With the carbon agenda increasingly affecting contractors, opportunities for construction firms to try out new materials which could help them deliver better value and sustainability are very precious.
Wates Living Spaces’ work on BRE test Victorian terrace project has been a useful learning experience for the contractor, as it has picked up vital information on which insulation projects work and which are less successful. The result is the firm is now better placed than ever before to make smart decisions about specifying insulation.
Many of the insulation technologies that the contractor has used on the project have either never been used on the market before or are very new. One such product the firm has had some success with is a new form of ceiling insulation from BASF, a phase-change ‘smart’ form of insulation that either retains or releases heat depending on the ambient temperature.
Phase change material
The material, Racus, is poured as a cold wet compound behind ordinary metal suspended ceiling tiles. Wates Living Space construction manager Ian McMeeken says: “It sets within 24 hours and it’s a completely passive from of temperature control,” he says. “It will absorb up to 5 deg C of heat from a room if the ambient temperature is above 22 deg C, or emit stored heat back into the room if the ambient temperature is lower.”
Using this material has created significant cost saving. Mr McMeekan says that cooling requires four times more energy than heating and using this form of insulation could greatly reduce the amount of mechanical ventilation required in the building.
However, not all the materials the contractor has tried have been as successful. The firm has also been trialling Aerogel, which been used by NASA for protecting its astronauts. However, Mr McMeekan reports the material is hard to cut and produces a lot of dust. However, specifying the material has proved valuable, as it has provided the firm with the experience to know that selecting an alternative would probably be a better option.