skip to main content


Title: Insulation materials for commercial buildings in North America: An assessment of lifetime energy and environmental impacts

In the United States, commercial buildings accounted for about 19 percent of the total primary energy consumption in 2012. Further, 29 percent of the site energy in commercial buildings was consumed for space heating and cooling. Applying insulation materials to building envelopes is an effective way of reducing energy consumption for heating and cooling, and limiting the negative environmental impacts from the buildings sector. While insulation materials have a net positive impact on the environment due to reduced energy consumption, they also have some negative impacts associated with their 'embodied energy'. The total lifetime environmental impacts of insulation materials are a summation of: (1) direct impacts due to their embodied energy, and (2) indirect or impacts avoided due to the reduced building energy consumption. Here, assessments of the lifetime environmental impacts of selected insulation materials are presented. Direct and indirect environmental impact factors were estimated for the cradle-to-grave insulation life cycle stages. Impact factors were calculated for two categories: primary energy consumption and global warming potential. The direct impact factors were calculated using data from existing literature and a life cycle assessment software. The indirect impact factors were calculated through simulations of a set of standard whole-building models.
 [1] ;  [1] ;  [1] ;  [1]
  1. Oak Ridge National Lab. (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN (United States)
Publication Date:
Grant/Contract Number:
Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Energy and Buildings
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 112; Journal ID: ISSN 0378-7788
Research Org:
Oak Ridge National Lab. (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN (United States). Building Technologies Research and Integration Center (BTRIC)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE)
Country of Publication:
United States
32 ENERGY CONSERVATION, CONSUMPTION, AND UTILIZATION; insulation materials; commercial buildings; direct environmental impacts; indirect environmental impacts; embodied energy; global warming potential
OSTI Identifier:
Alternate Identifier(s):
OSTI ID: 1396963