Polyurethane insulation can help to create more energy efficient buildings, says the Australian Modern Building Alliance (AMBA).

As the building and construction industry increases its focus on sustainable design, the Australian Modern Building Alliance is encouraging the sector to consider polymer-based insulation in the design of new houses and buildings.

According to AMBA, an interest group of companies established to represent the use of polymers in the Australian construction industry, polyurethane insulation can be used to make new and existing buildings more energy efficient.

“Polymers are engineered synthetic materials derived from chemical, bio or recycled feedstocks which form the basis of many building materials, such as foams, paints, sealants, rubbers and plastics,” says Craig Lovel, chair of the AMBA.

“These materials cover a range of products and applications for both interiors and exteriors, including insulation, as well as piping, flooring, wiring, window installation, solar modules, ventilation systems, awnings, painting, tiling and landscaping,” he says.

Dr Lovel says while polyurethane insulation products are used widely in Europe and North America, they are currently used in a comparatively small proportion of Australian building insulation.

“Polyurethane insulation materials are the most efficient and effective form of insulation available, and provide huge energy savings compared to other products,” Lovel says.

“According to Plastics Europe, these insulation products can save more than 200 times the energy used in their production. This ‘embodied energy’ is far less compared to other forms of insulation material on an in-service basis.”

“Polyurethane insulation products are lightweight, weather-resistant and durable; they can last for 50 years or longer without any degradation provided they’re designed and installed properly.”

“This durability and energy efficiency helps to promote a more circular economy, in which we reduce the amount of materials used in a building or renovation, prolong the products’ use and eventually, recycle or reuse them,” he says.

Polyurethane insulation can also have a big impact on energy bills. Data from the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources reveals that buildings account for 19 percent of total energy used and 18 percent of total direct greenhouse gas emissions in Australia.

“We know that buildings consume high volumes of energy, which unfortunately equates to large volumes of greenhouse gas emissions,” Lovel says.

“If we could cut that by half, it would be a huge saving for the environment, and polyurethane insulation materials can help to play an important role in moderating and reducing this consumption.”

“We really need to change the way we build in Australia and designing more energy efficient buildings should be part of the road map to a low-carbon future.”

“The National Construction Code (NCC) is critical in this and we urge the Australian Building Codes Board to consider changes in the NCC 2022 to address the installation of insulation and help to achieve an airtight, energy efficient building envelope,” he says.

Image: Polyisocyanurate insulation board Huntsman International LLC.