Geofoam: Competing Against Dirt Cheap Soil

By: Terry Meier, Geofoam Specialist

There is a saying that when something is extremely inexpensive it is “dirt cheap”.

When using EPS foam as a light weight fill material (Geofoam), it is often replacing dirt, so then how can Geofoam be cost competitive with something as cheap as dirt? Why would EPS Geofoam ever be used to replace dirt when dirt is so “dirt cheap?”

The answer is simple. Just because something is cheap doesn’t necessarily mean that it is always cheap to use.

I was surprised to learn that compacted soil weights as much as 125 pounds per cubic foot. That’s a lot! EPS Geofoam by comparison is 1 to 3 pounds per cubic foot depending on density.

Dirt 100 to Geofoam 1

100 to 1 weight ratio. The cube of Geofoam & the bag of dirt weigh the same amount.

Because dirt is so heavy it exerts a great deal of pressure causing numerous problems such as settlement, structural damage, and instability. Measures taken to prevent those problems are often very expensive. Even though EPS Geofoam is more expensive than dirt, in many cases it can actually save money by eliminating these problems associated with using heavier dirt.

Here are a few examples of jobs that saved money by replacing dirt with EPS Geofoam.

I-15 Freeway

I-15 Powerline

At this location on I-15 there are 3 utilities crossing the embankment. If regular fill material (dirt) had been used these utilities would need to be relocated to prevent damage caused by additional weight and differential settlement.  The cost of this relocation was estimated at over $5,000,000. By using EPS Geofoam the utilities were left in place saving the cost of relocation.

 Provo City Temple

Provo City Temple

The entire city block surrounding the temple used Geofoam to fill in depths of 3’ to 6’ on the upper level of the garage. Beneath the Geofoam was an underground parking structure and additional rooms extending from the temple. The Geofoam was either covered over with landscaping or paved over to accommodate parking. Geofoam lightened the load on the underground structures so much that the builders could reduce the volume of concrete and rebar required to support the structure. This reduction of building materials resulted in significant cost savings.

 IHC Hospital

IHC Hospital

The foundation wall on this hospital was over 30 feet tall. Using soil would exert a tremendous amount of lateral pressure on the wall. The wall was designed to be 32 inches thick to support this pressure. By using Geofoam the wall thickness was reduced to 18 inches. This reduction of thickness saved a great deal of money.

These are just of few of the many examples of how dirt isn’t always “cheap” and how using Geofoam instead of dirt can bring about some big dollar savings.

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ACH Foam Technologies Solves the Rigid Insulation Water Absorption Equation

By: John Cowan, Regional Sales Manager

There are several things I think we can all agree upon about rigid insulation. Performance in the field is more important than laboratory results. Stability and long-term performance of R-Values outweighs the published R-Value of the product by the manufacturer.

Until now, laboratory testing for water absorption of molded polystyrene indicated a higher water absorption rate than XPS. Recently completed laboratory tests indicates the maximum volume water absorption of molded polystyrene is 0.3%! Tests done prior to this did not take into account a drying period following the wetting period of the product.

0.3 Water Absorption

ASTM C 272 testing methods were used followed by a 24-hour drying period before measuring water absorption by volume. The 0.3 maximum absorption by volume is the same as XPS. R-Value tests were performed on samples of XPS and Polyiso obtained from major industry suppliers. The samples of XPS and Polyiso were tested periodically for R-Values over the next 3 years. The samples were tested at both 40 and 75 degrees at an accredited lab.

At 75 degrees all three Polyiso samples tested were below the published LTTR of 5.6 after 1-½ years. At 40 degrees the Polyiso actually had an R-Value less than at 75 degrees! The XPS samples were below the published R-Value of 5.0 within a month of testing. The XPS samples continued to decline in R-Value for the next several years. Compare this to the stability of the R-Value of molded polystyrene.

When you look at all the advantages of ACH Foam Technologies’ Foam-Control® PLUS+® architectural insulation: recycle content, the availability of a variety of sizes (1/2” up to 36” plus a variety of lengths & widths), stable R-Value, and costs savings up to 30%, Foam-Control® PLUS+® is the clear choice of rigid insulation.

