Addressing concerns that some insulation products release unhealthy chemicals, HBN is proud to have conducted the extensive materials research detailed in a new guide to healthier insulation and air sealing materials released today. While the report focuses on affordable, multifamily housing, its recommendations provide actionable value across building sectors.

Making Affordable Multifamily Housing More Energy Efficient: A Guide to Healthier Upgrade Materials is part of a collaborative effort with the Energy Efficiency for All (EEFA) initiative, funded by The JPB Foundation. EEFA’s goal is to increase energy efficiency in the affordable multifamily sector as a way to reduce pollution, maintain housing affordability, and create healthier, more comfortable living environments. To ensure that the healthiest material options available are used in these upgrades, EEFA partners NRDC and Elevate Energy teamed up with HBN, Vermont Energy Investment Corporation, Three3, and the International Living Future Institute to develop material and policy recommendations for multifamily energy efficiency upgrade projects.

The report’s authors observe, “We know that energy-efficiency interventions have significant benefits for building residents and society at large; as energy-efficiency investments proliferate, we should ask how we can ensure that these benefits are equally available for the low-income populations served by affordable housing. Healthy materials can benefit these populations in many ways—by creating better indoor environmental quality for residents, safer jobs for upgrade and construction workers, and healthier communities with reduced pollution from toxic chemicals released when materials are manufactured, processed, and disposed of.”

What you’ll find in the report

Details include HBN’s research on the common chemical content of a range of insulation and sealant materials, as well as best-in-class materials with advantages over Common Products, and less-common undesirable characteristics to avoid. Also included are simple, actionable recommendations to make the best material choices possible.

Because hazardous content is not the only consideration when making material choices, the report includes HBN’s compilation of relative cost information, performance characteristics, and installation and code considerations. It also introduces a discussion of policies that may impact material decisions and offers specifics to encourage the use of healthier materials in multifamily energy efficiency upgrades.  

The report concludes with a call to action that we echo here—“We envision a future when upgrades make buildings energy efficient, create environments that promote health, and contribute to the well-being of communities living in affordable housing. Please join us in making this future our future.”