There has been a steady surge in interest in styrene applications in the building industry in recent years. Expanded polystyrene (EPS) is a type of building material that can improve the structure’s design and structural stability. Since its introduction as a traditional insulating material in the 1950s, EPS has made rapid progress in a variety of novel applications. Because of its long-term benefits and improvements in terms of energy efficiency, durability, and interior environmental quality, EPS is now used in many building structures.
Expanded Polystyrene (EPS)
A polystyrene bead or pellet is the starting point for EPS. When the pentane-loaded bead is subjected to pressure steam, the polystyrene expands and moulds into the appropriate form and density. No ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons or hydrochlorofluorocarbons (CFCs or HCFCs) are used in the production of EPS. The result is a moisture-resistant, closed-cell structure made up of 90% air with a compressive strength of up to 276 kPa (40 psi). Depending on the intended application, it comes in various densities (For special applications, higher densities can be made.)
What features make EPS a versatile building material?
The physical and mechanical characteristics of EPS make it excellent for most insulating applications. The long-term thermal resistance (LTTR) of EPS is unaffected by aging due to its manufacturing process. It may be cut into sheets, slabs, or any desired shape to satisfy specific construction code requirements, as well as unique designs, thanks to its flexibility and versatility. EPS is utilized as a component of structural insulated panels (SIPs), insulated concrete forms (ICFs), and exterior insulation and finish systems (EIFS) and is used as insulation in walls, roofs, and foundations. Today, EPS has evolved into one of the most versatile insulating materials available.
Polystyrene Application in the Building Industry
Walls, Floors, and Ceilings
In residential and commercial construction, sheathing is one of the most basic and extensively utilized uses for EPS insulation. It aids in the creation of an envelope surrounding the structure, covering wall voids and studs to improve heat transmission and moisture penetration resistance. Because of its compatibility with steel and wood framework and masonry, EPS sheathing is employed in both renovations and new construction. The vapor retarder faces the heated side of the structure, and the boards are mounted vertically over the outside surfaces of the studs. It can be fastened with screws, nails, and staples (depending on the framing surface), although masonry substrates usually require spot adhesive.
Although the strength of expanded polystyrene is sometimes questioned, it may be obtained at compressive strengths as high as 414 kPa (60 psi) when more strength is required. As specified in ASTM C 578, Standard Specification for Rigid, Cellular Polystyrene Thermal Insulation, Type I EPS material adequately supports normal building movement without transferring stress to building joints.
Over the last decade, the use of rigid EPS insulation has steadily increased. While the cost of most building materials varies greatly, the price of EPS has stayed relatively stable. Manufacturers can give variable densities of insulation to builders, resulting in a construction that meets or exceeds energy code demands without the added cost of wider studs.
Exterior Insulation and Finish Systems (EIFS)
EIFS has provided commercial buildings with great curb appeal, extensive design and color versatility, low maintenance, durability, and good energy efficiency for almost 30 years.
EPS foam, fiberglass mesh, and a cement-like stucco substance make up a standard EIFS external wall. The first stage in constructing an EIFS exterior is to apply an EPS foam layer directly to the home or building’s sheathing. Then a cement base coat is placed, followed by fiberglass mesh and a cement finish coat. A face-sealed barrier EIFS is a sort of system that resists water infiltration at its outer surface.
Insulation Concrete Forms (ICF)
ICFs are hollow EPS forms erected on a construction site and then filled with five to six inches of reinforced concrete. ICFs, unlike standard concrete forms, are not removed once the concrete has hardened.
Because the concrete core is encased with EPS insulation, ICFs have higher R-values and sound-deadening properties. Furthermore, due to the concrete core, ICFs withstand the forces of nature that destroy traditionally built dwellings. (In southern and midwestern states, where storms and tornadoes are more prone to strike, ICF homes are becoming increasingly popular.) ICFs give the following benefits to the users.
- Increased comfort and reduced energy costs
- Walls that absorb sound
- Flexibility in design
- Environmentally friendly features
Structural Insulated Panels (SIP)
A structural insulated panel (SIP) is a sturdy building panel that fuses a foam core—such as expanded polystyrene—between two outer skins of oriented strand board (OSB). It’s used to build exterior walls, roofs, ceilings, and floors. Homes and buildings made of SIPs, which were first introduced in the 1950s, can provide greater insulation, quick construction, and various environmental benefits. The advantages in using SIPs made of EPS are as follows
- Exceptional insulation
- Remarkable strength
- Speedy construction and completion
- Environmental benefits
The Styrene Insulation Industry (SII), Expanded Polystyrene suppliers, and manufacturers in the UAE are the most dependable sources for SIPs.
New technologies and applications for expanded polystyrene will continue to emerge as the material’s popularity and acceptability grow. The material has previously demonstrated its worth and capabilities in various construction applications; the only thing stopping it from reaching its maximum potential is a lack of awareness among the design community. However, due to increased knowledge and exposure, a growing number of construction professionals will become familiar with EPS, specify the material, and push the design limits.