Plastic Housewraps (Air Barriers) a Life Cycle Analysis of Their Environmental Benefits
The use of air barriers in the construction of residential housing in North America has increased markedly during the last decade. The most commonly used air barriers have been particular plastic materials applied to the exterior of a home behind the finishing of brick or siding. The paper analyses, using life cycle techniques, the conservation of energy resulting from the use of these barriers and calculates the net reduction in greenhouse gases achieved. Fuels used for heating and cooling typical Canadian homes are analyzed from their extraction from the earth, their processing and delivery and ends with the release of their combustion products following burning. The life cycle inventory for plastic air barriers commences with the extraction of the hydrocarbons from which they are derived and ends with the production of the product. The act of applying the material to the house is not included. Annual net savings in energy and reduction in greenhouse gas emissions are presented for the Canadian climatic situation. Pay back occurs in both energy and greenhouse gas emissions within several months.