Spray Polyurethane Foam: A Key Component to Any Net Zero Solution

In July 2014, California initiated the revision process to the 2016 version of Title 24, California’s building energy efficiency codes, which are designed to move the state’s residential and commercial buildings toward zero net energy (ZNE). All new residential construction is to be ZNE by 2020, and all new commercial buildings are to achieve ZNE by 2030. While aggressive, these goals are achievable with the right design implementation and accessibility to proper building materials.

As one of the world’s most influential economies, the state of California has demonstrated its power in leading the other 49 states in the implementation of progressive initiatives. California traditionally takes an environmental stance with a history of enforcing regulations designed to protect the physical environment and health of the state’s residents. These efforts often result in national trending with other states and municipalities following suit with similar regulations. It is widely anticipated a similar phenomenon will occur with ZNE goals.

The design of a ZNE building focuses on the reduction of energy consumption and on the generation of the structure’s own renewable energy (such as via solar panel solutions). Long-term ZNE begins with a quality building enclosure. High-performance attics and wall systems are a key focus of 2016 Title 24 as they make a significant impact in the reduction of peak cooling demand in structures.

Because of spray polyurethane foam’s unique attributes, the material is widely recognized as an optimal solution for unvented attics, as well as for roofing, walls and ceilings. SPF has the ability to insulate, air and water seal, as well as control moisture throughout the structure, acting as a single-source solution, reducing the need for multiple products.

Energy loss may occur at various points throughout the roof, walls and ceiling via air leakage. Thus the air-sealing ability of SPF is extremely beneficial when trying to improve energy efficiency.

As a thermal insulator, SPF forms in place and fully adheres, almost completely eliminating the cracks and gaps that allow escape of conditioned air. It may be installed in a continuous layer, eliminating thermal bypasses typically found with cavity insulations and boasts one of the highest R-values of all insulation options.

In roofing, SPF acts as a protective roofing solution and as an insulator. The effectiveness of insulation is measured through moisture control, air leakage, health, safety, durability, comfort and energy efficiency factors, and SPF scores exceptional marks in all.

These combined characteristics are integral to SPF’s ability to contribute to total ZNE solutions—solutions, which will become increasingly necessary as the net zero revolution takes hold across the U.S.

About the Author

Rick Duncan
Rick Duncan is the technical director of the Fairfax, Va.-based Spray Polyurethane Foam Alliance, an organization representing contractors, material and equipment manufacturers, distributors and industry consultants involved in spray foam.

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