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Guidance for Specifying Healthier Insulation and Air-Sealing Materials (Supplement to "Making Affordable Family Housing More Efficient...")

ella.nielsen44 MA, United States 0 Ratings 6 Discussions 0 Group posts

Posted by: ella.nielsen44 // Student

insulation, air sealing, affordable housing, energy efficiency

Guidance for Specifying Healthier Insulation and Air-Sealing Materials” was produced by Healthy Building Network (HBN) as a supplement to the report by HBN, Efficiency for All and others, “Making Affordable Multifamily Housing More Energy Efficient: a Guide to Healthier Upgrade Materials.”

The purpose of the supplement is to provide information for evaluating, selecting and specification writing for healthier products to be used in energy efficiency upgrade projects.  

The supplement discusses how to select healthier insulation and air-sealing materials, with a review of why it is important to be aware of hazardous chemicals in building products.  For more information, be sure to check out this resource.  Advice and information includes:


  • Surprisingly, commonly used fiber glass and cellulose insulations are some of the highest ranked materials, and have the lowest installed costs for any given R-value.
  • Wherever possible, it is better to use mechanical installation methods such as fasteners to avoid use of adhesives that aren’t necessary
  • Avoid products that are reacted on site
  • It is best to avoid products with formaldehyde-based binders since it’s a carcinogen and a respiratory hazard, even at low levels within a building
  • Top insulation types include rigid mineral wool and expanded cork board (note, this can be cost prohibitive)

Air Sealing:

  • It is best to have acrylic-based sealants with very low levels of VOCs or caulk-type sealants over polyurethane spray foam sealants
  • Avoid products that are reacted on site
  • While shopping for air-sealings, avoid products that are marketed as being antimicrobial or claiming to kill germs in general because the main chemical have shown to have negative impacts on human health and the environment.
  • Avoid phthalates
  • Low level VOC acrylic-based sealants can be a good choice when more detailed product disclosure is not available
  • Foil-backed butyl tape for HVAC sealing is preferred.  Avoid halogenated flame retardants, and prefer no-VOC products

The supplement also includes sample specification language for these materials, and fairly detailed Material Ranking Tables with information on Cost, Performance, Transparency, and Installation.   

To read more and to download the supplement, visit:




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