Recycled duvets could be used to insulate buildings

Recycled duvets are among waste materials to be tested as options for insulating buildings.

Researchers are testing the thermal performance of recycled duvets, wheat straw and rapeseed stalks that have been processed into bio-composite.

The work is a collaborative project between the University of Bath, the University of Brighton, UniLaSalle in Rouen, France, and five other academic and non-academic partners.

It is estimated that 61,900 tonnes of duvets and pillows enter the waste stream each year, especially from hospitals where they are either buried in landfill or burned.

The thermal performance of the materials will be tested in three prototype wall panels, which will be compared with each other and current industry standard insulation.

Researchers hope that using existing waste materials could lead to reductions in emissions associated with construction, as well as cutting dependency on natural resources such as glass wool and rock wool.

Dr Shawn Platt, of the University of Bath’s department of architecture and civil engineering, said: “This is the first time these materials will have been tested in such a robust scientific way, allowing us to accurately assess their thermal performance against each other as well as against industry standard insulation.

“It is important we continue to play our part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the potential to use waste and co-products as potential future alternatives for building insulation, which could significantly help the construction sector become more sustainable and environmentally friendly.”

The panels are 15cm thick and 1.1 metre square, and are fitted with 9mm plywood on either side, similar to how insulation is currently constructed into buildings.

Each panel contains probes to take measurements including humidity and temperature, and will undergo six weeks of testing.

Professor Pete Walker, of the University of Bath, said: “Our previous research has shown the performance of straw bales as a sustainable and energy efficient building material, however, there are a number of other waste and co-products which could also perform well as construction materials.

“The opportunity to exploit these waste and agricultural co-products is not something that should be ignored and we are hopeful that if their thermal performance is comparable or better than current insulation, industry will think seriously about using the materials in future construction.”

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