27th Mar 2024 -

From the construction materials we use to the energy sources we rely on, each decision can either harm or help our planet. With this consideration in mind, Rockwool is at the forefront of sustainability and environmental responsibility when it comes to insulation.

This feature explores how its production, performance and longevity align with eco-friendly goals. By understanding the role that Rockwool insulation plays, we uncover a practical solution for energy efficiency in buildings.  

Does Rockwool contribute to sustainable construction?

Rockwool mineral wool insulation delivers unparalleled sustainability benefits, making it an eco-conscious choice. Here, we outline the 5 key sustainability metrics of insulation and how Rockwool meets or exceeds them. 

1. Embodied carbon and energy

This metric considers the total greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption associated with insulation manufacturing. It includes raw material production, transportation and factory operations. Rockwool’s manufacturing process is optimised for energy efficiency. 

It uses compressive force and heat curing rather than energy-intensive melting. The manufacturing utilises up to 40% recycled materials, reducing the need for newer mineral wool. Production facilities are increasingly transitioning to renewable energy sources like wind and hydropower. Also, Rockwool's embodied carbon is among the lowest for mineral wool insulations.

2. Global warming potential (GWP)

GWP measures the ability of greenhouse gases emitted during production to trap heat in the atmosphere over a set period. With raw materials like basalt rock and recycled slag, Rockwool insulation has a very low GWP of <5 over 100 years. This minimal greenhouse effect stems from its composition of naturally occurring mineral compounds.

3. Insulation value (R-value)

An R-value measures the thermal resistance of a material, indicating its ability to resist heat flow. Higher R-values indicate greater resistance to heat flow and superior insulating properties that reduce the energy needed for heating or cooling buildings. At R-values from 3.0-3.3 per inch, Rockwool can outperform other types such as polystyrene. 

With thermal conductivity as low as 0.044 Watts per Metre Kelvin (W/m.K), Rockwool thermal insulation maintains desired temperatures at lower costs. Its insulating capabilities can save up to 70% of the energy used. This optimises energy efficiency and cuts associated greenhouse gas emissions.

4. End-of-life management

Rockwool's composition makes it exceptionally durable. With its resistance to moisture and compression, the insulation maintains its value for 50+ years without deterioration. This extensive lifespan minimises the resource consumption and construction waste associated with frequent replacement cycles.

5. Indoor air quality

Certifications like Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Methodology (BREEAM) validate an insulation's safety for indoor environments. It measures the off-gassing of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), formaldehyde and other pollutants. Rockwool fibres do not contribute to indoor air pollution through off-gassing. Because of its low emissions, Rockwool insulation will help you to achieve BREEAM credits.

PIR vs Rockwool: Which is more sustainable?

Not all insulation materials are created equal. Common options such as polyisocyanurate (PIR) and Rockwool mineral wool uphold stark contrasts in their environmental profiles. Below, we compare their sustainability credentials for green building projects.

Sustainability factorPIR insulationRockwool insulation
ManufacturingPIR insulation uses chemicals and blowing agents with high global warming potential in an energy-intensive production process.Manufacturing starts with rock materials. It relies primarily on compression rather than high-temperature melting to form its fibres.
Insulation performanceWhile PIR provides insulating properties with R-values around 6-8 per inch, Rockwool has R-values from 3-3.3 per inch.The non-directional orientation of Rockwool's mineral wool fibres captures air pockets more effectively. It requires less thick material.
Indoor air qualityPIR foam insulation releases VOCs like formaldehyde. These chemicals can impact indoor air quality.Rockwool achieves the highest emissions certifications and indoor air quality ratings. This is due to its non-reactive composition.
RecyclabilityOverall, it is difficult to recycle, with most being landfilled after removal.Rockwool can be recycled back into new insulation products. Currently, up to 25% recycled Rockwool content is used in new materials.
Embodied carbon and energyIt has a high embodied carbon footprint from energy-intensive manufacturing involving greenhouse gas emissions.Rockwool's embodied carbon is among the lowest for insulations. This is due to its natural raw materials and lower energy consumption during production.

How to maintain Rockwool’s sustainability benefits

To boost Rockwool insulation's sustainability benefits, proper installation and maintenance techniques are required. Below are proven methods to extend the insulation’s lifespan and maintain its sustainable performance. 

Installation practices

Exercise care during installation to avoid damaging or compressing the insulation unnecessarily. Compression reduces the material's thickness and R-value. It compromises its energy-saving potential and ability to lower greenhouse gas emissions from excess energy use. Cut pieces precisely using an insulation knife to ensure snug fits without over-compression.

Wall applications

For external wall cavities, use batt insulation sized for the stud spacing. Interior walls require trimming the rigid Rockwool wall insulation boards to ensure tight joints. This eliminates gaps and air infiltration responsible for heat transfer and energy losses. Seal all joints and penetrations with caulk or aluminium tape to prevent moisture intrusion.

Roof and loft insulation

Create effective Rockwool loft insulation by laying continuous blankets, rolls or rigid board types between joists. Ensure minimum ventilation spaces to allow for airflow and prevent moisture condensation buildup that could foster mould growth and degrade performance over time. This shortens the insulation's lifespan. Seal all vapour barrier joints with Rockwool thermal roll insulation or Rockwool roof insulation boards to preserve the interior environment.

Floor insulation

Install rigid Rockwool floor insulation boards or rolls beneath subfloors as a thermal break over concrete slabs. Secure each sheet or roll tightly together using adhesives rather than nails or staples that could compromise air sealing. 

Appliance surroundings

Insulate around combustion appliances like furnaces, water heaters and pipe areas. To do this effectively, use Rockwool insulation roll or Rockwool Flexi slab options. Safely isolate intense heat sources and prevent scorching that could off-gas pollutants and toxins. 

What is the future of Rockwool sustainability?

The future direction for Rockwool insulation focuses on enhancing sustainability across all aspects of the product lifecycle. Rockwool will continuously improve its products through research and development focused on increasing thermal efficiency. It will also explore techniques to reduce embodied carbon and manufacturing impacts. 

The percentage of recycled content used in Rockwool insulation slab and batt types will rise to a minimum of 40% by 2030. All manufacturing facilities will transition to renewable energy sources like wind, solar and biomass within the next decade. This will help to tackle greenhouse gas emissions. 

Plus, Rockwool has committed to decarbonising its value chain to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2040 in alignment with the Paris Agreement's 1.5°C target. Sustainability reporting following Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) standards will disclose progress against defined environmental objectives.

Can you buy Rockwool insulation with fast UK delivery?

Yes, we proudly offer sustainable Rockwool insulation with speedy delivery options. Our commitment to quality ensures you receive products known for their environmental responsibility and performance such as fire resistance. From Rockwool pipe insulation to Rockwool cavity wall insulation, you can rely on superior thermal efficiency and durability.

Trade customers can experience added benefits by opening trade accounts with us. Through our trade accounts, you gain access to competitive trade prices, personalised trade account management and a streamlined shopping experience. 

Partnering with Building Materials Nationwide guarantees access to high-quality products like Rockwool insulation, along with one-on-one support. Sign up online or contact the team to learn more.

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