Category Archives: Global


Aeroflex USA manufactures the AEROFLEX® brand of EPDM closed-cell elastomeric foam insulation for the North American market. With a systems approach in mind, we offer owners, engineers, and contractors single-source responsibility with low-VOC-engineered accessories to assist with the design of AEROFLEX EPDM™ insulation systems—adhesives, tapes, insulated pipe supports, and protective coatings.

AEROFLEX is primarily specified and installed on below-ambient mechanical systems, with the design intent for energy efficiency, condensation control, and acoustic attenuation. Typical systems include HVAC, refrigerant, plumbing piping, equipment, and ductwork. AEROFLEX EPDM delivers the following built-in sustainability features:

  • Product-Specific Type III Environmental Product Declaration (EPD);
  • Third Party-Verified Health Product Declarations (HPDs);
  • Indoor Advantage™ Gold Certified for low chemical emissions;
  • Naturally microbial-resistant—no EPA-registered antimicrobial ingredients added;
  • Ultra-low PVC content (< 1%);
  • Free of EPA TSCA substances, PBDEs, formaldehyde, nitrosamine, and fibers;
  • REACH and RoHS-compliant; and
  • No ozone-depleting materials utilized in manufacturing (CFCs, HFCs, HCFCs).

Additionally, AEROFLEX can contribute to LEED®-registered projects for the following credit categories:

  • Energy and Atmosphere (EA)
  • Prerequisite: Minimum Energy Performance
  • Credit: Optimize Energy Performance
  • Materials and Resources (MR)
  • Credit: Building Product Disclosure and Optimization – EPDs
  • Credit: Building Product Disclosure and Optimization – HPDs
  • Indoor Environmental Quality (EQ)
  • Credit: Low-Emitting Materials
  • Credit: Indoor Air Quality Assessment
  • Credit: Thermal Comfort
  • Credit: Acoustic Performance
  • Innovation (IN)
  • Credit: Occupant Comfort Survey

For the convenience of green project researchers and specifiers, AEROFLEX can be located on the following online green product databases:

The emphasis on Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) has grown over the last few years, and so have NIA members’ efforts to reduce their footprint. The insulation industry has always known that insulation materials are greener than most building materials, but this recent focus allows insulation to shine. Mechanical insulation products have low embodied carbon, save more energy during their use than the energy needed to manufacture the materials, are sometimes made from recycled content, and also reduce energy use and CO2 emissions. Insulation should be prioritized when a company is considering ESG goals since an investment in insulation pays for itself, and owners achieve a double benefit of dual gains for energy and environmental goals.

NIA invited all member companies to share their ESG efforts with Insulation Outlook readers. In this special section, responses received from five companies are presented (in alphabetical order): Aeroflex USA, Alkegen, Johns Manville, Owens Corning, and Specialty Products & Insulation. Readers can also catch up on past member columns about recycling, Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs), and sustainability at To continue to enhance our readers’ product knowledge, the September 2023 issue will have a special section devoted to materials for Industrial Insulation Systems and CUI Mitigation.

If your company would like to participate in the upcoming column or share its ESG and green practices in a future issue, email

The National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) and Ambition Theory announce the release of Building Better, a report based on a survey of 770 women across a variety of construction sectors. The work identifies three main action items for the industry to focus on: providing women with leadership opportunities, investing in training, and prioritizing work-life balance.


Women in construction want to be leaders. Seeing a clear path to career advancement is the most important factor for women with more than 1 year of industry experience who are seeking new job opportunities. Despite this ambition, women still do not advance at the same rate as their male counterparts. In fact, 72% of the women surveyed have rarely or never had a woman manager or supervisor. The research reveals a lack of sponsorship as a critical barrier preventing women’s career progression.

“Unlike mentors who offer advice and share stories, sponsors actively advocate for women, extend invitations to key meetings, and invest in their success. By providing exposure to new opportunities and endorsing women’s capabilities, sponsors can play a pivotal role in accelerating women’s path to leadership,”  said Andrea Janzen, Ambition Theory Founder and CEO.

Unfortunately, this research shows that women receive sponsorship half as often as mentorship. Companies looking to advance more women into leadership positions should shift from a mentorship mindset to one of sponsorship. Building Better shares several ways organizations can begin making this shift.


One of the keys to career advancement is training, and the report highlights the need to make training more accessible to women. Young women tend to have less exposure to construction and a great desire to learn, so companies that do provide training not only bring women into the industry but also keep them in the industry.

“While salary is the primary motivator for women getting into the construction industry, once they are in, career advancement becomes the reason they stay. Training is one way for companies to show their commitment to providing growth opportunities to their employees,” said Tim Taylor, Director of Research at NCCER.

Work-Life Balance

The study’s other key finding was the importance of work-life balance for women in construction. For the women surveyed, having flexible work options is not about working from home. It is about the availability of work options that balance the needs of employees, team members, and the realities of project schedules.

