The impact of insulation on UK buildings over the past 20 years

By Phil Rigby: Glass Mineral Wool Product Manager (Knauf Insulation Northern Europe)

To paraphrase a line from Monty Python: “what has insulation ever done for us?”

Well the answer is rather a lot. Though thermal insulation has been used in UK buildings for years, millions of houses were built with little or no insulation in the walls and roofs, leaving a legacy of cold and damp houses that many live in today.

Thanks to the Thermal Building Regulations, more and more insulation has been designed into our new buildings to make them warmer, cheaper to heat and easier to maintain a comfortable living temperature.

New build homes and other new buildings are now designed and built to higher standards and a broad spectrum of insulation materials are built into the construction. In fact, so effective is insulation that today, up to 80% of the heat saving comes from the use of this material in the envelope of the building. Building more energy efficient buildings mean we can now burn less fossil fuel and help the UK Government meet its climate change targets.

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20 years ago, the majority of loft insulation or cavity wall insulation was Glass or Rock Mineral Wool and more often than not supplied by specialist insulation stockists, rather than the traditional builders’ merchant.

20 years of change

Changes to Approved Document L of the Building Regulations have driven the demand for all types of insulation for thermal purposes in the floors, external walls, party walls and roofs of new buildings. Alongside this, Approved Document E for the resistance to the passage of sound has led to an increased demand for mineral wool insulation for acoustics in party walls, internal walls and internal floors.

Today, a much wider range of insulation products are available in response to the changing demands of the market, driven by the improving building regulations for new buildings and a need to improve the UK’s existing housing stock. The insulation required comes in many more different forms and in varying levels of thickness.

The eco-trend in insulation

Knauf Insulation recognised that the environmental impact of the manufacture of insulation materials was becoming more and more important to their customers. Therefore, we introduced our ECOSE®Technology, which is a revolutionary, no added formaldehyde binder technology – the first of its kind in the world.

This has been well received by architects, installers and stockists alike who are looking to specify, use and stock more sustainable and environmentally-friendly products.

In fact, builders’ merchants now have their own environmental standards which their suppliers need to achieve, and Knauf Insulation is best placed to meet and indeed exceed these rigorous standards and deliver a best-in-class, environmentally-friendly product to them. Our customers have seen the benefits and can also feel the difference as our Earthwool® mineral wool products manufactured with ECOSE® Technology are soft and easy to handle, whilst still being robust and fit-for-purpose.

Likewise, clients and building designers have been able to demonstrate better environmental credentials with buildings that are more sustainable and attractive to tenants.

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20 years from now?

Ever improving building regulations will demand improvements to insulation, which will become thicker, denser or both. Walls in buildings may get thicker and more insulation will be needed in the roof space, beneath ground floors, in separating floors and walls. Just as the past 20 years has shown, these demands will bring yet more innovative solutions from the manufacturers.

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