A Trumpian question: Is a passive house ecologic?

I could imagine that President Trump should put this question  and even answer it with no, it is not. Indeed, it is clear that too much thermal insulation takes more from the environment that the energy saved during the life time of the building brings back to the environment. Or in other words, which thickness is the break even point? We answer the question for GLAPOR cellular glass. 

 Passive houses have generally two requests:

  • The building envelope has to be airtight
  • The U-value should be between 0.15 and 0.1 W/m²K 

GLAPORlogoIt is clear that large GLAPOR cellular glass boards are the most ideal thermal insulation to obtain airtightness. But for an U-value of 0.15 W/m²K, we need 36cm GLAPOR PG600 boards, which is acceptable as wall thickness. Today, value down to U=0.12 W/m²K are already requested in Europe at some places. But is this ecologic? We answer this question with the UBP-system of Switzerland


ubp_passive housegrundschema_der_methodederoekologischenknappheit

For U=0.15 W/m²K, we need at least to use the house 13.5 years to pay back the environment for the production of the thermal insulation. For U=0.1 W/m²K, we have already 30 years. In Sweden for the roof, I found the following on Wikipedia: 

In Sweden, to achieve passive house standards, the insulation thickness would be 335 mm (about 13 in) (0.10 W/(m²·K)) and the roof 500 mm (about 20 in) (U-value 0.066 W/(m²·K)).

For U=0.066 W/m²K, we need already a lifetime of 70 years, while except GLAPOR, thermal insulation manufactureres does  not give a lifetime more than 50 years. And the UBP for all other thermal insulation boards is worse than GLAPOR, saying that even more than 70 years are needed with these materials even up to 150 year. 

trumpThis is a nice example of eco-fundamentalism, when laws forces people to demolish the the environment. Small U-values can only be approved  with thermal insulations with a very long life time and we should ask ourselves: Is this needed? In my opinion, below U=0.05 W/m²K (125 years), Trump should be right. 


Eco-scarcity (UBP) ranking of thermal insulation

logo_smallUBP is the German abbreviation of Umweltbelastungspunkte, which is a result of  “Methode der ökologischen Knappheit”. The method is invented in Switzerland , which explains the use of the German language. In English, we speak about the  Ecological Scarcity Method (which has no Wikipedia page).

SES_Umweltbelastung_2013-600x487An EPD gives you for the production of each product how much CO2 is generated, how much fossil energy is used, etc. These 8 numbers don´t say a lot to the common consumer. The UPB combines the impact of all these emissions and material-energy use on the environment, the future of the raw materials and our health in only ONE number. The method is defined in a paper by the Swiss government and also Volkswagen has sponsored a publication. But for the standard consumer, I have the following table with the quantity of products for 1000 UBP.


This method is also applied for thermal insulations on the Swiss market which can be found in this spreadsheet.

GLAPORlogoGLAPOR communicates 690 UBP per kg cellular glass board for production in Germany and delivery in Switzerland, which is lower than any thermal insulation except foamed glass gravel (also a GLAPOR product) like shown in the following figure. The improved value compared with “Schaumglas” is due to the fact that GLAPOR foams directly recycled glass without melting a special composition. In case production should be in Switzerland, the UBP lowers to 552 UBP/kg.



For a fair comparison of thermal insulations, we have to work with UBP/m² for a certain thermal resistance (R=5 m²K/W) to be obtained. This table is given in the following:


GLAPORlogoIt is clear that according to the UBP system in Switzerland, GLAPOR cellular glass boards are the most ecologic thermal insulation which can take a compressive load of 600 kPa with a safety factor = 2.5. This is a consequence of the direct foaming of recycled glass. Standard cellular glass is made from a special glass composition involving an energy intensive melting step. In case cellular glass gravel is used, it is needed to use the RDS-system of GLAPOR to keep the gravel dry in order to have the best ecological solution.



The smart cellular glass plant operator

Every cellular glass factory has his “temperature curve expert”. These experts observe a cellular glass foam and know in a lot of cases how it can be improved by changing temperatures, foaming agents, …. . Their knowledge and availability have a strong influence on the quality and production yield of a factory.

In the past, managers have tried to describe their knowledge in a ISO9000 system or another system with procedures. This has never worked properly because the “book” knows always less than this person. This was always clear when this person was not present in the factory, the yield drops temporarily.

Ten years ago, we needed Kitt in Knight Rider to see a self driven car, but today Tesla and many others have converted this fiction into reality. And I guess that this “machine learning” technology will enter the (cellular) glass factories soon. I expect that neural networks will do the job, because the data for input and output are already available.

Neural networks (NN), programmed in Python, based on Numpy are a good candidate because they are open source and will be fast further developed. Indeed, the NN can be trained with the massive amount of data from the past and present. To obtain a new quality, the NN will find a new solution with data from the past like today the operator is doing by using his experience. Moreover, the NN of collaborating factories can be coupled and the operator experience will not be lost after retirement.

Foamrox sold the first prefab construction with GLAPOR cellular glass

We already post about about FOAMROX where cellular glass with a coating is used to replace concrete. Today, this company has installed the first construction for an emergency exit in a Norway tunnel like can be observed on a link to AT.no about transport and to nygg.no about industry. Hereunder, we give some pictures from these sites.

This project got a boost thanks to the large cellular glass boards (2.8m x 1.2m) from GLAPOR. These boards are directly foamed from recycled glass without melting a special glass composition and are for that reason on the market for a very interesting price, comparable with high density mineral wool.