Building Better acknowledges that there will inevitably be differences between flexibility options for office and field employees, but that does not mean improvements cannot be made. The research compiles suggestions employers should consider around workday hours, time off, and childcare options.

To download Building Better: A Women in Construction Study, go to

About Ambition Theory – Ambition Theory is dedicated to driving systemic change in the construction industry. We offer leadership training and coaching designed specifically for the construction industry that equips individuals with transformational leadership skills essential for advancement. We believe that it is the responsibility of industry leaders and companies to create a more inclusive and diverse environment, and we work collaboratively with organizations to make that a reality. Listen to our Ambition Theory: Women in Construction podcast and learn more at


More than 48 million people are affected by hearing loss in the United States. One of the most common causes of hearing loss is exposure to loud noise, referred to as noise induced hearing loss. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have called noise induced hearing loss the most common work-related injury. Workers in the mining, construction, and manufacturing industries are most likely to be exposed to dangerous levels of noise. Many times, hearing loss is accompanied by tinnitus, a ringing in the ears that can affect concentration and disrupt sleep. Exposure to loud noise also can cause stress, anxiety, high blood pressure, heart disease, depression, and other health issues.

Controlling noise exposure is a key element of any workplace safety and health program. The Hierarchy of Controls is a method of selecting the most appropriate control measure when a workplace hazard has been identified. It is often depicted graphically as an upside-down pyramid with five layers: elimination, substitution, engineering, administrative, and personal protective equipment (PPE). The most effective control measure is at the top of the pyramid, and the least effective control is at the bottom. Oftentimes, more than one control measure is needed, but one should always consider control measures higher on the hierarchy first.

Engineering and administrative controls are not just a recommended best practice, they are required by federal regulation when noise levels are too high. OSHA’s standard on occupational noise exposure states that feasible administrative or engineering controls must be utilized first, and only then can PPE be used to further lower employee noise exposure. Hearing protection in the form of ear plugs or ear muffs should be a last resort after engineering and administrative controls have been used.

Like most OSHA health standards, the standard on occupational noise exposure starts with an exposure assessment. There are two trigger levels in the noise standard: a permissible exposure limit of 90 decibels, measured on the A scale (90 dBA); and an action level of 85 dBA. Both are measured using an 8-hour, time-weighted average (TWA). Noise exposure can be determined with a sound level meter for area sampling, or with a personal noise dosimeter worn by employees for a full shift that determines their “dose” of noise exposure (100% dose is equal to the permissible exposure limit of 90 dBA TWA). NIOSH has a free app that turns your phone into a sound level meter (currently only available for iOS devices). A good rule of thumb is that you may have a noise problem if workers have to shout to communicate with each other.

When noise exposure equals or exceeds the action level of 85 dBA, employees must be enrolled in a Hearing Conservation Program to protect their hearing. Elements of a Hearing Conservation Program include audiometric testing, training, and hearing protection. Audiometric testing establishes a worker’s baseline hearing level, which is compared to annual rechecks to catch potential hearing loss as early as possible. Training must also be conducted annually, with an emphasis on the effects of noise exposure on hearing and the importance of hearing protectors. The cost of annual audiograms, annual training, and hearing protective devices should always be considered when determining the economic feasibility of engineering controls. Noise control engineering will often be cheaper in the long run than a Hearing Conservation Program.

Exposure to loud noise does not just damage your hearing; it can have a detrimental effect on overall quality of life. Noise-induced hearing loss can lead to social isolation and depression. Stress from noise exposure can raise blood pressure and the risk of heart attack and stroke. Acoustic and noise insulation can improve your workers’ overall well being. In addition to making your workplace safer and more productive, controlling noise exposure can make your employees healthier and happier. Noise insulation is a win-win for employers and employees.

The control of noise can be a significant requirement for many new and existing projects in the built environment. For new projects, effective low-noise design can include solutions such as buying quiet machinery or utilizing quiet technologies. However, for existing facilities or buildings, this design strategy is not affordable or practicable, making it necessary to find other noise control solutions.

Noise Control

Noise control comprises three basic methods that disrupt the noise source, transmission path, or receiver. The most effective solution is to remove the noise source: No noise, no problem. Noisy equipment should be designed out of a project, or the noisiest components should be replaced with quieter equivalents. Solutions could include changing operating conditions (e.g., rotational speeds); modifying the design; or installing quieter equipment, machinery, or components. However, such solutions can be expensive or difficult to implement.

The next best solution is to disrupt the sound transmission path. Ideally, a physical barrier to stop the noise travelling from the source to the receiver should be used. Depending on the situation or equipment, solutions could include an actual barrier, fence, or wall; machinery enclosure; duct silencer; or pipe insulation system.

