Evaluation and application of Opuntia ficus-indica panel
Today the attention to the building sustainability issue is increasingly important, because of the major responsibility of the buildings field in the environmental degradation: both in terms of energy consumption from non-renewable sources and the raw materials impoverishment. In addition, the level of comfort required by users are growing and the thermal insulation of buildings becomes the key element in the reduction of energy consumption and C02 emissions, both in the case of new construction and existing ones. The thermal insulation of buildings is the key element in the reduction of energy consumption and C02 emissions due to the cooling of building interiors, both in the case of new constructions and for old ones. Nowadays the heat load of a building depends on the presence of insulation materials which determines the performance of the building envelope. The main goal of this work is both to present the production technology of a new eco-friendly panel and to evaluate its thermal insulation performances, also comparing to those of the most diffused insulation materials available in the market. Particularly a new panel was produced by using the cladodes of Opuntia ficus-indica, a widespread plant in Sicily, according to the principles of sustainable and eco-friendly development. In particular, the cladodes of this plant were properly dried, shredded, sorted and mixed with a polyester resin as binder, to make a rigid panel. To evaluate the influence of the resin on the insulation properties, it was also manufactured a reference panel, with only Opuntia ficus-indica granules. The prototypes realized have shown thermal performance that can be considered satisfying and competitive with those of other commercially available panels. During this phase, therefore, it has been compared the potential of the proposed insulating panel with those of the commercial panels, through the evaluation of the thermal and dynamics characteristics of four different possible stratigraphic configuration of vertical external walls.