Why do we talk about a cultural change when addressing the issue of thermal insulation? Simply because in a sector that contributes to the majority of global emissions, identifying solutions that make thermal comfort sustainable means fuelling a significant and virtuous change of approach that also impacts people’s mentality.
Thermally insulating a building does not only mean acting in terms of physical redevelopment of the building, but actively intervening in its energy efficiency, reflectively reducing the building’s emissive tendency. Therefore, thermal insulation obtained with natural and innovative materials represents a cultural turning point in a sector such as the building industry that is struggling to address issues related to environmental sustainability and the energy impact of a building.
Design and choice of materials: two fundamental steps for good thermal insulation
The design of internal thermal insulation is the first step in bringing comfort and eco-sustainability to the building. The objective is to identify the most suitable solutions to create an adequate microclimate without wasting resources.
This phase consists of several steps: the control of winter and summer solar contributions, to optimise energy consumption; the measurement of dispersion and inertial phenomena; the management of internal and operating temperatures; the control of ideal humidity levels; the sound-absorbing and insulating properties of materials; the analysis of the geometric, physical, and structural characteristics of the envelope; and the correct design of room lighting.
To achieve conditions of comfort and liveability, it is necessary to identify and select materials that make the most efficient use of the natural function of confined air, i.e., the insulating properties that make it a material with low thermal conductivity and a limited tendency to transfer heat. Only materials with high porosity can perform this function of encapsulating and confining air.
These biomaterials form the basis of Diasen’s solutions for tackling insulation interventions effectively, quickly and with long-term effects.
The impact of good thermal insulation
Good thermal insulation reduces heat loss during the winter months and reduces heat gain during the summer, increasing living comfort and reducing energy costs. Concepts of technical physics that have instinctively inspired human choices since ancient times, when our ancestors used lime, cork, clay and volcanic materials to protect the home from changing weather conditions.
At Diasen, we create green solutions that replicate with modern technology the approach used by the ancients to achieve objectives of protection, thermal insulation and liveability of environments. In fact, we use biomaterials to create thermal insulating mortars and paints that do not release harmful substances into the environment and that act with very high efficiency.
The flagship of this quest for thermal comfort is certainly cork. We use this precious bark of a particular Mediterranean oak for its physical properties, for the typicality of its ecosystem, for the ten-year regeneration that makes it a renewable material, and because it is made usable exclusively through physical and non-chemical treatment processes.
Cork, as the formulation essence of our biomalta, is a radical alternative to traditional thermal insulation, which requires the use of synthetic, flammable materials that are not very versatile and lack the intrinsic dynamism to insulate in both winter and summer.
As the best thermal insulator, cork has an ordered cell wall structure with a triple layer of tissue composed of cellulose, lignin and suberin. The first two perform the function of supporting materials, while suberin – a mix of long-chain fatty acids – provides properties comparable with those of waxes, starting with a marked resistance to water.
The characterising presence of suberin, in addition to inhibiting the action of parasites, explains cork’s hydrophobic tendency and its high degree of elasticity and mechanical resistance. Cork thermal insulation is therefore intended to make the home a healthy, resistant, comfortable and fireproof artefact.
New requirements, new materials
Cork, perlite, and pumice stone are materials that are used in construction to nurture a new and innovative philosophy that is both anthropocentric and ecocentric, capable of combining the needs of people and the environment. This philosophy of sustainable comfort finds accomplished expression in the building style of the Mediterranean area, in the areas where civilisation has found the roots of spectacular development, and in terms of architecture, with buildings that have been realised using natural and local materials.
These materials, linked to the needs of protection and thermal insulation, share a common property. Despite their different origins and compositions, they have a very high porosity and a molecular structure that reveals a warp of cavities that incorporate air, blocking their movement.
When air is retained and confined in cavities and alveoli, it expresses a remarkable property: its ability to transfer heat becomes minimal, and it ranks at the top of the pyramid of natural insulators. This attention to materials, this empirical wisdom inherited from centuries, has guided the Mediterranean architectural culture that focuses on the liveability of spaces, the breathability of walls, the lightness of structures, natural ventilation and reflective solutions.
The philosophy of good thermal insulation increasingly represents a construction model capable of combining comfort and liveability, in which the home is characterised as a pleasant and safe place to live every day.
The advantages of good thermal insulation
Good thermal insulation, ideally with natural materials, allows the amount of heat entering and leaving the house to be managed, which means that the air conditioning system has to work less to maintain thermal balance, reducing energy costs. In fact, a well-insulated house provides a balanced and comfortable temperature, both in winter and summer, increasing the property’s durability.
Also not to be underestimated are the safety and ecological aspects: if, on the one hand, thermal insulation helps to protect the house from changing weather conditions and meteorological events – such as wind, rain and snow – on the other hand, it allows us to consume less energy, to emit less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, helping to reduce the causes of global warming.
Adopting a green culture of thermal insulation is an essential step towards creating more sustainable buildings with a reduced environmental impact. In this way, it is possible to contribute to the fight against climate change and the creation of a greener, more sustainable world.