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    October 27, 2014
    Changing the Conversation: Foam-Control Plus+ Architectural Grade Insulation

    Just one year ago, ACH Foam Technologies changed the insulation industry by releasing Foam-Control Plus+, an architectural grade expanded polystyrene (EPS) insulation. With a range of compressive strengths and a high R-value, Foam-Control Plus+ is a premium grade insulation, but at a lower cost than other rigid foam insulations.

    During the past year, Foam-Control Plus+ has given architects, designers, and contractors a high quality insulation alternative with the same strength, energy efficiency, and moisture resistance that these professionals have come to rely on. From frost-line to roof-line, Foam-Control Plus+ has been used in a range of applications, including perimeter insulation, under-slab insulation, cavity wall insulation, sheathing, pre-cast concrete applications, green roofs,  plaza decks, and waterproofing applications.

    Foam-Control Plus+ has proven to be a cost-efficient, high quality alternative to XPS one reason is due to its superior ability to maintain its R-value in real-life conditions when exposed to moisture. Moisture diminishes the R-value of all polystyrene resins, whether expanded or extruded.  EPS insulation, such as Foam-Control Plus+, also has a higher permeability than XPS and releases moisture more easily. This means that over the life of the product, EPS insulation actually holds its R-value better. 

    In a freeze-thaw test by independent laboratory Internek, EPS held onto less moisture than XPS. Over 20 days, three types of EPS and one type of XPS were exposed to freeze-thaw cycling every twelve hours. The results showed EPS only retained between 53 to 76% moisture, while XPS retained 100% moisture. Unlike XPS, all EPS types dried significantly.

    The permeability of EPS provides the material with the ability to dry out after exposure to  water, making it a more effective insulation over time. That permeability gives EPS foam an advantage over XPS insulation in real life situations, but that same permeability is why EPS doesn’t perform as well in the industry standard test of submerging 1” x 12” x 12” pieces of foam under water for 24 hours. That test is an ASTM C578, “Standard Specification for Rigid Cellular Polystyrene Thermal Insulation,” which is used to identify various material properties; it does not indicate real-life performance. The physical properties are irrelevant for most builders because neither type of insulation would be immersed in water for 24 hour periods when installed on a building.

    A much more relevant study for the building industry was a real-world moisture resistance test conducted by Stork Twin Laboratories.  The test began 1993. Scientists placed XPS and EPS side-by-side as exterior vertical wall insulation separating the heated building foundation from the soil of a building in St. Paul, MN.  Samples were removed in the summer of 2008 and tested immediately upon excavation for R-value. At the time of excavation, the soil in contact with the insulation was dry and no abnormal conditions were observed.  Both sets of samples were subsequently conditioned in a laboratory (72° F, 50% RH) for four weeks to determine a conditioned R-value. Researchers found that EPS retained 98% of its stated R-value and had only 4.8% moisture content. On the other hand, XPS retained only 52% of its stated R-value and had a moisture content of 18.9%.

    Not only does EPS retain its R-value better than XPS over time in tests that simulate real-life use, it also costs significantly less. At equal R-values ACH Foam Technologies’ Foam-Control Plus+ EPS costs 10% to 30% less than XPS.

    To ensure that the results of this 15-year experiment accurately reflected XPS’ long-term R-value, in 2013, an independent testing laboratory was commissioned to evaluate the R-value of XPS samples from across the country. Scientists tested two samples of XPS-based insulation in four locations, including below grade insulation in St. Paul, roadway insulation in Minneapolis, and two separate roofs in Alaska. The results mirrored the 15-year real-world moisture resistance test conducted by Stork Twin Laboratories.

    The results of the independent testing were dramatic:

    • Water absorption of the XPS was significant, ranging from 5% to 60% by volume.
    • The actual R-value of the excavated XPS was drastically lower than the claimed R-value.
    • Insulation pieces that promised an R-value of 5.0 went down to 0.7 to 4.5, depending on the moisture content.

    Whether below grade, on roadways, or on roofs, XPS lost its R-value significantly in real-life applications.

    For these reasons, contractors across the country are choosing EPS insulation. Nathan Johnson, the contractor on the Oaknoll Retirement Residence in Iowa City, Iowa, chose Foam Control Plus+ 150 and 250 for its price and functionality.

    “It works great. It’s cost-effective and I can use the same insulation for multiple purposes—protection board, under-slab insulation, void form—which cuts down on the chances that the wrong board was installed,” Johnson said.  

    EPS has other advantages for the environmentally minded, it can contain up to 15% recycled content. ACH Foam Technologies recycled 5.4 million pounds of EPS in 2013 and is a closed-loop manufacturer, meaning all scrap is recycled into new EPS products or densified and turned into other plastics products. XPS contains only limited amounts of recycled content, and is not available in all products.

