"Thanks again for seeing me on such short notice." Miss Morriseau turned at the elevator and shook Dakota's hand.
"Thanks for coming in. I'll be contacting you one way or another to let you know my decision."
Just then the elevator doors opened and Shanis stepped in. She had enough time to smile, and the doors closed. On the way back to the office, Dakota took a side trip into the dining room and picked up two bottles of water and two salads. Teresa was stretching as Dakota left the corridor.
"Feel like a working lunch?"
"Be right there." Teresa gathered her notes, the file folder and a notebook and joined her boss in the inner office.
Once everything had been laid out, and the two of them had gotten comfortable, Dakota asked, "So, did you manage to find anything new for me this morning?"
Teresa opened the file folder that she'd already stuffed with notes, print outs and articles. "Well, coming from a lay-person's viewpoint, I had a pretty limited knowledge of insulation; so I had to start at the beginning."
"Which is exactly where most people are going to start. Good."
"Okay, Insulation falls into four categories: loose-fill, blankets, rigid foam and liquid foam. Each of these has traditionally been used in different areas of a building. The pink batts that we all think of as typical insulation is made from fiberglass, which, as you know is dangerous to handle and hazardous when inhaled. There have been numerous cases of reduced and hampered lung capacity caused by fibrous tissue build up. But there have been advances in manufacturing." Teresa paused to flip a sheet over and take a sip from her water bottle. "All three of the major fiberglass makers wrap their batts now, which results in providing a vapor barrier as well as making the product safer to handle. It isn't safe enough though. Fiberglass is held together by a formaldehyde-based binding agent, which outgases vapors that can, and have caused, eye and skin irritants, and have been linked to cancer as well. Major companies like Owens-Corning have developed formaldehyde-free fiberglass insulation, but it's still pricey. Some have also made higher density batts common in your average hardware store. I had to do some research to understand and compare R-values. If I understand it correctly, the less air circulation space between the fibers of the insulation material, the better the resistance to heat flow and loss. The higher the R value, the better the efficiency."
"Right, so we've traditionally had this pink stuff that most people can't install and makes us and the installer sick! What's the alternative?" Dakota speared a forkful of salad.
"Well, cellulose insulation is environmentally friendly, inexpensive and has a pretty high R value. We seem to be creating a never-ending supply because it can be made from recycled paper and cardboard. It is more resistant to mold, rot and insects and thanks to new developments, now adheres better, reducing settling and improving R-value. In fact, it actually provides more insulation per inch than low-density fiberglass and can be twenty-five percent less in cost than the pink stuff. Assuming of course, that it hasn't been dry-blown and the installer knows what they're doing."
"But what if I'm Average Joe who wants to do what's best for the both the environment, and his family? I need to know all my options." Dakota said as she stabbed a tomato.
"Okay, something else that's making waves is your denim manufacturing waste. It's softer, has an R-3.4 rating and doesn't carry safety concerns to either the installer or the occupant."
"Downside?" asked Dakota.
Teresa chewed before answering. "Cost. It can be as high as 15 to 20 % higher than fiberglass."
"I've seen a type of foam board up on the outside of homes under construction, were you able to learn anything about that?"
Teresa nodded and pushed her glasses farther up on her nose. "It's called expanded polystyrene, or bead-board. It went through a period of disfavor for a while, because a lot of people saw it as a pollutant, but it's actually the least environment-damaging product of all rigid board insulation. It's made of the same material that coffee cups are, liquid styrene beads mixed with pentane or steam. It has an R-value of about 3.8 to 4.4 per inch. There are other types of foam board as well. Extruded polystyrene has a higher R-value, R-5 I believe. It's made with hydrochlorofluorocarbons, which are somewhat safer than the CFC's that we've now banned, but it still releases chlorine atoms when exposed to sunlight."
"But chlorine atoms still destroy ozone." Dakota pointed out.
"Where one CFC molecule will destroy 100,000 ozone atoms, an HFC atom will only destroy 20,000 ozone atoms." Teresa shook her head slightly.
"Not good enough." Dakota stood and stretched.
"I figured you might say as much, so I kept looking." Teresa paused to eat a little more of her lunch and find a specific page in her notes. "Natural builders have been using straw bales as insulation in both attic and walls. To provide fire protection, the bales are coated with clay. An 18-inch thick straw bale wall has an R-value of 42. Sheep's wool has also been used for insulation. Once boric acid as a flame retardant is added, it finds increased acceptance in the market. I wasn't able to find any R-value estimates for it though."
"What if there were a product made of cotton, straw and sheep's wool, mixed with an environmentally safe binder that was also fire resistant?" Dakota mused as she looked out the window.
"There have been some others who thought along those lines too..." Teresa began looking through her notes. "I thought I had...it must be...Let me just go look on my desk." Teresa said as she left the inner office.
A minute later, she came back with the missing notes and a large, brown manila envelope. "Dakota, someone left this for you," she said as she crossed the room.
Expecting schematics, Dakota shook the contents out of the envelope and a photo fell face up. It was an enlarged black and white of a woman holding a little girl of about six, seemingly taken in the 70's. "What a cute little girl! Do you know who it is?" Teresa turned to ask.
Dakota didn't answer at first.
Teresa was shocked to see her boss staring at the photo with tears streaming down her face.
"I want to know who brought this into the building; I'll need that information by end of business. That will be all for the rest of the day. Hold all my calls until then. Thank you." Dakota whispered.