Constructive saving: Ceresana analyses the European market for insulation materials

Innovative materials for the air conditioning of buildings are in high demand: People are spending more and more time in closed rooms, while the demands on building materials in terms of sustainability are growing.
KONSTANZ, Germany - March 25, 2021 - PRLog -- Walls and rooftops are becoming more and more intelligent, not only thanks to built-in electronics. A group of German Fraunhofer Institutes is working on programmable insulating materials made of shape memory polymers: high-tech foams are designed to change their shape depending on the temperature, i.e. to independently adapt the size and air permeability of their flow channels. Ceresana is now publishing its fourth comprehensive study on the European market for insulation materials used in the construction industry. A total of 233.2 million cubic meters were used for thermal and sound insulation in Europe in 2019, mainly mineral wool (glass and stone wool), polystyrene (EPS and XPS) and polyurethane (PUR / PIR).

Insulation Materials Save Energy

Well-insulated walls reduce the energy that is required to heat or cool buildings and thus not only costs but also carbon dioxide emissions. The manufacturers and distributors of insulation materials therefore benefit from regulations and subsidy programs that have been introduced in many countries in order to improve energy efficiency. The EU's environmental and climate protection regulations, however, are implemented with varying degrees of enthusiasm throughout Europe. The most important factor that generally determines the dynamics of the market for insulation materials is the development of the construction industry. The types of insulation materials that are used also vary greatly from region to region. Bio-based insulation materials made from renewable raw materials, such as flax, hemp, wood fibers, or sheep's wool felt, are still of little economic importance throughout Europe, although they could further improve the energy balance of buildings.

Extruded versus Expanded Polystyrene

Insulating materials made of the foamed plastic polystyrene are widely used. Expanded polystyrene (EPS) was introduced in 1952 under the trade name "Styropor" and has been marketed in Europe as "airpop" since 2014. Extruded polystyrene (XPS), which is not only foamed but also passes through an extruder, i.e. melted at high temperatures and highly compressed under high pressure, represents an alternative. While the relatively large-pored EPS rigid foam is permeable to air and water vapor, fine-pored XPS rigid foam has a denser, more closed surface and hardly absorbs any water. The advantages of XPS, which was originally developed for floating and buoyancy products, are not only its insensitivity to moisture but also its high mechanical strength and pressure resistance. A disadvantage of XPS is the high energy consumption in the production of boards, which leads to a comparatively high price.

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Martin Ebner
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