Tightening the Envelope on Building Energy Efficiency

Adam McCarvill / Program Coordinator, CEBIP

How important is a building’s envelope in the scope of energy efficiency and creating a clean-energy-integrated built environment?

A building envelope includes the walls, windows, roof, and foundation, and forms the primary thermal barrier between the interior and exterior environments. In other words, a building envelope is all the building components that separate the indoors from the outdoors.

Silvia Khurrum, Project Manager in Buildings Decarbonization at Con Edison and CEBIP Advisory Board Member, says, “Eliminating thermal losses from the building envelope is a key step in taking a holistic approach to building decarbonization. You wouldn’t want to invest money into a leaking ‘bag.’ A tight envelope assures that every dollar spent (in your utility bill) goes towards your building energy needs … This is an equation of basic energy efficiency.”

One might ask what technologies or companies can best help to lower the amount of fossil fuels that current building stocks exude. There are many to choose from, but today we take aim at a CEBIP company on a trajectory to offer the most cost-effective building envelope technology.

FiRoMar Inc. offers a cost-effective solution for new building construction energy and retrofit of existing structures, providing an airtight, super-insulated envelope. Their FIROTHERM™ system integrates structure, insulation, and cladding support in a single factory process. Requiring no demolition, FIROTHERM™ allows buildings to meet or exceed Passive House Standards. Because it is a monolithic panel you can use a lighter gauge steel and receive the same strength.


In a conversation with CEO and Founder Kieran Higgins, he stated that improving the building envelope is arguably one of the most important aspects of completing a deep retrofit and a marker of whether a building is hitting the best specs to make installing clean energy worth it.

Kieran has a grounded and holistic insight into the components necessary to accelerate and solidify the use of FIROTHERM™ panels on buildings. “New building stocks will need financial incentives from governments to succeed initially. The government can either choose to incentivize and/or penalize to switch over to cleaner technologies.” Local Law 97 is a current example of a penalization method to steer building owners toward making their buildings greener.

When asked about the challenges and next steps, Kieran sees creating awareness and introducing the technology to existing architects, engineers, and designers as both a challenge and an opportunity. One of the most important fundamentals of the FIROTHERM™ panels is the energy-efficient focus, so it is very much a matter of building the policy up at the state and local level so that they demand energy-efficient solutions. Designers and engineers would find Firomar the most cost-effective solution to meet building efficiency needs.  As he put it, “It’s about the education of the professionals within the market to not do business as usual to meet new industry standards becoming required by law. Regrettably, within the industry, it’s a lot of ‘someone sees something being done twice, 3 times, and then they implement it’ and this must be overcome to more greatly see an impact.” Firomar will have its hands full when it comes to solidifying champions in the building space to break this stigma, but they have the chops for it.

Kieran shed some light on the supply chain challenges faced in the building’s space. One of the most shocking reflective aspects of the construction supply chain in the United States is, “There’s really three major suppliers of everything, and everyone kind of defaults to those three major suppliers, whether it’s steel or wood.” This becomes a clear challenge to new technologies attempting to usurp incumbent technologies for the betterment of the built environment and planet. Another more well-known threat to these new technology companies is that the incumbents may simply try to absorb the tech to make it their own. Taking this realist and wisdom-driven approach will certainly prove impactful for companies like Firomar in the long run and protect innovation at its core.

Firomar will prove instrumental in aiding an integrated approach to decarbonizing buildings. Kieran brings forth FIROTHERM™ and is highly aware that it is meant to be coupled with heat pumps and energy-efficient sources of heat and appliances to achieve maximum potential. It is also quite important for building policy at the local, state, and local levels to incentivize energy efficiency in buildings – changes that stand resilient to term changes of elected officials. The reality is that start-ups in the buildings space will have to continue to maintain a ‘4-year’ outlook of the policies and incentives that influence the markets they wish to both enter and succeed in.

With the infectious patience, experience, and go-get-it energy of Kieran Higgins at Firomar, one can’t help but see a future of opportunity to better the built environment through innovation. Keep your eyes peeled for Firomar’s upcoming exciting developments!