The last resort should be to protect the noise receiver. This type of protection often takes the form of earmuffs or earplugs for individual persons, double or triple glazing for residential properties, or noise havens, which are quiet spaces located in noisy plant or factory areas. However, these solutions impede the activity of the person(s) being protected. Double or triple glazing used to reduce the noise at a property also reduces the amenity of the property. Similarly, ear defender protection is only as effective as claimed when based on the average person. Noise havens offer a quiet space in a noisy work environment but do not protect the worker from the noise hazard in the plant. Up to one third of the workforce is not as effectively protected as they should be. Further, personal protective equipment (PPE) is required to protect workers from a hazard. Employees are still exposed to the hazard, but the likelihood of harm—the risk—is reduced by wearing PPE. If the PPE fails, however, no protection is provided and safety is compromised; whereas if the hazard is removed, the danger is removed.

For the purposes of this article, we will focus on the reduction of the transmission path, as it is most affected by insulation materials.

Controlling noise can depend on many elements, such as cost, practicability, maintenance, and effectiveness. The primary consideration should be to determine the cause, but noise sources are not always obvious, particularly if you have a lot of noisy equipment in one area. Best practice should be to conduct a detailed noise assessment/survey of the area and problem. Specialists should undertake assessments to ensure a correct, detailed summary of the situation. General sound assessments can focus attention on noise sources. Detailed assessments of individual noise sources using sound pressure, sound intensity, and/or vibration velocity techniques provide a detailed picture of the problem. Such understanding leads to effective solutions.

The Transmission Path

Noise is unwanted sound. Sound is generated by structural vibrations (rotating equipment, pipework, etc.) or aerodynamic flow (exhausts, vents, etc.) and propagates as a quickly varying pressure wave travelling through the surrounding medium (gas, liquid, or solid). Understanding how to control this propagation can be defined by the type of sound generation and its medium and characteristics (e.g., sound level and frequencies).

Sound can travel in air either as an airborne pressure wave (airborne sound) or via a structural vibration—a pressure wave in a solid structure—that then re-radiates the sound into the air (structure-borne sound) (see Figure 1). What we hear is often a combination of both methods of travel. The key is to determine which is the most dominant path and, subsequently, which control method to use.

For airborne sound propagation, we need to either absorb or block the sound. Therefore, sound absorption and acoustic barriers are most effective. For structure-borne sound, we need to either de-couple/isolate the vibration source from the solid structure or dampen the structure to reduce its vibrational energy.

Airborne Noise Control

Sound Absorption

Sound absorption is key when looking to reduce the sound level in an enclosed space. In a free-field environment, sound will continue to propagate away from the sound source, dissipating with distance following the inverse square law. In an enclosed space, such as a room, sound will propagate away from the sound source until it meets a barrier or wall. Sound will then pass through the barrier, be absorbed by the barrier, or reflect back from the barrier. To reduce the reverberant sound level in a room or enclosure, the amount of sound reflected into that space can be reduced using sound absorption materials on the internal walls. Sound absorption materials within the wall construction can help absorb sound passing through the wall.

Applying sound-absorbing materials to a wall of an enclosed space helps control the sound level inside the space. The amount of absorption required depends on the use of the enclosed space—e.g., for speech intelligibility in schools, or for concert spaces or movie theaters. Additionally, reducing the reverberant sound levels in a machinery enclosure or workshop can help to reduce occupational noise exposure.

Sound absorption materials are also a key part of reducing internal HVAC airborne sound transmission through ducts and within pipework acoustic insulation.

Within acoustic design, sound absorbers are classified as one of the following: (a) porous materials, (b) non-porous panel absorbers, or (c) cavity resonators.

Porous Materials

Porous materials are those most readily analogous to insulation materials. They are open cell in nature and often, though not exclusively, fibrous in design (e.g., open cell flexible elastomeric foams [FEF]). Such materials are characterized by a network of interconnected pores, creating small channels and cavities. As acoustic energy passes through these complex channels, the material creates viscous losses through conversion of the acoustic energy as heat. The absorption of acoustic energy is dependent on the frequency of the sound passing through the material. There is low absorption at low frequencies, with absorption increasing as the material thickness increases relative to the wavelength of the sound. As frequency increases, wavelength decreases, and the thickness of the porous material becomes more effective. The thicker the porous material, the greater the degree of absorption across a wider range of frequencies. (See Figure 2.)

When selecting the sound-absorbing porous material, it is key to understand the frequencies of sound that most need to be reduced, and then select a material and thickness that will best provide such a reduction.

Determining the acoustic absorption of a porous material requires testing in a specialized laboratory to ASTM C423-22/ISO354. ASTM C423-22 also identifies an overall Sound Absorption Average (SAA) for quick reference. This value is an average of the material absorption coefficients in one-third octave bands between 200Hz and 2500Hz.

Non-Porous Panels

Typically mounted away from a solid backing, non-porous panels such as gypsum, metal sheet, or plywood behave differently from porous materials. Sound incident upon non porous panels causes the panel to vibrate. The dissipative mechanisms within the panels’ material properties convert the acoustic energy into heat. Note that the addition of a porous material behind a non-porous panel can help to increase the lower frequency absorption.

