Following John Manville
's switch to a non-formaldehyde acrylic binder in 2002 and Knauf
's 2009 introduction of its EcoBatt fiberglass insulation made with biobased binder instead of phenol formaldehyde, CertainTeed has introduced its own answer to the green fiberglass insulation trend.
The company began shipping Sustainable Insulation? on a limited basis in California and western Canada at the beginning of March this year and will expand the distribution over time. It is made at CertainTeed's Chowchilla plant in California and Redcliff plant in Alberta.
The fiberglass has 35% recycled glass content in the U.S. and 65-70% in Canada, according to Robert Brockman, CertainTeed's marketing manager for residential and commercial insulation products. Recycled glass cullet, mostly from post-consumer recycled beverage containers, is more available and of a higher quality in Canada, notes Brockman, accounting for the difference.
The most notable feature of this insulation is the new plant-based binder used to hold the glass fibers together. While Brockman couldn't divulge what plant the binder is derived from or the chemical nature of the proprietary binder, he told me that it is similar to a sugar chemically, but that through chemical modification the binder is not prone to decomposition by microorganisms. "In its final form, it's no longer a food source," he told me, and should be just as durable as the phenol formaldehyde used in conventional fiberglass insulation. The binder contains no formaldehyde or acrylic.
The insulation is also free of dyes or pigments. While CertainTeed's standard fiberglass is a uniform yellow (and Owens Corning's fiberglass is famously pink), Sustainable Insulation is a mottled tan color. Brockman says the company is very proud of how uniform the appearance is, which is evidence of consistent quality.
I was surprised to read in CertainTeed's literature reference to significant rapidly renewable content: "CertainTeed Sustainable Insulation is made of fiber glass which consists of 50% rapidly renewable content..." When I asked Brockman about that, he responded that silica sand is considered rapidly renewable, since sand is constantly produced globally through erosion and other geologic forces.
This claim is based on a report on the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association
(NAIMA) website: "Using Recycled Materials Is Just the First Step Toward Safeguarding the Environment,"
which states the following:
"Sand is a 'rapidly renewable resource,' one that will always be in plentiful supply. Thus, the use of sand as a raw material does not impose any impact on a non-renewable natural resource."
The 50% rapidly renewable number comes from the sand content and the plant-based binder. I don't buy the argument about sand being a "rapidly renewable" resource, but I concur that it is a plentiful resource that can be considered green. The binder is rapidly renewable, but the overall percentage very low. The same NAIMA report says that a typical pound of fiberglass insulation "saves 12 times as much energy in its first year in place as the energy used to produce it."
Within the local area where Sustainable Insulation is made, the price should be about the same as CertainTeed's standard yellow insulation, though there might initially be a slight upcharge. When it's shipped beyond that region, there will be a more significant price premium, says Brockman, to cover shipping costs. Eventually, the plan is to have it available throughout North America--gradually rolling out west-to-east as other CertainTeed plants gain the capability to produce it.
When I asked if the intent is to eventually shift all CertainTeed fiberglass to the Sustainable Insulation product, Brockman was noncommittal. "I don't think we have a wholesale answer yet," he told me. "We'll have to see what the demand and market says about it."
On the broader level, says Brockman, Sustainable Insulation is just one example of CertainTeed's (and parent company Saint-Gobain's) commitment to sustainability. "For years we've been working on all kinds of ways to increase our sustainability," he told me. For two years in a row, CertainTeed has been an Energy Star
Partner of the Year. The company sees greener products a win-win proposition. "We're walking the talk," says Brockman.
For more information:
Valey Forge, Pennsylvania
I invite you to share comments on this blog. Is the building industry ready to leave behind uniform yellow or pink insulation for a more environmentally responsible product?
Alex Wilson is the executive editor of Environmental Building News
and founder of BuildingGreen, LLC. To keep up with his latest articles and musings, you can sign up for his Twitter feeds
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