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Construction and Building Materials 140 (2017) 221228

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Construction and Building Materials


journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/conbuildmat

Characterization of eco-efficient acoustic insulation materials


(traditional and innovative)
M. Pedroso a, J. de Brito b,, J.D. Silvestre c
a
CERIS, ICIST, Instituto Superior Tcnico, Universidade de Lisboa, Av. Rovisco Pais, 1049-001 Lisbon, Portugal
b
CERIS, ICIST, Department of Civil Engineering, Architecture and Georresources (DECivil), Instituto Superior Tcnico, Universidade de Lisboa, Av. Rovisco Pais,
1049-001 Lisbon, Portugal
c
CERIS, ICIST, DECivil, Instituto Superior Tcnico, Universidade de Lisboa, Av. Rovisco Pais, 1049-001 Lisbon, Portugal

h i g h l i g h t s

 Current and alternative materials to control noise in buildings.


 Evaluation of the environmental, economic and social sustainability.
 Characterization in terms of embodied energy, acoustic behaviour and costs.
 Alternative materials are perfectly viable to replace the currently used products.

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: There is a growing awareness towards using materials with less social, economic and environmental
Received 29 January 2016 impacts in the construction and rehabilitation of buildings. However, the evaluation of the sustainability
Accepted 22 February 2017 of acoustic insulation materials in these three dimensions has not yet been presented in reference pub-
Available online 2 March 2017
lications. This paper presents these results for the first time for materials used currently and alternative
materials available in the construction market to control noise in buildings.
Keywords: An exhaustive review has been performed, focused on the most used insulation materials at the
Acoustic insulation
European level in construction and rehabilitation. The characterization at the level of embodied energy,
Embodied energy
Sustainable construction
acoustic behaviour and costs of these materials is presented, so that the most eco-efficient can be selected
Natural materials and applied.
Eco-efficiency It is concluded that there are alternative materials that, from the acoustic behaviour, embodied energy
and costs points of view, are perfectly viable to replace the currently used products.
2017 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction in walls were identified. This paper thus reflects the technological
solutions available in the construction market to control noise in
There is a growing awareness towards using materials with less buildings, namely through their use in walls, considering both cur-
social, economic and environmental impacts in the construction rently used and alternative materials.
and rehabilitation of buildings. Since the divulgation of the quanti- The need of acoustic comfort, besides being a compulsory legal
tative environmental impacts of thermal insulation materials [1] is requirement in Portuguese buildings, is also essential for the well-
now a common place, there is a need to proceed with a similar being of their users, since the World Health Organization (WHO)
characterization of the materials whose main function is to pro- refers that leisure areas must have such insulation that it allows
mote a better acoustic insulation. An exhaustive review has been a Sound Pressure Level (SPL) of no more than 30 dB to 40 dB.
performed and, from the long list of materials with that function Therefore, this is the goal to reach, since according to the WHO
that were identified, the ones more often used at the European the effects of noise on Man may be classed in three main levels:
level in construction and rehabilitation and that simultaneously
have an acceptable performance in terms of acoustic insulation  The physical level is characterized by lesions of the auditory
organs, disruption of the blood flow and induction of fatigue;
Corresponding author.  The physiological level is characterized by an increase of irrita-
E-mail addresses: marco-pedroso@sapo.pt (M. Pedroso), jb@civil.ist.utl.pt tion, stress and discomfort;
(J. de Brito), jose.silvestre@tecnico.ulisboa.pt (J.D. Silvestre).

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.conbuildmat.2017.02.132
0950-0618/ 2017 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
222 M. Pedroso et al. / Construction and Building Materials 140 (2017) 221228

