7th Mar 2024 -

The construction industry has significant potential for boosting its eco-credentials through the use of sustainable materials. An example of this is insulated plasterboard, which is superior to other plasterboard types on several environmental measures.

For this feature, we explore how this versatile material enhances energy efficiency and contributes to sustainable construction.

4 eco-friendly benefits of insulated plasterboard

Insulating plasterboard offers various eco-friendly benefits. Its innovative design promotes sustainable construction throughout its lifecycle. This includes reducing energy consumption to minimise waste generation. Below, we outline the benefits in detail.

1. Reduces energy consumption

It actively reduces energy consumption by serving as an efficient thermal barrier. Plus, it minimises heat transfer through wall areas and minimises the need for excessive heating or cooling systems. 

The insulated plasterboard U-value is generally lower than other options. This leads to lower utility bills and less reliance on fossil fuels. Also, insulated plasterboard contributes to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. 

2. Use of recycled materials

Materials like recycled gypsum and paper fibres in its composition promote sustainability. By repurposing industrial and post-consumer waste streams, it reduces demand for newer resources. 

Manufacturers undergo certifications such as Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Methodology (BREEAM). This is to confirm the use of recycled content and overall environmental performance. Transparency offers assurance if you are seeking sustainable construction materials. 

3. Responsible waste management

At end-of-life, the plasterboard's recyclable nature enables responsible waste management. Recovered and repurposed materials divert waste from landfills. Closed-loop recycling helps protect the environment.

4. Boosts durability

The insulating layer makes moisture penetration through solid walls less likely. It prevents corrosion, mould growth and damage. The enhanced durability and longevity minimise the need for plasterboard repair or replacement.

How does insulated plasterboard compare to others?

When selecting a plasterboard type, it is important to consider its environmental impact. This table examines common types of plasterboard and how they compare with insulated plasterboard across the above sustainability benefits.

Plasterboard typeReduces energy consumptionUse of recycled materialsResponsible waste managementBoosts durability
Standard plasterboardStandard plasterboard has no thermal insulation, so it does not reduce energy consumption for heating and cooling buildings.Made using gypsum and paper materials. They are not from sustainable or recycled sources.

Standard plasterboard is recyclable. However, the rate of actual recycling is low, with most boards ending up in landfills.The core gypsum layer is durable but prone to moisture damage without additional treatments.
resistant plasterboard
resistant plasterboard does not provide thermal insulation to lower energy consumption.
A moisture
resistant sheet promotes sustainable water-repellent additives.
The materials and additives make recycling challenging currently, with disposal in landfills.Water
repellent chemicals prevent moisture damage, prolonging preservation and lifespans.
Fire resistant plasterboardFire resistant plasterboard does not influence energy use and carbon footprints.It uses specialised mineral or fibre components for increased safety.While technically recyclable, very few fire-resistant boards get recycled.A fire rating board resists burning and high temperatures but has higher long-term failure rates.
Acoustic plasterboardSoundproof plasterboard does not reduce thermal energy consumption or carbon footprints.Acoustic plasterboard uses sustainable and recycled components like mineral wool.Sound-reducing plasterboard currently has limited recyclable properties.  Most get sent to landfills.Integrated soundproofing materials make boards prone to physical damage over time.

What are the downsides of insulated plasterboard?

While insulated plasterboards offer sustainability benefits, they also come with construction challenges. Before opting for green alternatives, carefully weigh the following potential downsides.

Higher upfront costs

Though energy-efficient over the long term, insulated plasterboard has a higher initial purchase price. With an average lifecycle of 30-50 years, consider the lifespan savings against higher early expenses.

Limited insulation strength

Some sustainable boards use recycled plastic, paper or plant-based insulation which resists heat flow less effectively than fibreglass. Make sure you select the right insulation strength needed for the climate.

Increased thickness

Insulated plasterboard thickness usually ranges between 25mm - 75mm. Although minimal, this shrinks interior room space slightly. Remember to account for depth differences during planning.

Extra weight

The insulation layer adds weight. It proves challenging to handle and install them compared to traditional plasterboard materials. Ensure a good level of strength and equipment is in place.

Specialised handling

All insulated plasterboard types require dust-free and moisture-free storage to protect from vapour exposure. Create proper material storage spaces before installation. 

Can you use eco-friendly plasterboard fixings?

Yes, you can utilise components made from recycled materials and non-toxic formulas. Below, we list the main fixings and accessories to think about. 

