Dr. Allison Bailes knows a bit about how insulation works; he has a PHD in physics. Now he consults on building science at Energy Vanguard, and when he shows a photograph of a fiberglass installation and points out how you shouldn't use pieces that are too long to fit, you can assume he knows what he is talking about.
But Guardian Fiberglass didn't think so; they went legal on him, writing:
Guardian disagrees with [the] assertion that it is difficult to install fiberglass insulation well. … It is Guardian’s position that these comments by your company together with the picture of Guardian’s products constitute libel, slander, and commercial disparagement.
(you can see the whole legal letter on Green Building Advisor)
When Dr. Bailes complains that fiberglass insulation is difficult to install, he isn't saying anything particularly new or unusual; Martin Holladay wrote in Green Building Advisor two years ago:
Study after study has shown that most fiberglass batt jobs are sloppy. In 2002, the California Energy Commission contracted with researchers Marc Hoeschele, Rick Chitwood, and Bill Pennington to conduct a study of new California homes. In its March 2003 issue, Energy Design Update reported, “The performance problems uncovered by the study were particularly disappointing in light of the fact that all 30 houses [studied by the researchers] were enrolled in programs promoting building-envelope improvements and duct tightness.”
Recently, I have inspected several homes that were insulated with fiberglass batts, and, not surprisingly, the quality of the installation was dismal. What I saw could have been an instruction manual on how not to insulate a house. Batts were cut 2 to 3 inches wider than the stud spacing and crammed into the cavities. Not a single batt was split around a wire or pipe, nor were they cut around electrical boxes. Air barriers everywhere were missing. In most cases, the contractor used batts because the homeowners were unwilling to pay the extra cost of a blown-in product, and the contractor was unwilling to absorb the cost of the upgrade.
I wrote in our guide to insulation on Planet Green:
A wall insulated with fiberglass rarely tests at the R-value it was designed for because of all the gaps, settling and vapor barrier issues.
Dr. Bailes' first reaction was to get out the photoshop felt pen and cover up Guardian's name in all of the photographs. But then the story went viral, or as viral as a story on insulation might get, being picked up by Green Building Advisor and as far away as Australia, so Dr. Bailes decided to fight back, writing yesterday:
It's also unfortunate that Guardian didn't just talk to me about what they wanted rather than pulling out the big guns immediately.....This story isn't big yet. If some of the bigger news outlets pick it up—say Grist or Treehugger or maybe even the big news networks—it could easily spiral out of control. With building materials sales already way down, can you really risk this?
Guardian isn't the first name that pops into mind when one thinks about fiberglass insulation; I was surprised to find that it is a huge international conglomerate with 28 float glass lines and 13 glass fabrication plants around the world.Its glass "covers the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world." In their ethics statement, they pledge:
We do not engage in behavior that we would not be comfortable explaining to our co-workers and families or having reported in the news.
Well I think they have some explaining to do. This behavior is egregious.