PostGreen Homes are using cork as cladding in their newest project in Fishtown, Philadelphia. They are working in collaboration with Orange Concept on this project, and the finished home will be simple and minimalistic, which will make it fit right in with the other buildings in the area.
The builders decided to use cork for cladding even though the material costs about three times more than, for example, expanded polystyrene. But the upside is that, when using cork as cladding, there is no need for additional exterior cladding to be added, since the cork cladding is also the insulation layer. This works to bring down the building cost. The cork for this project was supplied by Thermacork, a company that offers a variety of choices of façade cork. Cork cladding is available in panels measuring one meter by half a meter (39″ x 19-5/8″) and can be up to six inches thick. The insulation value is about R-3.6 per inch, and it is one of the most eco-friendly insulation materials currently available. Cork is also naturally fire resistant, and hydrophobic.
Cork is a very renewable material, and it is also sustainably harvested every 8 years or so. Cork forests in Portugal and the rest of Europe also have the ability to reverse environmental damage. They protect soil from desertification by protecting against wind erosion and also act as a natural fire barrier in case of forest fires. These forests are also able to act as “carbon sinks.” The cork forests of Portugal are able to trap 4.8 million tons of CO2 emissions a year, which is about 5% of the country’s emissions. However, since the decline of cork use, these forests are not being cared for properly anymore. So, a revival of cork use for cladding and insulation would certainly have far reaching benefits.
Cork cladding has been a popular choice in Europe for a while now, but the PostGreen home in Philadelphia is the first US home to be built using it.