Green Collar Insulators

By Brian Glynn, Heat and Frost Insulators—Local 17 and
Alec Rexroat, Illinois Regional Insulation Contractors Association

The past few years have seen a movement in America towards thinking “green.” Many new green products, services and technologies have emerged to take advantage of this trend. But this development isn’t just a fad. Citizens and policymakers are confronting the reality of global warming and recognizing the opportunities that can come from taking collective action. All you have to do is watch the news to hear all of the presidential candidates speak about building a new green economy to create jobs while protecting the environment. Many of these “green-collar” jobs will put to use existing expertise for work that is impossible to ship overseas.

The International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators—Local 17 has been a part of this effort long before the term “green-collar” was ever coined, training professionals to save energy, lives and money for over 100 years. Heat and Frost Insulators have always played a critical role in energy conservation and are a key group of the green-collar workforce that will become more and more in demand as individuals, general contractors, commercial developers, and industrial companies catch on to the benefits of green building, both environmentally and financially.

This is especially true in Chicagoland. Chicago is on a mission to be the greenest city in the world, and green building will be instrumental in this effort, as over 70% of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions come from buildings’ energy use. Recent studies have shown that green buildings use an average of 36% less energy than conventional buildings. Projects and policies are in place, with many others in store, to help revamp building systems in order to make them more energy-efficient.

The insulation of mechanical systems is a fundamental—and often overlooked—aspect of green building. Ensuring that these systems have sufficient and properly installed insulation will dramatically reduce a building’s energy consumption.

For example, properly insulating a single six-inch steam valve with two inches of insulation can save 49 million BTU’s of heat loss, 7600 lbs. of CO2 emissions, 15 lbs. of nitrogen oxides emissions and $600 in total energy savings in just one year. A basic enhancement with far-reaching results, installing mechanical insulation is one of the most cost-effective building improvements, and it is the only one that begins to pay for itself the moment it is installed.

On the other hand, insufficient and poorly installed insulation around heating and cooling systems is by far the biggest cause of lost energy in commercial construction. This lost energy must be made up for by increased output from power plants that emit carbon dioxide, effectively undoing all benefits of an otherwise green building. For this reason, proper insulation should always be the first step in green design.

Local 17 and the affiliated contractors of the Illinois Regional Insulation Contractors Association have always been on the frontline of building a safer, healthier, greener and more efficient world. The skills of our professionals are more relevant than ever to today’s economic changes. Only our members and affiliated contractors have the training, expertise and commitment to address your mechanical insulation needs.

The men and women of Local 17 are proud to be part of forward thinking and innovative solutions to problems that affect us all. By joining with contractors, developers and industrial firms, we can help Chicagoland achieve its green goal. Together we can make a difference for the environment while embracing the practical opportunities these problems present.

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