 The social level is characterized by the disturbance of the com- of alternative and current materials at four frequencies and for a
munication and decrease of the work output. single index that summarizes this performance (see NRC in Sec-
tion 3) [5]. This analysis was extended in a later work to thermal
It is thus understood how from the social point of view and in insulation materials and whole buildings [6].
the sustainability plan acoustic insulation of the noise sources Even though the studies described relate the acoustic perfor-
gains special interest and importance, directly interfering with mance with some materials sustainability indicators, they do not
the individuals well-being. include the economic characterization of all the insulation materi-
Besides comfort in the use of buildings, there is a growing need als analysed, which would allow completing the analysis in the
of evaluating and certifying them from the environmental point of three sustainability dimensions economic, social and environ-
view. Several countries have developed their own environmental mental. Therefore, the inclusion of the economic vector in our
evaluation and certification systems for buildings (e.g. BREEAM, paper represents a novel contribute, as does the characterization
in the UK; LEED, in the USA; HQE, in France; LiderA, in Portugal), of the economic and environmental performance of construction
and there is also a growing pressure to quantify the environmental materials that are normally used in the execution of building walls.
impacts of current and alternative materials in order to select those
with lesser impact.
3. Methodology
This paper presents the characterization of the economic and
environmental dimensions of improved acoustic performance
Sustainable Construction can be defined as the creation, reha-
materials. The comparative evaluation presented allows, based
bilitation and responsible management of a healthy built environ-
on previous works [26], various actors from the construction
ment, based on resources efficiency and ecologic principles that
and rehabilitation sector to choose and apply the most eco-
contribute to a social and economic balance [7]. Therefore, the
efficient materials.
procurement, transformation and maintenance contribute to the
sustainability of the materials used in construction, which makes
their analysis pertinent to maximize the use of materials that cause
2. Literature review
less environmental impacts but have acceptable technical and eco-
nomic performances. The methodology proposed in this paper
There are various published research works that relate the
allows thus to characterize improved acoustic performance mate-
acoustic performance with some environmental sustainability
rials in the social (acoustic performance), economic and environ-
indicators for acoustic insulation materials [26]. This section
mental dimensions.
summarizes the main results from these studies.
The analysis of the acoustic performance characteristics is
One study evaluated the environmental advantages and the
based on the noise reduction coefficient (NRC). This coefficient
acoustic performance of alternative acoustic insulation materials
dilutes the individual sound absorbing coefficients of the different
with sustainable properties, relative to current acoustic insulation
materials. However, it would be very difficult to evaluate and com-
materials. The first group included natural materials such as cotton,
pare all frequency bands of the materials presented, conjugated
cellulose, hemp, and stone or vegetal wool, and recycled materials of
with the other characteristics considered, thus losing some objec-
rubber, synthetic fibres and cork [2]. The materials acoustic perfor-
tivity regarding the main scope of this paper. In order to character-
mance was evaluated in terms of their sound absorption coefficient
ize the elements acoustic absorption, data from laboratory tests
at various frequencies and the insulation to impact noises of two
made available by the manufacturers were used. These tests give
natural materials was characterized. It was concluded that prefer-
the value of a sound absorption coefficient of the material, corre-
ence should be given to natural acoustic insulation materials given
sponding to the ratio between the sound intensity absorbed and
their lower environmental impact in production and because they
the incident sound intensity of the material, which normally
offer an identical performance to that of current materials for differ-
changes with the frequency [8]. NRC is defined as the arithmetic
ent uses. When current materials are used, their easy maintenance
ratio between the sound absorption performance of a material,
and the deconstruction ability of the constructive system should be
based on four frequencies (250, 500, 1000 and 2000 Hz), in octave
guaranteed, so as to maximize their recycling potential.
bands [9], and is used to have a general idea of the absorption in
The acoustic performance of alternative materials was evalu-
the frequency range of human speech, i.e. it must be used carefully
ated in another study, which also considered natural (cotton, cellu-
since it does not represent the materials behaviour for the whole
lose, hemp, stone or vegetal wool, and clay) and recycled (rubber,
hearing frequency range [10]:
synthetic fibres, plastic, and cork) materials [4]. The environmental
performance results of the previous study [2] were considered, /250 /500 /1000 /2000
along with the embodied energy of some more acoustic insulation
NRC 1
4
materials (i.e. granular and cork panels, expanded clay, wood and
The environmental performance uses embodied energy (EE) as
cotton wool, hemp, expanded polyethylene and polyuretan). The
the reference parameter. EE may be defined as the energy used
analysis was complemented with the cost of half the solutions
in the life cycle of a product [11], including the transportation of
under analysis and the insulation to impact noises of two recycled
raw materials, the extraction, manufacture, assemblage, installa-
materials by comparison with existing cork-based solutions. Even
tion, dismantling-deconstruction and/or disintegration. There are
though it is greatly based on the previous work [2] in what con-
various methodologies to define the scale, scope and type of EE,
cerns the environmental performance of the materials studied, this
and there is no international consensus about the adequacy of
research concludes that the natural or recycled acoustic insulation
these evaluation methods [5]. The energy units typically used
materials are a valid alternative to synthetic traditional materials,
are: MJ/kg (Mega joule of energy needed to make 1 kg of product).
because of their acoustic performance and the fact that they are
already available in the market at competitive prices. However,
the lower embodied energy of the alternative materials relative 4. Scope
to that of the traditional ones must be confirmed for each applica-
tion. This work was later complemented with a more detailed The choice of materials to be analysed was preceded by the per-
characterization of the insulation to impact noises of alternative usal of the technical files of alternative materials with similar
and current materials and of the acoustic absorption performance application scope, in order to compare with materials already
M. Pedroso et al. / Construction and Building Materials 140 (2017) 221228 223

