A Substance That Liquid Can Flow Through Is Called The Importance of Foam Insulation in Commercial Construction

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The Importance of Foam Insulation in Commercial Construction

It used to be that building “insulation” conjures up images of rolls of fiberglass batting material in pink or white/yellow. Since the late 1930s, long strips of fiberglass batting have been cut to fit the wall studs and sandwiched between the exterior wall and sheetrock interior.

Fiberglass provided far superior (and safer) building insulation than what had been used in construction for centuries. But this is not without significant health risks from inhaling the tiny fiberglass particles that can be released from the batting during handling. A protective mask, gloves, goggles, and clothing were standard safety equipment when installing fiberglass insulation.

And despite its insulating effectiveness, fiberglass doesn’t really provide a good vapor and air barrier if it’s not installed properly.

Many of today’s commercial construction projects are being insulated with foam products that provide greater insulation and other intrusion resistance than fiberglass batting. Let’s learn some history and uses of foam insulation.

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Spray foam insulation is a polyurethane product that was developed in 1937 by a German industrial chemist, Otto Bayer. It was brought to the United States where it was used in military and aviation projects in the mid-1940s.

After the war, the auto industry began using polyurethane polymers in car bodies, and the housing industry began using them on a limited basis to insulate homes. By the 1970s, technology had improved the use and affordability of spray insulation for use in the construction industry.

Today’s spray foam insulation products offer greater energy efficiency and are increasingly receiving improved “green ratings.” This insulation is used in many housing and commercial construction projects around the world.

R-value ratings, open cell and closed cell foam insulation

Insulation has an R-value rating, “measure of resistance to heat flow through a given thickness.” Generally, the higher the R-value, the higher the resistance to heat flow. Spray foam insulation has a higher R-value rating than fiberglass insulation.

Modern spray insulation used in construction is usually one of two types: “open cell” or “closed cell” foam.

  • Open cell foam consists of small foam cells that are not completely closed. Air fills the “open” space inside the material. Open cell foam has an R-value of 3.4 to 4.5 per inch.

Open cell insulation is a very effective sound barrier (almost double the sound resistance of closed cell foam).

  • Closed cell foam consists of completely closed cells that are densely packed and filled with gas, which enables the foam to grow and expand. Closed cell foam has an R-value of 5.4 to 7.2 per inch.

Closed cell provides excellent insulation and due to its high cellular density it provides structural reinforcement to insulated surfaces.

Advantages of spray insulation

This insulation offers several unique advantages when used in commercial and residential construction:

  • The fact that this insulation has no food value means that the foam has no food interest for destructive insects and rodents.

  • Bacteria and fungi cannot grow on spray foam insulation because it is an inert material.

  • Applied in liquid form, spray foam insulation expands across all spaces and creates a “continuous thermal envelope” that effectively seals leaks and gaps and prevents insects and vermin from entering.

  • Spray foam insulation adheres to any clean and dry surface, will not shrink, settle or disintegrate.

Value in commercial construction

Spray foam insulation is more expensive to install than traditional fiberglass insulation. However, spray foam offers significant sound and weather insulation benefits for almost any imaginable construction application.

Its initial cost will be offset by its durability (80+ years), ability to fill even the smallest areas that fiberglass cannot reach, and reduced energy costs by providing high energy efficiency.

With the increasing focus on energy efficiency, spray foam insulation is likely to continue to be used in the housing and commercial construction industries.

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