.2 million homes built in the heyday of domestic construction, “you really need to get focus on under insulate homes,” to gain energy benefits, Karamagi stressed.
Fisher added that a number of local state and federal purchasers, building developers and agencies have signed up to a sustainable construction through LEED programs.
One of the cornerstones of sustainable buildings is energy efficiency performance, he added, noting that many of these programs such as energy Star, are above code.
Karamagi said that general feeling in the US construction industry is that recovery will happen in 2011. “As far as commercial construction goes, it is down this year. It lagged residential construction but in the end it did turn. The hope is that in early 2011, residential comes back and commercial will like that slightly,” she commented.
In this context, F&S noted that, “the downturn in the construction industry had a great impact on the market, being too significant year-on-year decline in unit shipment of insulation.” F & S’s data shows the North American market for energy efficiency building materials as at around 7812 million lb (3543 kT) in 2009, a 30% drop from 2006.
Anecdotal reports say spray foam continues to grow in a recession, Karamagi said: “we are still hearing that growth is in high single digits.” And “given the changes in the code and the better understanding of the building standards, once construction returns, SPF is in a very healthy place. Growth,” she said.
CPI data showed US use of SPF at 190 KT in 2008, while a 2009 report from Principia Consulting said 2008 US demand was at 163 KT, valued at $680 million.
F & S’s Kanaan also commented on the rising popularity of SPF, which he said is due to its high R-value and several benefits over other insulating materials.
Kannan said SPF’s increase penetration in roofing, and propose building code amendments are expected to mean the material achieves high growth than other insulation materials, with a CAGR over 7.1% by volume in 2009 to 2016.
30% target closer
A milestone at the ICC code talks in Baltimore, Maryland, in November 2010 means that the US Department of environment is close to its goal of a 2012 IECC that is 30% more stringent than the 2006 IECC. Only one round of public comment and the capital final capital actions capital hearings remain.
The residential buildings, proposal EC 13 contains energy-efficiency improvements that, together with advances in the 2009 IECC: achieve most of the 30% goal said and IECC statement.
EC 13 requires pressure testing to make sure homes I sealed, and includes new provisions to reduce energy/water wasted in piping. It also wants increased our values in many thermal-envelope assemblies, more efficient windows/skylights, and cuts in duct-leakage rates.
The commercial buildings the equivalent code proposal, EC147, has call-roof requirement for buildings in this southern tier of the US, using solar-reflective materials. And it offers three pastor increasing efficiency: more efficient HVAC; more efficient lighting; or use of renewable energy.
Energy efficiency in ARRA
Ravi Shankar said the ARRA act has been important in various energy efficiency programs:
- Incentives/funds for residential insulation.
- Some $20,000 million for rebates for improvements, to aid low-income families, etc.
- Obama’s better buildings initiative aims for a 20% rise in energy efficiency in commercial buildings.
- Home Star for residential energy efficiency, with dollars 6 billion in rebates for appliances and insulation.
- $3.2 billion in the energy efficiency & conservation block grants to program for energy efficiency conservation, to local government/states.
- Tax credits of 30% of the cost up to $1500 for insulation, energy-efficient windows, HVAC.
- all Energy-Star-certified products get tax credits.
- DOE’s weatherisation assistance programme aims insulate the homes of low-income families.
SPF more mainstream
Custom homebuilder Frankel building group in Houston elected to have all the 58 homes in a recent building project insulated with spray polyurethane foam. “That’s pretty rare and pretty bold,” said Karamagi, insulation marketing manager for Huntsman in the Americas.
The group will a 2010 award from the greater Houston builders Association for the project, at ParkGate reserve, a development in Shenandoah just north of Houston, Texas.
According to Scott Frankel, vice president, Frankel building group, “we wanted to go with an insulant that provided a tight envelope around the building… SPF delivers an effective, tight thermal and air barrier around the exterior of a home or commercial structure.”
Karamagi sees the project as important because it indicates that “spray foam is really becoming more mainstream now, it’s no longer in niche type of insulation product. Once we have builders accepting it that means the product is really marketable.”
She also commented that SPF supplier, CertainTeed was once associated only with fibreglass, but “is now a more general insulation provider, looking for solutions for the building envelope,” spray PU foam being one. Huntsman supplies open-sells spray-foam technology to CertainTeed.
“CertainTeed’s CertaSpray SPF complements our existing line of insulation products for the building market. Because SPF helps eliminate air infiltration, it adds comfort, energy savings and a healthy indoor environment to the residential and commercial buildings where it is used, said Lionel Rossignol, product manager, CertainTeed Insulation.
Karamagi feels there’s been a “sort of turn in the industry… Spray foam has now been accepted and we really think that going forward is going to be a permanent part of the scene,” with increasing use in the building envelope.
