Fire safety and design  

Building from volcanoes: stone wool insulation

Selecting the right insulation and installing it correctly is a long-term investment that can lower utility bills and increase inhabitants’ quality of life. Insulation is a cost-effective method of improving energy efficiency as it requires little maintenance over time.

Stone wool insulation is a durable long-lasting material consisting of a blend of naturally occurring volcanic diabase rock, a dark grey medium-grained intrusive igneous material. Stone wool is formed naturally when molten lava from volcanic eruptions is thrown into the air and re-solidifies as dense fibers. Manufacturers can mimic this natural process by melting volcanic diabase rock and briquette together with other raw materials at 1500°C. The stone mineral wool is spun into a cotton-candy-like fiber then pressed into sheets or rolls. The outcome of this process is an insulating material which not only provides warmth but is water repellent and also fire-resistant.

Long-term studies undertaken for over 60 years by The World Health Organisation have left stone mineral wool from its list of potential carcinogens. The material is also naturally resistant to mould and bacterial growth. Stone wool insulation can be incorporated into the whole building envelope providing protection from the weather. The small pockets of air which are trapped inside the material (during the construction process) help reduce noise and result in a thermally efficient building.

As the stone wool is fire resistant, it is designed to remain stable when exposed to flames, ensuring that a building’s structure remains steady, and buying occupants time to leave the building. The insulation can slow the spread of the flames, and doesn’t produce any toxic fumes. Additionally, the material can withstand temperatures of up to 1000°C and does not burn which makes it an excellent material to provide cover for hot pipes and ducts.

Manufacturers such as Rockwool use heaters, filters and after-burners, and cleaning collection systems, which ensure an environmentally responsible approach to creating insulation. Stone wool insulation can be recycled making it a sustainable material choice as it takes 5 months to balance the energy used in the manufacturing process, which during its time within a building, it will save more than 100 times the energy.

To learn more about stone wool, click here 

Image credit: MNStudio