Making Affordable Multifamily Housing More Energy Efficient: A Guide to Healthier Upgrade Materials


UPDATE: Additional resources have been released to complement the Guide to Healthier Upgrade Materials. Specification Guidance and Policy Briefs are linked below.

Insulation and air sealing are two of the most common interventions performed in energy efficiency upgrades, and yet they can introduce many chemicals of concern into buildings. That’s why Healthy Building Network (HBN) teamed up with Energy Efficiency for All (EEFA) and other partner organizations to consider healthier insulation and air sealing materials and how to help encourage their use in multifamily energy efficiency upgrades. This report includes details of HBN’s research on the common chemical content of a range of insulation and sealant materials as well as simple, actionable recommendations to make the best material choices possible. Because hazardous content is not the only consideration when making material choices, also included is HBN’s compilation of relative cost information, performance characteristics, and installation and code considerations. Finally, the report introduces a discussion of policies that may impact material decisions and how to encourage the use of healthier materials in multifamily energy efficiency upgrades.

Download the full report using the "download pdf" at right. 

See additional resources from this project below:

Guidance for Specifying Healthier Insulation and Air-Sealing Materials
This document provides guidance for evaluating and selecting healthier insulation and air-sealing materials and for incorporating these choices into specifications for energy efficiency upgrade projects. Guidance is provided in multiple formats including summary guidance on healthier insulation and air-sealing materials, tiered recommendations by product category, and sample specification language. 

See the full report above for information about why it is important to be aware of the use of hazardous chemicals in building products, references to the scientific literature on health impacts of building upgrades and materials, the methodology behind our recommendations, and detailed research into the common content of various insulation and air-sealing materials. 

Policy Brief and 2-page Fact Sheet
Although material choices are driven by many considerations, policies that shape standards and certifications have a significant impact and present opportunities for change. Project partner VEIC developed these resources that focus on policies at a state and local level that drive material decisions for energy efficiency upgrades in the affordable multifamily sector. This research, based on 12 states with diverse climate and policy contexts, centered on these three questions:

  1. What drives multifamily retrofit materials choices now?
  2. How do healthier materials fit into the building standards and certifications that are commonly used?
  3. How can we further promote the use of healthier materials through these processes?