being used. The choice was based on the materials characteristics Petroleum and natural gas are the main raw materials for the
in terms of NRC (social dimension), cost (economic dimension) and production of polystyrenes or plastic petrochemicals [13], charac-
EE (environmental dimension). The selected materials were terized by high energy consumption and high EE values of the
divided in two groups: commonly used materials and alternative raw materials [1]. Polystyrene is produced through the polymer-
materials. ization of styrene and used in the production of thermal and acous-
The commonly used materials comprised: insulation materials tic insulation boards of two types: expanded polystyrene (EPS),
polyurethane foam, stone wool, glass wool, expanded and comprising 98% of styrene; extruded polystyrene (XPS), including
extruded polystyrenes; the most common constituents of building 91% of styrene [3]. The additives used in the production may
walls mortars, hollow fired-clay bricks (HFCB), lightweight include an antioxidant, a UV stabilizer, and a fire retardant.
aggregates concrete blocks (LACB), autoclaved aerated concrete The mortars used in Portugal to lay masonry blocks are made
blocks (AACB), concrete and gypsum plasterboards (GP). with a small content of normal Portland cement and one type of
The alternative materials comprised: recycled rubber agglomer- mineral aggregate, generally sand. There is still the possibility of
ates, agglomerate of expanded cork, coconut fibres, hemp fibres, using mixed-binder mortars by incorporating lime and adjusting
cellulose fibres, recycled textile fibres, sheep wool, wood wool, flax the Portland cement content. In this paper only one type of mortar
mats, and straw. was studied, with a volumetric ratio of 1:4 (binder: sand), in which
For each of these materials the sizes that approximately repre- the hydraulic binder is Portland cement, because it is the most fre-
sent similar shapes to those used currently, in terms of thickness quently used in Portugal.
and density, were chosen. Besides the raw materials and their Hollow fired-clay bricks are similar to solid bricks but the side-
impact, the impacts generated by the transportation of the raw to-side perforations allow reducing resources consumption and the
materials and/or the final products from the manufacturing site bricks weight, resulting in less consumed energy. Clays used in the
to the final application site must be considered. As a matter of fact, bricks production are extracted using conventional techniques that
the economic and environmental (EE Table 1) consequences of may have a deep impact in the local environment. Firing the bricks
significant transportation needs [12] can be overbearing even for frequently causes toxic gases, leading to a careful choice of the
a product with good acoustic performance and low EE values. It materials involved [3]. Bricks with perforation up to 40% may have
is stressed that the EE values presented in this paper for each mate- the same mechanical strength as bricks with 20% perforation [14],
rial do not consider the contribution of the transportation to the and the latter can be considered as high thermal and acoustic per-
construction site. formance (HPCB).
The lightweight aggregates concrete blocks integrate the con-
4.1. Commonly used materials siderable impact of the production of lightweight aggregates
(expanded clay and schist, vermiculite and expanded perlite) that
Polyurethane foams (PUR) are available as boards but also as involves high energy consumptions in the ovens used [13]. How-
