The EU-funded BRIMEE project, which was launched in July 2013, has developed better performing insulation materials for improving building energy performances, reducing operational energy and absorbing indoor pollutants. Testing in real life conditions is currently underway. The project will demonstrate the innovation through three demo buildings located in different climatic zones: Italy, Spain and the Czech Republic. ‘This project will transform an expanded, nanostructured and fully bio-based material – nano-cellulose foam, developed under patented technology from a start-up company that is part of the BRIMEE consortium – into a product suitable for interior insulation in the built environment,’ explains project coordinator Andrea Maria Ferrari from D'Appolonia, Italy. ‘We are confident that this will become a reference material in perimeter insulation, ceilings and other parts of buildings.’ The main beneficiaries of the project are likely to be SMEs involved in the insulation panel manufacturing chain, as they will be able to tap into the production of an innovative material that offers reliable insulation, along with other related energy-saving benefits. The fact that the material is derived from a renewable resource represents an additional selling factor, given growing consumer environmental awareness and willingness to pay for quality materials that offer sustainability. Although the final product will be applicable for the interior of both new and existing buildings, the project has identified the largest potential market to be buildings built before 1975 and requiring retrofitting. This will be the first market to be targeted, in line with policy priorities of increasing the value of existing building stock, improving the quality of life for inhabitants and reducing the overall environmental footprint of the building sector. ‘We hope to demonstrate the industrial feasibility and sustainability of an insulation panel that is not only efficient in terms of thermal and sound barrier capacity, but at the same time can be installed with no negative impacts on indoor air quality,’ says Ferrari. ‘The final expectation is a panel that is appealing for inhabitants, suitable to be installed in interiors and with good characteristics of inertness towards the atmosphere.’ The nano-cellulose foam can be further strengthened with natural derived resins, providing improved mechanical strength, lightweight performances and even self-extinguishing features, fundamental for the building industry. In addition, additives can be applied to the surface to provide additional functionalities, such as fragrance release, water repellence and anti-bacterial properties. The availability of foam still represents an issue due to the volumes required, though Ferrari is confident that this challenge will be addressed with the planned construction of a production plant dedicated to manufacturing nanostructured materials. ‘For sure, further activities are needed in order to translate the idea into a real, finalised product ready for marketing, including testing, assessment, pilot development and quality improvement,’ says Ferrari. ‘We believe though that we will be a ‘first mover’ in which nanotechnologies become a real building block in materials engineering.’ The project is due for completion in the summer of 2017.
Insulation, air quality, building, bio-renewable, indoor