Natural insulation products have many properties that set them apart from conventional materials. Overall, their impact on the environment is much less than that of conventional insulation products. All natural insulation materials are made from renewable plant or animal sources; their manufacturing processes use very little energy; they are safe for installers and pleasant to handle; and they are re-usable or biodegradable at the end of a building’s life.
Once installed in buildings, the benefits of natural insulation materials are even more marked. They have the ability to ‘breathe’, meaning they can absorb airborne moisture (resulting naturally from of human activity and the weather) and release it again when the air is drier, keeping the relative humidity in the room stable, at a comfortable level for the occupants. Flax insulation, for example, can hold up to 25% of its weight in water before starting to lose its thermal capacity. This reduces the risk of condensation since the insulation acts as a reservoir.
This quality also helps to protect the building structure from damage through condensation and moisture, especially if it is timber, by wicking the moisture away from the wood. Natural insulation products are therefore ideal for use in ‘breathing’ constructions.
Additional benefits of natural insulation materials are effective sound insulation and the ability to perform over time, qualities not always achievable with conventional insulation products. The immediate performance benefits and longer-term cost benefits will therefore be significant.