The demand for energy efficient buildings is ever-growing, and the pressure is on for specifiers to find new ways to create buildings which will achieve tomorrow’s demands. However, increasing insulation levels could lead to more complicated, thicker constructions which will ultimately result in a loss of space.
An increasingly-popular solution is the use of Vacuum Insulated Panels (VIPs), which can match the thermal performance of commonly-used insulation materials at a much-reduced thickness.
VIPs feature a micro-porous core which is evacuated and sealed in a thin, gas-tight membrane which maintains the vacuum over time. As there is no air, thermal energy cannot be conducted, therefore, enabling the product to achieve aged thermal conductivities as low as 0.007 W/m.K, far outperforming many other insulation solutions with nominal thickness. This makes them ideal for applications where space or weight is at a premium, allowing problematic areas to be insulated effectively.
The latest generation of these products takes this innovation one step further by encapsulating the VIP within a rigid thermoset insulation board, providing a robust solution which be used in a wider range of applications. This new approach reduces the need for a protective layer and can also remove the requirement for a separate insulation overlay to be installed above the VIPs layer, keeping the overall build up slim and speeding up installation.
Encapsulated VIPs can achieve an insulating performance that is up to three times better than other commonly used insulation materials. As with other VIPs systems, some suppliers can also provide tailored design services for each application. The system designers will provide a clear layout for each application. This ensures the best possible ratio of encapsulated VIPs to infill panels — allowing the required thermal performance to be met with the slimmest possible construction.
The outstanding thermal performance provided by encapsulated VIPs can be particularly beneficial for constructions that are typically thick and heavy – such as green roofs. For example, take a dense concrete deck with a suspended ceiling. A semi-intensive green roof may comprise:
- 50 mm screed to falls
- Vapour control layer
- Insulation layer
- Single-ply membrane
- Roof barrier/protective layer
- Drainage layer
- Filtration layer
Green roof covering
To achieve a U-value of 0.14 W/m2.K — Kingspan Insulation’s recommended best starting point for new build non-domestic buildings in Britain — a 140 mm thickness of high performance PIR insulation would be required. In contrast, with an encapsulated VIP system, that thickness could be reduced significantly to just 80 mm.
In addition to benefiting new build constructions, the performance characteristics of encapsulated VIPs also make them particularly useful when converting flat roofs into roof terraces. In these applications, keeping the insulation depth to a minimum is crucial as the existing internal floor height is already set. By installing encapsulated VIPs, it is possible to avoid either having to reduce the ceiling height in the room below or having to create a step-up on to the balcony, helping to maintain a sense of flow from inside to out.
Next Generation Buildings
Architects and specifiers have a crucial role to play in ensuring that our buildings provide the best possible environment for occupiers throughout their lifetime. Encapsulated VIPs can provide a durable option in applications where the system weight and thickness need to be kept to a minimum, without reducing thermal performance.