Cavity Resonators

A cavity resonator is a non-porous panel located away from a solid backing, but with a narrow opening. The opening provides a connection between the volume of air behind the panel and the larger space/room/enclosure. This mechanism creates a “Helmholtz Resonator” that absorbs acoustic energy, but only for a narrow band of frequencies near its resonance. It is possible to broaden these frequencies by increasing the number of openings—with a perforated panel—and using porous materials between the panel and the solid backing.

When trying to control the sound inside an enclosed room or space, any (or a combination) of the above systems can be effective. It is, however, necessary to ensure the source sound characteristics are known to select the correct system.


Barriers prevent sound passing through them. They can be walls or fences, but a building/enclosure surrounding a noise source, a machinery/valve jacket, or a pipe or duct insulation covering also function as barriers. A barrier blocks sound from getting from a sound source to a receiver. The noise source remains, the receiver is still there, but the sound transmission path is blocked. The basic performance of a barrier (transmission loss) for airborne sound involves reflection, absorption, and transmission (see Figure 3).

The acoustic transmission loss performance of a barrier depends on many factors. For simplicity, consider a basic incidence-absorption-transmission scenario. The ability of the barrier to impede the sound is defined by its physical material characteristics—e.g., thickness, density, mass, stiffness, and damping. Figure 4 shows the behavior of transmission loss for a single, homogeneous material (a) and a composite, multi-material sandwich construction (b).

Each barrier has a resonance. Below that resonance, stiffness controls transmission loss. At the resonance frequency, sound is transmitted through the barrier without much reflection or absorption. Around twice the lowest resonance frequency, the mass of the partition dominates the sound reduction. Transmission loss increases by 6 dB per doubling of mass. Mass increase means the panel vibrates less in response to incident sound waves. Consequently, less sound energy radiates on the other side.

However, mass is not the only factor to consider in a barriers’ acoustic transmission loss.

Table 1 (below) shows six different mass loaded vinyl (MLV) products from six different manufacturers. All have the same mass and produce similar sound transmission class (STC), but the actual performance can vary. When selecting an MLV, or any barrier, matching the barrier to the noise source characteristics (e.g., frequency) ensures the most effective solution.

At higher frequencies, there is a coincidence region where bending waves occur through the barrier. As the bending wave’s velocity increases with frequency, the wavelength of the bending wave differs from the incident sound wave that created it, except where the bending wave speed in the material equals the speed of sound in the air. Here, all the waves coincide and reinforce each other, in phase. This reduces the sound reduction performance of the panel around this frequency. Every material has a coincidence frequency where the transmission loss reduces considerably. For more complex barriers made of several materials (a sandwich panel), the coincidence region is often wider than for a single homogeneous material.

Generally, the best acoustic barriers tend to be high-mass, limp, highly damped materials with a high weight-to-stiffness ratio.

Structure-Borne Noise Control


At its most basic, anything that vibrates can produce sound waves. Depending on the material and the size of the vibrating object, the amount of sound generated differs. Exciting a tuning fork, causing it to vibrate, and holding it in the air, it is audible but quiet. However, placing the base of the fork on a desktop, for example, causes the loudness to increase significantly. The tuning fork is vibration—coupled with the desktop, it forces the desk to re-radiate the excitation vibration of the fork as sound. Because the desk has a larger surface area, the loudness increases. This process of vibration coupling is important when considering industrial equipment such as rotating machinery on a metal skid or an HVAC air handling unit (AHU) connected to HVAC ducting. Treating the item of equipment alone is insufficient. Isolating the equipment from connected structures can be equally, if not more, important.

Similarly, a washing machine on spin cycle can couple with a building structure and cause other structures in the building (walls, floors, ceilings, etc.) to vibrate and re-radiate the sound of the washing machine. This causes issues of disturbance in other parts of the building and is extremely hard to treat without reducing the noise at source.

The most effective way to control these situations is to “vibration isolate” the excitation source from its surrounding structure. Various techniques achieve this, usually through rubber mounts or spring connections.

Selection of the correct anti-vibration mount(s) should be undertaken by an expert or supplier, as selection of the correct system and materials must allow for the operation of the machinery, frequencies, weight, balance, etc.

A good example of a vibration isolation system would be one for the AHU for an HVAC system. The AHU has a rubber-type collar separating the unit from the ductwork. This type of connection reduces or removes the machinery vibration of the AHU coupling to the duct work. The duct work is thin steel, with a high surface area. It would very easily re-radiate the AHU machinery noise throughout the building. Note that the noise from HVAC systems is primarily, though not always, generated by the fan as airborne sound that travels through the duct. Consequently, acoustic absorbing insulation materials are used as a possible solution. These would not work if the sound propagation path was mechanical vibration of the duct itself.

