Green Matter: Biobased polyamide targets B&C at K

At K2013, EcoPaXX, DSM’s castor oil-based polyamide 410 will be shown as one answer to the increasing need for the use of sustainable raw materials in buildings. EcoPaXX is a high- performance, 70% biobased polyamide, which offers excellent resistance to chemicals and hydrolysis and hence is suitable for numerous demanding applications. Earlier applications have mainly been in the electrical and automotive markets; the use of EcoPaXX in insulating profiles for aluminum windows marks this material’s first foray into the construction industry.

According to DSM, aluminum window suppliers are looking for new ways to bring more sustainable products to the market, and EcoPaXX provides them with an excellent opportunity to do so.
As Caroline Mitterlehner, global segment manager building and construction at DSM, explains, “Leading and innovative aluminum window producers want to develop product offerings that not only demonstrate sustainability in the use phase, but also demonstrate sustainability in the materials used to construct their products. The vision is to move towards the use of materials with a bio-based content and a lower carbon footprint than current products used.”

Aluminum frames incorporate insulating profiles, which separate the frame into two separate interior and exterior pieces. A low thermal conductivity material, usually a high-performance polyamide or polyurethane, joins these together and functions as a thermal break to reduce temperature transfer. These thermal breaks contribute to the mechanical integrity of the windows and are also an important factor in determining the energy efficiency of the building.

Green buildings as a path to lower carbon
Buildings now account for over 40% of the world's energy consumption and are also responsible for the majority of CO2 emissions, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The building sector offers twice as much potential for cutting CO2 emissions as the transport sector. While energy-efficiency of a building in use is the most important aspect of product sustainability, the issue encompasses much more than this. Resource management and the total carbon footprint of individual materials used to construct a building are more and more being taken into account. Environmental Product Declarations are increasingly influencing architects in their choices of systems. Environmental assessment schemes such as BREEAM, the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method, and LEED, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design from the US Green Building Council, both of which consider the use of sustainable materials used in buildings, are gaining in importance around the world.

EcoPaXX has been proven to be carbon neutral from cradle to gate, meaning that the carbon dioxide (CO2) generated in producing the polymer is completely compensated by the CO2 absorbed during plant growth. It also has numerous advantages over other engineering plastics in insulating profiles, above and beyond those associated with its environmental credentials. It has a high melting point of about 250°C, which means it can pass through the powder coating process in a fully assembled aluminum frame, facilitating the assembly process.

Window profiles incorporating EcoPaXX can be designed to conform to requirements laid down in EN14024 standard, which sets requirements for mechanical performance of metal profiles with thermal barrier.

“The use of more materials made from renewable resources in buildings, with a lower carbon footprint than currently used materials, contributes to a more sustainable environment,” says Caroline Mitterlehner. “The use of materials like EcoPaXX not only contributes to the energy efficiency of buildings in use, but also secures a more sustainable production chain.”

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