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Performance of Vacuum Insulation Panel (VIP)—Foam Composite as Exterior Insulation: Observations from a Pilot Field Study in Yukon

Phalguni Mukhopadhyaya, Doug MacLean, Juergen Korn


Although still virtually unknown in the construction industry, vacuum insulation panels (VIPs) have thermal resistance values up to 10 times or more greater than those of conventional thermal insulation materials. However, VIPs are slowly but steadily gaining recognition for their potential use in the building envelope construction. In Canada, the potential to apply VIPs in the building construction industry is estimated to be enormous, particularly with the introduction of the new 2011 National Energy Code of Canada for Buildings (NECB) that aims to achieve 25% less energy use in buildings than the energy code requirements set in 1997. Quite naturally, VIPs can play a major role in Canadian buildings to meet the new requirements of the 2011 NECB. However, lack of long-term performance credentials and various constructability issues are perceived to be the major barriers for mass application of VIPs in the Canadian construction industry. Yukon, located in Northern Canada, is known for its sub-arctic weather, and because of its climate, thermal insulation plays a very important role in building envelope construction in this region. Use of high performance, lightweight and thin VIPs in northern buildings is potentially an attractive option for the construction industry because of its high insulation value per unit of thickness, and low material volume. Regional stakeholders and researchers collaborated to retrofit a portion of the exterior of an institutional building in Yukon with a vacuum insulation panel - polystyrene foam composite. This paper outlines the construction details, challenges, and instrumentation used for long-term performance monitoring of this VIP-foam composite wall system. Critical analysis of selected thermal performance data from the first winter of use are presented in this paper. Field performance of the VIPs is compared with the laboratory measured data. It is hoped that application of a VIP – polystyrene foam composite in this project will lead the way to eventual mass application of VIPs in building envelope construction, and enhance energy efficiency in buildings located in extreme cold climates.

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