More than 50% of the world’s energy-based carbon dioxide comes from building manufacture and operation, according to Kevin Surace, chair and CEO of Serious Materials, in an interview with MRS Bulletin. Realization of this high carbon dioxide footprint has inspired him and his company to find alternatives. In particular, Serious Materials produces EcoRock, a platform to make drywall out of recycled content instead of gypsum, which substantially reduces energy use by replacing the energy-intensive calcining and drying steps with a self-curing process. Paul Drzaic, Chair of the MRS Bulletin Editorial Board, and science writer Corinna Wu sat down with Surace at his headquarters in Sunnyvale, California to learn more about the commercialization of green building technologies. The interview is published in the December 2010 Energy Quarterly section in MRS Bulletin.
In addition to drywall, Serious Materials is involved in windows. They recently finished retrofitting more than 6000 windows on the Empire State Building, reusing the glass and improving the insulating capability fourfold. The secret, Surace says, is return on investment (ROI). Tony Malkin, who owns the property for the Empire State Building, didn’t retrofit the building until he could get a three-year payback, which he did, Surace said. How does the cost get reduced? “It’s materials science that drives the ROI down,” he said. Cheaper and less-energy intensive manufacturing of materials can make a big difference. But he also points out that a great material isn’t enough. Aerogels, for instance, are highly thermally insulating, but, said Surace, “I will be dead, and four more owners of the building will be dead before you get your money back; it’s not going to work.”
Elizabeth L. Fleischer
Editor, MRS Bulletin
Materials Research Society (MRS)