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Integrated Design And Construction

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Also called PS, polystyrene insulation refers to using a synthetic aromatic fiber which is manufactured from a styrene monomer in the insulation of structures. As opposed to the other insulators, polystyrene if found rigid. It can also withstand very high temperatures and as well act as a barrier to noise thereby reducing noise levels (Harley 2002, p. 358).  This insulation occurs either as expanded polystyrene or extruded polystyrene. Expanded polystyrenes are found in such substances as packing foam pellets which such times as models of architecture are often made from extruded polystyrene.

Foamed polystyrene contains numerous micro air bubbles which are contained within it. Being that air is a poor conductor of heat and with the high thermal mass of polystyrene, polystyrene becomes efficient in insulation preventing the transfer of heat. As the thickness of polystyrene increases, its effective thermal insulation properties also increase with this increase even higher in extruded polystyrene.  Extruded polystyrene is a better thermal insulator than expanded polystyrene due to the high density of its structure and its ability to resist moisture (Elpel 2010, p. 139).

On the other hand, expanded polystyrene easily get soaked with moisture they deteriorating its R-value. It is for this reason that it is recommended to keep expanded polystyrene free from vapor during usage.  Regarding acoustics, polystyrene is quite a poor insulator of sound but the property can be improved by linking it to more rigid materials. An example for this case is linking polystyrene with insulated panels which would improve its acoustic blocking properties.

This is an insulation made from thin fibers of glass which are often light-weight as well as cost effective. Fiberglass insulation is often packaged in the form of rock wool which is either 8-foot batts or loose fills. The use of fiberglass for insulation dated back to the 20th century and it became more popular after people lost favor and taste for asbestos due to its risks of causing cancer.

Fiberglass is currently used in insulation of modern structures in the construction industry. Unlike polystyrene, fiberglass has excellent acoustic properties. The numerous bound fibers in the insulation are responsible for this property. These bond fibers also trap heat thereby making fiberglass thermally effective as far as regulating heat loss is concerned. Fiberglass neither burns nor absorbs water because it is made of glass (Carey 2012, p. 368). As a result of the increasing environmental concerns in relation to manufacture of insulators, a great percent of newly manufactured fiberglass is made from recycled fiberglass.

This improves on the environmental sustainability. Also, observes in fiberglass is the pink color even though fiberglass is not naturally pink. The pink color is an additive by the manufacturer for marketing purposes as a pink and softer fiberglass is preferred by a buyer compared to the light gray or white natural one (Learning 2012, p. 258).

Fiberglass is as well used in the creation of products including tent poles, automobile bodies, shower curtains, roofing and boat hulls. By trapping heat between the fiber bonds, fiberglass can keep rooms cool in the summer and warm during winter thus a convenient mechanism for enhancing energy efficiency.

Despite the benefits of fiberglass insulator, they also have drawbacks. These include itching, irritation, and rashes that are caused when the particles of fiberglass get into contact with the skin. Still, airborne particles of fiberglass have the ability to be deeply lodged into the lungs and hence believed to causative agents of cancer and other health related complications. It is due to this health hazard that all fiberglass insulators must be labeled with a cancer warning. Fiberglass releases particles into the air upon disturbance (Seville 2012, p. 285). These particles are hazardous when inhaled. In this regard, it is recommendable to dampen a region from which removal of fiberglass is to be done so as not to allow the particles to escape into the air.


Also known as mineral wool insulation, rock wool insulation is made of batts which are quite easy to install just like the case of fiberglass wool. The difference between rock wool insulation and fiberglass insulation is that for rock wool insulation instead of fibers of glass it is made of rocks.

The process of manufacture involves heating of natural rock to a temperature of about 3000?C at which it melts. The molten rock which is in the form of magma is subjected to a very high-pressure jet of either steam or air. After this, it is spun a super high speed to form strands of fiber (Elpel 2010, p. 192). The fiber strands are then captured and compressed into dense, thick mats which are thereafter cut and trimmed into batts of insulation of convenient sizes.  The final product has unique and high qualities among them;

  • Fire resistant and non-combustible
  • Excellent acoustic blocking properties
  • Up to 75% of composition is recycled
  • Manufactured from sustainable natural material
  • Better insulator than fiberglass
  • Not easily degrading hence durability and long-term performance
  • No stapling needed
  • Prevents molding and mildew as it permits the escape of moisture

Rock wool insulation is applied in the insulation of such materials as attics, floors, walls, crawlspaces as well as ceilings. Rock wool fiber is however found to excellent insulators for rooms aligned to the northern side of a house and for spaces that require maximum sound deadening. 

The thermal conductivity performance of an insulation material is a factor moisture content, density of the material, porosity and mean difference in temperature (Bingham 2009, p. 169). The thermal conductivity of polystyrene has the highest thermal conductivity of up to 5.5 per inch followed by fiberglass at R-3.8 per inch and lastly rock wool at R-2.8 per inch of thickness. These values indicate that polystyrene is the densest of the three insulation materials and rock wool the least dense.

When the temperature of the insulation materials is increased, the thermal conductivities also change and the degree of change is depending on the density. The higher the density of the material, the lower the sensitivity to changes in the thermal conductivity. In this regard, polystyrene which has the highest density (49.3kgm-3) shows the least sensitivity to temperature changes while rock wool exhibits the greatest deviations (Bennett 2009, p. 87).



Bennett, FL 2009, Construction in Cold Regions: A Guide for Planners, Engineers, Contractors, and Managers, 3rd edn, John Wiley & Sons, Manchester.

Bingham, PA 2009, Fiberglass and Glass Technology: Energy-Friendly Compositions and Applications, 3rd edn, Springer Science & Business Media, Yugoslavia.

Carey, M 2012, Home Maintenance For Dummies, 2nd edn, John Wiley & Sons, New York.

Elpel, TJ 2010, Living Homes: Integrated Design & Construction, 3rd edn, HOPS Press, Virginia.

Harley, B 2002, Insulate and Weatherize: Expert Advice from Start to Finish, 3rd edn, Taunton Press, Kansas.

Learning, C 2012, Green Building: Principles and Practices in Residential Construction, 4th edn, Cengage Learning, Red Deer.

McElroy, DL 2005, Insulation Materials, Testing, and Applications, 4th edn, ASTM International, Longmont.

Seville, C 2012, Green Building: Principles and Practices in Residential Construction, 5th edn, Cengage Learning, London.

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