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Saving energy in the Middle East

Bayer MaterialScience AG : 21 December, 2004  (Company News)
The idea of thermal insulation with the aim of saving energy is increasingly taking hold in the countries of the Middle East. Insulation to prevent heat entering buildings from outside cuts the investment costs for air-conditioning systems and the power plants needed to supply them.
Some of these countries have now made more efficient thermal insulation measures compulsory.

Joachim Kleser, a thermal insulation expert at Bayer MaterialScience AG, recently spoke about the latest developments in polyurethane insulating materials at the Annual Insulation Conference 2004, one of five different conferences that took place during the Gulf Construction Conference Week 2004 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Feroz Saleem, Director of Dubai-based Pearl Insulation Materials Industries, LLC, gave a general overview of the various possibilities for polyurethane applications in the construction sector and the sophisticated machinery used to manufacture polyurethane insulating materials. 'After decades of steadily increasing growth rates, worldwide consumption of polyurethanes is set to exceed the ten million ton mark in 2004. Around a quarter of that will be utilized for thermal insulation,' said Saleem.

Compared with other widely used insulating materials, polyurethane rigid foam displays the lowest thermal conductivity and thus offers the most efficient thermal insulation. This means too that a polyurethane thermal insulating layer will meet local specifications at a much lower thickness than insulating layers made of other materials.

One possibility for insulating external walls is a polyurethane composite thermal insulation system, with the polyurethane insulating material being bonded or attached mechanically to the external wall of the building first of all. This is followed by approx. five to eight millimeters of undercoat plaster and an embedded reinforcing mesh that helps to absorb the stresses caused by temperature variations over the course of the day. The final plaster coat, approx. two to five millimeters thick, is then applied to give a decorative finish to the façade.

'If the building's external dimensions have already been specified, the building owner will gain extra space inside thanks to the efficiency of the composite thermal insulation system. This means the value of the property will increase accordingly. The same applies to renovating old buildings, with the added advantage that major structural modifications to the building can generally be avoided,' says Kleser.

European builders have many years' experience of designing external walls with polyurethane composite thermal insulation systems. At the beginning of 2004, such a system from Hasit received certification for use in Germany from the DIBt (German Institute of Construction Technology). Not long ago, an ultra-low-energy building featuring this composite system was completed for housing and office space in Munich. The building requires only two liters of heating oil per square meter of living space each year, which corresponds to a tenth of the energy requirements of an average house in Munich.

To find out if the positive experiences in Europe can be transferred to the climatic conditions in Arab countries, Bayer MaterialScience commissioned the FIW (Research Institute for Thermal Insulation) to perform thermal and moisture calculations. The FIW examined the polyurethane composite thermal insulation system and four other types of polyurethane insulation using annual weather statistics from Abu Dhabi.

They found that there were no limitations arising from moisture. All five systems, including one flat roof insulated with spray-on foam, remain fully functional in humid maritime climates. Both the composite thermal insulation system and the roof insulated with spray-on foam received FIW certificates. In addition, extensive simulations showed that the best way to mount the systems is to fit one square meter insulating panels as seamlessly as possible.
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