Kingpsan Insulation
Opened in 2019 in Kingscourt, Co Cavan, IKON is Kingspan’s global innovation centre

– Innovation remains a core pillar of Kingspan Insulation’s strategy


Kingspan Insulation
Niall O'Connor - Managing Director, Kingspan Insulation Ireland.

NIALL O’CONNOR, Managing Director, Kingspan Insulation Ireland, speaks with Robbie Cousins about how the company is working with customers to reduce the embodied and operational carbon of Irish building stock.


Kingspan Insulation Ireland managing director Niall O’Connor and his team are guiding the leading manufacturer of high-performance insulation products through a complex set of challenges, including continuing high raw material and production costs, uncertainty in some market sectors, and growing pressure on the construction sector to reduce the embodied and operational carbon of its buildings and structures.

Kingspan continues to set a very high standard in terms of innovation, particularly in sustainability. Its Planet Passionate sustainability programme, as well as helping it work towards ambitious sustainability objectives, supports customers and industry stakeholders in progressing their sustainability goals. Kingspan also continues to launch new and innovative products, including its next-generation AlphaCore insulation range and OPTIM-R E Inverted Roof System featuring encapsulated vacuum insulation panels (VIPs).


Kingspan Insulation range

Niall O’Connor explains that Kingspan Insulation aims to be a full spectrum insulation product provider and recognises that there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution for the building envelope.

“We offer a full range of products to meet contractor, specifier and architect needs,” he says. “This translates to an offering which includes phenolic (Kooltherm), PIR (Therma range), EPS, XPS (Kingspan GreenGuard), vacuum insulation panels (OPTIM-R) and stone wool insulation (K-Roc), amongst others.

“We’re also working to develop and grow our product portfolio based on market needs. This includes our recently launched AlphaCore range, next-generation insulation with excellent thermal and reaction-to-fire performance.

“Of equal importance to our products is the technical expertise, support and advice we offer all customers. As an Irish business, Kingspan has been operating in the market since 1965. This has allowed us to build close relationships with customers from across the construction sector, understanding the technical and practical issues they face and how we can support them to overcome these challenges.”

According to O’Connor, this combination of product and customer knowledge, coupled with a complete spectrum product offering, allows its commercial and technical teams to provide “practical, cost-effective and efficient insulation solutions to meet our partners’ needs.”

Kingspan’s next-generation AlphaCore insulation range.
Kingspan’s Kooltherm K8-plus range.

Kingspan Insulation in Ireland

Niall O’Connor explains that the breadth of Kingspan’s insulation range In Ireland means it can offer solutions to meet each customer’s specific needs for a variety of different requirements.

He says: “For typical applications, however, our phenolic Kooltherm and PIR Therma ranges remain the most popular due to their excellent thermal performance and practicality.

“For example, our Kooltherm K8 Plus Cavity Board has a thermal conductivity of just 0.021 W/mK. This means it is possible to achieve the U-value target with a lesser thickness of insulation than would be possible with lower-performing insulation materials. This can allow project teams to achieve ambitious U-values whilst maintaining slim wall constructions – maximising the useable floor space.”

Kingspan Insulation product development

Innovation is a core pillar of Kingspan’s global strategy. In 2022, it invested €60.3m in research and development across its global organisation.

“This level of investment allows us to bring new products to market to help address key changing needs. Our latest product developments include the OPTIM-R E Inverted Roof System and AlphaCore.

“Optim-R E is a VIP encapsulated in a coating for increased robustness and easier handling. These VIPs achieve outstanding levels of thermal performance. As part of our inverted roofing system, the product is perfect for projects where specifiers want to achieve low U-values or where the available depth for insulation is limited. The inverted roofing system is also compatible with most green roof systems.

“AlphaCore is a next-generation addition to our product range. It is a hydrophobic, microporous, silica insulation board, with a Euroclass rating of A2-s1,d0 and a thermal conductivity of just 0.020 W/mK. This makes it well suited to rainscreen applications for new and refurbishment projects where space is at a premium.”

