Green Materials Report – Fiberglass Insulation

Fiberglass insulation from Owens Corning

This post is part of the green materials report series.  GBE is providing information on various building materials and what makes them green.  Each post focuses on one material.  We will be looking at the ingredients in the material, how it is used, what makes green materials green, and any green product certifications that it has earned.  We hope to develop a database of information to help consumers make informed choices about what goes in their buildings.

Fiberglass insulation is a man-made fiber material made from recycled glass and sand, and is one of the “green materials” that helps to reduce the amount of energy that goes into keeping a metal building warm or cool.

Fiberglass insulation is the most popular form of insulation used in the United States. Insulation protects the inside of buildings from the hot or coldness of the air on the outside. It can be produced in either blanket form or as loose fill. The process begins with molten glass flowing past a series of air jets that simultaneously spin out the fibers, coat them with a liquid binder, and break them into random short pieces.  The cooling glass fibers fall onto a moving conveyor belt below, piling up into a tangled mass.  This mass is then cut into strips that are called batts.

The fiberglass “batts” are either stuffed into the spaces between the studs in the exterior walls of a building, or they may be laid down on the bottom of an attic space.  Other forms of insulation, such as loose fill or boards, are used in other locations, such as a basement or crawl space.


Why Fiberglass is One of Our Green Materials

Insulation saves energy and money.  Today’s fiberglass insulation is made from recycled glass, which cuts down on the need for fresh resources of sand and glass.  It is available in formulations without formaldehyde in the binder agent.  Formaldehyde is a chemical that can off-gas into the air during and after installation, causing a bad smell and respiratory irritation.


Certifications for Green Materials

GreenGuard Gold – The GreenGuard Gold standard includes health based criteria for additional chemicals and also requires lower total VOC emissions levels to ensure that products are acceptable for use in environments such as schools and healthcare facilities.  In addition to limiting emissions of more than 360 VOCs and total chemical emissions, these products must also comply with requirements of the State of California’s Section 01350.

Environmental product declaration for Owens Corning EcoTouch Foil Faced Insulation. No health product declaration could be found for this product




Inexpensive energy efficiency upgrade May be dangerous to installers
Improve insulation by adding more materials May contain formaldehyde
Fire resistant Loses insulation properties when damp
Absorbs sound

Sources: eHow, How Stuff Works, Green Home Guide, CertainTeed