The construction sector, also thanks to recent regulatory provisions, is decisively directing its efforts toward circularity. Rockwool products can provide an important contribution and they also improve the safety of the buildings in which they are installed.

The 110% Superbonus incentive, introduced in 2020 with the Italian Relaunch Decree, offers interesting perspectives for those preparing to undertake renovation projects that include energy efficiency interventions. Thanks to the precious properties of stone wool, Rockwool products fulfill the needs dictated by the wave of renovations and the growing awareness of the importance of upgrading our housing stock to achieve climate goals. Thermally efficient insulation solutions are now essential both for accessing the Superbonus – the intervention must bring about an increase in terms of energy efficiency (stepping up by two energy classes while meeting Minimum Environmental Criteria) – but also in achieving the environmental sustainability which the construction sector is still not close to. “We are certain that measures such as the 110% Superbonus represent a great opportunity for Italy’s development – says Rockwool Italia CEO Paolo Migliavacca – both with a view to promoting sustainable construction and to achieve widespread economic impact across the nation. If Europe’s goal for 2050 is complete decarbonisation, it is necessary to limit buildings’ energy losses by acting on the building envelope while also guaranteeing optimal performance from a noise insulation and fire protection perspective.”

Progress on Sustainability

According to a 2020 report by the Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction, the world’s buildings account for approximately 38% of CO2 emissions linked to the energy sector and 40% of the total demand for primary energy. The good news is that tangible solutions already exist to bring down these percentages. Emissions and consumption can be reduced by using efficient, long-lasting, and circular insulation materials, such as those manufactured by Rockwool.
The company, a leader in the production of stone wool, was awarded in 2020 for its positive social impact and the important progress in reducing its ecological footprint. Trucost, part of Standard and Poor’s Global, has classified all
Rockwool products as “SDG Positive”, meaning that they have been assessed as promoting the achievement of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
Two of the company’s six sustainability goals have been achieved two years earlier than expected. The first involved reducing production waste sent to landfill by 40% (already reached 50%), while the second is linked to
a 10% improvement of water efficiency at Rockwool sites. It is also estimated that 95% of the Insulation branch’s revenue is eligible to be included in the Taxonomy under the “Climate change mitigation” category and that the building insulation sold in 2020 will lead to heating savings of 18 TWh per year. This is four times higher than the annual power output of Hornsea One, the world’s largest offshore wind farm.

The Circularity of Stone Wool

Construction and demolition waste in the construction sector represent more than a third of all waste produced in the EU. This fact emphasises the need for a circular economy, in which materials are used for longer before being reused or recycled, rather than sent to landfill.
Rockwool products are durable, easy to disassemble, and can be recycled. About a third of the raw materials used by Rockwool is made up of recovered waste. As a consequence, in certain regions, and for specific product ranges, stone wool products can contain up to 75% recycled material. Rockwool’s goal, thus, is to offer the greatest contribution in terms of circularity.
Through the Rockcycle service, launched across 14 countries in 2020, waste products derived from construction site processes are collected and sent back to Rockwool plants, where they are processed and recycled into new stone wool.
Rockwool insulation is manufactured starting from
basaltic rock, a naturally abundant material that guarantees specific product features. As well as being extremely recyclable and durable, stone wool panels do not deform or alter over time, their performance remaining unchanged for over 50 years. “Well-installed thermal cladding – Migliavacca confirms – represents a guarantee of savings, safety, and sustainability for decades. In our vision, clean and efficient energy is the savings made thanks to correct insulation of our buildings.”

Fire Containment: Safety First

The tragic fire at Grenfell Tower in London in 2017 and the tower block at Via Antonini in Milan that went up in flames last summer remind us that renovation for the purpose of improving energy efficiency and aesthetics should never overlook fire safety, especially considering that several non-flammable construction materials are available on the market. For renovation interventions on tall or high-risk buildings, which require insulation or cladding on their façade, the materials used must ensure the highest degree of safety in the event of a fire.
Stone wool insulation, in addition to guaranteeing great thermal and noise insulation performance, is non-flammable and can resist temperatures above 1,000 °C.
Some solutions that are typical of modern construction involve the use of innovative technologies such as solar panels installed on roofs. This practice, however, entails certain risks. This is why the installation of non-flammable stone wool insulation can play an important role in protecting people and property. Being extremely fire resistant, Rockwool insulation performs a vital fire containment function, stopping the blaze from spreading. Thanks to the properties of stone wool, we can contribute to the construction of safer and more sustainable cities.

Download and read the Renewable Matter issue #38 about Circular Building.