I had a serious talk with the chief of Serious Materials. And the company promises some serious energy savings with their new products. But in my talk with CEO Kevin Surace I hit a green wall on one topic: how do they make this stuff?
Surace could tell me the company's new wallboard is a green alternative to traditional gypsum board. He could tell me that Serious Material's new wallboard material is exactly comparable in size, features, workability on the construction site to traditional drywall. He could tell me how little energy his company needs compared to a typical gypsum board plant. The current drywall making process used more commonly was invented back in 1917 and requires twice heating the ingredients to a very high temperature. That means energy use and considerable CO2 generation. Serious uses a self-triggering chemical process that does not require external energy sources. And that's where we couldn't go. Patented process not to be described to a blogger. He did tell me the new energy-efficient process will turn out a product named EcoRck.
EcoRock will claim the title as the wallboard with the lowest carbon footpring, says Serious's website.
That's not the end of Serious's green plans. They'll soon be coming out with better insulating windows. The old single pane glass windows have a scant insulation value of R1. Spend big money, take out the old, put in new low-E dual pane and you climb to R3. That's far below building codes in most parts of the U.S. for regular walls or ceilings. Typical aluminum-framed, single pane commercial windows are less than R1, even double pane are only R2 if you continue to use aluminum frames. Aluminum is low maintenance so it's a favorite in huge buildings despite the energy waste.
Serious will have R10-15 panes, done with embedded mylar film and gases in between panes. Surace says orders are already coming in and they may be sold out for a year even before they come out with product later in 2008. Here's a lesson for American business. The process to make these energy-efficient windows was developed at MIT. That's in the U.S. The MIT process was pickede up in Europe thirty years ago and is widely used there. Serious says importation of European-built windows would be too expensive. They'll have to be made here.
And Serious is most serious about having their products American-made. They actually have three highly automated plants in the San Francisco Bay Area already. A fourth plant is planned for the Northeastern U.S. Perhaps near Syracuse. None of this material will be made in China.
Serious itself began several years ago making noise reduction products for construction. They've established archoitectural and dsitribution networks already. The company, based in Silicon Valley at Sunnyvale, just raised $50-million for expansion. The money came from investment funds.
Serious finds the construction industry to be a most promising arena for green products. While vehicles produce 20% of the world's CO2 emissions, builidngs acount for over half. 39% from operations like light, heating and cooling. 12% comes from making the construction materials and the actual builidng process. Serious' glass and EcoRock is aimed at reducing emissions both in manufacture and then in long-term daily operation of the building. A double savings that can seriously add up for building owners.