The value of VIP insulation Boards

Oh Dear, here we go again, starting with a correction! Last month we talked about insulating balconies, and one very important word was missing from the statement “Of course, balconies over heated space always need to be insulated with an insulation product that doesn’t burn”. That word is ‘partially’, which should have appeared before ‘heated space’, not a hugely common application but one that does exist where a balcony is both over air and over heated space.

Onwards with this month’s topic, the ‘Value’ of Vacuum Insulated Panels or VIP’s. We are sure, on reading the title of this month’s column, your immediate thought was “Yep, VIPs are damn expensive” (the expletive free version!).  But that would miss the true value of VIPs and the wonder of the English language where one word means so many things.

Thermally a VIP provides outstanding U-value performance per mm thickness, far beyond anything that PIR, Mineral/Stone Wool, Cellular Glass and EPS or XPS can provide. This ‘thinness’ benefit can enable a new build balcony with a very low threshold height to achieve a very high U-value at very little thickness, with 50mm of VIP achieving 0.18 W/m2K in an inverted application; an XPS insulation would need to be between 160mm and 190mm depending on manufacturer. Move to a 0.10 W/m2K U-value and the VIP would be 100mm thickness whilst an XPS would be between 260mm and 360mm. If a design cannot accommodate such thickness of XPS insulation, a VIP suddenly becomes an insulation of value rather than a cost, especially when compared to losing a floor in height or redesigning a building.

The same value proposition is true when looking at a refurbishment project or, dare we suggest it, an onsite construction error.

The key areas of value for a roofing contractor though are actually two-fold. Firstly, the high price of a VIP insulation gives you leverage with the main contractor and other trades on site, none of whom will want to be hit with a cost to replace the high value VIP insulation boards you have installed should they damage them – I know it will surprise many a roofing contractor but it does happen that third parties make a mess of a lovely fresh shiny new roof (OK, it wasn’t a surprise, we know!).

The second benefit is your profit margin. Adding whatever percentage you do to your materials cost will be a significantly greater sum of money per m2 for the VIP than it will be for your PIR or EPS/XPS insulation. As long as your site teams know how to install a VIP without damaging it, and you use the fear factor of damage with the main contractor, your bank balance should be healthier. Now that’s what we call Value.