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Architecture2030.org and the Carbon Smart Materials Palette- SHEEP'S WOOL

from architecture2030.org


Last week we looked at HEMPCRETE, both the carbon-smart attributes and the acknowledged challenges, questions and unknowns. Let's take a look at another Carbon-Smart Material: SHEEP'S WOOL


CARBON IMPACT OF SHEEP’S WOOL

Wool insulation is made from sheep’s wool fibers. Wool is an effective thermal and acoustic insulation and is available in both batt and blow-in forms. Wool inherently manages moisture, improves indoor air quality by absorbing harmful chemicals, is sound absorbing, and is naturally fire resistant. Wool is a keratin and therefore will not support the growth of mold.  It is important to distinguish natural sheep’s wool from mineral wool or rock wool, which are actually made from rock, blast furnace slag, or other raw materials which are then melted and sun into fibers.


Wool fibers sequester atmospheric carbon. Carbon makes up 50% of the weight of wool (compared to 40% for cotton and 24% for cellulose). This carbon comes from the grasses and other plants that wool sheep eat. Most products available conform to Class A of the building code. Products are readily available and increasingly being used in projects of all sizes across the US, Canada, the EU and Australasia.


Statistics

Carbon makes up 50% of the weight of wool, higher than cotton (40%) or wood pulp-derived cellulose (24%)1 kg of clean wool equates to 1.8 kg of CO2 stored


CARBON SMART ATTRIBUTES

A wool fiber is much different than a synthetic fiber

Wool is a natural, rapidly renewable material, whereas synthetic fibers are often chemical derived and then spun into a fiber.  At the end useful life, wool can be re-used and/or recycled due to its durability, or composted, thus avoiding landfill. Most wool products on the market are devoid of glues and bonding agents, whereas synthetic fibers require two additional carbon-intensive processes:  fiber creation and the subsequent melting into finished product.

Wool sequesters carbon and other chemicals

Much of the carbon in wool comes from the plants that wool sheep eat, though the amino acids in wool are also able to bond with CO2 and other harmful chemicals such as formaldehyde, nitrogen oxide and sulphur dioxide.

Wool has competitive thermal performance

Sheep wool meets or exceeds the r-value per inch measures of most other mediums. Wool batts measure r3.6 per inch and some loose fill products are measured at roughly r4.3 per inch.  

Durability – moisture performance

Wool fibers manages moisture – absorbing and desorbing against ~65% relative humidity.  The fiber itself has a hydrophobic (water repelling) exterior and a hydrophilic (water loving) interior. The five follicles within the fiber mean it can hold up to a third of its weight in moisture and still feel dry to the touch.  This allows the insulation layer to go on insulating during and after inevitable bouts with moisture. Also, wool is a keratin and therefore does not support the growth of mold.

Durability – fire performance

Wool is self-extinguishing.  It has a high nitrogen content (~14%) and therefore will not support a flame until 1100F.  This means dangerous flame retardants are not necessary in wool insulation though it still conforms to Class A of the building code.

Wool is a natural sound absorber

Wool insulation is an excellent sound absorber, with a noise reduction coefficient of 0.90 to 1.15.


ACKNOWLEDGED CHALLENGES, QUESTIONS & UNKNOWNS

Sheep’s wool is available in the US though it comprises an insignificant amount of the annual yield ( ~1%).  


Sheep’s wool as insulation is catching on in other parts of the world such as Germany, Scandinavia, Turkey, Mongolia, Eastern Europe and North America – in addition to those places where it has been used for some time: the UK, Australia and New Zealand.  


Sheep’s wool insulation employs a light manufacturing process.  In addition to low embodied carbon for production, wool fibers sequester carbon on their own.  There are products that fully adhere to the Class A requirements of the building code and are readily available for commercial and residential projects of all shapes and sizes.



Why the 2030 Palette?

Over the next 15 years, an area equal to the entire building stock of the Western Hemisphere will be redesigned, reshaped, and rebuilt. How we plan and design this new construction will determine whether climate change is manageable or catastrophic. With the 2030 Palette, designers will have the tools they need to design adaptive, resilient, and Zero Net Carbon built environments.


Carbon Smart Materials Palette, a project of Architecture 2030, is an immediately applicable, high-impact pathway to embodied carbon reductions in the built environment .


WHY EMBODIED CARBON?

Annually, embodied carbon is responsible for 11% of global GHG emissions and 28% of global building sector emissions. However, as we trend toward zero operational emissions, the impact of embodied emissions becomes increasingly significant. It is therefore crucial to address embodied emissions now to disrupt our current emissions trend, and because the embodied emissions of a building are locked in once the building is constructed and cannot be taken back or reduced.


Architecture 2030’s mission is to rapidly transform the global built environment from the major contributor of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to a central part of the solution to the climate crisis.

Architecture 2030 pursues two primary objectives:

  • to achieve a dramatic reduction in the energy consumption and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of the built environment; and,

  • to advance the development of sustainable, resilient, equitable, and carbon-neutral buildings and communities.

Architecture2030.org has been creating a 2030 Palette, a free online platform providing a database of sustainable design principles, strategies, tools and resources at your fingertips.

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