Impact on Climate Change: It’s Assemblies, Not Materials

Session Title: Impact on Climate Change: It’s Assemblies, Not Materials
Educational Track: Design
Session Code: TH0919
Date: Thursday, October 17, 2019
Time: 4:30 PM – 6:00 PM

Which insulations are best for embodied carbon? Which are best for moisture absorption? It’s not which material is best. It is which assembly of components gives the best overall performance with the least amount of embodied carbon. With all the concern about climate change, it may come as a surprise that architects have the most impactful part of all to play in the solution. 

The AIA 2030 Commitment and the Paris Accord both state that selecting construction materials with the lowest embodied carbon possible will be more impactful in mitigating climate change than the energy saved by improved operational savings given the time constraints. 

The purpose of this talk is not to make a case for any one type of insulation. It is to advocate for uniform, objective analysis of different competing insulations. By doing so, we will be able to make more informed decisions about what products to use to solve this critical problem.

Learning Objectives: By the end of this session, participants will be able to:

  • Differentiate between insulations in the same wall assembly, solved for the same R-value, yield surprising results as to which insulations contribute the least Global Warming Potential,
  • Differentiate between tests manufacturers use to show moisture absorption, Global Warming Potential and other attributes effecting wall resiliency instead of providing apples to apples comparison information,
  • Explain that different types of plastics pose different environmental issues when their life cycles are considered,
  • Demonstrate the need for a comprehensive third-party evaluation of various insulations in terms of aspects of their performance.

Content Leader:

John G. Gardner, AIA

Consultant to architects, J. Gary Gardner, AIA, CPHD, Canonsburg, PA