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Content archived on 2024-06-18

Low Embodied Energy Advanced (Novel) Insulation Materials and Insulating Masonry Components for Energy Efficient Buildings

Periodic Report Summary 2 - LEEMA (Low Embodied Energy Advanced (Novel) Insulation Materials and Insulating Masonry Components for Energy Efficient Buildings.)

Project Context and Objectives:
A review of the embodied energy values of the various building materials shows that the embodied energy of the most widely used insulation materials in construction applications is characterized by very high values. This mainly results either from the energy intensive conditions applied for the manufacturing of the mineral based insulation materials or from the high embodied energies of the oil- based raw materials used for the production of the organic based ones. Moreover, conventional insulating materials can suffer from various disadvantages including not stable thermal and acoustic performance overtime, combustibility, shrinkage and setting, and pollution of the indoor building environment.
In this frame the objective of the project is the development of a new generation of inorganic insulation materials and building insulation masonry components, that will have 70-90% lower embodied energy, 20-25% lower unit cost than the synthetic organic and mineral based ones, like EPS, XPS, Stone and Glass Wool, and at the same time they will not present their technical, health and/or environmental drawbacks. New formulations and products will be called “3I” materials, since they will be Inorganic, Insulating and Incombustible.

This objective will be achieved through the development of innovative technological routes for the production of the 3I materials, combining:
a) use of appropriate inert, natural alumino-silicate raw materials, originating from “zero-embodied energy” wastes of industrial mineral exploitation (i.e. perlite, bentonite, amorphous silica and other volcanic minerals) and other industrial wastes and by-products;
b) application of novel low energy consuming synthesis processes based on inorganic polymerization and thermal expansion that take advantage of the unique and favorable chemical and mineralogical composition of the above wastes;
c) addition of appropriate mineral by-products (fluxes) that easily react with the above wastes through highly exothermic reactions forming inert stable structures.
The assessment of the environmental sustainability of each one of the new insulation components will be performed with life cycle assessment studies.

Project Results:
The proper types of silicate/alumino-silicate waste materials have been identified and characterized by NTUA. Various formulations for 3I LFM have been developed yielding granulate samples with LBD ranging from 14 up to > 100 kg/m3. The lab scale synthesis process has been optimised. A lab scale expansion furnace was developed and used for the expansion of 3I loose-fill materials for the evaluation of the formulations. Various formulations have been developed also for inorganic polymer binders (optimum formulations yield specimens with compressive strength >20MPa and successful extrusion has taken place) and 3I foamed boards (optimum formulations yield foamed products with density as low as 350 kg/m3 and thermal conductivity of 0.065W/mK). WP2 was successfully completed, providing selected formulations for the lab and pilot scale development of the various LEEMA products.
The pilot scale production of the 3I LFM was designed based on the lab scale process. The pilot production consists of a mixing unit, a crushing/sieving system and an Infrared expansion furnace with higher capacity than the lab scale furnace.
A hydrophobation process was developed by S&B, based on solid siloxane vapours. A lab scale method has been used for the hydrophobation of small scale samples. A pilot scale vertical cylinder-like reactor was installed in Ritsona. However, the new 3I LFMs have good water repellency and in most cases further improvement was not necessary. The final 3I LFMs:
LFM for cavity walls: has 35% lower LBD and 17% lower thermal conductivity, compared to the commercial hydrophobic expanded perlite for cavity walls. The crushing resistance is lower, due to the lower LBD, but is considered adequate.
LFM for 3I EPBs: has 41% lower LBD and 20% lower thermal conductivity compared to the expanded perlite TCERAM uses.

LFM for fibre and non-fibre boards: The final–optimized sample had similar LBD and lower λ compared to the expanded perlite currently used by ETEX. The crushing resistance was significantly improved so as the material withstands the production process of the fibre boards. The water repellency was significantly higher compared to expanded perlite, even without hydrophobation.
LFM for bricks and facades: The final–optimized sample had similar LBD and 13% lower λ compared to the expanded perlite currently used by SCHLAG.

