May 1, 2006 A medical center is insulating its walls with recycled blue jeans instead of fiberglass. The new construction material is more environmentally friendly, as fiberglass contains formaldehyde, which is believed to cause asthma and allergies. The use of denim is just one of several "green" materials used at the medical center.
HACKENSACK, N.J.--Skinny jeans. Fat jeans. Designer jeans ... Jeans in your walls? Your favorite jeans may keep you walking in comfort in more ways than one.
In these walls at Hackensack University Medical Center's newest building is blue jean insulation.
"We were looking for an alternative to the traditional fiberglass insulation, which contains formaldehyde, which we know is a toxic element," says Suzen Heeley, who is director of design and construction at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey.
Although the jean insulation costs 50 percent more, environmental engineers say it's worth it to remove toxins and carcinogens from the air, which both trigger asthma and allergies. The goal? To keep workers and patients healthier. Installers also benefit.
"They also realized that they were not experiencing the traditional itch that they felt with fiberglass," Heeley tells DBIS.
She says 98 percent of the new Women's and Children's Pavilion at Hackensack has jean insulation. The cotton material comes from the scraps of blue jeans. It's thick, so it holds more heat and absorbs more sound. Homeowners can get it at building material stores.
The jean insulation is just one eco-friendly choice at the Pavilion. Hackensack uses non-toxic cleaning products; floors are rubber vs. laminate; the wood is WheatBoard instead of particle board; and the hand rails are made without PBCs.
"It really comes down to common sense that we have provided holistic, healthy healing -- a true place of healing," Deirdre Imus, founder and president of the Deirdre Imus Environmental Center for Pediatric Oncology at Hackensack, tells DBIS.
Hackensack estimates the scraps of 117,000 blue jeans went into the insulation at the new building. From supermodels to environmental models ... And building trends to come.
BACKGROUND: Hackensack University Medical Center is using recycled denim jeans to insulate their environmentally friendly hospital. Cotton insulation from these pre-consumer recycled jeans eliminates asbestos and formaldehyde, reducing irritation to the skin, nose and throat. Jean insulation holds more heat, and also absorbs more sound.
HOW INSULATION WORKS: Heat only flows in one direction: from a hotter object to a colder one, such as when your morning cup of coffee cools until it is the same temperature as your kitchen. Insulation serves as a barrier to minimize the transfer of heat from one material (the coffee) to another (the air around you). For example, pouring your coffee into a thermos made of an insulating material will prevent heat from escaping. Your coffee will stay hotter longer. Heat is transferred primarily through conduction, which occurs when materials directly contact each other. The atoms and molecules bump into those of the neighboring material, allowing energy to flow between them. Heat can also be transferred through convection. This happens with the flow of air and water. These substances don't readily conduct heat, but they can transfer heat energy through motion. Finally, hot objects emit infrared light, which can cause them to lose heat by transferring that energy to other objects -- heating up those objects in the process.
MATERIAL FACTS: Less dense materials are better insulators. That's because in really dense materials, the atoms are closer together and can transfer energy back and forth much more easily. So gases insulate better than liquids, which in turn insulate better than solids. Those materials that don't conduct electricity well, such as wood, are also poor heat conductors, such as metals like copper.
DENIM INSULATION: UltraTouch cotton fiber insulation is made from recycled denim and cotton fibers, materials that act as insulators because of the looser structure, or "breathability,"of the fabric compared to tighter weaves. Denim dates back to 17th century France, when a type of wool-and-silk-based fabric called "serge de Nimes" was popular. Also popular was a cotton-linen-and-wool blend known as "jean." By the 19th century, denim had become the fabric of choice for sturdy work clothes, particularly in the West. Levi Strauss began manufacturing his version of "jeans" in 1873.