According to the National Association of Home Builders, between 1990 and 2001 about 19,000 homes built complied with green building guidelines. In 2002, more than 13,000 green homes were manufactured, representing an increase of more than 70% since 1990.
That demand for “green” has created opportunities for the development of numerous innovative soy-based products. One of the most recent customers is the Statue of Liberty, where the monument's elevator was switched to a new, readily biodegradable hydraulic fluid made from soy oil because of its low cost, chemical versatility and availability as a renewable resource.
Developed by researchers with USDA's Agriculture Research Service (ARS) at the National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research, an Ohio company, Agri-Lube, is now working to increase production of this product and gain licensing from ARS.
But Lady Liberty is just one of many soy success stories in the construction and building industries. In 2003, BioBase 501, a spray-in foam insulation, was named “Outstanding Green Product of the Year” by the National Association of Homebuilders.
Green Products, LLC, has also gained recognition from the U.S. Green Building Council for its efforts to update buildings across the country with ecological, soy-based products, such as its Environmental Liquid Membrane System (ELMS), a waterproof material for building walls, and Natural Bitumen Jacket, an Energy Star approved reflective roof coating.
Most recently, Green Products, LLC, was awarded a $1.3 million grant from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation to enhance the Museum of Broadcast Communications in Chicago with these soy-based insulation and roof coating products.
The new roof coating, which helps reflect sunlight, will reduce the energy needed to cool the museum. The soy-based insulation will also reduce energy costs and provide superior acoustical performance. In addition, the energy saved from the upgrade is expected to reduce pollution as well as the museum's annual operating costs — and earn the museum a gold rating from the U.S. Green Building Council.
Green Products, LLC, called the grant a “victory for everyone connected to the soy-based products industry, including researchers, manufacturers and most importantly soybean farmers, who give tremendous support to the green products movement.”
Most importantly, $100,000 from the grant is being used to educate the public about the “green” products used in the renovation of the museum, which is likely to help grow more demand for such products in the future.
As projects like these earn accolades, many more soy-based building products continue to be developed to help create a healthier work and home environment.
Green Products believes these biobased alternatives are necessary given that Americans average 16 hours each day in man-made structures filled with artificial lighting, conditioned air and potential exposure to toxic substances.
One option being developed for environmentally conscious consumers comes from Universal Textile Technologies, which has developed BioCel, a new soy-based compound for carpet backing that is recyclable. Made with SoyOyl, a soy-based polyol developed in part with funding from the soybean checkoff, BioCel is designed to increase carpet life in high-traffic environments such as schools, churches and hotels. Toray Industries, a Japanese firm, has also developed a durable, 100% biodegradable carpet for residential use.
Another unique innovation at the beginning stages of commercialization is Envirotemp FR-3, a soybean-based transformer fluid that offers the potential to help electric utilities improve the reliability of the nation's electrical distribution system. In addition to a favorable environmental profile, Envirotemp FR-3 fluid extends insulation life five to eight times, lowering lifecycle costs. And the increased insulation it provides also allows the ability to increase power loads during peak usage times without leading to premature insulation failure.
Initially developed by Cooper Power Systems in 1997, the company has recently teamed with Cargill Industrial Oils and Lubricants to expand marketing opportunities to corporate and municipal electrical utilities and rural electric co-ops.
A recent customer is Indiana cooperative Tipmont REMC, which began evaluating pole-mounted Envirotran transformers filled with Envirotemp FR-3 in the summer of 2004 based on the safety, profitability, reliability and environmental responsibility the product offered, as well as the opportunity to use a product produced by Tipmont's soy-growing constituency. Cooper Power Systems reports that demand for Envirotemp FR-3 is growing both in the U.S. and international markets.
Soy-based AgriStain from New Century Coatings (NCC) — and developed through funding from the soybean checkoff — is also making its mark in the building industry as a durable, long-lasting stain for wood and concrete.
NCC President Tom Rauls explains that unlike many coatings that simply glaze the top layer of wood or concrete and wear away over time, AgriStain penetrates the surface to provide effective preservation and colorization.
In wood products, Rauls says, “Once the growth ring is saturated with the soy-based solvent, it continues to spread throughout the wood, regardless of the season.” This results in a wood product that displays a reduction in splintering, contains a softer texture, and shows signs of resistance to mildew and a reduction in discoloration.
Rauls says AgriStain takes the same approach in staining brick walls, cement buildings and concrete floors.
By penetrating the surface of the concrete, AgriStain extends the life of the waterproofing seal through better adhesion and deeper sealing of porous spaces, all of which increase the longevity of the concrete surfaces. Moreover, AgriStain is environmentally safe and lacks the harmful fumes that traditional acid stains emit during the application process.