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High-Tech Green Building Materials Are Transforming Construction

While cork flooring and bamboo furniture get all the attention in green homes, eco-substitutes for old-school construction products like concrete, lumber and insulation are where the real action resides in the growing green building materials market.

Spurred by shifting attitudes among consumers, government mandates, and the higher prices green buildings fetch on the market, the building industry is embracing more environmentally friendly materials.

The global market for these products is now forecast to grow 25 percent over the next five years to $571 billion in sales, according to NextGen Research.

“Companies increasingly are looking at their products from cradle to cradle, from the material in the ground to when the building is remodeled or replaced,” said Larry Fisher, research director for NextGen Research.

While some of these green materials—engineered wood made from waste scraps, for example—aren’t new or hi-tech, others have emerged after years of research and development often backed by venture capital financing. And as is so often the case, nimble startups run by hungry entrepreneurs appear to be leading the way in bringing innovative products to market.

One of the most successful startups to date has been Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Serious Materials, whose high-insulting windows and eco-replacement for drywall have attracted the attention of President Obama and a growing list of customers.

The company says energy-efficient residential windows exceed the Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star requirements by up to four times, and their installation can reduce utility bills as much as 40 percent. The company’s EcoRock is made from 80 percent recycled materials, including waste from steel and cement plants, and requires just one-fifth the energy to produce as conventional gypsum drywall.

One of the biggest opportunities in the green building materials market is in developing alternatives to conventional concrete.

The formable, high-strength material is one of the most widely used in the building industry, however the production of cement—a major component of concrete—contributes about 5 percent to total man-made carbon dioxide emissions.

Beverly Hills, Calif.-based iCrete is one startup aiming to shake up the industry. The company says it has developed what it calls a mix design technology that leads to a higher performing and more economical and environmentally friendly concrete. Used in the construction of New York’s Freedom Tower, the high-tech concrete can reduce the overall carbon footprint of a construction project by 40 percent, the company says.

Carlstadt, N.J.-based Hycrete is taking a different approach to the concrete market. It’s developed a chemical that when added to concrete makes it waterproof.

Concrete walls that are underground, like those for basements or parking structures, traditionally are protected with a plastic membrane so water from the surrounding soil doesn’t cause damage. The use of Hycrete’s admixture removes the need for petroleum-based membranes, speeds up the construction process and makes concrete buildings last longer while cutting fossil fuel use.

Newark, Calif.-based CalStar Products says it has developed an eco-alternative for architectural facing bricks, non-structural bricks that account for the vast majority of the U.S. market. They are made with fly ash, a byproduct of coal-burning power plants, and generate about 90 percent less carbon dioxide in their production than conventional clay bricks.

Aspen Aerogels may take the prize when it comes to the nexus of sophisticated technology and the building industry. The Northborough, Mass.-based nanotech startup has developed a way to mass produce aerogels, gels with high air content that are one of the most effective insulating materials in the world.

Just seeing the green

Just seeing the green community in action makes me confident of the future! Think of how far green building products have come and how far they will go in the future!   http://sabinesgreenproducts.com

Going Green

 I agree that this is a great article.  I hope more and more people start thinking about going green.  It is really easy.  It is also very cost efficient to go green.  And anybody that uses green    <a href="http://products.construction.com/">building supplies</a> should be proud of themselves. And if you don't know where to get them, check out the company I work for, McGraw-Hill.

The green movement is a great

The green movement is a great thing.  Anthing that helps the environment is worth looking into.   That's why I would like to share with you the company I work for.  McGraw-Hill has a lot of  eco-friendly resources to check out when you need your

<a href="http://products.construction.com/">building supplies</a>

I really hope that all the

I really hope that all the efforts in finding green more effective materials will bring the improvements we all want in construction industry. Looking back to our experiences with asbestos and drywall I can't help being skeptical about some of the recycled or innovated construction materials. I want to believe we've learned from the past mistakes.

Time after time we see the

Time after time we see the same situation over here in Europe (UK), clearly people do care about the enviroment and hence are now looking to green or eco-friendly building materials.

Just a thank you

This is a great article. Thanks for sharing.

Going Green

I think it is fantastic how we are using renewable energy and going green in so many ways. I think we also need to do things like reducing our energy usage, like installing geothermal heat pumps to replace high energy heating and cooling systems.

$571 billion is a lot of money for businesses to keep quiet

"The global market for these products is now forecast to grow 25 percent over the next five years to $571 billion in sales, according to NextGen Research."

That's a heck of a lot. I am hoping that businesses will start thinking green more seriously than the greenwashing that they are currently doing once they read numbers like these.

Charity and good intentions unfortunately do not motivate businesses as much as they should. So let's hope green commerce does.

In addition, if the businesses such as the concrete makers could by making green concrete benefit from the cap-and-trade program for CO2 emissions, then that will be an additional advantage

NS @ Alternative Energy Profits

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