U-VALUE CALCULATOR

Future Homes Standards With Multifoil Insulation

Importance of Energy Efficiency in UK Construction

In the UK, heating accounts for up to 40% of household energy use and 23% of the UK’s total national emissions, driving a need for greater efficiency in construction projects. Recent updates to building regulations, like Part L, also emphasise energy conservation and introduce more stringent standards for the thermal performance of buildings both old and new. In spite of this progress, the industry has yet to fully align with Net Zero targets, especially as electricity usage and carbon emissions rise. Altogether, this underscores an urgent need for the construction industry to invest in efficient solutions and promising policies designed to meaningfully reduce the carbon footprint of the UK’s building sector.

The Shift Towards Energy-Efficient Solutions

The ‘fabric first’ approach to Net Zero 2050 is gaining great momentum across the construction industry, and the primary focus is to make buildings more energy-efficient. This approach relies on efficient, eco-friendly, and low-carbon solutions to reduce the use of fossil fuels, mechanical or electrical systems, and other high embodied carbon solutions within those buildings.

Adding the Future Homes Standard into the overarching Net Zero agenda, the standard use of heat pumps, efficient solar panels, hydrogen boilers, etc., becomes essential in the shift away from fossil fuel use. But without a well insulated envelope, will the returns from solar or heat pumps be sustainable? Think of it this way: installing a heat pump to keep the property warm and then leaving the doors and windows open! 

So, to truly achieve the Future Homes Standards, you need to ensure that the fabric standards are met before any additions or modifications.

Which means, one of the main strategies in this effort to reduce the building’s operational energy requirements should be insulation; and it should subject new builds to stricter adherence to building regulations and prompt major retrofit considerations for old builds.

When complimenting efficient building design and shape with energy-efficient solutions, the building can essentially ‘balance out the operational and embodied emission impacts’. Materials like recycled steel, sustainable timber, and low-carbon concrete/cement have been widely used to achieve this, but the potential role of innovative, sustainable, and durable insulation products has often been overlooked!

The Role of Sustainable Thermal Insulation

Energy-efficient, sustainable insulation is a crucial tool in achieving reduced operational carbon emissions, improved temperature control, and better energy efficiency in any structure. After all, properly insulated buildings minimise heat loss during winters and prevent excessive heat gain in summers, reducing the demand for heating and cooling systems and thereby reducing energy use. All of this explains why thermal insulation should not be an afterthought in the construction industry but rather a key tool to be considered during the design and conception phase of any project.

SuperFOIL Insulation, as a leading supplier of Multifoil Insulation solutions in the UK, a CLC Sustainability Business Champion, and – last but not least – a first choice partner for many architects, specifiers, and installers alike, can’t emphasise enough how important an industry-wide incorporation of high-quality thermal insulation would be in both new-builds and retrofits in leading the energy conservation efforts. 

In particular, the design phase of a construction project offers an opportunity to easily integrate sustainable and energy-saving options without having to compromise the unique design and features of the build. During this stage, architects and engineers must make informed decisions to reduce the energy demand and emissions of the building. These decisions are the key to proactive actions that accelerate industry-wide decarbonisation efforts and by prioritising emission reduction strategies in every build, the construction industry can pay a huge contribution to the nation’s overall Net Zero goals.

Rethinking PIR and Mineral Wool Solutions

The thermal insulation industry has a rich history, spanning hundreds of years, and has witnessed a constant evolution of materials and products, with the growth and fall of countless insulation solutions. That cycle still holds true today, as there is only so much these “traditional” insulation solutions can do to keep up with lowering U-value requirements and stricter building codes, in part due to their heavy, bulky and thick nature. 

The UK’s U-value requirements are steadily getting lower and closer to 0, in an effort to achieve the best thermal performance possible, requiring ever thicker applications of traditional insulation to provide the necessary thermal resistance. But is that always possible; or even necessary?

The logic that ‘only thicker insulation can offer better performance,’ is a trap. After all, how thick should the insulation have to be to achieve a U-value closer to zero (0) as building codes change over time? Do you really have to just keep extending the height and depth of your build to accommodate ever thicker insulation?

If that doesn’t make sense to you, then we’re with you! We shouldn’t continue to rely exclusively on traditional insulation solutions that increase the height/depth of our build and weigh down the structure. But if you consider that the only way to improve the thermal performance of the walls is using traditional insulation solutions, it will also result in thicker walls, reductions in available floor space, and smaller rooms; meaning you will be paying more for less!

