Innovation and commercialisation of Scottish homegrown wood fibre insulation

  • Bros-Williamson, Julio (Principal Investigator)
  • Seminara, Paola (Student)
  • Livingstone, Andrew (Researcher)
  • Reid, Alasdair (Researcher)

Project Details


The purpose of this study is to provide evidence to support the manufacture of wood fibre insulation using homegrown fibre. This addresses the challenges faced by the Scottish Government to reduce the embodied carbon of construction materials and meet targets for net-zero by 2040. The project was funded by Scottish Forestry and undertaken by academics at the University of Edinburgh and Edinburgh Napier University.

Layman's description

Investigation on the potential for the commercialisation and innovation of Scottish
wood fibre insulation in the construction industry.

Key findings

The main findings of this study are as follows:
1. Benefits & barriers
Using wood fibre insulation brings numerous benefits, particularly when correctly installed. It can contribute to thermal efficiency, acoustic performance and improve indoor air quality of building interiors by:
 buffering moisture and avoiding condensation build-up;
 lowering heat loss through conduction of heat;
 reduce sound transmission between components and rooms;
 thermal balancing by absorbing/ storing heat.

Environmentally, the use of wood fibre insulation contributes less to climate change by:
 releasing fewer carbon emissions during its production stages by having a
negative global warming potential compared with most equivalent synthetic (manmade)
insulation products;
 when compared with synthetic insulation, wood fibre products tend to require
more energy to produce them, therefore, their embodied energy remains high.
However, most manufacturers use 60% renewable energy sources for the main
production stages, whilst energy to produce synthetic insulation, tends to primarily use fossil fuel in their production stages;
 carbon absorbed during the tree's life remains locked and sequestrated in the
insulation product until disposed of and released (combusted);
 wood fibre insulation has a long end of life due to its biodegradable potential and after its intended use can be turned into other bio-based products, avoiding it being disposed of completely into landfills.

However, a number of barriers also exist:

 there aren't any manufacturers in the UK of wood fibre insulation, therefore, all products are imported from mainland Europe where several companies have a
large capacity and market outreach;
 its current availability in the UK is limited as it relies on specialist suppliers,
therefore, it is not available off-the-shelf unlike other insulation products;
 the cost of the imported wood fibre is higher than synthetic insulation equivalents;
 the UK construction industry does not fully comprehend the benefits that wood fibre brings to a building and mostly focuses on the like-for-like thickness and thermal conductivity (λ) values. Currently, the thermal conductivity value of wood fibre products is higher than synthetic equivalents, therefore, to match the U-values of a component using wood fibre more product (thickness) is required;
 the current uptake of natural insulation products, such as wood fibre, is low, partly due to the industry being unaware of its performance and availability;
 there is also a lack of support from the government to incentivise the construction industry to use natural insulation products that contribute less to climate change and which can achieve net-zero targets faster.
2. Present and future capacity
 In 2018, according to the Alliance for Sustainable Building Products (ASBP), the market share for natural insulation products in the UK was worth less than 0.1% of all insulation sales compared with 6% in Germany.
 Various forums and UK distributors of natural insulation products estimate that between 2021 and 2022, the UK market will grown and is worth between £2 million to £3.5 million; less than 0.2% of the total insulation UK market.
 Wood fibre insulation is a popular product among most environmentally conscious architects, contractors, and house builders, however, in order to increase the market potential, there needs to be an increase of awareness and skills development.
 Other EU countries have a steady increase in sales of wood fibre products with
one leading EU manufacturer experiencing a 30% revenue increase between 2020
and 2021.
 The results from the interviews with leading contractors, house builders and local authorities, showed support for the uptake of wood fibre insulation with a real belief on the benefits to reducing climate change and meeting their net-zero targets.
Effective start/end date1/09/2121/01/22


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