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FAKE NEWS: Are Published R-Values for Polyiso and XPS Insulation Real or Fake?

By: Dale Mullikin, Sales Representative – Architectural Products

newspaper magnifying glass

It can be hard to know what is real or what is fake. If it is published somewhere it seems to be accepted as real. If a manufacturer produces a Tech Data sheet then it must be true. Is that the case? In the insulation world that seems to be the only thing designers and owners have to make the decision on what insulation to specify or purchase for their projects. Product Tech Data sheets seem to be the only source for R-Values when it comes to insulation. Tech Data sheets use ASTM standards that give us tests/methods for measuring R-value but are they real world values? ASTM standards are used by all insulation manufactures for quality control purposes to guide their process and to hold them accountable. These standards were never intended to be used for long term performance of the insulation.

What happens to insulation R-Values when they have been in service for three years or fifteen years? What happens when insulation gets wet? What happens in freeze/thaw environments? Do the ASTM tests cover these variables? The answer is NO!

ASTM information is valuable for manufacturers to conduct quality control testing in the factory. However, there are other tests and studies that will help you determine how insulation will perform long term on the building whether it is buried in dirt and concrete under the slab or covered with membrane on the roof.  Look at the links below and read about real world testing.  And watch out for fake news about R-values.

Read the Facts about R-Values:

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Can EPS be recycled? YES, Absolutely!

By: Chris Benson, Packaging Specialist

Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) can and has been recycled for over 25 years! Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation regarding EPS and it is a battle to get the truth out to businesses and consumers. 118 million pounds of EPS foam was recycled in 2016. This very large number can be broken down intro two categories: Post-Consumer and Post-Industrial Recovery. Post consumer is defined as any material that is recycled after its intended end-use; 63 million pounds recycled in 2016. Post-industrial recovery includes EPS facility scrap that is recycled but never served its intended purpose as a packaging material or other end-use application; 55.7 million pounds recycled in 2016.

2016 post consumer post insustrial

What ACH Foam can recycle:

#6 Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) foam that is white, clean, dry and free of debris. This includes items such as insulated coolers and protective packaging for electronics, household goods and toys.

What ACH Foam CANNOT recycle:

Food service containers such as foam plates, takeout containers, meat trays, egg cartons, packaging peanuts and any non-EPS type foam.

How to recycle EPS with ACH Foam:

1. EPS Foam material for recycling must be bagged, bundled, boxed, or banded for internal handling at ACH Foam Technologies

2. Mail back or drop off at any ACH Foam Technologies plant location. Contact local plant to confirm hours of operation and plant-specific recycling details.

3. Utilize the mail-back program through the EPS Industry Alliance: www.epspackaging.org.

4. Peanut (loosefill) recycling- call 800-828-2214 or visist www.loosefillpackaging.com.   Many UPS stores will take the loosefill for recycling!

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The EPS vs XPS Moisture Resistance & Permeability Conversation

By: Pat Austin, Sales Representative

Hey John, when you’re right, you ARE right! To expand a little on your below-grade insulation performance conversation, I’d like to add a couple points.

First, the ASTM C272 quality control testing for extruded polystyrene is in my opinion the reason that most below-grade insulation is either pink or blue (those are the dyes the XPS manufacturers brand their products with).  But as you stated, this has no correlation with actual in-service performance.  In fact, several independent laboratories have published reports showing EPS to perform better in both real world and laboratory tests.

Test Reports:

So as you accurately pointed out, ASTM C272 quality control moisture testing severely misrepresents actual in-service performance.  Foam-Control® PLUS+® insulation outperforms XPS because its permeability allows it to dry out.

But John, it even gets better!  Research conducted by BASF back in the early 1990’s proved that XPS loses R-value over 10X faster than EPS when exposed to moisture gain.  In BASF’s own words, “EPS is far more resistant to adverse thermal impacts than many other insulations, including as an example extruded polystyrene.  See Table III.”

BASF E2 Front Page

As you so accurately stated, Foam-Control® PLUS+® is the superior rigid foam insulation, especially when handling exposure to bulk moisture.

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