Energy-saving and green insulations: simple solutions that matter


While the UAE government has been preparing for the 71% increase in primary energy demand by 2019 and for the US $2.2 trillion cost it is expected to incur as a result, energy saving has become a great priority in the region not only cost-wise but also for the sake of our environment.


Currently, each of the emirate’s residents consume 41kW (Kilowatts) electricity on average per year, with much of this usage coming from buildings where 70% of electricity consumption goes to air conditioning. Regional marketing director for BASF Construction Chemicals Middle East, Africa and Central Asia Paul Lowndes says: “With commercial buildings contributing to about 40% of the global greenhouse gas emissions, increasing the energy efficiency of buildings plays a decisive role in terms of combating global warming and climate change.”


Architect and sustainability consultant Karim Elgendy agrees: “For the last few decades, rapid urbanization in the UAE, as well as in other GCC member states, has been characterized by forms of imported western architecture which were not environmentally responsive to the region’s climatic conditions.These unsustainable designs of residential and commercial buildings, besides being big consumers of energy and water, are massive contributors to GHG emissions.”



“In an attempt to reverse this trend, the Government of Abu Dhabi has been developing a set of measures to deal with these issues, including the launch of the Estidama division and the

green building Pearl Rating System.” explains Elgendy.


In Dubai, the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority issued the second phase of its Green Building Regulations in April 2010, aimed at reducing energy demands of new buildings by up to 40%. One way to reduce this number argues Elgendy is by improving the building envelope’s efficiency in order to reduce the need to condition its spaces (cooling, heating, and ventilating). As such, effective thermal insulation is no longer an option today; it is a must.


There are five questions to ask when picking an environmentally responsible insulation option:

Does the insulating material convincingly combine economy

and ecology?

Does it have a positive energy and emissions balance sheet?

Is it service life above average?

Do its insulating properties remain unchanged and can premature expensive renovations be avoided with it?

What’s the products impact on the environment during manufacture

and after?


BGreen presents three eco-friendly options that meet all these criteria and then some.


Option 1: Exterior insulation: BASF Exterior Insulation and Finish Systems


Exterior insulation offers many benefits. Internal comfort levels are improved year round, the cost of heating and cooling can be reduced on average by 30 to 55% and condensation on the walls and ceilings is virtually eliminated.


BASF’s Lowndes notes: “The insulation of buildings is widely seen as the most effective way to improve the energy efficiency of a structure. The external location of BASF Exterior Insulation and Finish Systems (EIFS) puts the insulation in the best place – as far toward the outside where the temperature fluctuates as possible. It can also cover the structure completely without any thermal breaks. This allows the wall structure to act like a cold/heat sink reducing the energy needed to maintain a constant indoor temperature.”


BASF EIFS are well suited for retrofit as well as new construction and have extensive design flexibility. These multi-layered insulating and protective finish systems for exterior walls come in a selection of shapes, colours and textures that can replicate almost any architectural style or finish material, or stand by itself as an architectural feature.


Option 2: PP insulation: Royal City Contracting Insulated Concrete Form


Royal City Contracting L.L.C (RCC) management has an air tight form of construction which it says can cut energy use expenditure in half and save up to 70% of electricity usage. This monolithic system called Insulated Concrete Form (ICF) made of polystyrene and Poly Propylene (PP) is set to tackle recent statistics which confirmed Abu Dhabi is one of the cities with the highest level of electricity usage in the world.


This ICF system which fits together to create what is called an “Eco Green Block” and is then built in a type of Lego system is an ideal solution to drastically decrease energy use. Indeed, RCC Dubai has used the system for four years and Nisar Ahmed Siraj, business development manager is keen to highlight the difference it can make to energy usage and financial costs. He says: “You would never be able to get this kind of saving in any other system, only the ICF or Eco Green block.”


One project which RCC management successfully completed is a G plus 2 commercial building and warehouse for DAFZA Dubai Airport Free Zone Authority where instead of fixing 250 tonnes of air conditioning RCC workers fixed just 50 tonnes equalling to an approximate energy and cost saving of 80%.


Siraj adds: “As far as the DAFZA project is concerned we were very happy and our client’s management is very happy because the company is saving a lot of money on air conditioning so after a few years management will be able to save the entire cost of its construction. This is only with the help of electricity savings which has been decreased by 80%.”


As well as saving energy this process which has also been used in America, Canada, Australia and Germany decreases building dead load by 40%.


Siraj says: “Normally as far as the conventional block is concerned the insulation value is R1 or R2 only but for ICF system the R value is 22. As far as a normal construction is concerned air infiltration is there and you lose energy where as with ICF construction it is air tight. You don’t lose any of the energy once you close the doors and windows.”


This energy saving system has also earned recognition from the US Green Building Council for their LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Rating System and ICF users will also gain points through the Estidama Pearl Rating System which addresses sustainability as a core principle. The contracting company has also attracted management at the Urban Planning Council in Abu Dhabi which recently invited RCC management to discuss possible future projects.


Not satisfied with the prospect of cutting government energy spending in half and reducing their customers’ energy usage, RCC management is now making plans to build off-grid houses which means they will privately provide amenities including internet, electricity and desalination.

Siraj says: “Our target is to make off-grid houses. If my client would like to have a house on top of a hill or somewhere in the middle of the desert we can do that.


“We will be inserting the solar plant, water purification and desalination plant. It’s forthcoming we are planning for it and working on it and very soon we will be able to provide a house off-grid. We won’t be using any facilities from the government. The house’s electricity will be generated with the help of solar power, water purification and desalination plants and everything will be off-grid,” He says.


Option 3: Recycled glass insulation: Pittsburgh Corning Europe FOAMGLAS


Pittsburgh Corning Europe’s FOAMGLAS is produced with the lowest carbon footprint possible from a minimum of 66% recycling glass content (currently from automobile windscreens and waste from the window glass industry). The material is healthier for the environment and health and is foamed without CFC, HCFC or penthan.


FOAMGLAS sales director Middle East Marco Thomas Vincenz says: “We are the only thermal insulation manufacturer who can provide an EPD Environment Product Declaration according EN 14025! Not only is our FOAMGLAS produced from recycling glass, but additionally no water is used during its manufacture and renewable power is used during the entire production process.”


A very low percentage of carbon is added to FOAMGLAS during manufacturing which makes the charcoal grey color of the insulation. In the cellulating furnace the soft, viscous glass is foamed through release of carbon dioxide (CO2) and forms millions of airtight glass cells enclosing the gas. This closed cell glass structure ensures full resistance to the transmission of vapour.


Meanwhile, due to improvements in process engineering and in the energy supply, that now comes from hydro electric power and wind turbines, Pittsburgh Corning Europe has achieved significant progress in recent years regarding air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, consumption of energy and resources in the production of this insulation. The current demand for the material’s non-renewable energy is 4.24 kW/hr.


FOAMGLAS ’ environmental pollution score (UBP97) was reduced from 1619 to 743 points and its eco-indicator (EI99 H, A) dropped from 0.13 to 0.09 points. Its current environmental pollution score (UBP 2006) for production and waste disposal is 903 points /kg (insulation), putting FOAMGLAS into the pole position in eco-balance. Other insulation products show points between 2020 (stone wool) and 8490 (Extruded polystyrene).


Finally, FOAMGLAS is non-hygroscopic, non-capillary and does not absorb water. It is free of fibres, is non-carcinogenic, does not emit toxic or mutagenic gases, is inorganic and can be recycled or deposit as inert waste after usage.


Originally published on Bgreen on July 5, 2011.

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