Role of Thermal Insulation for Zero Energy Buildings
Besides being a necessity for a sustainable future and energy efficiency today, insulation is also an important area of expertise that cannot be rendered down. All phases such as the selection of the materials, the fulfillment of the specifications and the application of the procedures are extremely important.
The thermal insulation mandated by the regulations today can be the first step taken towards zero-energy buildings if it is properly implemented. Besides maximizing energy saving, efficient thermal insulation also enables sustainability of natural resources and environment, a responsibility towards future generations. If a building can sustain its energy, it can be cooled in the summer and warmed in the winter with less power, taking a step closer to a zero-energy building.
There is a golden rule essential to be followed in thermal insulation applications. The best insulation method is to stop the threats to the building at the surface of contact. Thus, external insulation should be applied to the outmost envelope of the building that is in direct contact with external air. As in all the other construction applications, the key of success in thermal insulation is also high quality insulation materials that meet specifications and proper application. A low quality and improper thermal insulation may cause humidity, moisture and even mold on internal surfaces, on the floor and walls of the building. Moreover, improper thermal insulation may cause the walls and the floorings to be cold, negatively impacting the comfort inside the living spaces. A good insulation makes difference in this aspect. A good thermal insulation minimizes the temperature difference between indoors and outdoors throughout the year, ensuring high comfort and welfare inside the living spaces. A well-insulated external facade preventing thermal bridges keeps the heat inside and blocks the escape of heat through the walls. Thus, it creates a comfortable living space and also prevents both the condensation due to internal-external temperature difference and its negative impacts.
A well-executed thermal insulation protects the envelope and thus the load-bearing system of the building. If a building is not insulated properly, cracks may form on the building envelope. A disintegrated building envelope leads to uncontrolled air flow over time and outward heat transfer through the gaps which the disintegration will cause to form. A proper thermal insulation protects the living spaces from the formation of mold and moisture, and the growth of harmful organisms, preventing the odors resulting from humidity and lack of ventilation even in spaces that remain closed for a long time. When a good external surface insulation is followed by a good window and door insulation, the comfort of the living spaces is optimized, freeing the building from leak or heat transfer.
A Golden Investment for Every Building
Comfort in Living Spaces
While reducing energy consumption-related expenses by providing efficiency, from the foundation to the roof, thermal insulation that does not cause any thermal bridge pays for itself and returns even more in the years to come. Moreover, it benefits both the household economy and the national economy through efficient use of energy. A good thermal insulation is a golden investment for buildings.
Thermal insulation increases the value of the building, improves the comfort in the building and contributes to the building durability.
Thicker Material, Better Insulation
In thermal insulation, the thickness of the insulation material is as important as its specifications. As the thickness increases, the amount of heat transfer decreases. Thus, thicker thermal insulation materials should be preferred. The energy efficiency provided by an insulation material that has an average of 10 cm thickness can only be fulfilled by walls made of 150 cm brick or 500 cm reinforced concrete. Such wall thicknesses are impossible in practice. Thus, energy efficiency requires thermal insulation and thermal insulation requires materials at optimum thickness. If followed, the minimum thickness of 20 cm and above recommended by European Standards for ETICS (External Thermal Insulation Composite Systems) has great contribution to energy efficiency, sustainability, envelope and load-bearing system of a building.
Thermal Insulation for Sustainable Environment
Other benefits of thermal insulation are excellence in comfort and contribution to sustainability. Important than ever, the notion of sustainability, which states, industrialists and companies shape their operations accordingly, also points out to every individual's sense of responsibility for the environment. Using the limited resources moderately, investing in renewable energy and minimizing the required energy will maintain the availability of resources and thus ensure the sustainability of the natural balance and the ecologic system by reducing CO2 emission of buildings. CO2 emission of a well-insulated zero-energy building is 90% less compared to a standard building without insulation.
Each Building Component Matters
Proper and accurate insulation of every building component from the foundation to the roof is the most crucial step in maintaining the internal temperature. The thermal conductivity coefficient (U) of all components of the building is expected to be maximum 0.15 W/m2K for a zero-energy building. The insulation should be performed by providing proper solutions for details and optimum material thickness in a way that will prevent gaps and thermal bridges in areas with indentations such as walls, columns, beams and window ledges to zero out heat loss.
Recommended U Values for Building Envelope
External Wall U Value ≤0.10 W/m2K
Roof / Ceiling / Flooring U Value ≤0.10 W/m2K
Basement Flooring U Value ≤0.15 W/m2K
Door & Window U Value (glass) ≤0.70 W/m2K
Formation of Thermal Bridge
A Design without Thermal Bridge = Best Insulation
The risk of heat transfer from installation pipes, doors, windows, spaces between the building floors is high due to their architectural structures. The faulty or insufficient insulation of these areas will cause thermal bridges to form in the building as a whole. Such connection points should be insulated smoothly and properly to minimize the heat loss inside the building. Thermal insulation should not be interrupted on the flooring between the unheated basement and the heated floor, the external walls contacting the soil or the foundation. Solutions for such details should be considered along with the proper thickness and the uninterrupted wall insulation.
Formation of thermal bridges should be avoided since it creates weak spots on the building envelope causing loss of energy. In order to obtain full energy efficiency benefit from a thermal insulation, such weak spots should be prevented from forming on the building envelope. Thus, all the cross sections and plans of the external envelope should be drawn as a single uninterrupted line during the design phase before the insulation process. An uninterrupted building envelope line zeros out the thermal bridge risk. When this is not possible, thermal insulation experts should be consulted for custom solutions.