Insulating Your Home With Less Embodied Carbon!

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In this post, we look at a building material that integrates top-notch thermal performance with a low embodied carbon content: the Graphite Polystyrene (GPS) foam core in Halo products. This comes without added costs and the performance remains the same or better than extruded polystyrene (XPS).

Embodied Carbon

Embodied carbon is discharged during production, shipment and installation of building products.

As green building practices catch on across the globe, Environmental Product Declarations (EPD’s) have emerged as a way for builders to assess the embodied carbon levels of different building products.

Unfortunately, the data in these documents was initially presented inconsistently which made product-to-product comparisons difficult.

Luckily, a new tool was made to fill the void. The Embodied Carbon in Construction Calculator (EC3) tracks the carbon emissions that stem from producing, shipping, and installing building components, and lets us gauge this data with more precision.  

It turns out, according to EPD’s found on the EC3, GPS insulation has a tiny fraction of the embodied carbon than an XPS peer of similar performance. 

In fact, the EPD’s tells us that Halo’s Neopor GPS foam core has 42X less embodied carbon than the referenced leading XPS insulation product! 

 

Wonder how this could be possible? The high carbon content of XPS comes from the blowing agents used in its production: HFC-134a and HFC-142b. These gasses are 1,420 and 2,310 times more harmful to the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, respectively. 

The blowing agent used in GPS production? Air.

 

Operational Carbon

Operational carbon emits as fossil fuels burn to heat and cool homes and buildings.

The less our homes rely on space conditioning to maintain their climate, the lower their operational carbon emissions. To gain this passive control over heating and cooling, buildings need insulation with high, stable R-values. 

Thanks to their graphite content, Halo’s insulation products offer 18% higher R-values than regular expanded polystyrene (EPS). The difference comes from graphite’s capacity to trap and reflect heat, which EPS lacks on its own.

Compared to the thermal resistance of extruded polystyrene (XPS), GPS fairs about the same; except its R-value last longer.

With their high R-values, Halo’s panels curb heat movement and reduce strain on heating and cooling systems. In addition to leaving a lower carbon footprint, GPS-insulated homes also keep their owners’ energy bills low.

 

Why Builders Should Choose Products (like Halo’s GPS) With Lower Embodied Carbon. 

Material choice can make a BIG impact.

Say you’re building a 1,600 ft² ranch bungalow with 9-foot ceilings on the main floor. Assuming your buyers are in a cold climate and natural gas is their fuel source, about 8,190 pounds of CO2 would be released each year as they heat and cool their home. 

By simply choosing a GPS-based product like R10 Halo Subterra instead of the referenced XPS to insulate the 1,600 ft² basement slab, you’ll save about 60,800 pounds in embodied carbon.

And, if you similarly choose to insulate the main floor walls with continuous rigid R-5 insulation like Halo’s Exterra instead of the referenced XPS product, you will see an additional savings of 27,300 pounds of embodied carbon.

(These embodied carbon values are related to the foam cores only and are exclusive of any laminate coatings on the respective foam cores.) 

Together, that’s about 88,000 pounds of CO2 saved – as much as 10.8 years of the home’s entire operating carbon output for heating and cooling. 

Wrapping it up

You have every right to worry about the added costs of building green.  Halo’s GPS foam core offers a low embodied carbon footprint, provides top, long-lasting R-values, and is often less expensive than its XPS peers. So, why not embrace a fairly-priced, green product of superior performance?

 

Sources

https://buildwithhalo.com/product-performance-series/graphite-polystyrene-gps-the-highest-r-value-without-the-risk-of-deterioration/

https://buildwithhalo.com/product-performance-series/gps-vs-xps-air-vapor-permanence/

https://www.statista.com/topics/1169/green-buildings-in-the-us/

https://www.buildingtransparency.org/en/

https://buildwithhalo.com/halo-subterra/

https://buildwithhalo.com/halo-exterra/

About the author:
Andy Lennox
President, Logix Brands Ltd.