Knauf Insulation: how to make sustainable products

Knauf Insulation: how to make sustainable products

Graham Wroe, Sales Director (Building & Distribution) at Knauf Insulation explains how to make sustainable products work for you.

Have you noticed your customers asking you more questions about sustainability lately? Momentum for ‘green buildings’ has been building for decades, but we believe that 2021 will see a big shift in demand for sustainability on projects of all sizes.

Why? Prime Minister Boris Johnson has pledged major investment to make UK buildings greener and more energy-efficient as the nation emerges from recession. The Green Homes Grant scheme is the latest initiative to grab the headlines, but there’ll be others to come. Soon we’ll see major changes made to Part L of the Building Regulations, with standards expected to become much stricter in the pursuit of “world-leading levels of energy efficiency”.

We all know that insulation makes homes more energy-efficient. It reduces the need to run boilers, heat pumps or air conditioning units, using less energy and cutting carbon emissions. Countless words have been written about the critical role insulation plays in creating greener buildings in this way.

But that’s not the only factor you need to consider when choosing insulation. Even if they’d achieve exactly the same energy savings on a building, two different insulation products can have very different impacts on the environment.

Why? Because not all insulation is made the same. It’s not enough to consider the environmental impact insulation will have once installed – you have to factor in how it’s made, its embodied carbon and other factors that determine its impact on the environment.

For builders, this broader view of sustainability will become increasingly important as the market changes. More than ever, your customers will rely on your expertise to help them achieve their sustainability goals. That, in turn, means you should expect closer scrutiny of the insulation you choose.

For example, you may face questions on the raw materials it is made from. How are they sourced? Do they use recycled material, or do they rely on depleting fossil fuels? For builders, there are insulation options that will allow you to give positive answers to these questions. Knauf Insulation Glass Mineral Wool products are made using up to 80 per cent recycled glass, which comes from used bottles and jars collected from local households.

Where it’s not possible to choose a product made with recycled content, builders should look for insulation made using rapidly renewable or naturally abundant materials, such as the stone used to manufacture Knauf Insulation Rock Mineral Wool insulation.

Another thing to consider is chemical additives. What else is in the insulation and what is the impact of those chemicals? Do they contain added formaldehyde or phenol and therefore potentially high levels of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) that can be harmful to health? No builder has the time to scrutinise every single detail of every product themselves, but there are shortcuts you can take to answer these questions, like reviewing certifications from trusted third parties.

For example, you can look for construction products certified for Indoor Air Comfort by Eurofins. Certified products have been tested to ensure they emit low levels of VOCs, and so contribute to a healthier indoor environment.

Products that meet the strictest standards are awarded the Eurofins Gold Certificate for Indoor Air Comfort, such as those made with ECOSE Technology, Knauf Insulation’s unique bio-based binder that contains no added formaldehyde or phenol.

ECOSE Technology is also up to 70 per cent less energy-intensive to manufacture than traditional binders, which reflects another important aspect of product sustainability; the manufacturing process. How is the insulation made, and what steps is the manufacturer taking to reduce the embodied carbon in its products?

Builders should look for manufacturers based in the UK to reduce road miles, and who have made firm and public plans to reduce carbon emissions. In our case at Knauf Insulation, we’ve published a sustainability report that tracks the work we’ve done so far to make our operations more efficient, alongside a series of ambitious commitments for 2025.

There are, of course, many other questions you may be asked about product sustainability. With discarded plastic packaging very visible to customers on site, for example, you may be asked about packaging waste. Again, manufacturer sustainability reports should cover what they’re doing to reduce packaging across their range.

In short, it’s essential to choose products from manufacturers who take sustainability seriously. Get it right, and it’s a win-win situation. Your customers will be assured their buildings are sustainable, and you’ll win higher-value contracts, and know you’re making a positive difference to the world.

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