May 18, 2010 - When our architects first mentioned using cellulose as the primary insulation for the Creative Co-Op, I have to admit it was not even on my radar screen. I have a great deal of trust in their material choices, but the idea of using recycled newspaper for serious insulation alluded me. I grew up in Brooklyn, NY in a bungalow style house built in 1922. When built, most of these homes had no insulation in the walls and attic whatsoever. Cutting holes in the walls and pumping in cellulose was how many of these homes were later retrofitted to provide some degree of protection from the heat and cold. It never seemed to do a very good job.
I started my online research not on Google, but on You-Tube. I wanted to "see" the latest in cellulose technology, not read about it. After I looked at some videos, I then went go to Google to locate a source. As I was doing my search, I heard a news report that it was YouTube's 5th Anniversary, and the narrator started spouting off statistics that were simply mind boggling (24 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute!). This was music to my ears. Since one of the key reasons we are building the Creative Co-Op is to handle the increase in business for sales and training videos our clients want for their corporate web sites.
First I wanted to see how cellulose is being used on new construction. This video help me to understand how cellulose is installed in the walls and attic space of a new building. Next, I wanted to see how cellulose is made. Since I have never purchased cellulose, I wanted to see if there was much difference between different manufacturers - turns out there is and you can learn what to look for when buying cellulose. There are several effective side-by-side demos showing cellulose vs. fiberglass. This is one of several such "birdhouse demos" you can see online (and many manufacturers use similar demos in their trade show booths). The one video that really impressed me was The Big Burn demo that shows cellulose has a distinct advantage over other types of insulation such as fiberglass in a building fire. This simple burn demo shows just how flame retardant cellulose is.
My architects also talked about the green aspects of cellulose, the lower cost (vs. foam or fiberglass), and the LEED building points we would get for using it. I was convinced that we should take a much closer look at the product. My main concern was condensation. Since the walls of the container are metal, would the heat differential between the inside and outside of the building cause moisture to be trapped inside the walls of the building? I felt the best way to get that answered would be to find a cellulose manufacturer and ask them. My Google search turned up International Cellulose located here in Houston. I contacted Chad Cherry, their Commercial Sales Manager and asked him if I could meet with him and our architects to try and get the question answered.
The International Cellulose plant in Houston is in an older industrial area of town about an hour from our studio. Chad took the time to show us the various products available from the company and which ones were most suitable for our project. Cellulose can be provided as loose fill for attic areas. It can be blown into wall cavities using a special application unit where adhesive and cellulose are mixed in the head of a gun and applied up to several inches thick. Blown in cellulose also has excellent sound dampening characteristics, another benefit when trying to reduce noise inside a metal structure. Once applied, a second harder coating of cellulose can be added that forms a tough, water resistant shell on the outside. This would be good for any applications where the cellulose was not being protected by sheetrock or wall paneling.
International Cellulose had a display unit that showed the thermal difference between a wall insulated with Cellulose vs. one insulated by fiberglass. Chad turned on the unit and let it run for about 30 minutes. In the photos in this blog entry, you can see the ambient temperature differential (44 degrees) of each wall section. Chad showed us the variety of colors that cellulose can be supplied in. This is a much better option vs. painting, since the paper fibers absorb so much paint, it is difficult to get satisfactory coverage. Tinted cellulose remains the same color through the entire thickness, so if some is removed from the top layer, there is no change in color. Chad did a great job in answering our questions.
In my research on cellulose, Quality Control seemed to critical when making a product selection. We asked Chad for a plant tour and even though it was after 5:00pm, he was happy to show us his facility. The captioned photos on the right will show you their plant. At the conclusion of the tour I felt very confident that cellulose should be on our short list of insulation products. I asked Chad if it would be possible to do a demo of his products using the container we have on our property that we converted to a fireworks stand several years ago. He agreed, and in part 3 of this report we will show that demo.
Posted by Vic Cherubini on May 20, 2010
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