foam for in situ injection. These foams are manufactured from pet- ever, the lower weight of these blocks results in a reduction of
roleum derivatives and are also an important source of formalde- the environmental impacts from its transportation.
hyde. Polyurethane is a plastic thermoset material, which means The autoclaved aerated concrete blocks are made from cement
that it cannot be molten again or reshaped and therefore is not and lime paste with sand and a small amount of aluminium sul-
recyclable [3]. phate in powder. The aluminium reacts with the lime, forming
The raw materials used in the production of glass wool are: hydrogen bubbles, increasing the blocks volume. The blocks are
limestone, sand, borax, sodium carbonate and sodium sulphate, cut and then shaped and autoclaved in vapour at a given pressure
and recycled glass can also be used up to 65% [6]. These materials in order to gain strength [3]. Sometimes pulverized combustible
are molten at high temperatures (around 1350 C) and woven ashes are used instead of sand, which eventually can result in a
thanks to a drum with holes in order to shape fine fibres. Around reduction of the environmental impacts.
10% of phenol-formaldehyde resins are added to these fibres, as Concrete production has some environmental problems linked
well as 1% of mineral oil, 0.02% of silane and 0.1% of polydimethyl- to aggregates extraction but mostly to the significant energy and
siloxane, as water repellents [3]. environmental costs of the production of Portland cement [15].
Stone wool is made similarly to glass wool, replacing sand and Gypsum plasterboards are composed of a rolled paper finishing
limestone with a volcanic rock (diabase and dolomite, or anortho- around a core made mostly of gypsum (also including fibres, plas-
site and basalt) that is heated using coke as combustible, varying ticizers and foam-inducing agents as additives to increase the
the melting temperatures and the fibres size [13]. Its production resistance against fungi or to fire and reduce water absorption)
comprises: melting the raw materials at approximately 1500 C; [16].
heating and projecting this mass with a wheel, breaking it into
fibres. Aliphatic mineral oils are also added to eliminate dust, as 4.2. Alternative materials
well as phenol-formaldehyde resins (around 2% by weight) that
bind the fibres and improve the products properties. In order to Rubber, namely that from used tyres, is a recyclable material. It
cure the binder, the treated stone wool is then heated at is generally fragmented to granules that may be agglomerated in
200250 C, resulting in fibres with 110 lm diameter [3]. order to produce mats or specific shapes that, depending on the
size of the granules and agglomeration conditions, may have good
acoustic insulation and be marketed as recycled rubber agglomer-
Table 1 ates [6].
EE values per transport type (adapted from
[3]).
Cork is the bark of a tree (Quercus suber or Cork tree) grown in
Portugal, Spain and North of Africa, composed of combinations of
Type of transport EE in MJ/ton km dead cells and resins. The expanded cork agglomerate is made by
14 Ton lorry 1.2 firing cork granules at high temperature (250300 C [17]) and
40 Ton lorry 0.9 pressure, by the release of resins that bind the granules and form
Railway 0.5
Sea freighter 0.6
the blocks. Other cork-based insulations, such as composite cork
Air freighter 35 and cork-rubber, are produced by adding various additives and
glues.
224 M. Pedroso et al. / Construction and Building Materials 140 (2017) 221228

