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Finding Better Ways to Build Our Homes

I recently completed a small ADU (Accessory Dwelling Unit) on the back of a home in Pacific Grove. The home was just 638 square feet so it was an eye opener to see how much time and materials went into building such a small structure. It took resources to manufacture and ship every material to the site and when you review your invoices....lumber, screws, piping, insulation etc... it's concerning to think about how construction and waste effect the earth. Obviously we aren't going to stop building but the good news is that some companies are working on ways to reduce costs and limit the impact on the environment. Here are some new products in the building world:

1. Carbon Fiber Concrete is a type of concrete that is strengthened with carbon-fiber yarn, so far less concrete is needed for a structure of the same strength.

2. Super-strong Plastics: Invented by MIT chemical engineers, 2DPA-1 is light and moldable like all plastics, while being twice as strong as steel.

3. Hemp Rebar: Made of one of the world's most carbon-sequestering plants, hemp rebar currently in development at the USA's Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, aims to be a low-cost, low-carbon alternative to standard steel rebar that also avoids the problem of corrosion, extending the lifespan of concrete structures.

4. Canadian company Carbicrete has developed a method for sequestering carbon in concrete, claiming its product captures more carbon than it emits.

5. K-Briq construction waste bricks are made of 90% construction waste and is unfired.

6. Alpen's WinSert interior glass panel that can nearly double the thermal performance of a typical single-pane window. The dual-pane option (with low-conductivity gas fills such as argon or krypton) can more than quadruple the R-value of the old window.

7. Gradient's all-in-one heat pump system (as easy to install as a window air conditioner). Unlike most heat pumps with separate indoor and outdoor units, it straddles the windowsill with a saddle that connects the indoor and outdoor parts in one piece of equipment.


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