Professor Richard Aynsley is the director of Research & Development at Ametalin, a firm that manufactures foil insulation and pliable building membranes for a diverse range of climatic conditions typical of Australia and much of Asia.

We speak to him about his work and experiences, why insulation is important, and how he believes sustainability can be reconciled with design.

Tell us more about yourself.

I graduated from a part-time degree program in Architecture with honours from the University of NSW in 1965. After working in a number architectural practices in Sydney, I was awarded the Byera Hadley Travelling Scholarship and travelled to Penn State University in the USA where I completed a Master of Science Degree in Architectural Engineering. This was followed by a year in practice in Philadelphia and travel around USA and Europe before returning to Australia late in 1968.

In Sydney, I took up an appointment in 1968 as a Lecturer in Architecture at the University of NSW and began my research into natural ventilation for thermal comfort and cyclonic wind effects on houses in Townsville for a Ph.D. This research required extensive boundary layer wind tunnel studies and I took up a lecturing appointment in the Architectural Science department at the University of Sydney in 1970. While at the University of Sydney I was a wind effects consultant on many large building projects including the MLC tower and the Center Point Tower as well as the impact of tropical cyclone Althea on Townsville in 1971. I was awarded my Ph.D. from the University of NSW in 1978.

In 1985, I accepted appointment as a Professor of architecture specialising in architectural science at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia USA. While at Georgia Tech, I pursued research and consulting in air flow for thermal comfort and wind engineering.

Later in 1993, when I was appointed as Dean of the Faculty of Architecture Property and Planning at the University of Auckland, I continued to pursue my research and consulting interests in building science and built a boundary layer wind tunnel while at the University of Auckland.

In late 2000, I was appointed as Dean of the School of Engineering Technology and Management at the Southern Polytechnic State University in Marietta, GA. USA, a former subsidiary college of Georgia Tech. While at Southern Poly I established a new Systems Engineering degree program supported by Lockheed Martin.

I also collaborated with Oakridge National Laboratory to develop computer software to compute the R-value of reflective cavities in buildings based on research at ORNL. This software, Reflect3, runs on Microsoft operating systems and can be used to determine R-values to meet requirements of the Building Code of Australia for such cavities. While Dean at Southern Poly I was a consultant to a manufacturer of large industrial Ceiling fans to quantify their performance.

In 2003, I resigned from Southern Poly and academia to take up appointment as Director of Research and Development at Big Ass Fans in Lexington, Kentucky, USA. At Big Ass Fans, I designed new aerofoil fan blades and established extensive laboratory and testing facilities. The research and development resulted in a number of international patents on aerofoil design and fan motor features. I established an Australian subsidiary company of Big Ass fans in 2007 and retired from the company in 2011.

I am now a part-time building science consultant focusing on thermal insulation, thermal comfort, natural ventilation and condensation risk assessment.

What is your role at Ametalin and the CRC for Low Carbon Living?

As Director of Research & Development at Ametalin in Adelaide, I identify desirable performance characteristics for pliable membrane materials and monitor test results for prototype products, and calculate condensation risk for particular construction assemblies and ventilation regimes.

As a researcher in the Cooperative Research Centre on Low Carbon Living I will be:

  • Developing innovative pliable building membranes to address moisture control in building assemblies.
  • Devising innovative ways to explain the confusing labyrinth of terminology and units of measurement associated with vapour transmission through building materials.
  • Explaining the critical links between water vapour control, indoor air quality, ventilation, and energy recovery.
What is insulation and why is it important?

Thermal insulation slows the transmission of heat by conduction, convection and radiation through building construction. It is important because it can reduce the energy required to heat and cool buildings and improve indoor thermal comfort by reducing radiant heat inside naturally ventilated buildings in warm climate regions.

How do you think architects can reconcile design with sustainability?

Firstly they need to determine, for themselves if they are a sole practitioner or as a team, a definition for “sustainability”. This definition can then act as catalyst to drive design decisions.

Are there any guidelines that architects and designers should adhere to when designing for new buildings and renovations?

Architects and designers, as professionals, should be responsible for developing and maintaining their own sustainable design guidelines.

Has Ametalin released any new products lately?Ametalin’s product range consists of foil insulation and wall wraps that protect and increase the thermal performance of Australian buildings.

More recently, Ametalin has made available to the market a new product called BRANE VHP, a very high waterproof permeable membrane that allows the building to breathe, hence avoiding future condensation risks and associated structural problems of decay and corrosion, as well as ‘sick building syndrome’ caused by mould.