Supporting customers

Kingspan Insulation has a comprehensive range of client support measures in place. O’Connor says that improving the knowledge base across the sector is vital and something Kingspan is focused on.

“Our long-standing relationships with contractors and specifiers enables us to work closely together and support their needs,” he comments. “Our highly experienced technical department in Castleblayney can provide project-specific advice and support, backed with a range of resources and tools on our website, such as our U-value calculator. This relationship also feeds into the product development pipeline, allowing the R&D teams at our IKON innovation centre in Kingscourt to develop innovative solutions to key challenges.”

He adds: “Our technical and commercial teams also offer a range of support services to customers, including in-person or remote CPDs and toolbox talks covering all aspects of handling and installing products on site.

“We are also delighted to be a founding member of the Supply Chain Sustainability School in Ireland, which aims to support and upskill Irish businesses via virtual learning platforms to deliver a sustainable built environment.”

Making space

Niall O’Connor believes two of the critical challenges facing Kingspan customers at the moment are reducing carbon emissions and realising the true value of space.

“Through our wide range of products, we look to complete the building envelope in a way that limits both embodied and operational carbon emissions. We are working to achieve this in a variety of ways. For example, the excellent thermal efficiency of our key product ranges, such as Kooltherm, makes it possible to achieve low U-values with a reduced thickness of insulation when compared with poorer-performing alternatives. This not only makes it possible to achieve buildings which retain heat more efficiently, reducing their operational carbon but also limits the volume of raw materials needed, which can lower embodied carbon.”

He adds: “In addition to exploring the use of bio-based raw materials in insulation products, we also engage in a process of constant improvement to lower the embodied carbon emissions of our existing product ranges. This includes assessing raw material sourcing, looking for improvements in our production processes and packaging and assessing how we transport our products to site.

“These ongoing developments, combined with our technical expertise and knowledge, can help customers deliver low energy, low carbon buildings.”

When discussing the second challenge, maximising usable space in buildings, O’Connor says this remains a crucial metric for value and investment potential in properties.

“Our selection of thermally efficient wall insulation boards, such as Kooltherm and AlphaCore, can make it possible to achieve low U-values with thinner insulation thicknesses than may be achievable with alternative products. This enables our commercial and technical teams to work with customers to achieve slimmer external wall constructions, maximising the available floor area within a given building footprint.”

Kingspan acquisitions

As part of a global organisation, Kingspan Insulation benefits from wider business developments, whether through internal product development or new acquisitions. Recent investments include taking a majority stake in Steico, a leading ecological wood fibre insulation materials manufacturer.

He comments: “The Steico investment should allow us to further expand our full spectrum product offering here in Ireland in the next few years and will enable us to introduce new products that use bio-based materials such as wood fibre.”

Kingspan’s Planet Passionate

Planet Passionate, Kingpan’s 10-year global sustainability programme, aims to tackle climate change, circularity and protection of the natural world. It is at the core of Kingspan’s business model and influences every aspect of the business globally. The ambitious programme began in 2020, and key targets to be achieved by 2030 include meeting 60% of the company’s energy needs with direct renewable energy; to become  a net-zero manufacturer (scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions); to achieve a 50% reduction in product CO2e intensity from primary supply chain partners; and to ensure zero company waste to landfill.

Niall O’Connor explains that while these targets are at a global level, each one drives local targets. “Here in Ireland, we have already converted almost half of our vehicle fleet to EVs, have achieved zero landfill waste and deliver a significant amount of our energy needs through onsite solar PV generation.

“With targets so ambitious, each business is constantly focused on the next range of initiatives to reduce carbon emissions and energy usage. To further drive these activities, the company has also introduced an internal carbon charge of €70/t CO2 across its global business since January 2023.”

Kingspan Insulation is committed to helping its customers progress their own sustainability targets.

He continues: “Our initiatives can help customers in a couple of ways. Firstly, our progress in developing and introducing low embodied carbon and bio-based insulation offerings and in reducing the carbon emissions from our sites and production processes allows us to deliver products which have lower carbon intensity. At the same time, their excellent thermal performance makes it possible to reduce operational carbon from the buildings they are used on.

