Is Wood the Future of Building Insulation?

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When it’s cold outside, our go-to solution has always been to simply increase the heat inside.  While that helps keep us comfortable, it isn’t the only solution.  The buildings we inhabit, whether they are where we work, play, or live all have insulation to keep a comfortable temperature inside no matter the temperature outside. Typically, building insulation comes in the form of a roll (batt insulation) or thick sheet (rigid insulation).

Batt insulation is a common choice for insulation, as it is inexpensive and readily available. The downside is that it contains fiberglass which is harmful if inhaled, and must be installed using protective gear.  Rigid polystyrene insulation has its own disadvantages as well.  The production process creates chemicals that damage the ozone layer, and rigid Styrofoam can easily be damaged by sunlight.

There is another insulation alternative on the horizon, which is being developed by researchers at the University of Maryland.  Named “Nanowood, ” it is formed from small wood fibers.  According to research, it not only insulates better than Styrofoam, but also is exponentially stronger. If its performance is not impressive enough, it is also eco-friendly since it is made from renewable resources. The University of Maryland’s Nanowood is currently being produced in both block form and in a thin/rollable form, making is suitable for multiple types of construction.

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With today’s emphasis on sustainability, it is exciting to see products like this in development.  At JL Architects, we make a continual effort to keep up with innovation that effects our industry, and expand what we can offer as your architect. We will be watching and hoping that Nanowood proves itself in the lab, making it another viable insulating option for our clients!

-Brandon Runnels

Architectural Designer, Green Globes Professional

 

Credits:

https://aero.umd.edu/news/news_story.php?id=11148

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/could-nanowood-replace-styrofoam-180968575/

https://phys.org/news/2018-03-nanowood-humanity-carbon-footprint.html

https://www.engadget.com/2018/03/12/researchers-wood-better-insulator-than-styrofoam/

https://cleantechnica.com/2018/03/14/new-material-made-wood-biodegradable-super-insulation/