SYMPOSIA PAPER Published: 01 January 1997

A Review of Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) Properties, Performance and New Applications


For over thirty years expanded polystyrene (EPS) insulation products have been utilized and accepted by the construction industry as cost effective insulation for roof, wall and foundation applications. During the last several years a number of innovative applications utilizing EPS have been developed which provide creative and cost effective solutions for a variety of residential construction and civil engineering applications.

Residential construction has been dominated by wood stud building technology for over a 150 years. In the past ten years energy and resource conservation requirements and issues within the lumber industry have prompted renewed interest in alternative construction technologies. The most prominent of these are steel stud framing, insulated concrete walls, and structural insulated panels. All of these require the use of foam insulation to create successful energy efficient housing. A discussion is provided explaining insulated concrete form (ICF) systems and structural insulated panels (SIPs) and how the properties of EPS foam are suited to meet the unique requirements of these systems.

In addition ASTM Standard Specification for Rigid, Cellular Polystyrene (RCPS) Thermal Insulation (C 578) is discussed. It is the guide for polystyrene foam manufacturers and end users. It provides the specifications for the minimum performance which can be expected from various classifications of polystyrene foam. An understanding of these specifications can eliminate problems and confusion when using these materials. By following the specification, EPS materials can be ordered by type and specific application requirements.

Geosynthetics, products used below grade, including geomembranes, geotextiles and geogrids have been developed over the past twenty years. Now Geofoam EPS, a lightweight fill material, is available to assist civil engineers in stabilizing weak soil conditions in a variety of below grade applications. A brief history of the development and applications for Geofoam is provided.

Author Information

Greeley, TR
BASF Corporation, Mount Olive, NJ
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Developed by Committee: C16
Pages: 224–239
DOI: 10.1520/STP12277S
ISBN-EB: 978-0-8031-5373-8
ISBN-13: 978-0-8031-2409-7