“Secondly, customers can leverage Kingspan’s technical expertise and experience in the area to help them in the design phase of more sustainable buildings. For example, using Kingspan’s Thermataper flat roof insulation can decrease the need for carbon-intensive materials in flat roof construction. When integrated into a building’s design at an early stage, Thermataper can help minimise the need for steel reinforcing and eliminate the requirement for concrete screeds, which would commonly be used to achieve the necessary slope on a flat roof.”

Niall O’Connor expects 2024 to be a challenging year for the construction sector but says Kingspan Insulation will continue to support customers with a value-based offering combining high-performance insulation and superior technical advice and customer service.

“Our delivery of Planet Passionate targets will remain to the fore, and we’ll also focus on the roll-out of our new product offering, including AlphaCore, acoustic panels, and bio-based materials.”

Circular economy

Circularity is one of the core pillars of Kingspan’s Planet Passionate programme. Kingspan’s Castleblayney campus is already achieving zero company waste to landfill. In addition, globally, Kingspan recycled 803m PET bottles into its manufacturing processes in 2022 and aims to increase this to one billion bottles by 2025.

“We are constantly exploring further means to improve circularity, whether that’s the reuse of polyisocyanurate (PIR) and phenolic foam or waste takeback schemes, which we already offer in a number of markets.

“In addition, locally, at our manufacturing plant in Askeaton, Limerick, we’ve made substantial strides in reducing mains water usage during the manufacturing process. Mains water consumption has been cut by approximately 90%, replaced by water harvested from a nearby disused quarry.”

Retrofit market

Niall O’Connor comments that the Irish retrofit market is showing enormous growth potential and is extremely important to Kingspan Insulation.

“The government’s retrofit programme has a target of 500,000 homes to be retrofitted to a B2 standard by 2030. These targets are incredibly ambitious but have to be so out of necessity, even before commercial and public sector buildings are added to the equation.”

He continues: “Our view is that for retrofit projects to be effective and successful, they require a fabric-first approach; roughly 60% heat loss in buildings is via walls and roof, so, if the building envelope is not adequately insulated, other offerings such as heat pumps and solar panels will not deliver their expected gains.

“In this respect, we’re already active in the space and are partnering with SSE in their one-stop-shop offer, while we’re also working closely with SEAI and contractors across the country on retrofit developments.”

O’Connor adds that he understands that retrofit projects can present a wide range of additional challenges when compared with new builds.

“Our staff work closely with customers to understand these challenges and deliver products that solve these challenges. For example, uninsulated solid floors present a significant retrofit challenge, as any insulation fitted above the slab will reduce the floor-to-ceiling height within a space. Our OPTIM-R Flooring System uses VIPS with optimal thermal performance, which can allow floors to be effectively insulated with a minimal thickness of insulation – limiting changes in headroom.

Guaranteed Irish

Niall O’Connor is a board member of Guaranteed Irish and has been watching the roll-out of its Guaranteed Irish House initiative with interest. Guaranteed Irish House is a programme that supports those working and specifying in the construction sector to make decisions that support sustainability and Irish jobs.

“Kingspan has a long association with Guaranteed Irish, and I’m very pleased to support the organisation as a board member. Guaranteed Irish plays a crucial role in promoting Irish businesses across all sectors, including construction, which, as you know, is an enormous employer and economic driver here in Ireland. This includes advertising, promotion and acting as a general advocate for Irish construction sector firms at a national and governmental level to highlight the benefits of buying from Guaranteed Irish brands and businesses.

“One exciting development is Guaranteed Irish House. This is a national listing of construction sector businesses based in Ireland, offering architects, engineers and quantity surveyors a listing of locally produced raw building materials and home furnishings for both private and commercial builds. We expect to see further developments with this initiative in 2024.” Niall O’Connor concludes.

To learn more about the full Kingspan Insulation product range, visit

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