Process pipework acoustic insulation systems reduce the sound emitted from the pipe surface. If the pipe is physically attached to a steel pipe rack, the pipe wall vibration is coupled directly to the pipe rack. The pipe rack is often steel and easily re-radiates the pipe noise. When treating pipework noise, it is important to not only insulate the pipe with suitable acoustic insulation but also to vibration isolate the pipe from the supporting structure.

For a vibrating sound source, isolate it from its supporting structure if that structure is likely to re-radiate the noise.


If isolation is not possible, it becomes necessary to try to reduce the amount of vibration energy in a coupled structure using damping. A damping material reduces the vibration of a surface, minimizing transmitted vibration and, thus, radiated noise by damping out structural bending waves. Damping materials reduce the kinetic energy present in a system by transformation into thermal energy. The degree to which a material can provide damping is presented as the loss factor. The loss factor (η or Tan δ) of a material is the ratio of a material loss modulus and the storage modulus, and it varies with frequency and temperature. The highest loss factor and, therefore, damping occurs within the glass transition region of a material (see Figure 5). Selecting the correct damping material, aside from the damping system used, should be a function of the operating temperature and frequency.

For non-porous material panels, damping is an important parameter, especially below first resonance and above the coincidence frequency. However, for porous insulation materials, damping is a key factor in reducing the thickness of pipework acoustic insulation systems. Within aerogel blankets, the embedded aerogel within the blanket damps the blanket fibers, which has a dual effect. First, the sound wave passing through the damped blanket must work harder as the energy is better dissipated by the blanket fibers. Additionally, the porous material acts as a spring in a mass spring system. As a damped mass spring is more effective at reducing the vibration energy, so a damped porous material is better at removing vibrational energy from the system. This is particularly important in pipework insulation systems, and it is one of the reasons why an aerogel acoustic pipe insulation system can be much thinner than a standard mineral wool acoustic system. In FEF-based acoustic insulation systems, the closed cell FEF acts as a spring to reduce vibration transmission. The addition of an open cell FEF acoustic material acts as a damped airborne acoustic absorber, and the elastic barrier materials function as a mass barrier. For metal clad systems, the use of a viscoelastic barrier can be even more efficient than an elastic mass barrier. This is due to the higher loss factor (damping) of the viscoelastic barrier, which reduces the ability of the metal cladding to radiate sound.

Which Noise Control Method to Use?

Example: Machinery Enclosures

Where there is a high noise generating item of equipment, e.g., a pump package, it can be possible to enclose the package. The best practice solution for an enclosure could be considered a steel enclosure with MLV on the inside of the box; a porous, sound-absorbing material such as open cell FEF or mineral wool inside that; a thin (25 micron) polyurethane sheet to reduce moisture/chemical ingress; and a perforated metal sheet. This type of design provides both sound absorption inside the enclosure—reducing the reverberant sound energy—and a physical, damped barrier.

The choice of material thickness depends on the sound source characteristics/frequencies and the level of reduction required. For example, if a 2” sound absorption material is required, selecting the open cell FEF option is likely to add more mass and damping to the enclosure system than may be achieved with mineral wool. Using the FEF would therefore improve the barrier transmission loss. If this additional reduction were not required, the use of mineral wool could be suitable.

Additionally, care should be taken to avoid any physical connections from the noisy equipment in the enclosure to the enclosure itself. This could allow structure-borne noise transmission.

Example: Pipework Acoustic Insulation

Effective pipework insulation must incorporate all the above noise control elements. The vibrating pipe wall radiates airborne sound. When attaching an insulation system to the pipe, the pipe wall vibration can be transmitted to the insulation cladding and
re-radiated by the cladding as airborne sound. Acoustic insulation must reduce both airborne and structure-borne contributions.

The porous layers provide acoustic absorption and structure-borne vibration isolation between the pipe wall and cladding system. The cladding system requires sufficient mass and suitable low stiffness to function as an airborne acoustic barrier, with enough damping to reduce re-radiation from the external cladding material.

Additionally, care should be taken to use anti-vibration mounts to support the pipe on the pipe support structure to avoid structure-borne noise.


The use of insulation materials to reduce noise is highly dependent on the nature of the noise source, the path the noise takes to get from the source to the receiver, and the amount of noise reduction needed. Proper assessment of the nature of the noise problem should be sought to ensure the correct control methods are selected. To reduce airborne noise, the use of suitable sound-absorbing and/or barrier materials is required. For structure-borne noise control, the use of vibration isolation or structural damping is required.