Instead, we need solutions that are innovative, efficient, and thin. However, the age-old industry logic says that thin insulation can’t provide the same thermal performance as thicker solutions, or increased insulation thickness will proportionally increase the R-value. But our years of research and development shows something different: multifoil can – and does – provide the best performance possible through thin and compactly packed layers. It doesn’t have to be thicker to be better!

As many Architects, Building Control Authorities, and Installers realise the practical advantages offered by multifoil, the industry is slowly replacing age-old habits and solutions, choosing to adopt sustainable, efficient products and practices. You can already see this shift among traditional insulation solutions as manufacturers of thicker insulation solutions shift to make and market thinner PIR boards and mineral wool insulation backed with reflective foils!

But do we have to take that long route to insulate buildings effectively, especially considering the drawbacks of traditional insulation? Why not cut out the middle-man and insulate with just multifoil insulation?

Replacing Conventional Solutions With Multifoil Insulation

In response to the growing emphasis on stricter building codes and improved U-value requirements, the industry is looking to one of the most innovative and high-performance solutions to address the challenge of meeting these new thermal requirements: Multifoil insulation.

So, let’s discuss the role that Multifoil should play, beginning with a discussion of performance. 

Performance

When examining the performance and practical benefits of multifoil insulation, it’s best to start with some of the industry’s leading Multifoil solutions, such as SuperFOIL SF19+, SuperFOIL SF40, SuperFOIL SF60, SuperFOIL 19BB (breathable insulation) and SuperFOIL SFNC (non-combustible).

Contrary to what many traditional insulation manufacturers claim about multifoil’s performance, most multifoil products use highly reflective foil properties in combination with thermally non-conductive waddings to prevent conduction, convection, and radiant heat loss. Additionally, the built-in vapour control (mostly absent in traditional insulation solutions) provides the extra benefit of protecting your overall build-up from condensation and vapour transmission issues.

Labour and Installation Efficiency

The ongoing shift towards Multifoil insulation brings dual benefits, helping both the industry and end-users of the solution. When comparing traditional materials, for instance, PIR boards often necessitate excessive cutting and fitting, leading to waste; Mineral wool is heavy, which makes it challenging to install; and the dust settling from fibreglass or PIR installations makes it difficult to maintain a clean environment. 

Multifoils avoid all of these problems, they aren’t manufactured using any hazardous or red list materials; installing multifoil insulation is relatively simple due to the lightweight, and easy design and doesn’t even require special protective gear or tools. Further, multifoil negates the need for additional breathable or vapour membranes, making the installation process twice as fast compared to traditional insulation systems while also avoiding extra costs, reducing required labour, and minimising potential errors. 

By moving towards the idea of smarter and more innovative solutions like Multifoil, the construction industry will allow its workforce to excel without the trouble of labour-intensive installation processes, exposure to troublesome materials, or requiring excessive cleaning post-installation. 

Carbon Savings and Environmental Impact

The essentials you are looking at while installing multifoil are insulation products, timber battens and right sized screws. Which means you need half the amount of wood (studs, rafter cavity) and tools for multifoil that you would need for traditional insulation materials. 

As a key player in the construction industry, less embodied carbon in the materials you choose and lesser operational energy requirements from the buildings must be a priority for you. No doubt you’re already aware that the materials you use surely add to the overall amount of embodied carbon in your build. A potential reduction agenda would be to ensure that you utilise your materials as efficiently as possible, leading to a lower amount of embodied carbon across your build. The best way to do so, however, would be by employing thin and efficient multifoil insulation, which is thin and light enough to allow a significant reduction of structural systems, studs, and timber cavities; eliminating excess material and carbon from your build-up.

Thanks to its compact roll design, being supplied in either 12sqm or 15sqm rolls, SuperFOIL also facilitates safe and efficient transport. A single pallet can accommodate 24 rolls of SuperFOIL SF19+, and an articulated truck can carry 18 pallets, minimising site space required and emissions from transport. In comparison, the equivalent amount of foam board insulation would require 6x the amount of transport, emitting nearly 3,765 kg more CO2 on a 500-mile round trip!

