Polyurethane insulation sandwich panels have been used in the construction of what is considered the world’s largest vertical farm in Dubai and were praised as “the cost-effective insulation and cladding solution” for the project “paving the way for other vertical farm developments in the Middle East”.
Emirates Flight Catering, the inflight catering arm of UAE-based Emirates Airlines producing more than 55 million meals annually, recently opened the world’s largest vertical farm, Bustanica, located near Al Maktoum International Airport at Dubai World Central. The 330,000 sq ft indoor facility will produce more than one million kilograms of high-quality leafy greens including lettuces, arugula, mixed salad greens, and spinach annually, while reportedly requiring 95 percent less water than conventional agriculture.
Commenting on the opening, Martin Kruczinna, CEO of Pearl Polyurethane Systems, said: “We are thrilled to support this world-leading sustainable farming project by supplying our high-performance EcoPearl polyurethane material for the metal sandwich insulation panels installed on Bustanica together with our manufacturing partner, EIP. These panels comprise a rigid polyurethane foam core, laminated with metal sheets on either side and are typically used as wall and roof cladding, to keep heat out by minimising thermal energy transfer.
“Key considerations for the vertical farm operators, as with any other building owner, is how to regulate the indoor temperature to ensure optimal crop harvests in the extreme Middle Eastern climate without using expensive cooling systems – effective building insulation is therefore critical. With rising energy costs, better insulation means less energy consumption, leading the fight against global warming. Pearl-supplied rigid polyurethane foam used in this project is by far the most superior means of insulation on the market and we are proud our EcoPearl product is a key component of this cutting-edge sustainable farming project as it achieves this world-first and serves as a megatrend enabler promoting global food security,” added Kruczinna.
Ali Ihsan Cetiner, general manager of Emirates Industrial Panels (EIP), commented, “As the next megatrend in the field of agribusiness and nutrition, vertical farming is a particularly space-saving, sustainable and efficient way of growing plants.
“PU-based insulation panels have industry leading insulation properties, with impeccable thermal insulation and fire resistance properties. EIP and our partners such as Pearl are working hard to support modern agricultural initiatives such as vertical farm operators, by engineering solutions to the industry through developing and manufacturing FM-Approved PU-based insulation panels for large scale, multi-story vertical farming complexes. Vertical farming offers solutions to the most pressing problems posed by today’s modern agribusiness economy. As the UAE’s leading sandwich panel insulation manufacturer, EIP is proud to be contributing to the success of this mega-trend with our extensive range of PU-based insulation solutions,” concluded Cetiner.
Is it Eco-Friendly?
Though there are some methods to recycle polyurethane panels, most of them resulted in a material of lower quality. Indeed, in a paper published by the University of Minnesota, researchers highlighted that conventional polyurethanes can’t be simply recycled but can only be downcycled into less useful materials even if new types of polyurethanes claim to be fully recyclable.
The material also has the characteristic to crumble over time as a result of interaction with moisture and air.
The problem comes from the material used to manufacture the polyurethane foam often made from fossil fuels and requiring extensive energy in its fabrication process.
Image provided by Bustanica, Dubai Vertical Farm