Richard Pamley, BSc, MSc, CEng, is the Global Acoustics Manager for Armacell Energy. Pamley has more than 25 years’ experience in sound and vibration, working as an International Consultant Engineer in the energy sector and as a Senior Scientist in vibro-acoustic material research. He has a bachelor’s degree in Physics with Acoustics from University of Surrey (UK), a master’s degree
in Sound and Vibration Studies from the Institute of Sound
and Vibration Research, University of Southampton (UK),
is a Chartered Engineer, and is a Member of the Institute
of Acoustics.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates an average of about 99 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas will be consumed in the United States during the first quarter of this year—the least for any first quarter since 2018. This year, January and February are likely to be among the warmest on record, which led to significantly lower heating demand and, therefore, lower natural gas consumption.

Low natural gas consumption will lead to lower natural gas prices and more natural gas in storage, according to EIA’s March Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO). EIA expects average 2023 wholesale natural gas prices to be half of the 2022 average, and it expects natural gas inventories at the end of the first quarter to be 23% more than the 5-year average.

“A lot less natural gas was consumed in the U.S. residential and commercial sectors than we generally expect in January and February,” said EIA Administrator Joe DeCarolis. “The warmer weather in most of the country means homes and businesses haven’t been running their heating systems as much as they normally do during those months.”

Natural gas consumption in California has not been following the same trend as the rest of the country. There, colder-than-normal weather has led to more natural gas consumption. EIA expects the Pacific region’s natural gas prices will come down after this cold snap.

Other key takeaways from the March 2023 STEO forecast include:

  • EIA expects U.S. wholesale electricity prices to decrease in 2023 compared with 2022. Because natural gas provides nearly 40% of U.S. electricity generation, lower natural gas prices reduce EIA’s forecast for wholesale electricity prices. A larger share of electricity generated by renewables also plays a role. “We expect renewable energy sources to keep growing as a share of U.S. electricity generation, and that should help reduce wholesale electricity prices this year,” DeCarolis said.
  • EIA expects 2023 U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports will average about 12 billion cubic feet per day in 2023, a 14% increase from 2022, in part due to the Freeport LNG export facility returning to full service. The United States should export a record 14 billion cubic feet per day of LNG during 2024 as a result of more LNG export facilities coming online.
  • Russia and China remain sources of uncertainty in EIA’s STEO forecasts. Russia announced it would cut its crude oil production by 500,000 barrels per day this year but has largely found alternate markets for petroleum exports despite sanctions. EIA expects Russia to produce an average of 10.3 million barrels per day of crude oil in 2023, down from 10.9 million barrels per day in 2022 but about 400,000 barrels per day more than EIA forecast in February. In China, EIA expects liquid fuels consumption to increase 700,000 barrels per day this year compared with 2022 because the end of COVID-19-related lockdowns has increased travel.

The full March 2023 STEO is available at



Last year FMI altered base case assumptions for our forecasts to include a multiyear recession spanning into 2023. As with historical cycles, impact on the construction industry will be longer-lasting.

Economic factors influencing this forecast include the recent banking challenges impacting expectations on lending standards and ongoing consolidation; shortages of key materials and labor across various industries; ongoing strain on global logistics infrastructure; volatility across real estate; Federal Reserve policy; and continued inflationary pressures. We also considered wartime and economic turmoil in various countries (e.g., Russia, Ukraine, and China) adding to strain and uncertainty on each of these items.

It is important to recognize that FMI anticipates the U.S. economy will fare better than most countries, as reflected by strong demand for labor and the long-term commitment to infrastructure investments. As a result, the engineering and construction industry is expected to play a major role in our economy’s foundational strength over the coming years, offering a combination of both challenges and opportunities.

Key U.S. Takeaways

  • • Total engineering and construc­tion spending for the U.S. is forecast to end 2023 down 1%, compared to up 11% in 2022.
  • Steep declines in single-family residential and residential improvements will lead a contraction in overall industry spending while most nonresidential building and nonbuilding structure segments are expected to experience growth through 2023.
  • Strong investment growth is expected across lodging, commercial, transportation, manufacturing, highway and street, water supply, and conservation and development, each with year-over-year growth rates nearing or exceeding 10%. Additionally, above-average investment growth is anticipated across office, health care, amusement and recreation, and sewage and waste disposal.
  • Corrections in residential construction spending are anticipated into 2026, due to softening economic conditions tied to rate hikes and a recession. Consistent with historical industry cycles, similar corrections are expected to bleed over into nonresidential segments beginning late 2023 and into 2024.
  • The latest Nonresidential Construction Index (NRCI) reflects the fourth straight quarter of ongoing challenges, with a reading of 48.0, up slightly from 46.4 in the quarter prior.

Sentiment this quarter was slightly improved based on increased optimism toward the overall U.S. economy and local factors impacting the economy and nonresidential industry where participants are operating their businesses. However, the index remains below the growth threshold of 50 and reflects declining engineering and construction


For details on this forecast, visit FMI is a leading consulting and investment banking firm dedicated to serving companies working within the built environment. Our professionals are industry insiders who understand your operating environment, challenges, and opportunities. FMI’s sector expertise and broad range of solutions help our clients discover value drivers, build resilient teams, streamline operations, grow with confidence, and sell with optimal results.

