Leading Edge Technology for
Insulation & Composite Foam Cores


Series 3: Life Cycle Assessment of Polyisocyanurate

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This is the third in Dyplast’s series on energy, and we will next consider the sustainable life cycle (“cradle-to-grave”) of Dyplast’s polyisocyanurate insulation, including the ISO-C1®, ISO-HT®, and ISO-CF® product lines. 



This is the third in Dyplast’s series on energy wherein we consider the sustainable life cycle (“cradle-to-grave”) of Dyplast’s polyisocyanurate insulation, including the ISO-C1®, ISO-HT®, and ISO-CF® product lines. This Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), very briefly summarized herein, makes a compelling argument for polyiso insulation, and confirms that increased levels of polyisocyanurate insulation indeed save energy and reduce emissions of high-GWP gases that far outweigh energy consumption and emissions associated with making, transporting, installing and managing polyiso through end-of-life.

For instance, in a roof insulation example below, new polyiso insulation resulted in:

  • Life-time Energy Payback of 45x (i.e. energy saved during the insulation system life was 45 times more the embodied energy)
  • Life-time GWP Payback of 69x (i.e. emissions of high-GWP gases over the insulation system life were 69 times less than the embodied GWP)

The image below is a simplified depiction of the LCA. Click to enlarge. 

Life Cycle Assessment of Polyiso

A corroborating consortium of organizations (McKinsey, Bayer, and ICCA) concluded that adopting measures such as ASHRAE 90.1, the standard for Energy Standard for Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings, could reduce energy and CO2 emissions from such buildings by 30% over three years, and 50% in the following three years. Buildings consume approximately 1/3 of the total U.S. energy and 2/3 of all the electricity used. Buildings are responsible for more atmospheric pollution than cars, and the energy consumed in buildings results in 35% of all CO2 emissions.

While this LCA did not focus on composite foam cores, some of the conclusions can be extrapolated to applications in composites industries.

LCA Process

This LCA was conducted to:

  1. Better understand the life cycle environmental impact of the polyiso insulation
  2. Understand the impact of polyiso insulation through its manufacturing life cycle
  3. Improve communication through public sharing of updated polyiso insulation life cycle results

This study considered life cycle inventory and environmental impacts relevant to the polyiso bunstock manufacturing process and was based on typical insulation products made from polyiso.

The LCA first determined the energy consumption and GWP-gas emissions across all life cycle phases EXCEPT the Use and Disposal phases. The result was Embodied Energy and Embodied GWP. These values were then compared to the energy consumption and GWP-gas emissions during the last two phases: Use and Disposal.

The two ratios of energy and emission results were respectively termed Energy Payback (savings) and GWP Payback (benefit).

The ISO bunstock phases can be portrayed as: 

Embodied Phases

  1. Raw material extraction
  2. Chemical processing
  3. Transportation from suppliers
  4. ISO bunstock manufacturing and block fabrication
  5. Transportation to fabricators
  6. Further fabrication
  7. Transportation to use site
  8. Installation of ISO

Use Phases 

  1. Cover environmental benefits (energy and GWP) of product during Use Phase
  2. Assumes 100% disposal of ISO products in a landfill at end-of-life


Results: Energy Payback and GWP Payback

Embodied Energy/GWP

The embodied energy and GWP for polyiso (2.1 pcf) assumed comparable manufacturing and transportation embodied energy as noted by Polyiso Industry Manufacturing Association across 29 polyiso plants in the U.S. The embodied energy and embodied GWP of Dyplast’s ISO-C1®/2.0 are:

R-Value Embodied Energy per Board Foot Embodied GWP per Board Foot
5.6 7.51 kBtu's 1.13 lbs CO2
11.2 15.02 kBtu's 2.16 lbs CO2

Energy Payback and GWP Payback Calculations

Insulation can play a significant role in reducing Greenhouse Gases that contribute to global warming and our dependence on oil imports. Insulation is the low-hanging fruit of using existing technology to solve this problem.

Example #1: Polyiso in Roof Application 

Roof Area 73,959 Square Feet
Baseline Insulation R of 15
Comparison (new) Insulation R of 30
Additional Insulation Required Approx. 180,000 Board Feet
Embodied Energy                                       16.4 kBtu/square foot
Embodied GWP 1.04 kg CO2 equivalent/square foot

  • Life-time Energy Payback: 45x
    • (i.e. energy saved during the insulation system life was 45 times more than embodied energy)
  • Life-time GWP Payback: 69x
    • (i.e. emissions of high-GWP gases over the insulation system life were 69 times less than the embodied GWP)

Example #2: Re-insulation of Cold Temperature Line with Polyiso

In this example, polyiso insulation (14 R-value) was applied to bare pipe in a cold temperature pipe application in Florida. The goal was to calculate a ratio of the Energy Payback and GWP Payback IN THE FIRST YEAR OF OPERATION. The results from just the first year are sufficiently impressive, and can be extrapolated over the lifetime of the insulation system.

Note: Energy and GWP Paybacks continue, just not linearly.

Process Temperature -20 degrees F
Average Ambient 90 degrees F 
Humidity   85%
Pipe Size 6" NPS
Hours of Operation/yr 6,750
Comparison Insulation  Polyiso, R of 14
Embodied Energy                                                                 90.2 kBtu/cubic foot
Embodied GWP 5.04 kg CO2 equivalent/cubic foot

Energy Payback 

ISO over Bare Pipe                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    64x (in year 1) (e.g. if embodied energy is “X,” this ISO insulation over bare cold pipe can save 64 times as much energy in the first year)

Note: This is not an economic analysis since neither the cost of energy, carbon, nor the insulation is considered. Contact Dyplast directly if an economic evaluation of a particular mechanical insulation system is desired.

GWP Payback 

ISO over Bare Pipe 66x  (in year 1)


The author(s) of this document compiled detailed information to the best of their knowledge at the time. No representation is made or warranty given for the completeness or correctness of the information in this study.

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