Coconut fibres are a natural product with application in aerial chemicals (it can also be chemically agglomerated using as binder
sounds insulation. This product has the following advantages: the molten polyester fibres at around 10% by weight), moisture
being a natural resource; being moisture resistant; having a long resistant (it absorbs and releases moisture without changing its
service life; being environmentally safe and biodegradable, thus properties), capable of being handled with no health hazard,
being handled with no health hazard. The material is made from incombustible and with a long service life. This material is natu-
the external bark of coconuts and borax, with minimal processing, rally resistant to plagues and fire, even though excessive humidity
and the fibres are highly elastic and tubular, capable of storing up may lixiviate the borax [21].
to 65% of air [18], and can be produced in the shape of mats. Wood wool may result from two processes: from wood chips
Hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) is legal in the European Union for glued with cement and compacted leaving voids that increase its
industrial purposes. Its advantages are: being a natural and renew- insulating properties; from fibres agglomeration, creating an insu-
able resource; being recyclable and biodegradable; low energy lating mat. Using the perforating needle production method, the
content; its handling is health safe; being naturally resistant to fibres are placed in order to maximize its porosity and the voids
insects attack. Hemp mats contain 15% of polyester fibre to main- with air [22].
tain their stability and shape, and also incorporate borax [6]. Long Flax mats are made of fibres bound with potato starch and trea-
exposure to water causes the degradation of this insulation ted with borax to make them resistant to fire and insects, but pro-
material. longed exposure to humidity causes degradation. This material is
The insulation of cellulose fibres is made from processed paper recyclable, renewable and natural, and safe to install. Some mats
waste, transformed into a snow-like paste that can be applied may incorporate plastics as binding agents. The flax fibres are
manually or sprayed. This material is usually treated with sodium twice more resistant than polyester fibres and around 5075%
borax (tetra borate) to withstand fire and insects [19]. The cellulose stronger than cotton [20].
fibres insulation can be used in walls that need to remain perme- Straw is compacted only through heat and pressure, with no
able to water vapour, but it is not adequate for damp locations that glues, and is bound in the periphery with paper in order to create
may generate mould or fungi (even though the addition of lime- compressed straw boards. These are used as partitions or as insu-
stone to the fibres may help in keeping the parasites away). lation material. Straw may be a surplus product of modern agricul-
The waste from the textile sector allow the production of recy- ture but there are various situations in which it has added value as
cled textile fibres mats, which may be used inside air cavities to strengthening the internal structure of the soil. Straw must be kept
insulate aerial sounds. Textiles are collected and selected so that dry in order to prevent its volume from increasing or mould and
the final product contains more than 95% of wool and cotton, fungi attack [3]. It is a biodegradable material that needs only a
and the synthetic fibres are not all utilized. The wool and cotton small energy amount to heat and compress the straw.
fibres are later transformed into threads and heated at 120 C,
while the polyester fibres (1015% in weight) are molten, function-
ing as aggregating element. Ammonium phosphate is added to the 5. Results
mix as fire retardant [20].
The advantages of sheep wool include being a natural resource This section presents the values relative to the characterization
from an animal source, recyclable and biodegradable, having a low of the sustainability of the materials studied. Table 2 presents
energy content, being mechanically agglomerated without glues or these results for the commonly used materials and Table 3 for

