Project Proposal

Generate for the building sector an alternative and cost-effective VIP solution, specially designed for energy efficiency goals and able to provide superior thermal insulation for building retrofit activities, at competitive and affordable prices, for the major EU building renovation action in progress.

 

The price of standard VIPs is largely driven from the cost of the core materials that can contribute up to 50% of the final product price.

VIP4ALL is the acronym of a research project entitled "Highly Sustainable and Effective Production of Innovative Low Cost Vacuum Insulation Panels for Zero Carbon Building Construction". It was launched in 2013 and it’s funded by the [Seventh Framework Program] ([FP7]), under the FP7 Theme "Capacities", aimed to strengthen the 'innovation capacity' of [Small and Medium Enterprises (SME)] in Europe and the development of new technology-based products and markets. VIP4ALL is a 2 year medium-scale project that relies on a consortium made out of 7 European partners, representing 5 different countries, including research institutions and private small and medium companies.

The Context

While the world is experiencing a strong demand for energy savings measures, today still 40% of energy consumption and 36% of CO2 emissions in Europe are directly related to the construction sector. Aware of the importance of energy savings and climate change, the [European Union] (EU) has set gradual “Climate & Energy” objectives, expecting that, by 2020, European Greenhouse gases emissions will be cut by 20% and energy savings increased by the same level. The EU has also committed to achieve an 80-95% [greenhouse gases] (GHG) reduction by 2050, as part of its roadmap for moving to a competitive [low-carbon economy]. Under this scope the “Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, 2010/31/EU, has established stricter energy performance requirements both for new and old buildings, marking December 2020 as the deadline for new ones to be “[Nearly Zero Energy Buildings]” (nZEB) (2018 for public buildings), with energy requirements covered substantial by [renewable sources]. On the verge of a major European building [retrofitting] action that must be put into practice, still today heating and cooling needs represents the largest energy end-usages of the building sector, mainly due to inefficient [thermal insulation materials] and systems available. Inevitably traditional thick and cheaper insulation products are still the first consideration in the market, while today’s best state-of-the-art solutions like [Vacuum Insulation Panels](VIP), are still unaffordable for the majority of homeowners and householders. Under this context, the building sector has to overcome the biggest dilemma of coping with high mandatory levels of energy savings without losing considerable areas of living space for insulation and make it at reasonable costs.

The Project

VIP4ALL project aims at generating for the building sector an alternative and cost-effective VIP solution, specially designed for energy efficiency goals and able to provide superior [thermal insulation] for building retrofit activities, at competitive and affordable prices. VIP4ALL aims to be a true state-of-the-art thermal insulation solution by using natural minerals and/or renewable organic [by-products] as low cost core materials which will allow, not only to cut the final product price by 50%, but also guarantee a superior thermal performance and [eco-friendly] status. The VIP4ALL proposes to bring to the market a new generation of highly sustainable and energy efficient solution for lower budget renovation actions, creating an exceptional opportunity for SMEs (>99% in EU building sector, representing around 9% of European [GDP] and a total workforce of 25 million jobs) to increase their competitiveness.

Application and Target Users

The VIP4ALL [R&D] results (products and technologies) will be scaled up through three SMEs of the VIP4ALL consortium members and exploited by five SMEs of the seven consortium members, who will hence lead the market entrance with a new and truly competitive superior insulation solution.

The Concept

While today’s VIPs existing in the market are generally unaffordable for the majority of end-users for being mainly made with expensive raw materials like [fumed silica] or [aerogels], the proposed low-cost solution, VIP4ALL will completely or substantially replace these core materials by natural, cheaper and more sustainable ones, creating hybrid multi-level networking structured cores, using wood-based materials and/or special minerals. These alternative natural materials will have much less energy consumption processing needs and an eco-friendly status, some being even made of renewable resources. Complementary, VIP4ALL intends to create a new thin protecting facing for its VIPs, making it much more user-friendly to handle, stock and transport before and during installation.

Main Objectives and Project Results

The main goal of the project is to develop a really competitive thin and durable insulation product, specially targeted for the retrofit market. Under this context VIP4ALL aims to:

  • Efficiently derive new VIPs by using natural and renewable raw materials with optimal thermal, environmental and mechanical performance;
  • Develop new enhanced multi-level VIP core systems from low cost natural mineral resources and organic renewable/recyclable resources to replace standard high cost materials currently used;
  • Refine the low cost VIP4ALL processing technology, up-scale it from a laboratory testing environment to a large industrial production;
  • Design VIP4ALL panels with the integration of traditional building materials and different envelope systems, assess their thermal insulation performance, energy savings skills and payback times;
  • Develop VIPs with low thermal conductivities, comparable to standard VIP solutions and life-time expectancy of at least 50 years, without losing significant thermal performance;
  • Develop VIP4ALL with reduced production costs: cutting up to 50% the costs of the conventional silica VIPs, making VIP4ALL capable of competing in terms of price with standard fiber and polymer insulation products;
  • Offer a new product to the retrofitting sector, capable of saving at least 3 times more living space compared to conventional fiber insulation products;
  • Achieve sustainable construction by using at least 50% of low energy renewable materials for the VIP product.

The expected project results will be:

  • Sustainable functional core systems for vacuum insulation products and their related processing technologies;
  • Novel generation of thermal insulation vacuum panels called VIP4ALL;
  • Composition and performance simulation software to assist product development and market acceptance.

Current Status of the Project

Covering 10 work packages (WP), seven being related with research & development (R&D) activities, the project has passed the stage of enhancing the scientific knowledge, acquiring a deeper understanding of the relevant and important technical issues needed for the rest of the work plan. In particular, scientific literature on the topic of vacuum insulation technology, thermal transfer and current regulations and standards for building applications have been reviewed under project work package 1 (WP1). Commercially available VIPs have been revised, providing a database of VIPs products for future product comparison (different types and associated materials and technologies). The first candidate raw materials have already been characterized during WP2 and are currently been subject of testing towards the development of new VIP core systems in WP3, using different incorporation systems. The modification/treatment of new core materials to optimize internal networking structures towards the enhancement of the thermal properties of the VIP4ALL cores is currently under development (WP3), focusing on natural materials, like special perlite grades and wood based renewable materials, along with fumed silica. The goal of these tests is to develop diverse ‘level’ structures within the hybrid core of VIP4ALL by using different dispersing and intruding techniques. Finally constitutive modelling and simulation tools are currently being developed under WP4 to guide the VIP4ALL development process, as well as to enable the prediction of the performance at both element and component levels, being either physical simulation tools to assist on the nano/micro- composition definition or predictive ones to assess the future thermal performance of the novel restructured cores.

Meetings