  • Screws: Seek drywall screws made from post-industrial recycled steel. A ceramic coating rather than chromium will prevent corrosion. Screws with plastic cap heads are reusable for future projects.
  • Joint tape: Select fibreglass mesh tape made using recycled glass over newer mineral-based products. For higher sustainability, opt for Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified paper tape with recycled content.
  • Adhesive: Use plant-based glues created from soy or bio-polymers. They emit fewer volatile organic compounds (VOCs) than standard petroleum-based adhesives. Also, choose recycled paper and wood fibre-based methyl cellulose plasterboard adhesive.
  • Joint compound: Look for joint compounds containing post-industrial gypsum waste and recycled mineral fillers. Low-VOC and dust-free compounds minimise air pollution during application. 
  • Lifts: Battery-powered lifts, hoists and T-lifts prevent fossil fuel emissions at job sites. Manual crank lifts are a lower-budget green option. Ensure they can handle heavier boards.
  • Cutting tools: Use electric saws and knives with rechargeable lithium-ion batteries to reduce environmental impact when cutting plasterboard. Diamond-tipped blades can last up to 3 times longer than standard abrasive blades. 
  • Plasterboard primer: Opt for low-VOC water-based primers made with plant oils and natural binders. This is an alternative to solvent-based petroleum primers. These primers seal surfaces for paint adhesion and moisture resistance without harmful VOC emissions.

Is an eco-friendly insulation board suitable for ceilings?

Installing eco-friendly insulated plasterboard on a ceiling is possible. However, the differences between walls and ceiling installation present some unique considerations. Here are the main factors to consider and solutions for a secure installation. 

1. Weight support requirements

Ceilings must withstand the plasterboard's weight without sagging over time. Heavier eco-insulated boards may require additional ceiling joists or support for structural integrity.
Solution: Heavy-duty ceiling joists spaced closer together will handle the weight load without bending. Use long drywall screw fixings that anchor insulation boards to ceiling joists. Self-tapping screws provide extra grip for support.

2. Overhead handling difficulties

The location makes plasterboard ceiling jobs a challenge. The dense, thick insulated boards are harder to lift overhead and fasten to rafters. 
Solution: Use specialised lifts and suction cups for overhead manoeuvring. Others can hold boards in place during fastening. Consider smaller size boards that are easier to install.

3. Limited insulation needs

Heat rises and ceiling insulation has less impact on energy savings than wall insulation. The benefits of higher insulation levels may not justify the added ceiling installation complexity.
Solution: Opt for a thin insulated plasterboard type with a 25mm insulation layer. It provides some energy efficiency without overloading the ceiling structure.

4. Moisture protection

Leaks from condensation or pipes in ceilings cause more damage than wall leakage. Water-resistant eco-insulated boards would provide useful protection from moisture. 
Solution: Choose boards made with moisture-resistant additives or waterproof coatings to prevent leak damage and mould risks.

5. Access difficulties

Insulated eco-friendly boards prove difficult to access and fix ceiling electrical, plumbing and wiring systems. Consider a workable solution during design.
Solution: Design a removable section or panels while constructing the ceiling. This preserves accessible points to systems above the boards after installation is complete. 

What is the future of sustainable insulated plasterboard?

With rising climate change concerns, insulated plasterboard demand will likely grow substantially. This is because it offers better insulation and energy savings than standard plasterboard. The expected demand indicates adoption rates will expand to meet future volume needs.

Insulation materials for eco-plasterboards will use more consumer-recycled and renewable content like paper, plastic or plant fibres. With technological advancements, these sustainable materials could match or exceed the durability of traditional plasterboard while lowering embodied carbon.

Currently, recycling of used insulated plasterboard is limited. However, processes for reclaiming and repurposing boards after use could emerge within the next decade. This would allow for a fully circular lifecycle.

Overall, the plasterboard industry appears to be progressing towards a more sustainable future. The coming decade will see greener insulated plasterboards become mainstream and cost-effective for future sustainable building construction projects.

How to buy insulated plasterboard with confidence

Our extensive selection of insulated plasterboard products caters to your diverse requirements. From residential to commercial projects, we provide a range of options designed to enhance energy efficiency.

By choosing Building Materials Nationwide for insulated plasterboard, you invest in durable, eco-friendly solutions that meet the highest standards of quality and reliability. We also supply top-notch accessories from adhesive to plasterboard wall plugs.

Trade customers can maximise their benefits by opening a trade account with us. We ensure quick and easy access to our full product range, speedy UK delivery options and personal account management.

Our dedicated team of trade account managers help you achieve the best results in every project. Sign up for a trade account online or contact us to learn more information.

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