Table 2
Sustainability characteristics of the commonly used materials [2,3,5].

Description Thickness [mm] Density [kg/m3] NRC EE [MJ/kg] Cost [/m2]


Polyurethane foam 50 30 0.67 135 11.00
Stone wool 50 80 0.64 20 3.57
Glass wool 50 50 0.68 35 3.15
EPS 50 28 0.50 125 3.16
XPS 50 25 0.33 130 9.58
Masonry mortar 20 1.900 na 1.52 133.30 /m3
Hollow fired-clay brick Various 1.200 na 3 0.15 /unit
Lightweight aggregates concrete block Various 1.100 na 5 1.00 /unit
Autoclaved aerated concrete block Various 500 na 4 3.00 /unit
Concrete Various 2.400 na 1.5 106.00 /m3
Gypsum plasterboard 12.5 900 na 5 15.00

Note: na non-applicable.

Table 3
Sustainability characteristics of the alternative materials [25,23,24].

Description Thickness [mm] Density [kg/m3] NRC EE [MJ/kg] Cost [/m2]


Agglomerate of recycled rubber 30 1400 0.52 nd nd
Agglomerate of expanded cork 50 105 0.41 4 9.45
Coconut fibres mat 35 70 0.52 42 11.25
Hemp mat 40 40 0.57 40 6.10
Cellulose mat 50 28 0.70 19 4.60
Recycled textile fibres 50 50 0.95 16 10.00
Sheep wool mat 60 25 0.52 29 11.90
Mat of wood wool agglomerated with cement 50 470 0.51 28 12.00
Flax mat 35 43 0.71 50 12.75
Straw 50 80 0.70 14.5 0.95

Note: nd non-determinated.
M. Pedroso et al. / Construction and Building Materials 140 (2017) 221228 225

the alternative materials. The first column of these tables identifies section is focused on the sound absorption coefficients of the mate-
the material and the next ones their most usual size, density, NRC, rials studied, using the corresponding NRC values, and also their EE
EE and cost. values and costs, all relative to 1 m2.
Figs. 1 and 2 show that the materials alternative to the ones
6. Multi-criteria comparison between current and alternative more regularly used in construction and rehabilitation have good
insulation and construction materials sound absorption characteristics. In fact, most of the alternative
materials manage a linear performance against frequency (right
This section presents a comparative analysis of the insulation from 250 Hz), while current materials only show a better beha-
materials characterized in Tables 2 and 3. Since the main objective viour from 1000 Hz on.
of the study is related with the acoustic performance of the mate- In order to allow a comparison of all the materials under equal
rials, this is the preferential choice criterion, even though there are circumstances in terms of their acoustic absorption performance, a
complementary characteristics. classification given by the NRC Eq. (1) was used (Fig. 3). This figure
The choice of construction materials for a given application is shows that the materials with better performance are the alterna-
many times added by calculation formulas with relative weights tive ones, namely the recycled textiles, flax and recycled cellulose,
of each performance dimension. However, given the subjectivity and straw. Out of the current materials glass wool is the one in the
inherent to the assignment of these weights, in this study it was best position (5th), followed by polyurethane.
chosen to present an individual analysis of the dimensions. There- One of the indicators most often used to evaluate the environ-
fore, the values obtained are presented ranked in terms of the NRC, mental sustainability of materials is EE (here measured in MJ/
and the remaining indicators (EE and cost) are used only to make a m2). It is also the one that makes more sense to use in this paper,
critical analysis of the results. since the thickness and density of each of these materials have pre-
viously been selected and described. Contrarily to NRC, a lower
6.1. Comparison of insulation materials value of EE corresponds to a better performance. Fig. 4 shows that
agglomerated wood wool has a high EE value because of the use of
The best way of comparing the performance of acoustic insula- cement to bind the fibres. The lowest values are obtained for the
tion materials is using their sound absorption coefficient (with alternative materials, with the agglomerate of expanded cork
direct implications on the walls acoustic insulation) or their effec- ranked 1st, followed by recycled cellulose, recycled textiles, sheep
tive behaviour (linked to their mass). Therefore, the analysis in this wool and stone wool.

0.9
Sound absorption coefficient

0.8

0.7

0.6 Stone wool


Glass wool
0.5 EPS
0.4 XPS
PUR
0.3

0.2

0.1

0
250 500 1000 2000
Frequency [Hz]

Fig. 1. Sound absorption coefficients of current materials [2,5].

1.2

1
Sound absorption coefficient

Straw
Recic. textiles
0.8 Recic. celulose
Wood wool
0.6 Sheep wool
Agglomerate exp. cork
Hemp
0.4
Coconut
Flax
0.2 Agglomerate recic. rubber

0
250 500 1000 2000
Frequency [Hz]

Fig. 2. Sound absorption coefficients of alternative materials [2,5,23,24].


226 M. Pedroso et al. / Construction and Building Materials 140 (2017) 221228

noise reduction coefficient (NRC)


1
0.9
0.8
0.7
0.6
0.5
0.4
0.3
0.2
0.1
0

Materials

Fig. 3. Comparison of the NRC of all insulation materials.

700
600
500
EE (MJ/m2)

400
300
200
100
0

Materials

Fig. 4. Comparison of the EE of all insulation materials.

14

12

10
)
Cost per m2 (

Materials

Fig. 5. Comparison of the cost per m2 of all insulation materials.

