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Building Science

History of Insulation

Pre  1 AD

Egyptians retired to the coolness of subterranean chambers and grottoes on hot days.

1st Century

The Romans used cork for insulation in shoes in order to keep their feet warm. Pliny referred to the use of cork as an insulating material for roofs.

12-13th Century

The fireplace and chimney were used by Norwegians and people of Iceland  provided controlled, artificial heat.

19th Century

The thatched huts of northern Europe were built with a roof, up to 2 ft thick, of woven straw and walls of clay and straw Early Spanish mission houses of the southwestern United States, where temps rose to 120 to 140°F, were comparatively cool due to clay straw walls several feet thick.


Blanket-type insulations were developed called Cabot's quilt. Material made from a marine plant called eel grass, sandwiched or stitched between two layers of kraft paper. This was stuffed between the framing members.


C.C. Hall (chemical engineer) first produced rock wool.


Rock wool was commerically produced by Hall at a plant in Alexadria, Indiana.


Celotex Co. introduced an insulated board made from bagasse, waste by-product of sugar cane after the juice was extracted.


Celotex also produced a fire-resistant insulation board surfaced on both sides with asbestos cement.


Johns Manville Co. had numerous plants producing rock wool or slag wool insulation in the US.


Fiberglass was developed involving jetting of molten glass through tiny heated holes into high-speed air streams. The resulting fibers were drawn very thin and to great length. Largely developed by Owens-Corning

During WWII

Building insulation was mandatory to conserve metal required for heating and cooling equipment and to save fuel. A standard for sufficient thermal insulation was developed--Rvalue.

early 1940s

Dow Chemical Co. developed a polystyrene product known as Styrofoam. Its closed cell structure was a great product used as a thermal insulation material.


Urea formaldehyde foam insulation (UFFI) introduced to the building industry


Production of domestic oil peaked shifting public awareness and sensibility toward energy conservation.

mid 1970s

World energy crisis


UFFI was banned across Canada, due to long-term health risks to occupants of houses insulated with UFFI.


Icynene 0.5lb open cell foam was invented to replace UFFI closed cell foam which had health issues related to mold and off gassing of formaldehyde and other volatile organic compounds (VOC). 


 Source: Insulation Handbook; Richard T. Bynum Jr.; Ch1, pg.3-9

topics: Energy Efficiency, Open Cell, R-Value


We used Icynene to insulate our old home and we have already experienced a 25% reduction in the heating consumption.