Pilot scale samples for foamed products, have been produced with densities ~600 kg/m3 and λ below 0.11 W/mK. The samples can be successfully cut, retaining their shape and mechanical properties.
Lab scale products for 3I EPBs were successfully produced, replacing partially or fully the expanded perlite by the 3I LFM. The 3I EPBs exhibit similar performance to the lab scale reference samples.
Several pilot scale trails were performed by ETEX for the production of different FC boards on mini-Hatschek (MiH) line. No major production problems were experienced whith 3I LFMs. The 3I boards seem to have similar (or slightly higher density) but significantly higher flexural strength.
The first prototype bricks and façade panels were produced by SCHLAG, proving in principle the substitution of natural perlite with 3ILFM. The final 3I LFM sample (hydrophobised and not) was successfully bound to form the insulant boards. The board of the non-hydrophobised sample showed a very good λ of 35.5mW/m.K with apparent density of 64 g/L in dry conditions at mean temp of 10 °C. The hydrophobised plate showed higher values (λ=40.2 mW/m.K and 115 g/L for the apparent density).
For the substitution of the heavy clay based brick body with geopolymeric material, several extrusion trails took place by Morando and NTUA. Morando designed and constructed a dedicated pilot scale extruder for “soft-clay” extrusion.

WP6 partners provided input in order to create a detailed inventory of the potential applications of the 3I products in buildings, and the relevant characteristics to be tested. The test programs for all the 3I products have been agreed.
A first version of LCA study has been finalized, including preliminary results for standard products in terms of environmental impacts and the technical evaluation of the new processes and products is currently on-going.
A new updated web- survey was conducted in November 2013 to collect data on the requirements of architects for insulation materials. The results will provide valuable input for the Preliminary Business Plan. The Project’s web site ( is continuously updated.
Various dissemination activities have been performed by the project partners, including paper publications in conferences and scientific journals, participation in European Workshop and creation of video clips.

Potential Impact:
The LEEMA project intends to develop a new generation of insulation materials and building masonry components namely 3I loose-filling materials, 3I boards, 3I polymer bricks and façades that will be characterised by considerably lower embodied energy per mass and per volume basis than the currently available ones. Besides low energy footprint, the new insulation products will have improved technical, health and environmental properties as far as, long term thermal and acoustic insulation performance, incombustibility, resistance to moisture absorption and water attack, stability, safety in handling and installation, non-polluting indoor environment and cost, are concerned. The new 3I products will have a significant technological impact on the EU building sector in terms of energy efficiency, health, environmental and cost performance at building level. More specifically, the impacts include:
1) Reduction by at least 50% of the embodied energy at component level compared to 2005 values, mainly from the use of wastes as raw materials and the non-energy intensive processes applied for their synthesis.;
2) Reduction by at least 15% of the total costs compared to existing solutions The total cost of the 3I loose-filling material is expected to be 20.4 €/m3. Assuming a 30% profit, the ex-works price is estimated to be 26.6 €/m3 with a reduction in the cost of 34 -58%. The total cost of the 3I foam boards is expected to be23.0 €/m3 with a final price around 30.0 €/m3, that is 25-52% lower. The total cost of the 3I polymer bricks and façades is expected to be 3.7 €/brick, about 19% lower than the current poroton insulating brick.;
3) Improved durability of the new components resulting in less frequent replacement The currently available insulation materials have a non stable thermal performance overtime due to ageing and humidity absorption. The foreseen hydrophobisation treatment will render them completely resistant to moisture absorption and water attack.;
4) European impact on energy efficiency at building level. In several combinations for the different applications of the 3I insulating materials, the U-values and, therefore, the energy efficiency achieved at building level are expected to be better than that of the conventional construction components.;
5) Contribution to achieving EU policies.

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