For much of its recent history in mitigating climate change, Denver has concentrated on buildings’ operational energy—the energy needed to run basics like heating, air conditioning, lighting, and hot water. That will shift in May, when Denver’s newly adopted green code takes effect, said Christy Collins, Green Communities Specialist with the local government. The code will also consider the greenhouse gas emissions created during construction of a building and the manufacturing of its materials, setting limits for carbon dioxide equivalent in the manufacturing of concrete and steel for commercial and multifamily developments.

“Embodied carbon is sometimes much more than half of the carbon impact of a given building, as opposed to operational energy,” Collins said. Commercial projects in Denver must choose about 10% of the green code to follow to comply with local law. Along with provisions on water use and residential energy are the embodied carbon amendments on concrete and steel.

Across the United States, local and state action around embodied carbon, electrification of buildings, and other decarbonization efforts is likely to grow in 2023, experts say.

“More folks are realizing both the carbon emissions impact of their buildings and appliances,” said Denise Grab, Principal on nonprofit RMI’s carbon-free building team.
“I expect we’ll see many more cities, counties, [and states] over the next year really moving toward electrification, low embodied- carbon buildings, and other forward-looking policies.”

It is important to look at how states will use clean energy funding from the Inflation Reduction Act to advance building decarbonization measures, said Frankie Downy, London-based Technical Lead for Energy and Buildings at C40 Cities, a global network of mayors united for climate action.

Downy said U.S. cities have been passing performance standards that put a cap on building emissions or energy use. The Inflation Reduction Act should instill further confidence that cities can pass policies in this vein, she said. The law’s provisions include $1 billion in grant money to help states adopt new residential and commercial building energy codes.

Some local governments have already focused on embodied carbon policies. Portland, Oregon’s low-carbon concrete ordinance recently took effect, and New York City’s mayor announced a clean construction executive order last fall addressing procurement of cement, steel, and machinery. Looking at machinery is a novel move in the United States, said Cécile Faraud, London-based Technical Lead for Clean Construction at C40, and she expects cities and states will pass more such provisions.

Governments should concentrate more on existing buildings than on new construction, Faraud said. “When cities are prioritizing their existing stock and working more on retrofits, they remove the need for virgin materials in the first place. So it’s the best way to reduce embodied carbon.”

Yet new construction tends to be an attractive starting point because it can often be simpler to build something new rather than retrofit, Grab said.

“Most of the codes so far have focused on new construction,” she said. “But I do expect over the next year we’ll see more focus on policies like building performance standards, like existing building codes that are starting to look more at existing buildings.”

Another trend is policies designed for a more circular economy, namely salvaging materials and deconstructing buildings to recover materials rather than demolishing them. Portland, Oregon and Austin, Texas are some of the cities leading in this area, Faraud said.

In the United States, embodied carbon policy usually emphasizes cement, concrete, and steel, Faraud said. Denver began its own efforts with concrete and steel because their production processes emit large amounts of carbon relative to other building materials. Steel production, for example, is responsible for 6.6% of human-made greenhouse gas  emissions globally.

“As we talk about how to develop responsibly, we need density,” Collins said. “But with density comes high-rises. With high-rises come concrete and steel. Concrete and steel are both very impactful materials from an embodied carbon standpoint, so it just makes sense to start talking about them.”

Faraud said there is an opportunity for the United States to use more timber for construction. In addition to timber, Grab said she expects more construction projects to use materials such as straw, hemp, and carbon-sequestering concrete.

In Denver, the city and county will spend the next few years receiving feedback from developers on different provisions in the green code, including those related to embodied carbon, Collins said. The plan is to eventually make policies like this required rather than optional.

“We are bringing these topics forward through the Denver green code to give the development community an opportunity to see that these unfamiliar things are priorities in the Denver community,” she said. “We want to be able to move requirements into mandatory regulations as quickly as we can without causing duress.”

Editor’s Note: For more information on how insulation can help reduce a building’s embodied carbon, visit

Adina Solomon is a freelance writer for Construction Dive. This article was first published on Smart Cities Dive on This article was reprinted with permission from Construction Dive, Copyright 2023. This article was first published on Smart Cities Dive on You can learn more by visiting

Since its discovery and subsequent use in the construction industry in the 1930s, insulation has been a game-changing technology that has altered how we build and live in man made structures. Successful in preventing heat gain and loss through a building envelope, a well-insulated building can significantly reduce its energy consumption through keeping interiors warm in winter and cool in summer. In fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 15% of heating and cooling costs can be saved by insulation.1 Rising energy costs and extreme weather patterns are driving an even greater need for reliable thermal insulators in commercial and industrial buildings, which require more innovative insulation products that save energy and provide comfort for occupants.

