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News article22 October 20212 min read

A new certified reference material in support of the New European Bauhaus

The JRC has produced a certified reference material for the thermal conductivity of insulation materials
© artursfoto, 2021

The new certified reference material (ERM-FC440) supports current product standards, allows reliable design of the insulation of buildings and contributes to the European Union’s carbon dioxide reduction plans.

Buildings are responsible for 40 % of the energy consumption in Europe. Currently, only a small fraction of existing buildings has an Energy Performance Certificate Label A. This shows that thermal insulation of buildings, equipment, pipes etc. can greatly reduce energy use and hence can achieve considerable cost savings and reduction of greenhouse gasses. It is estimated that over 97 % of the existing building stock in Europe must be upgraded to achieve the European Union’s 2050 decarbonisation vision.

Apart from financial and environmental aspects, thermal insulation also has a social dimension: between 50 and 125 million people in the European Union are unable to afford proper indoor thermal comfort because of high fuel costs. Insulation of buildings is an important way to alleviate this fuel poverty.

While adding insulation always results in a reduction of thermal loss, there is an optimum thickness of insulation beyond which the cost of insulation outweighs the financial and environmental gains. Knowing the insulation properties of insulation materials is therefore important to optimise the thickness of insulation and the insulation properties of material are a part of the CE marking of insulation materials. This means, ensuring the accuracy of measurements of the thermal conductivity supports two important EU policies:

• The European Green Deal/New European Bauhaus, which aims to ensure sustainable buildings and energy use in Europe to keep the global warming below 2 °C if possible below 1.5 °C.
• The EU internal market and the free movement of goods, trading of insulation materials between EU countries requires confidence that the stated values for thermal conductivity are correct.

To support the reliability of measurements and the product standard for insulation materials, the JRC has produced a certified reference material for the thermal conductivity of insulation materials. Glass wool insulation boards were purchased and processed to make them most suitable for measurements. The homogeneity of the material was assessed by two Spanish laboratories. Subsequently the material was characterised by the network of European expert laboratories of the Keymark system, a voluntary European quality mark that demonstrates compliance with European Standards: Five European laboratories from Poland, France, and Germany determined the thermal conductivity in the temperature range from -150 °C to 70 °C. After rigorous data evaluation and peer review, a certified value was assigned by the JRC.

The certified reference material ERM-FC440, the product of a joint European effort will act as a quality control material and, even more importantly, will be used to calibrate a large fraction of instruments that are used in Europe for the determination of the thermal properties of insulation materials, hence will ensure the reliability of European product standards. The material is available from the JRC’s online catalogue of reference materials.


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JRC’s online catalogue of reference materials


Publication date
22 October 2021