ARCHITECT contributor Brian Libby takes a closer look at increasingly stringent energy codes that are redefining insulation's role in the building envelope. Sales of the material across both the commercial and residential market are forecasted to rise 6.6% annually through 2019 to about $10.3 billion, according to Cleveland-based research firm The Freedonia Group.

Three factors—stricter codes, enhanced materials, and  a systems approach— are poised to change how insulation is made, sold, and installed. Stricter requirements from the International Energy Conservation Code in 2012 and 2015 mark a significant departure from the 2009 code with regards to wall-cavity insulation. 

Insulation’s ingredients are also becoming more efficient. Spray-foam makers, such as Canadian manufacturer Icynene, are adding low-VOC insulation to their lineups to cut re-occupancy times down to a few hours following installation. The addition of compatible through-wall flashing and sealant details to create water-resistive barriers are allowing spray foam to be used as continuous insulation, says Paul Duffy, vice president of engineering for the company. 

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