Advancing Composite 

Foam Core Technology


Environmental Sustainability of Polyisocyanurate in Advanced Composite Applications

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Life Cycle Assessment 

Environmental sustainability can be approached from a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) perspective. This case involves a “cradle-to-grave” assessment of Dyplast’s polyisocyanurate (polyiso or PIR) rigid foam core products with superior thermal insulation properties - including the ISO-CF®, ISO-CF/HT product lines.This Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), very briefly summarized herein, confirmed that increased levels of ISO-CF foam cores indeed save energy and reduce emissions of high-GWP gases that far outweigh energy consumption and emissions associated with making, transporting, installing, and managing the foam cores through end-of-life.

The attached graphic is a simplified depiction of the LCA. Click image to enlarge. 

Life Cycle Assessment of Polyiso

A supportive analysis came from a consortium of organizations (McKinsey, ICCA, and Bayer) who concluded that adopting measures improving thermal efficiency of structural wall, floor, and ceiling panels, including composite, could reduce energy and CO2 emissions from such structures by 30% over three years, and 50% in the following three years. Such structures consume more than 1/3 of the total US energy and 2/3 of all the electricity used. Structures/buildings and refrigerated transportation enclosures are responsible for more atmospheric pollution than cars, and the energy consumed in such structure results in 35% of all CO2 emissions.

LCA Process

This LCA was conducted to:

  • Better understand the life-cycle environmental impact of the polyiso insulation, applicable to composite foam core applications
  • Understand the impact of polyiso through its manufacturing life cycle
  • Improve communication through public sharing of updated polyiso LCA results

This study considered life- cycle inventory and environmental impacts relevant to the polyiso bunstock manufacturing process and was based on typical insulation and foam core products made from polyiso.

The Life Cycle Assessment first needed to determine the energy consumption and Global Warming Potential gas emissions across the eight embodied phases, and then compare to the two use phases. The first result was embodied GWP and embodied energy. These values were then compared to the energy consumption and GWP-gas emissions during the last two phases: Use and Disposal.

The two ratios of energy and emission results were respectively termed Energy Payback (savings) and GWP Payback (benefit).

The ISO bunstock phases can be portrayed as:

Embodied Phases

  1. Extraction or raw materials
  2. Processing of raw materials and chemicals
  3. Transportation to manufacturing
  4. Polyiso bunstock manufacturing and fabrication
  5. Transportation to mid-chain
  6. Further fabrication
  7. Transportation to End-use Site
  8. Installation of polyiso

Use Phases

  1. Cover environmental benefits (energy and GWP) of product during Use Phase
  2. Assumes 100% disposal of polyiso foam core in a landfill at End-of-Life


Results: Energy Payback and GWP Payback 

Embodied Energy/GWP

The embodied energy and GWP for polyisocyanurate foam core (2.1 pcf) assumed comparable manufacturing and transportation of embodied energy as noted by Polyiso Industry Manufacturing Association across 29 polyiso plants in the US. The embodied energy and embodied GWP of Dyplast’s ISO-CF/2.0 are:

R-Value Embodied Energy per Board Foot Embodied GWP per Board Foot
5.6 7.51 kBtu's 1.13 lbs CO2
11.2 15.02 kBtu's 2.16 lbs CO2

Energy Payback and GWP Payback Calculations

Polyiso foam cores with high insulating value can play a significant role in reducing Greenhouse Gases that contribute to global warming and our dependence on fossil fuels. Polyiso foam cores with high insulation value within composite applications is indeed an advancement in composite technologies.

Example #1: Polyiso in a Structure Application 

Area 73,959 square feet
Baseline Composite Insulation R of 15
Comparison (new) Composite Insulation R of 30
Additional Insulation required Approx. 180,000 Board Feet
Embodied Energy  16.4 kBtu/square foot
Embodied GWP  1.04 kg CO2 equivalent /square foot


  • Life-time Energy Payback: 45x
    • (i.e. energy saved during the composite insulation system life was 45 times more the embodied energy)
  • Life-time GWP Payback: 69x
    • (i.e. emissions of high-GWP gases over the composite insulation system life were 69 times less than the embodied GWP)


The author(s) of this document compiled detailed information to the best of their knowledge at the time. No representation is made, or warranty given for the completeness or correctness of the information in this study.

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