Next-gen sprayfoam systems: shifting to HFO blowing agents

Importance of EPDs and energy modeling

Because of their great thermal resistance and air barrier properties, many buildings use both types of SPF: closed cell (exterior or interior) and open cell (interior). SPF is commonly installed in both residential projects, such as single houses, townhomes/condos, and commercial, as well as institutional and agricultural projects, such as schools, hospitals, arenas, stores, restaurants, storage facilities, data centers, and grow houses.

To reduce the construction and building operations sectors’ contribution to global warming, it is imperative to do two things. The first is to use products that demonstrate reduced embodied carbon. Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) are important tools for this as they tell the life cycle story of a product in a single, comprehensive report that provides information about a product’s impact on the environment, including global warming potential, smog creation, ozone depletion, and water pollution. While EPDs do not rank products, and the existence of an EPD for a product does not indicate if environmental performance criteria have been met, they are an important disclosure
tool that helps purchasers better understand a product’s sustainable qualities and environmental repercussions, so they can make informed product selections.

Secondly, buildings must be constructed tighter, better sealed, and more energy efficient to reduce their operational carbon emissions. To assess performance in this area, energy modeling is useful. The pre-construction, whole-building assessment of energy efficiency uses computer programs for calculation. Designers create a model of the entire building on a computer and run it through simulations to show energy performance, usually for an entire year and based on meteorological information. The modeling accounts for all systems within
a building and examines how they impact each other.

Conclusion

In closing, the sprayfoam industry’s shift to HFO-based blowing agent technology is a crucial step toward reducing the building industry’s global warming contributions. Shifting from third generation HFC-based blowing agents to HFO-based options will evolve the industry from using products with zero ODP and GWP value of more than 794 to the substantially improved newer generations of SPF offering zero ODP and a GWP that can, in certain products, reach a value of one. To be better informed about sprayfoam insulation and roofing system’s individual performance and Earth impacts, architects and specifiers are encouraged to request environmental product declarations and to seek energy modeling information as available.

Notes

1 Consult George Wypych, Handbook of Foaming and Blowing Agents, 2017.

2 Refer to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA’s), Flood Damage-Resistant Materials Requirements for Buildings Located in Special Flood Hazard Areas in Accordance with the National Flood Insurance Program, Technical Bulletin 2, August 2008.

3 Review Honeywell, Insulation and Waterproofing for Metal Buildings and Metal Roof Systems: The Case for Using Better Insulation and Waterproofing Technologies in Metal Roof Systems and Metal Buildings.

4 Refer to Architectural Testing, Performance Test Report Rendered to Spray Polyurethane Foam Alliance, Project: Racking Load Tests, 2007.

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