Every year, the National Association of Home Builders, based in the United States, hosts an International Builders’ Show, at which representatives from home-building companies around the world mingle and learn about the most recent trends and innovations in the world of construction.
This year’s show, located in Las Vegas, Nevada, was planned around a showcase home demonstrating many recent innovations, including innovations that were developed by the plastics industry..
The home, located on a hill with views of the city, is ostentatious in design. Its features include a fireplace with a width of five meters, an infinity pool, and ubiquitous floor-to-ceiling windows – even in the garage.
Large windows are a sought after feature in homes, but they come with a challenge, especially in cold or hot climates – despite advances in window technology, windows offer poor insulation. This doesn’t jibe well with the other major trend in home construction – a move towards sustainability and energy efficiency.
To make the home efficient despite the plethora of windows, builders turned to several types of plastic insulation manufactured by Owens Corning. The most extensively used product is known as Foamular. This extruded polystyrene foam has strong insulating properties and can be used in many locations. Most innovative at the show house was the use of foam to insulate the exterior of the cement slab the home was built on.
Putting plastic insulation around the cement slab has multiple benefits. For one thing, it greatly reduces the ability of moisture to enter the house (not a problem in the desert where the home is located, but a big issue in damper environs). It also prevents the relatively cold ground from excessively cooling the house and, when used for above-ground portions of the cement slab and the walls, stops the house from heating too much during the day. This increases comfort and reduces the amount of energy required to heat and cool the house.
It is expected that the use of plastic insulation will save the future owner of the showcase home about $3,000 USD on energy costs per year. The economic benefits don’t end there – the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy has calculated that the homes built with high-performance materials designed to reduce energy use sell for almost 10% more in the United States.
Homeowners and builders across the world have a lot to gain from increasing the use of plastic insulation in homes. It’s just another example of why plastics will remain indispensable in the future.