February 2014: There have been some interesting innovations in insulation in recent times. Aerogels, originating from the NASA space projects, have exceptional thermal performance and there are Vacuum Insulation Panels (VIPs) also with outstanding thermal performance.
Both technologies have been around for some years, however they appear not to have taken hold within the construction industry.
Energy conservation continues to be a hot topic in global politics and economics. Carbon reduction high on the agenda, I would have thought these innovative ‘super insulation’ materials would be specified for their unmatched thermal qualities.
Yet I hear very little of them actually being used. I noted their absence on my recent visit to BAU, the major construction exhibition in Munich. Apart from a couple of small stands with VIPs I saw nothing of note for new insulation materials such as these.
BAU occurs every two years and at the last BAU Show, Aerogels and VIPs had a much higher profile. Both appeared on major manufacturers/suppliers stands. There was even an Aerogel product given an award in the innovation zone.
Where have they gone?
The response to these new developments that I am hearing is that they are “too complicated.” This is often a sign that the developers have not listened to their marketplace or to the end users. Consequently, their new product does not deliver the required performance at the right cost level and, installers find it difficult or time consuming to install.
It is a reminder that successful innovating in the construction sector requires a very clear understanding of the needs of a range of different customers – the client, the specifier and the installer .
If a new product does not tick enough boxes it will languish and fade away; much as Aerogels and VIPs appear to be doing at the moment…