NOLA Case Study
Report: NOLA100 Use of BASF Closed Cell Spray Foam Insulation
Material leads to NOLA100's best home renovation energy efficiency rating
This report summarizes the use of spray-applied BASF Closed Cell Foam during the NOLA100 energy efficient, rapid rebuilding program in New Orleans, LA. NOLA100 deployed BASF Closed Cell Spray Foam product to two homes in the program, Houses 102 and 122. Though a small sample size, the results achieved were very encouraging for the use of the product in post-disaster home renovations, particularly for low to moderate income homeowners. In fact, House 102 achieved the best improvement in energy efficiency and GHG emissions of any of the NOLA100 program homes (See Case Study 102sv). Using the HERS rating system, House 102 scored 74 (which is significantly better than the project average for completed homes of 103) and a phenomenal increase over its starting index of 268. In other words, a home that pre-renovation used 268% of baseline energy usage improved to a level of 74% of baseline usage, post renovation.
Put in economic terms, the elderly homeowner of House 102 will have a utility bill nearly two-thirds lower than pre-Katrina, saving her over $2,000 per year. Better yet, the GHG impact of the renovation is nearly as significant, achieving an annual reduction of over 20,000 pounds of CO2, according to the HERS rating.
The House 102 renovation project focused on creating a very tight, efficient envelope; always a challenge in structure built in the early 20th century. A key part of the strategy involved the use of BASF closed cell foam insulation. Because House 102 was only one side of a duplex, the project was able to foam the ceiling of her unit, rather than the more costly option of insulating the structure’s entire roof deck spanning both sides of the duplex. Given the age of the home, the closed cell insulation also helped to seal the envelope, providing a tighter barrier and reducing air infiltration. The use of the BASF product allowed the other energy efficient products utilized in the house to better express their attributes, resulting in a home that is 26% more efficient than the International Energy Conservation Code for a structure built over 50 years later (2003).
Comparison to Program Homes
Overall, the two homes using the BASF foam averaged 97 on the HERS score, again better than the project average of 103. HERS ratings compare the energy efficiency of an existing home to that of a theoretical 'reference home', in this case one of the same size and configuration as House 102, but built to 2003 International Energy Code standards. A HERS score of 97 means that a renovated home uses 97% of the energy of the reference home, so it is actually more energy efficient than its 2003 counterpart.
Probably more significant than the ending numerical score is the fact that the homes receiving the BASF product had a starting rating that was worse than the average NOLA100 house rating (251 vs. 248). In effect, this means that even though the homes using the BASF product were in worse condition post-Katrina than the average NOLA100 home, the completed BASF homes improved more (scored better) than the average program home.
We also believe that the use of the BASF product contributes to the improvement in the rating score by allowing the other energy efficient products utilized in the house to better express their attributes. An example of this would an increase in the efficiency of the ductless HVAC system that was installed on Home 102, due to a reduction in the loss of conditioned (heated or cooled) air.
The lower air infiltration achieved through the ‘sealing of the ceiling’ with closed cell spray foam will likely allow the SEER 17 unit to perform as a SEER 19 since it does not have to constantly recondition air to replace that lost due to envelope leakage. Although it is difficult to quantify, this 'tighter' envelope effect should also lead to an improvement in Indoor Air Quality and resident comfort perceptions due to fewer rafts and lower overall air leakage of the building envelope.
GHG Emissions Impact
Not only will the owner of House 102, who is on a fixed retirement income of less than $15,000 per year, receive an incredible boost to her standard of living due to lower utility bills, the environment benefits as well. The beginning CO2 emissions for the home were estimated at 36,171 pounds per year, with the renovated home rated at a drastically improved 14,778 pounds per year.
By achieving an increase in disposable income of nearly 20% for the homeowner, while reducing annual GHG emissions by over ten tons, House 102 is a very tangible example of the triple bottom line. And in this case, it is the triple bottom line that keeps the 87 year old Katrina survivor in her beloved home for the rest of her life.
Below is a comparison of the BASF homes with the NOLA100 program average.
Limitations of Use
Although the benefits to residents of using the BASF product were substantial, it is not a project for the do it yourself market. Like other construction elements that require installation by a licensed professional, such as plumbing and electrical work, spray foam insulation can only be applied by trained and skilled professionals.
The BASF application vendor, Apex Foam, was an excellent partner and was very helpful both in guiding us through the installation process as well as helping us to determine the best candidate homes for application.
The BASF Closed Cell Foam product is an almost ideal material for use in post-disaster renovation projects of existing homes. The benefits it offers to low and moderate income homeowners in terms of utility cost reductions and air quality improvements are superior to other alternatives. Cost and complexity of installation (i.e.- not a 'volunteer friendly' or do it yourself activity) are its only drawbacks. The implementation of a BASF approved Green Jobs training program that could reduce the cost of installation would allow non-profits active in rebuilding efforts to incorporate the material more frequently into their projects.
NOLA100 would like to thank the Clinton Climate Initiative, BASF, The Salvation Army and Hope Has A Face Foundation for their efforts in facilitating the development and completion of this pilot project.