Use Spray Polyurethane Foam for Net Zero Energy, Superior Adhesion, Moisture Resistance and Tensile Strength

spray foam home and commercial roof insulation resists moisture

As states and local jurisdictions increasingly move toward more efficient building codes in regards to energy use, the manufacturers of construction materials have been busy developing and improving products that can help meet these new standards. Spray polyurethane foam (SPF) can help. While improved energy efficiency can be achieved through many systems, from lighting and appliances to flooring and windows, one of the most obvious and powerful ways to improve efficiency is through building envelope insulation: 40% of a buildings energy can be lost to air leaks.

Interior spray foam can seal gaps and leaks in walls.

A well-insulated wall showing spray foam between studs and an exterior layer of rigid insulation before cladding.

Spray polyurethane foam (SPF) insulation has been an important energy efficiency tool for decades, with specifiers, architects and builders recognizing its benefits. SPF insulation manufacturers are working to identify new ways that spray foam can help buildings meet and exceed energy efficiency codes.

We reached out to five knowledgeable leaders below with questions about the impacts of new energy codes, the role of energy codes in “next generation” construction, recent advancements in spray foam insulation and some ideas on SPF versatility.

Q: Updates to energy codes now require more energy-efficient building features and tighter building envelopes. How can spray foam insulation help designers and builders achieve higher levels of energy performance in their projects?

A: Spray foam insulation products provide thermal insulation and resist air flow so, they help to neutralize what the U.S. Department of Energy estimates to be the source of almost half of a building’s energy loss. As state and federal energy codes encourage higher and higher levels of efficiency, architects are increasingly turning towards a system that is “all-in-one” to mitigate heat transfer in their designs.

John Broniek, Senior Engineer, Icynene

John Broniek, Polyurethane Foam Expert and Specialist

John Broniek, Senior Engineer, Icynene

Net-Zero Energy

Q: Net-zero energy buildings are a next frontier in sustainable construction. What makes spray foam insulation a reasonable choice for these ambitious projects? Can you provide an example of a “net-zero energy” construction project?

NIST net-zero energy demo home uses SPF and polyurethane rigid board on the exterior to save energy.

A: Net-zero energy buildings are already in the near-term in some state building codes, so it’s just a matter of time until net-zero energy will be encouraged then mandated. SPF is an excellent insulation choice because it is a multifunctional product that can serve at various control layers in the building envelope.  One project, The Arc House, has a hybrid envelope with 1) closed-cell SPF insulation plus 2) an acrylic roofing membrane, combined with 3) polyiso board and plywood. With the addition of a few solar panels, the result is a highly insulated house that provides net-zero energy usage. SPF worked well on this house due to its rounded shape; the expansive nature of SPF allowed the contractor to achieve a precise installation. Additionally, the SPF roofing membrane provided a monolithic seal around the solar panel mounts, helping to prevent air leakage through cell securing penetrations.

How can we help with your project? Email for more information.

Jeremy Parker, National Sales Manager, Covestro LLC, Spray Foam expert

Jeremy Parker, National Spray Foam expert

 Jeremy Parker, National Sales Manager, Covestro LLC

Superior Adhesion, Moisture Resistance and Tensile Strength

Q: The sustainable construction industry today pushes beyond superior building energy performance. What are spray foam insulation manufacturers doing to exceed today’s sustainable market demands?

A: One major change that the spray foam industry is undergoing involves a transition to new Low Global Warming Potential (LGWP) blowing (foaming) agents. The transition started in North America three years ago when Honeywell commercialized its platform of LGWP blowing agents. Consumer and market performance demands are driving rapid growth here.

spray foam insulation helping deliver net zero efficiency

Spray foam after application.

Designing for sustainability is more than a single attribute focus or achievement. It involves “systems-integration”. Energy efficiency is one aspect, but it includes resilience, storm resistance, comfort, air quality and environmental footprint. Spray foam insulation contributes to industry sustainability goals by providing multiple functionality in a single product that addresses several sustainability systems – at once. Thermal performance, air sealing, comfort, moisture control, storm resistance and structural enhancement all can be improved when you use spray foam insulation. While reducing a building’s environmental footprint, the new LGWP formulations further green building sustainability goals .

How can we help with your project? Email for more information.

Xuaco Pascual, Global Marketing Manager— Foam Insulation, Honeywell

Xuaco Pascual, global spray foam expert

Xuaco Pascual, Global Marketing Manager—Foam Insulation, Honeywell

Q: Many think of spray foam insulation only as a wall product. How can spray foam insulation be used in roofing applications to improve overall building envelope performance?

spray foam

Spray foam roofing seals leaks and gaps in roofing.

Spray foam roof systems are the only roof systems that are seamless, self-flashing and adhere to the substrate. These qualities help eliminate air and water leakage. Unless mechanically damaged, a spray foam roof system is resistant to water leakage, and if damaged, water tends to be contained in the damaged area. This can reduce the cost of repair and interior damage. Additionally, SPF roof systems can be a renewable solution through maintenance and reapplication of roof coatings that help protect the SPF from degradation extending the roof life and saving replacement costs.

Doug Weaver, Roofing Business Manager, SWD Urethane

Doug Weaver, Roofing and Urethane expert

How can we help with your project? Email for more information.


Doug Weaver, Roofing Business Manager, SWD Urethane

Q: Building resiliency and fortification are  current sustainable construction buzzwords. What about construction projects that may be subject to natural disasters like hurricanes and flooding, any help there?

Spray foam roofing protects in high winds because of its high adhesion and tensile strength.

High tensile strength spray foam roofing

A: Products like closed cell spray polyurethane foam tend to work well in projects subject to the stresses of natural disasters.  This is due to inherent characteristics of the material, such as a very low water absorption rate and a high tensile and adhesion force.  For buildings subject to water damage during a flood event, using material not damaged by water contact can speed up the cleanup and re-occupancy times and reduce the amount of waste generated during the rebuilding process.  For homes subject to high wind events like a hurricane, applying closed cell SPF foam to the roof’s underside can reduce structural damage by helping to attach the roof sheathing to the frame while simultaneously providing a secondary water barrier in the event that the roof cladding is damaged.

Resiliency and fortification are key to sustainable construction.  Spray foam, as above, is an excellent insulation choice because the material has durability and can withstand many of the the stresses of nature.  It is easy to see how spray foam can be a sustainable construction material.

How can we help with your project? Email for more information.

Brian Oman, Application Specialist, Sr., BASF

Brian Oman, Applications and Plastics expert

Brian Oman, Application Specialist, Sr., BASF

Ongoing innovation and industry application development efforts continuously improve the versatility of spray foam and its benefits to home owners and construction professionals.

About the Author
Lee Salamone
is senior director at the Center for Polyurethanes Industry.

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