Additives for insulation
In terms of megatrends in rigid foam, “energy efficiency is everywhere” said Bruce Smoyer, global technology leader for rigid urethane with Momentive performance materials.
“Rigid PU foam is a wonderful insulator,” he said, noting that whether because of legislation all the need to reduce dependence on petroleum, there is a rising demand for better energy efficiency in appliances and homes.
Somyer’s colleague Tony Lanchak, global business director for urethanes additives, also noted that China’s government has a target of rising energy efficiency of new buildings by 80% over the next five years, with PU often only the material that will allow this to be achieved.
Momentive offers silicone additives to help rigid foamers, for example, to get foam with 2-3% better density distribution. It is not the type to give good compatibility with natural oil polyols (NOPs), allowing foamers to use 20-30% NOP with no loss of properties, said Smoyer, discussing Momentive’s additives for rigid foam at the CPI/UTECH event in Houston Texas, 11 October.
In rigid foam, as blowing agent (BA’s) move from hydrofluorocarbons (HFC’s) two hydrocarbons (HCs), Lanchak said that users want better combinability, solubility and miscibility with improved fire properties to cook voids in foam.
In appliances, “it’s all about blowing agents,” and this is truly global, Smoyer said. For HFC 245FA, Momentive offers Nyack’s L6952, developed to give a high water level, and cut the expense of the BA. This gives a lower K factor (higher R-factor), better flow and low voids, he added.
For HCs, Momentive offers: L6887 for compatibility; L6988 for the lowest K factor; and L6990 for high loading of aromatic polyester polyols (APPs) on the resin side. The latter is valuable for uses such as water heaters, Smoyer explained where, “as you load the formulation with PPP, you start to lose compatibility.”
For these lower-density foams, “the problem… Is resin compatibility and shelf-life stability – they’ve really struggled with this, and L6165 in is formulations has solve these issues, Smoyer said.
In North America: “spray foam for cavity wall filling is seeing very high percentage growth,” noted Smoyer, and additives for SPF are again aimed at compatibility and shelf-life stability.
“People getting into the business have compatibility issues as they tweak these low-density water-blown spray foams for optimum performance. But this we’ve developed 6189 which overcomes those deficiencies,” he said.
SPF suppliers also won plenty of latitude in production and the products possible with it: Momentive’s L5151 is aimed at allowing the use of many different types of polyester polyols, he noted.
For Flexible faced rigid foam boardstock, Smoyer said, “the keyword is versatility.” Momentive has silicones were buoyed reduction in the rigid faced lamination where voids caused problems as the temperature changes, so eliminating them is crucial to keeping up energy efficiency, he said.
PU insulation can be laminated wood metals or polymer films, and better foam edition is needed, he added. Momentive gave a paper at the CPI conference on this, looking at one additive designed for high-water-level PIR foam, and another for all-water-blown EU, he said.
Insulation set to grow again
F&S sees the market for energy efficiency materials as “set to recover and post a positive growth rate from the last quarter of 2011,” with annual growth of 1.8% from 2009-2016.
F&S thinks fibreglass insulation will post the lowest growth, and face strong competition with the other high value materials in the coming years. Increased demand for spray PU foam in rigid PIR is expected to result in high growth rates, boosted by continuous amendments to building codes which will favour materials with higher values.
PIR and SPF have 10 and 3% by volume respectively, in North America’s insulation market, according to F & S. Kannan expects PIR to post significantly high growth in other materials, propelled by the need for high value materials in both commercial and residential uses.
High cost may limit PIR’s move into residential use, which are dominated by fibreglass, said Kannan. F&S expects the overall growth (CAGR) of PIR 2009-2016 to be around 4.2%.
Currently, SPF is used widely in commercial roofing, and is used for retrofitting since it can be sprayed over existing roofing, the F&S analyst said.
In housing, SPF is predominantly used in attics and crawl spaces. However, prospects in residential roofing are good due to SPF’s advantages such as high are value. It’s used in domestic interior wall insulation is set to acquire significant market share from fibreglass in the coming years, Kannan said.
The event of 0.5 lb density foam is aiding SPF’s growth in commercial and residential uses he said.
Bullet Frost & Sullivan runs report on “materials for energy efficient buildings in North America”, costs $6000. See www.frost.com for more information.
Insulation set to grow again
According to Frost and Sullivan’s Ashwini Ravishankar, the 2009 IECC: code lays down tighter demand on the thermal insulation including:
- Walls (R-20 in 2009 in climate zones five and six).
- Floor (R-3018 2009 and climate zones seven and eight.)
- Basement wall insulation (R-15/19 in 2009 in climate zones 6 to 8, R-5/13 for other zones (the higher the number the colder the zone)).
- Increase insulation mechanical system pipes (R – three in 2009).
- Increase requirements for insulation in high rise residential and commercial buildings.