But achieving quality insulation is not just about the material—it is also reliant on the application process. Leading manufacturers must think beyond the product and address how insulation blowing machinery can make a major difference in setting themselves apart from competitors. Project scale, time constraints, and budget are important factors to take into account, and with such a diverse range of applications and markets to serve, every business needs to use the right equipment for their operations. Striking a balance between cost, performance, and job compatibility so that your business can produce the best results will ensure the success of a project, as well as promote brand loyalty. Here is what to consider when buying professional-grade insulation equipment.

Convenience and Automation

Keeping up to date on new technologies is a must—whether you are a seasoned contractor or new to the business—as there are many varieties of automated features that contractors should be familiar with in order to stay ahead of the curve. CertainTeed’s line of professional-grade insulation equipment, for example, focuses on core features, such as ensuring the correct set points in engine RPM, air pressure, and material ratios through updated components and overall improvements. These machines must be able to reliably condition any type of fiber glass, mineral wool, or cellulose insulation with accuracy and efficiency, as well as provide replacement parts that ensure proper and reliable long-term performance.

Automations such as wireless remote control systems can save experienced contractors time and are additionally useful for new contractors, helping to prevent common errors that can reduce the quality of the insulation. In addition, safety features such as emergency stops, electrical interlocks that prevent machine operation if safety interlocks are not in place, and chain and sprocket guards that eliminate direct access to pinch points are of value.

Mobility and Size

Your project will always determine the size and mobility requirements of your machine. Urban projects with smaller footprints will require smaller, more compact units; whereas larger commercial job sites will need a larger, high-performance solution that is up for the task. Thankfully, insulation machines come in a wide range of sizes and portability options so they can be arranged in the most ergonomic setup to boost efficiency and speed. Project requirements, such as a power generator for off-grid job sites, are also important to consider, though some manufacturers offer electrical versions for in-plant applications.

Lifetime Value vs. Cost

When considering cost, it is pivotal to think of pricing in terms of the equipment’s remaining lifetime value. Even the best equipment has its limitations when used regularly; but overall, good quality insulation machinery can last between 20 and 25 years with regular maintenance. These machines are a long-term investment, and most seasoned professionals know that high-quality machinery can last well beyond its expected lifetime if partnered with a credible manufacturer.

Looking Ahead

As the need for insulation installation grows alongside the industry’s labor shortages, it is now more important than ever to make sure you are partnering with the right insulation machine building company that can help you save time, cost, and a lot of headaches on site.



Owens Corning

Owens Corning, a manufacturer of technical insulation products and systems, offers a wide variety of solutions for commercial, mechanical, and industrial applications. Product and application support is provided to customers to help ensure that the finished installation delivers the performance required by a given application. Owens Corning’s Technical Services team provides this support with a variety of services and capabilities.

Owens Corning routinely works with customers to determine what the needs and requirements are for each application for the product or system used. One must understand the application, the regulatory requirements, product fitness for use, and the expected insulation benefit. This typically requires analysis of energy savings, CO2 reductions, acoustic performance, and moisture control. Some materials also provide additional benefits in the form of passive fire protection, corrosion mitigation, or compressive strength.

As part of our vision to be the trusted partner to our customers, leveraging our core  technical expertise to win new applications, build unique insulation systems and lead the profitable sustainable future for our customers, Owens Corning offers a breadth of solutions to meet customers’ existing and emerging needs. Owens Corning’s Technical Services portfolio includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Product selection–Guidance for thermal and acoustic performance, moisture resistance, and fire resistance.
  • Energy analysis–Thermal calculations to determine the required thickness for a given situation, such as condensation control, process control, or safe-to-touch insulation surface temperatures.
  • Modeling–Acoustic and passive fire resistance applications.
  • Specification support–Generation of guide specifications and detail drawings for specific applications, as well as review of customer specifications.
  • Product compliance–Guidance related to energy and mechanical codes, industry standards, and government purchase specifications.
  • Sustainability–Guidance and documentation related to LEED, Environmental Product Declarations (EPD), Health Product Declarations (HPD), recycled content, and GreenGuard certification on selected products.
  • Health and safety–Guidance and documentation on safety data sheets (SDS) and safe use instructions sheets.
  • Education and training–Resources for proper installation of the products and systems for designed performance. Includes theoretical classroom and hands-on sessions, and may be available as virtual or in-person instruction.
  • Site start-up support–Resources for safe and efficient job site start-up.
  • Product and system testing–Support to help customers meet project requirements.

In addition to these services, the Owens Corning Granville Science and Technology Center features NVLAP-accredited lab capabilities to test products for compliance as well as application and product development. These labs have also been used to assist Owens Corning’s customers in developing their own products to achieve their performance goals.

These capabilities, coupled with the experience and expertise of the Technical Services team, provide a great deal of value in terms of creating a reliable product and the ability to help customers solve their problems. To learn more about Owens Corning’s technical services and training, or to request technical expertise on an existing project, please contact us at