Why is it important?
Building energy codes are driving the momentum on making buildings in Canada more energy efficient. This means that buildings built today are tighter and better insulated. But a building built just to code is only meeting the legal minimum, not delivering customer value beyond the baseline. Designing and constructing beyond code, including quality commercial insulation installation, delivers buildings that are more energy efficient, quieter, and healthier, which can give you a competitive advantage. This class of buildings has a higher turnover of occupants than housing, and future tenants will judge both thermal and acoustic comfort by the standards of their intended occupancy period—not the building’s construction date. So insulate for the future standards which you know are coming.
4 Great reasons to insulate
- Greater energy efficiency, lower energy bills
The value of energy efficiency is obvious: it saves building occupants money on energy bills and reduces CO2 emissions to lower carbon footprints. The benefits continue to grow in importance as energy bills rise and the public becomes more conscious of carbon impact. Energy efficiency labels on buildings, such as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), are becoming more recognizable, and has opened up the demand for “green” buildings that are said to be more energy efficient than those built to code. Note that a high proportion of mid- and high-rise buildings are rented out, and prospective tenants will be attracted by lower energy bills.
- Meeting occupant needs for comfort
Thermal comfort is a major driver of occupant satisfaction. A building that is uncomfortable or has significant temperature variations is likely to result in disgruntled occupants. Insulation and air sealing are key drivers of thermal comfort, but meeting code is no guarantee of occupant satisfaction. In fact, ASHRAE has a separate standard for meeting occupant expectations for thermal comfort: ASHRAE Standard 55 (separate from the 90.1 Standard for commercial building energy codes). It may be easy to assume that more localized control of heating and cooling is the answer to satisfying occupants throughout a building, but without proper insulation and air sealing, heat will always move to cold areas—and occupants will then use even more energy to try and stay comfortable. In the case of a power-outage in typical Canadian cold-climates, buildings will become uncomfortable fast, unless they are well-insulated and air-sealed.
- Acoustic Impact
The body of evidence demonstrating the links between noise and workplace productivity and satisfaction continues to grow. A recent survey by Cambridge Sound Management revealed 30% of office workers are distracted by coworkers’ conversations. Similarly, another survey stated 60% of employees report being more productive when the office is quiet. As the trend toward more open workspaces, floating walls, and glass elements continues to grow, so does the issue of noise. Acoustic design is highly complex and dependent on many building factors—including building type, location, and occupancy. Insulation alone may not be able to deliver a quiet workspace, but it should absolutely be part of acoustic design and solutions. The acoustic properties of different insulation types should also be compared and evaluated.
- Sustainability and Responsibility
Nearly half (49.6%) of the total energy consumption of commercial and industrial buildings in Canada is used for heating and cooling spaces, which contributes to 42.9% of the sectors’ greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. It is important, then, that measures are taken to reduce the energy consumption of buildings, with a special focus on heating and cooling loads.
Comparing and choosing insulation types is an important part of sustainable design, contributing to lower energy use, improved indoor air quality, and greater comfort. Certain insulation types can also contribute to requirements for recycled content and minimizing GHG emissions.
Note that in some major Canadian jurisdictions, peak energy demand comes from summer air-conditioning loads. Regulations are enacted to contain these peak loads. A highly insulated and air-sealed building will require less air conditioning, protecting the owner from potential future costs.