Decarbonize with Borate-Treated Cellulose Insulation

:: Friday, March 8, 2024 :: Posted By Emmanuel Laval
Did you know the construction industry accounts for almost one-third of all global carbon emissions ? Across the value chain, companies are closely examining ways to reduce their carbon footprint amid mounting pressure and increased regulation to become more sustainable. 

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions will require a two-prong strategy to lower: 
  • Embodied carbon (emissions produced during manufacturing, transportation, installation, maintenance, and disposal of building materials) 
  • Operational carbon (emissions from energy consumption to run the building) 
Using more sustainable building materials—such as cellulose insulation—offers a viable path to lower both embodied and operational carbon. 

And if you’re looking to improve the safety and durability of cellulose insulation, a proper treatment of refined borates is essential.  

How cellulose insulation lowers carbon emissions

In the U.S. alone, approximately six percent of total fossil fuel emissions comes from manufacturing building materials . Finding ways to cut carbon by selecting materials that have a lower embodied carbon footprint is a priority for not only regulatory bodies, but also manufacturers and building engineers. 

Cellulose insulation is one of the lowest embodied carbon building products on the market today because it’s comprised of recycled materials such as newspaper. Instead of burning or disposing of these biomaterials in a landfill, using them in cellulose insulation retains, or “stores” CO2 emissions otherwise released into the atmosphere. 

That carbon storage capability is a unique trait among building materials and is becoming increasingly important as we work toward targets set in decarbonization regulations such as the Paris Agreement. 

Lowering operational emissions

For years, operational emissions and buildings’ energy efficiency has been the emphasis of decarbonization efforts in construction. 

Once installed, cellulose insulation is effective at reducing a building’s operational CO2 footprint due to its exceptional ability to retain heat (R-value). As a result, less energy is needed to cool or heat a building, lowering carbon emissions. 

More on cellulose insulation

Boron improves cellulose insulation safety 

The same recycled materials that make cellulose insulation a carbon friendly option are the ones also susceptible to damage from fire, moisture, and pests. That is, unless you properly treat cellulose insulation with borates. 

With a boric acid product such as Optibor®, you can improve cellulose insulation’s fire retardancy properties, including reducing the chance of smoldering combustion. Applying refined borates protects the product for years, reducing the risk of costly and time-consuming product recalls or warranty claims.

Have questions about cellulose insulation and boron?

Contact our technical team to get recommendations for adding borates to your product, including fire-retardant formulations that will help you pass safety standards such as ASTM C739.

Not only can our experts provide detailed product specifications, but they can discuss sustainability and regulatory concerns. 

We’re also excited to announce that we are sponsoring the Cellulose Insulation Manufacturers Association national meeting in early April. Technical marketing specialist Sandip Shinde will be onsite to answer any questions you may have.



Combatting Combustion: Borates in Cellulose Insulation


U.S. Borax, part of Rio Tinto, is a global leader in the supply and science of borates—naturally-occurring minerals containing boron and other elements. We are 1,000 people serving 650 customers with more than 1,800 delivery locations globally. We supply around 30% of the world’s need for refined borates from our world-class mine in Boron, California, about 100 miles northeast of Los Angeles.  Learn more about Rio Tinto.

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