The sustainable case for PIR

Simon Blackham of Recticel insulation explores why the sustainability benefits of PIR make it a great choice for smart, energy efficient homes.

Polyisocyanurate (PIR) insulation panels satisfy two crucial factors for designing effective insulation solutions for new and existing buildings: low thermal conductivity, and durable performance.

Such properties have led to them becoming the go-to solution for housebuilders in search of a durable, higher-performance alternative to mineral or glass wool to create healthy, comfortable interiors which are cost-effective to maintain.


According to the Insulation Manufacturers Association (IMA), the average UK household spends around £1,230 on fuel bills each year, which can be up to 50 per cent more than necessary due to the lack of energy-saving measures being implemented in the home.

Poorly-insulated building fabric is a major contributor to domestic energy wastage. To help combat this, the construction industry is increasingly turning to PIR.

There are numerous key benefits associated with PIR insulation. Its closed-cell structure means it doesn’t absorb water, allowing the thermal performance and reliability of the product to be retained over time.

When it comes to installation, the PIR boards are lightweight, less cumbersome to transport and easy to cut. PIR helps reduce on-site labour times and in turn, overall build cost.

In addition, PIR doesn’t shed fibres – which can be inhaled, leading to potential health issues – and causes less irritation whilst being handled. This results in a more comfortable application for installers, while the improved performance reduces energy use, thus benefiting the environment over the lifetime of the property.


With a lambda value of up to 0.022 W/mK, PIR is designed to provided excellent performance. This, coupled with its slim composition, means it requires less space to achieve the same U-value as other insulation materials. This is of particular benefit to housebuilders looking to maximise interior living space in multi-property developments with limited plot size.

For mineral wool to attain the same level of thermal performance as a PIR panel, a much thicker insulation and overall wall width would need to be specified. Once the cavity width increases, wall-tie lengths have to be lengthened and window and door lintels expanded – in short, the whole building process becomes more complex and costly.

PIR insulation’s structural strength enables a consistent performance that will last for many decades; negating costly repairs and maintaining its thermal qualities. PIR insulation is also renowned for its adaptability – it’s an ideal solution for a range of applications such as floors, walls, pitched and flat roofing.


Therefore, when it comes to specifying insulation for new or refurbishment building projects, there is much to consider: What insulation thickness is required to achieve the desired U-value? Will this require the building’s structure or design to be altered? How durable is the insulation, and what is its proven lifecycle? And finally, how easy is it to fit, and what will its installation requirements mean in terms of site hours and labour costs?

PIR panels offer a proven solution to each design and installation conundrum, and as such they have a key role to play in enshrining the sustainability of the UK’s future built environment for generations to come.

Simon Blackham is technical manager at Recticel