Typical insulation in commercial and residential building over the past 60 years or so has been insulation placed in the wall between studs or in interior cavities. However, studies are now showing that the best insulation strategy is to place it outbound or outside the wall. This design offers a continuous blanket of protection that does not allow energy to be lost at wall and studs joints where interior insulation does not exist.
Currently continuous insulation of the building enclosure is considered to be the best insulation strategy. Continuous Insulation is defined by ASHRAE 90.1-2004 as “insulation that is continuous across all structural members without thermal bridges”” The most commonly used insulation in buildings today is called cavity insulation, which is not considered to be continuous insulation due to the thermal breaks in the insulation caused by the wall studs.
As more focus is put on increasing the energy efficiency of the built environment, many recent updates to the model energy and building codes as well as voluntary sustainable building programs emphasize the need for continuous insulation and high effective R-values across the building envelope as a means to achieving the best insulation strategy for energy efficiency.
Exterior insulation and finish systems (EIFS) are the best continuous insulation systems available today. Introduced in the 1960″s and currently being used worldwide, they have been proven to be both effective and durable. EIFS provide a continuous insulation layer across the exterior wall surface. It is the best insulation as it provides 100% coverage of the walls, eliminating thermal bridging that can occur through the wall studs. Traditional insulation cannot provide continuous insulation as it is between-the-stud insulation, effective only where it is present.
In addition, EIFS can be used for energy efficient retrofits of existing building stock, with minimal disturbance to the building occupants. An EIFS retrofit provides continuous insulation to the existing building, vastly improving energy performance.
With rising energy demands, the need for effective products cannot be understated. An airtight building enclosure that incorporates exterior continuous insulation in addition to cavity insulation is the best insulation strategy for energy efficiency. As such the choice of an exterior insulation and finish system can help provide the best insulation for energy efficient structures.