I am sitting here in the house my wife and I just bought, and I am surrounded by insulation material. The house is not new, which is why we are upgrading so many things about it. And to be perfectly honest I am procrastinating: I should be writing on my master thesis, but there is no rule that says I can’t do both. Since my master thesis is on the new sustainable technologies coming out of Norway, I can take a break from all the scientific discussion of the subject and ravel in the technological wonder itself.
Simply put, saw dust insulation material is a new insulation fabric that looks and behaves almost exactly as traditional insulation fabrics, right down to the yellow-ish to brown color and the fact that it comes in 60 cm wide layers that can fit perfectly between the struts of a wall. The only difference is that the material itself is made out of saw dust and not some by product of the oil and gas industry and is thus, not causing of any allergies or negative reactions.
What Is the Difference Between Sawdust and Sawdust Insulation?
From what I can gather from the internet most of the discussion at large still focuses on the use of actual sawdust as an insulation material. The problem with it is that it is so ubiqous, particularly in rural areas where people have the chance to actually fall the trees that they want to use in construction and follow up the process from the forest to the finished product.
The reality, however, is that saw dust in itself is fairly inefficient for many reasons. For one it needs to be completely dried before being used otherwise it tends to rot, start to stink and ultimately rot the walls from within. Secondly, because it tends to compact with time, it will leave parts of the wall unprotected. Also, even in the parts where it does coales, because it does not contain air, it is not really such a good material.
However, wood has been traditionally used to create paper because it is rich in fibers that can be extracted, whitened and pressed down into thin, sturdy sheets. A similar process has been developed where wood is now being used to create thicker fibers that can be interwoven to create think insulation material. The great thing about the new fibers is that they are still, in essence, saw dust, a by product that would otherwise be cast away.
How Good Is the Sawdust Insulation Material?
At the moment there are no reliable studies that would allow a manufacturer to make specific claims. It has been used in Norway and Germany to insulate specific buildings and it has worked very well in that capacity. Just by holding up a piece of saw dust insulation one can easily feel that it is denser, has better sound deadening properties, and even feels warmer to the touch than traditional insulation. There is an ongoing project that will prove its worth in one of the coldest climates on earth, in Iceland, but the results from that are several years away from being turned into scientific claims.
The one thing that can be claimed even today is that the new material is soft to the touch and does not cause any irritation. Anyone who has worked with insulation, like I have on our house, has felt the skin irritation, the itchiness that seems to go all the way to the back of the throat, the constant sneezing and the general desperate attempts the body is making to reject it.
The good news is that the new saw dust material has none of these side effects. In fact the guy developing it for the Norwegian market has even used it as a pillow and felt no ill effects. Even more impressive is the fact that it only take a single visit to a building using sawdust insulation to actually feel the effects.
As I was saying I am currently working in a room where the walls are only partially closed, and although I am comfortable, I do feel a little bit of a constant irritation around my eyes and in the back of my throat. Is that real or am I experiencing the effects of a self fulfilling prophecy? I have no idea, but I tend to believe that there is something to it. As you walk into a building that is using sawdust insulation, you can certainly feel a difference in the quality of the air. It is not something experienced just by me. The owners of these buildings all report strangers coming up to them and asking about what they have done different that the quality of the air is so obviously improved.
Where Can You Get Sawdust Insulation?
It is fairly difficult to buy this type of insulation as a private individual at the moment, and yet it is not impossible. A version of this type of insulation was initially developed in Germany, so a Google search in German might yield good results. In Norway, the best thing to do would be to contact a company called Green Advisors. They are the ones who are perfecting the product and they are promoting not only this type of insulation but a completely new way of building, from the design of the construction, to the design of the doors, the quality of the wood being used, and even the fabrics used in the building of the roof.
For the moment my family and I cannot yet afford to use insulation. We are redoing a part of the house that will be rented out and we need to have it done as soon as possible. However, as time goes by, we will redo the other rooms of the house, starting with the bedrooms. There we are definitely going to rip out the old insulation completely and use only sawdust insulation.