Greenhouse emissions from polymer insulation in fires are comparable to those from thermal mineral wool insulation. Lifetime average emissions from fires involving polystyrene insulation are calculated to be comparable to those resulting from the inferior thermal performance of glass wool insulation. The LCA estimated increased CO2 emissions resulting from using the same thickness of (non combustible) glass wool insulation material, based on heating a building using a gas boiler (Italy climate zone E). Cooling energy was not considered. This was compared to estimated increased emissions in fires resulting from polystyrene insulation (presumable non flame retarded). The model does not envisage an increased risk of fire with polystyrene insulation, but estimates increased damage to the building resulting from the increased fire load of the polystyrene, embedded carbon in lost building (reconstruction), plus CO2 emitted by the burning polystyrene itself, using an estimated probability of a fire happening in a building of 3 fire per thousand buildings per year. Other fire emissions are not considered. Conclusions are that total CO2 emissions are comparable for the two insulation scenarios if fires are considered.
“Quantitative integration of fire risk with life cycle analysis of building: The case of thermal insulation’, R. di Filippo et al., J. Building Engineering 76 (2023) 107124, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jobe.2023.107124