After the analysis of the performance in terms of acoustic leads to a much greater increases in terms of insulation. Fig. 5
absorption and of the EE associated with the processes involved shows that the superior performance of the alternative materials
in the production of each material, it is interesting to study another does not hold in this performance dimension, i.e. the correspond-
important factor in the evaluation of the sustainability: the cost. ing costs per m2 are higher than those of the materials currently
This is often the factor that decides the choice of one product over used. This situation may be explained by the small demand of
another, even though frequently a slight increase of the cost per m2 these materials in contrast with the current materials (a case of
M. Pedroso et al. / Construction and Building Materials 140 (2017) 221228 227

1400

1200

1000

EE (MJ/m2)
800

600

400

200

Materials

Fig. 6. Comparison of the EE of the construction materials.

40

35

30
Cost per m2 ()

25

20

15

10

Materiais

Fig. 7. Comparison of each construction material per m2 of wall.

scale economy). Nonetheless, the material with the lowest cost is each material (Fig. 7). The hollow fired-clay bricks have very com-
an alternative one, straw, which is substantially cheaper than the petitive costs, even when compared to the gypsum plasterboard,
2nd and 3rd in the ranking, glass wool and EPS, respectively. while lightweight aggregates concrete blocks are more expensive
than the former.
6.2. Comparison of the construction materials

This section includes the analysis of the sustainability of the 7. Conclusion


materials that are normally used as separating and/or frontier ele-
ments between different spaces in buildings. Even though there are This paper presents the characterization in terms of embedded
many candidate materials, the analysis was restricted to those cur- energy, acoustic performance and associated cost of current and
rently used. Despite the fact that the use of LACB is still not prepon- alternative materials for acoustic insulation. The results presented
derant in Portugal, they are increasingly replacing hollow fired- are a useful data to choose the materials to be applied in construc-
clay bricks in buildings, given the requirements relative to their tion and rehabilitation of more sustainable buildings as a function
thermal performance. Similarly to the insulation materials, a com- of the three vectors mentioned.
parison was made at the level of the environmental sustainability The data provided result from the systemization of the informa-
indicator (EE) and cost, relative to 1 m2 of wall. tion available in various sources, and this papers contribution is
Fig. 6 shows that the material with the lowest EE per m2 of wall their detailed presentation and critical analysis. Based on the sam-
is 70 mm-thick hollow fired-clay bricks, followed by the gypsum ple of materials analysed, it can be stated that there are alternative
plasterboard with one board per face, and that the EE of the LACB materials that, from the points of view of acoustic performance,
(LACB 0.38 m thick, and LACB 0.315 m thick) exceeds the value of a embedded energy and costs, are perfectly viable replacements of
0.25 m-thick concrete wall. currently used materials. It is important however to stress the lim-
After the analysis of the environmental sustainability criterion itations inherent to the various data sources used.
and since the insulation criterion cannot be evaluated on an indi- Even though it is important to use materials increasingly more
vidual brick basis but rather for the solution adopted for the wall sustainable, the present conditions of production transportation
as a whole, all that remains is the analysis of the cost per m2 of and application do not allow making available materials perfect
228 M. Pedroso et al. / Construction and Building Materials 140 (2017) 221228

at every level. Given this limitation, the multidimensional compar- [9] D.R. Raichel, The Science and Application of Acoustics, 2nd ed., Springer
science + business media, New York, USA, 2006.
ative analysis presented in this paper is indeed pertinent.
[10] H. Kuttruf, Acoustics An Introduction, Taylor&Francis, New York, USA, 2007.
[11] G.P. Hammond, C.I. Jones, Embodied energy and carbon in construction
Acknowledgements materials, Proc. Inst. Civ. Eng. 161 (2008) 8798.
[12] T. Woolley, S. Kimmins, Green Building Handbook, 2nd ed., SPON press,
London, United Kingdom, 2005.
The authors gratefully acknowledge the support of the CERIS- [13] P. Domone, J. Iilston, Construction Materials Their Nature and Behavior, 4th
ICIST Research Institute, Instituto Superior Tcnico, Universidade ed., SPON press, Oxon, United Kingdom, 2010.
de Lisboa, Portugal, and of FCT (Portuguese Foundation for Science [14] A. Wilson, M. Piepkorn, Green Building Products the Greenspec Guide to
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