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Commercial Building Insulation

Belleville Insulation – professional contractors serving the Bay of Quinte region


Commercial Building Insulation

The needs of commercial buildings can be quite different than residential homes when it comes to efficient insulation.  In a home, insulation is typically added to the exterior of the walls to reduce heat loss through the exterior of the home. The insulation material can be added in the form of insulation panels or batts. In commercial building insulation, the insulation is typically placed within the interior of the walls to reduce heat loss through the interior of the building. The insulation can be in the form of insulation panels or batts. The insulation panels are generally placed between the studs and drywall, while the insulation batts are generally applied directly to the wallboard.

Types of insulation

The two types of insulation commonly used in commercial buildings are fiberglass and polyurethane.  These two types of insulation are chosen based on the temperatures that the building is expected to experience, as well as the budget and structural considerations.

Fiberglass insulation

Fiberglass insulation is the most common type of insulation used in commercial buildings.  Fiberglass insulation is available in many different types, such as fiberglass batts, fiberglass insulation panels, and fiberglass insulation blankets.  The fiberglass insulation is usually sprayed on the walls or applied directly to the wallboard.  Fiberglass insulation is also available in different thicknesses.

Polyurethane insulation

There are many different types of polyurethane insulation, such as batts, insulation panels, insulation blankets and spray foam. Flat roof insulations that use sprayed-on foam are a high R- value choice. R-values can be as high as 7.2 per inch, according to the American Chemistry Council Center for the Polyurethanes Industry.

For commercial flat roofing, either 1-component or 2-component spray polyurethane foam is used as well as insulated metal panels for the building envelope. Cold storage buildings often use metal panels that are insulated. Structural performance is one of the main advantages of polyurethane. SPF can conform to irregular surfaces on a wide variety of substrates, which is the major benefit. High fire resistance as well as long-term stability of the R-value are typically present. There are limits to the window of application temperature and humidity in some climate conditions.

Reducing thermal bridging

A thermal bridge is a way for heat to get into or out of a building. A metal plumbing vent that passes through the roof and its insulation can carry heat into or out of the building. In addition, when the metal pipe passes through warm air it can produce condensation that will compromise the effectiveness of surrounding insulation. Thermal bridges can include steel beams that pass through exterior walls, concrete slabs, steel wall ties in masonry walls, and junctions between windows, walls and floors. 

Everyone who works with the building envelope or owns a building must take into account places where a thermal bridge may occur. If you can reduce thermal bridging, the building will be more energy efficient, will keep conditioned air or heat inside longer, and will cost you less for heating or cooling.

Continuous insulation

One strategy to fight thermal bridges is continuous insulation. This is not the same as cutting insulation tightly to fit into the walls and taping them together, but it is important to ensure an insulation’s effectiveness. Continuous insulation is installed on the exterior side of the walls so it is not broken up by wall components. It doesn’t seem like it would make a difference, but testing shows it does.

In a multi-story building the insulation cannot be continuous. In order to meet building code standards that require continuous insulation, insulation needs to be installed over wood studs and before sheathing. When repeating, exposed slabs act as thermal bridges and can increase a building’s U-value by 71 percent.

The best way to combat this is continuous insulation. Rigid foam insulation is designed to be applied on structural sheathing and has high thermal R-values, what you need to limit thermal bridging. Rigid foam can be retrofit into existing buildings, if your building requires it.

Insulated building slab

The building envelope goes into the slab and not just up to the roof. Concrete slabs can act as thermal bridges. In cold weather climate that we have in this area, you need to insulate your building slab. It is best if the continuous exterior insulation comes into contact with the  building slab, so there is no thermal bridge in the gap between them.