Additionally, it’s important to consider the durability and longevity of the insulation materials, and how they can impact a building’s lifespan. A long-lived insulation solution can reduce the need for frequent renovations given that it won’t need to be replaced as often. For instance, if you are using the premium products produced by SuperFOIL, you are getting a solution manufactured from up to 40% recycled materials, and have a lifespan of 50+ years, checking the box for environmental responsibility, durability and lasting performance. With a flexible, thin, and easy-to-install design, our Multifoil will greatly contribute to your agenda of waste reduction, efficient installation, and resource maximisation.

Cost-efficiency

SuperFOIL’s innovative design will give you more for less! By eliminating the need for extra vapour control or breather membrane products, bulky insulation, and unnecessary supporting structures, you can reduce your overall project costs significantly. Plus, the cost savings from using Multifoil are not just material; you could save in shipping, labour, installation, completion times, and even through reduced wastage compared to any other insulation solutions!

Addressing Common Issues

Thermal Bridging & Condensation: PIR boards and mineral wool often fail to provide continuous insulation because they are mainly installed between the rafters and never over them! This break in insulation brings the risk of heat loss, but also that the extreme temperature difference across your buildup will lead to condensation, and even mould/mildew, structural decay (timber rot), etc if left unattended. In contrast, SuperFOIL’s reflective multifoil insulation products offer a built-in vapour resistant layer, and is applied over the timber frames in continuous layers, minimising thermal bridging and condensation concerns. Additionally, this type of continuous insulation will help you achieve a warm roof system (in roof insulation) and protect existing roof trusses and purlins inside the thermal envelope.

Pests and Rodents: Mineral wool is prone to water absorption and, to make matters worse, ‘rodents will burrow and nest in such products! Reflective insulation, on the other hand, doesn’t make for particularly attractive nesting material – in fact, it wouldn’t offer enough space for pests and rodents to reside at all. Bottom line: rats won’t live in it!

Allergens: Common insulation materials like PIR, mineral wool, fibreglass, and spray foam can trigger allergic reactions upon exposure; causing irritation, rashes, sneezing, asthma attacks, and more. Multifoil products, on the other hand, don’t contain any toxic chemicals and will not trigger any sort of allergic reactions.

Retrofitting: No way with thicker solutions! Retrofitting is an incredibly important process to transform older structures into more environmentally-friendly spaces, not to mention more energy efficient! With some of the oldest homes in Europe, the UK faces the challenge that approximately 80% of the buildings that will be occupied in 2050 have already been built. Which means, if we want to achieve the country’s net zero goals on schedule, the majority of these buildings must be retrofitted to enhance energy efficiency. However, retrofitting historic buildings presents the challenge of having to preserve their unique and historic character; a process which requires specialist skills alongside innovative, long lived, and space saving solutions, like Multifoil – rather than the bulky, heavy and short-living solutions most traditional insulation provides. 

For instance, Mineral wool requires load bearing support to prevent compression and maintain its insulation properties; involving additional mesh nets, framing or support structures, adding complexity and cost to the retrofitting process. On top of that, ensuring continuing insulation without thermal breaks can be particularly challenging in these older buildings, many of which built with irregular construction methods and complex designs.

Finally, retrofitting thicker insulation materials into an existing property can be expensive, especially if significant alterations or structural upgrades are required to accommodate the thickness of that insulation. That said, if you prefer using PIR boards and Mineral Wool, that’s fine! But these solutions should at least come with a vapour resistant membrane and a long-term guarantee for balancing out the cost of insulation (plus upgrades) with the expected energy savings and long-term benefits from the build.

Tell Us, What’s Stopping You? 

Homeowners have little choice but to rely on qualified professionals like you to deliver high-performing buildings without compromising functionality or style, and that means that the choices you make are crucial – not just for yourself, but for the people who will live in those buildings for the years to come.

With that in mind, doesn’t it make sense to follow the evidence and consider how high performance solutions like Multifoil can enable you to do the best job possible. SuperFOIL is working to provide professionals, like you, with smart solutions, and we believe that you will make the right choice. The choice to seamlessly accommodate the necessities of energy efficiency, performance, safety, sustainability and cost-effectiveness under the same umbrella. 

You’ve seen how multifoil products can provide quality performance, easy installation, reduced labour requirements, cost-efficiency, carbon savings, and more; so what’s stopping you from adopting Multifoil insulation in your project? 

Are you looking for more specific information? Our technical experts are happy to help – [email protected] / 01636 639900. Or book your SuperFOIL CPD today!

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