Preserving the Environment

One of the most important environmental benefits of rock wool and slag wool insulation is their ability to make buildings more energy efficient. A thermally efficient building reduces the amount of energy required to maintain a comfortable indoor environment. A reduction in energy consumption conserves non-renewable fuel supplies and reduces air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions such as CO2 and NOx. According to a Harvard University School of Public Health study, this reduction in emissions as a result of energy efficiency through the use of thermal 8 insulation greatly improves public health and saves lives.

Wise Resource Use

Slag wool is made from blast furnace slag, a byproduct of steel production and a waste product. The industry estimates that over 90 percent of the slag used for insulation is purchased directly from steel manufacturers. The remaining 10 percent is mined from waste disposal sites and landfills. Between 1992 and 2005, slag wool insulation manufacturers used over 13 billion pounds of waste blast furnace slag in the production of insulation . Both rock and slag wool insulations use natural rock such as basalt in the manufacture of the products. This material is available near to the rock and slag wool insulation plants in North America. By mixing waste materials with raw materials that are found abundantly and widely in nature, rock and slag wool insulation manufacturers report that they are able to use less energy during production than by using strictly the natural rock.

Re-Engineering Manufacturing Processes

Many insulation manufacturers are reducing process waste by instituting conservation measures. These measures include re-engineering manufacturing processes to incorporate production scrap back into the primary production process, or reprocessing it into other products. Technology, engineering and process control have played key roles in developing a cleaner, stronger, and easier-to-handle product over the last 20 years. Most mineral wool plants operate with a closed loop system; thus, there are no wastewater dis- charges. Mineral wool manufacturing plants also operate under a Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) standard to reduce and limit air emissions.

Green Rating Systems

Green and sustainable building programs are beginning to drive the choice of materials used in buildings. One method, used by the US Green Building Council (USGBC) to promote green and sustainable buildings, is a rating system called Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEEDTM). LEED allocates points to a building that meets specific targets, and specific point levels determine the building's LEED rating. Rock and slag wool products can help green building developers earn points toward a LEED rating, especially in the area of materials and resources where credits are earned for recycled content and regional material content. In using these point-based systems, however, it is easy to forget that the core purposes of insulation are to conserve energy and improve comfort, which are key pillars of sustainable construction. Therefore, all insulation is technically green. What matters more than just points in selecting an insulation material is its suitability for the project based on a number of environmental criteria and specification of proper levels of insulation for the application, which are typically beyond the minimum mandated by codes. Rock and slag wool insulations embody a number of characteristics that make them advantageous choices in green and sustainable building.