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Life Cycle Assessment of Polyisocyanurate (Copy)

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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. 

LCA of Polyiso in Composite Foam Cores

In this blog/newsletter we consider the sustainable life cycle (“cradle-to-grave”) of Dyplast’s polyisocyanurate composite foam cores - - the ISO-CF® ISO-CF/HT® product lines. This Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), very briefly summarized herein, makes a compelling argument for polyiso foam cores, and confirms that increased levels of polyisocyanurate in a composite substrate 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.

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

LCA Dyplast PDF

Life-Cycle Assessment

This LCA was conducted to:

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


Summary: Energy and Global Warming Potential Payback

Embodied Energy and Emobodied Global Warming Potential

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 line of products (2 pcf) 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 and GWP Payback Numbers

Insulation value within a core foam can play a significant role in reducing Greenhouse Gases that contribute to global warming and our dependence on oil imports. Since polyiso is used in many varied composite applications it's not possible to complete an LCA on all related composite products. Indeed some composite applications using polyiso reduce the thermal efficiencies of the polyiso itself - - for instance composites using metal laminates. Yet carbon and FRP laminates may result in fewer "thermal shorts".

So the following example necessarily ignores the impact of other materials within the composite.

Example #1: Polyiso in a Building (or other structural) Facade

Area 73,959 Square Feet
New Polyiso Foam Core Sheets Thickness to achieve R of 15
Foam Core 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)

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


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.

To learn more about Dyplast Composites, click here or contact us

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