When it comes to what’s new in insulation, it’s not about more of the fluffy stuff, it’s about what’s inside and around it. Stricter energy codes are prompting changes to the makeup of traditional insulation, as well as the accessories and systems that make it work.

In October, Owens Corning added an R-20 offering to its ProPink EcoTouch insulation portfolio. The professional-grade R-20 delivers all of the same thermal and acoustical performance benefits of Owens Corning’s EcoTouch insulation in a code-compliant product.

The product comes in response to the continuing upgrading of energy codes across the country, with all but two climate zones now requiring R-20 insulation in 2x6 wall cavities. Offered unfaced or with kraft facing, the insulation is soft to the touch and features a formaldehyde-free formula made of 99% natural materials. It also claims excellent stiffness and recovery characteristics for easy cutting and splitting when insulating small spaces and odd-shaped cavities. These attributes help to install RESNET (Residential Energy Services Network) Grade 1 quality on every job while meeting the quality insulation installation (QII) requirements for California.

“By adding an R-20 offering to our popular ProPink EcoTouch insulation portfolio, we’re helping builders and contractors achieve energy codes and performance standards with a convenient in-stock product,” says Chris Koons, product manager for batt and roll insulation at Owens Corning Insulation Systems.

In addition to allowing builders to achieve energy efficiency and green building certifications including the Energy Star Home program, the National Association of Home Builders’ National Green Building Standard, and LEED, EcoTouch insulation has also achieved Greenguard Gold Certification for indoor air quality, and is the only fiberglass insulation product listed in the USDA BioPreferred Catalog.

Green Indoors

Also taking its environmental impact seriously is CertainTeed. In September the company issued its first Environ­mental Product Declaration (EPD) for its Sustainable Insulation, making it one of the first insulation manufacturers to provide third-party verification of a product’s environmental performance from manufacturing to end-of-life.

To create the EPD, UL Environment evaluated life-cycle assessment data for the fiberglass product on its critical environmental impacts, including raw-material extraction and use, production processes, as well as packaging and logistics. “The insulation EPD joins the company’s growing catalog of EPDs, which currently includes an industry-leading library for acoustical ceiling solutions,” says Lucas Hamilton, manager, building science applications for CertainTeed.

“EPDs are becoming a critical component for meeting the newest generation of green building codes,” he says. “They offer the transparency needed to make informed specifications in an easy-to-understand format that is consistent throughout the industry.”

The company claims that its Sustainable Insulation can reduce energy costs throughout the life of a structure with no additional energy use or maintenance. It is available in a variety of R-values ranging from R-11 to R-38 and is designed for use in standard wood-stud and steel-frame wall and ceiling assemblies. The product resists moisture absorption and won’t settle or lose its R-value over time. Kraft-faced batts and rolls also act as a vapor retarder to help prevent condensation and mold growth in the wall cavity.

Owens Corning is also keeping energy in mind with its new Energy­Complete Sealant. Released in July, the product claims to be the only self-forming gasket, providing energy compliance in the form of air sealing. Part of a whole-home insulation and air-sealing system, it is designed to fill gaps and cracks that cannot be accessed post-drywall. It can also be installed to all top plates pre-drywall.

A foamed-in-place air-sealing solution that creates a flexible gasket to seal leakage areas in a home, EnergyComplete Sealant can help save homeowners about one-third on annual heating and cooling costs. The product’s maker also claims that, in addition to reducing the chance of mold growth by keeping airborne moisture from entering wall cavities, the sealant defends against insects and other pests.

EnergyComplete Sealant contributes to points of green building programs including Energy Star, LEED, and the NAHB National Green Building Standard. The product is also Greenguard Indoor Air Quality Certified. Furthermore, its ability to create a flexible gasket between lumber and drywall makes it easy to meet stringent new code requirements—including the new 2012 International Energy Conservation Code.

“This practical, easy-to-apply product satisfies our customers’ needs for a high-performing, code-compliant product,” says Dave Wolf, research and development program leader at Owens Corning Insulating Systems.

Wall to Wall

Keeping installation in mind, Dow Building Solutions introduced a new Ultra Air Barrier Wall System in August. Designed for use in block backup construction and on metal stud walls, the system delivers a layer of continuous insulation and a properly detailed air/vapor and water barrier in one package promising multiple solutions for an energy-efficient wall design in fewer steps than traditional construction methods.

Ultra Air Barrier Wall System’s combination of continuous insulation, air/vapor barrier, and water barrier products that building professionals have used separately over the years provides architects, designers, and contractors with two options for use in multiple types of backup wall construction. For block walls with integrated brick ties, the system uses specially sized 15 3/4-inch-wide-by-8-foot-long Styrofoam CavityMate Ultra Insulation boards placed between the ties, as well as sealant along the boards for achieving air/vapor and water barrier properties.

—Sarah Humphreys is a freelance writer in Los Angeles.