Architects and designers don’t often know what material they are specifying in the wall of a building or structure because it is an assembly they choose. When discerning clients question what is in the walls, it is inevitably gypsum and fiberglass, two energy-intensive building bad-boys that get picked because they come with familiarity and a low price tag.
The defacto, easy, unhealthy insulation option lurking in walls and attics, is invariably pink. And even wrapped around a skinny panther who miraculously walks on two spindly pink legs, it still does not have a tactile or visual appeal. So we stuff it in our walls, pretend it performs some function and largely ignore it.
Pink insulation is fiberglass. Strands of fiberglass bound together by what are often unhealthy chemicals. You can’t touch it. Or you can, but it will leave you itching. It sags. If faced with kraft paper, it can often mold. But we don’t see that, as it is stuffed away in a wall cavity. Like our own trash, we are not staring at piles of garbage heaped in landfills, so we can turn a blind eye. So to, can we ignore the chemical-laden pink elephant hiding in the room.
There are alternatives to pink insulation. There are two REALLY good alternatives to pink insulation. There are other colors of insulation (it does not have to be pink) - creams, whites and yellow-ish insulations, but those are just colors, they are still fiberglass. And remember, if you can’t see it, who really cares what color it is. But you care what it DOES. So let’s consider insulation that does something in your walls. Insulation that makes your building or home a healthier place to be.
Strip off your jeans folks, we are getting down and dirty on insulation options. Cotton insulation, typically blue, as it is recycled denim and cotton fibers, is a great alternative to fiberglass. The insulation is denser, given it better acoustic properties and it is much easier to tear in the field, and to actually touch without having to come into contact with harsh chemicals and/or fibers.
Cotton insulation has been on the market for over a decade and companies like Bonded Logic have grown their business into the automotive and food service sector as well, as people want something insulating, but non-toxic in their cars and around their produce.
The newest entrant to the healthy insulation space is wool insulation. The most natural type of insulation, wool insulation steps up the game when it comes to performance. The unique construction of the wool fiber means that it performs extremely well acoustically. The fact that it is wool - duh, we make clothes out of it - means that it can be in close proximity. But the most amazing feature is that it removes pollutants from the air. Caustic airborne compounds like SO2, NOx and formaldehyde, are permanently sequestered by the wool insulation fibers. This gives wool the benefit of being a “stepped-in solution”. I just made that term up, but basically it means this is not an all or nothing proposition - using wool in just a portion of your space means that it is filtering the air and removing pollutants. You can use as little or as much as you like, additional material is just compounding the benefits.
Havelock Wool is the leader in the wool insulation space, and has sourced their wool from New Zealand, where there are strict regulations around the cleanliness of the wool fibers. Havelock Wool only sources materials meets the highest standards.
The drawback to wool is the price tag, but when you consider that you have an actively engaged insulation that is helping clean your office, your home or your hospital, the trade off is worth it. These pollutants will not continue to circulate throughout your space, they are trapped by the wool insulation fibers.
Insulation alternatives are available in batts or as loose fill, so walking in your attic will be the stuff that dreams are made of - literally - sheep.
And, no we don’t dream about sheep, we meant counting them.
So sleep easy knowing that you don’t have to accept the norm. You can make a better choice about what’s in your walls, even if it impacts what’s in your wallet. You don’t have to go all in, you can “step in.” So step up, design community and take your buildings to the next, healthier level by using building products that actively perform.
Interested in learning more about healthy pink insulation alternatives? Request a sample today.