    EPS has never contained HCFCs, HFCs, CFCs, formaldehyde, or dyes. The natural color of expanded polystyrene is white.  XPS contains pink, blue, or green dye for branding.

    There are several other advantages of using Foam-Control Plus+ on a project. First, ACH Foam Technologies introduced face labeling to the EPS insulation market, and the labeling on a Foam-Control Plus+ panels is extensive, showing UL certification information, ASTM type, compressive strength, R-value, product name, and even whether the panel is scored or contains termite-resistant treatment. ACH Foam Technologies’ Foam-Control Plus+ is also the first EPS insulation in the market to come pre-scored, providing contractors and installers the ability to break apart sections on the jobsite, giving them more flexibility, saving installation time, and reducing jobsite waste.  All of these product developments save time by making it simple for distributors to stock product and for contractors to know what they’re paying for. It also provides peace of mind to specifiers that the correct product will be delivered to the jobsite.

    Along with the jobsite benefits, ACH Foam Technologies also has long-term advantages for contractors. ACH Foam offers a 50-year R-value warranty for all of its’ EPS insulations, including Foam-Control Plus+, making it the first and only EPS manufacturer to guarantee its product’s performance for so long. Other EPS manufactuerers offer only 20-year R-value warranties.

    Foam-Control Plus+ provides performance, is easy to work with on the jobsite, offers environment benefits, and is cost-effective– all distinct advantages. But ultimately, building professionals – and their clients -- depend upon insulation’s long-term effectiveness. Here, too, EPS  foam comes out ahead, holding on to its R-value under real life conditions when exposed to moisture better than XPS .

    This proven performance is why, one year after its introduction, the number of industry professionals choosing ACH Foam Technologies’ Foam-Control Plus+ for insulating everything from roofs to floors is expanding rapidly.

    Case Studies

    New Building at the University of Iowa Rests and Relies on ACH Foam Technologies’ Foam-Control Plus+

    When the University of Iowa decided to build a new center for tennis, recreation, and the band, they needed the space to be protected from famously intense Iowa winters and summers. The new building is about the size of a full football field, and to mitigate heating and cooling costs, the project called for 80,000 square feet of under-slab insulation.

    The contractor on the project, Jim Seelman, chose Foam-Control Plus+ for its price—ACH Foam was more competitively priced than XPS alternatives—and it was readily available.

    The product arrived just as he wanted it: uniform. In one long day—from 8 am to 1 am—Seelman’s team was able to lay out the under-slab insulation for the entire building. This was no easy feat for a football field-sized building, but each piece of ACH Foam’s scored Foam-Control Plus+ 250 was installed perfectly.

    The evenness of the product was crucial. Being that Foam-Control Plus+ insulation was installed below-grade, any inconsistencies could contribute to an uneven foundation. The material was also durable.  Seelman’s team was able to install a six-inch rock base on top of the insulation, and none of the panels broke.

    During the planning phase, Seelman had an odd dilemma: he needed to purchase the insulation, but he couldn’t use it for months. ACH Foam was able to process his order and hold onto the insulation until he needed it.

    Seelman said, “They were so accommodating to us, as far as keeping [the insulation] at their factory and delivering it right on time.”

    Mariano’s Brings High Quality Food to Chicago; ACH Foam Brings High Quality Insulation to Mariano’s

    Mariano’s Market, the neighborhood market shop known for its “Shop Well, Eat Well and Live Well” motto, is expanding in the Chicago metro area. Their new Chicago store is a 70,000-square-foot building with rooftop parking. The split slab construction for the roof deck required an insulation material with a high R-value and high compressive strength. Naturally, they went with ACH Foam Technologies’ Foam-Control Plus+ 400. The construction team also wanted to work with thicker pieces of insulation, which ACH provides, but is typically not available in extruded polystyrene (XPS). The Mariano’s construction team used ACH Foam throughout the building, including Foam Control Plus+ 400 to provide a slope for the building’s drains. ACH Foam’s EPS also found its way into another application: approximately 200 cubic yards of Foam-Control EPS15 Geofoam was used on the project as infill in planter boxes on the rooftop.




    About ACH Foam Technologies

    For specifications, technical data and studies go to www.achfoam.com or call ACH Foam Technologies at 800.525.8697.For over four decades ACH Foam Technologies has been an industry leader in EPS manufacturing, providing products for construction, geotechnical, packaging, and industrial applications. With locations throughout the U.S., ACH is positioned to offer convenient, valuable, and complete solutions for its customers. ACH recycles 100% of its post-industrial EPS and is actively involved in recycling post-consumer EPS as well.