The X Factor of R Value: Avoiding Toxic Chemicals in Insulation and Air Sealing Materials

Date: April 18, 2019

Time: 9:00AM - 10:30AM

Host: NRDC

Type: Lecture/Presentation


Robust evidence demonstrates that weatherization and energy efficiency upgrades can significantly and positively impact residents’ thermal stress, asthma symptoms, and energy costs. What is far less understood, however, are the adverse health impacts created by chemical emissions from some of the materials commonly used for these upgrades.


This session will introduce criteria for the selection of less toxic materials, policy opportunities for inclusion in energy improvement and public health programs, and resources on how to find, source, and specify healthier options. The findings of A Guide to Healthier Upgrade Materials will be presented, focusing on multiple material alternatives for use in two common energy retrofits measures—insulating and air sealing. These measures provide significant long-term savings but can also introduce many chemicals of concern. An investigation of the materials used for these purposes – on their chemical composition, as well as on their general performance characteristics including R-value, permeability and cost profiles is coupled with guidance on how to make healthier material choices. The Guide, available here, was developed by the Healthy Affordable Building Materials working group, which includes Energy Efficiency for All (EEFA), the Healthy Building Network (HBN), and the International Living Future Institute (ILFI).


The session will place these issues in a larger context, outlining the rationale behind the chemicals of concern on the Red List developed by ILFI, while also reviewing tools for finding Red List Free materials, and preview changes being made in Living Building Challenge version 4.0, set to be released in May.