Why do 21st century buildings use 19th century technology?
Photo: Boston College Archive
Many of our most prevalent building technologies are outdated legacies from a bygone era -- concrete 1768, air conditioning 1908, the light bulb 1879, drywall 1917, thermal windows 1975. Back in the early 20th century when energy was cheap and abundant, these inefficient building systems weren't such a big deal. But now, in an age when our climate is threatened and our energy supply is falling short of global demand, we need some serious game changers.
Kevin Surace, CEO of Serious Materials, is just such a game changer. His company produces two ground-breaking green building products at pricepoints which match the current market -- low-carbon drywall and super-insulating windows. After recently closing $50 million in venture capital, both products are now shipping. And they promise to make a serious dent in the total energy consumed by buildings.
Drywall – the hidden energy hog
It is estimated that the production of building materials accounts for 12% of our total energy consumption. Drywall. It makes up the wall surfaces in just about every commercial and residential building in America, but few realize that it's a major energy culprit. Typical drywall production burns huge amounts of natural gas in the drying process and requires an enormous mining operation to supply virgin gypsum. Serious Materials patented an amazing alternative called EcoRock which requires no heat and so uses 80% less energy. It is also made of 80% recycled materials, is 6x more mold-resistant than regular drywall and is 100% recyclable at the end of its life. Here's a clip I shot of Kevin explaining his drywall.
Thermal Windows -- time to upgrade
The Dept. of Energy estimates that heating and cooling account for a full 31% of total residential energy. Windows are the biggest cause of energy loss in buildings, costing US homeowners $35 billion per year in wasted energy. To solve this problem, Serious Materials came up with the Thermaproof window which delivers an R-11 insulation value compared to an R-2 for a typical double-paned window. In the video below Kevin explains who in certain homes, this can add up to massive savings -- up to $100,000 over the life of the windows!
Creating Green Jobs
Everyone is preaching the gospel of the green economy. President-elect Obama, Van Jones, Hunter Lovins are all saying that the US can lead the world in developing new green technologies, creating millions of great jobs in the process. Kevin Surace gives an example here about creating new jobs in upstate New York:
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