Ecor – The Future of Green Building Materials

ecor

Rachel Riddle – Week 15

Using waste to manufacture new materials to reuse is great; however, if these new materials can’t be recycled, or more specifically up-cycled, after they are used won’t there still be a waste problem? This is why enabling a circular economy is so crucial in order to ensure a more sustainable future. This can be achieved by designing sustainable buildings and products that are cradle-to-cradle compliant.

Noble Environment’s new building material, Ecor, developed in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is 100% bio-based, 100% comprised of recycled waste materials, and 100% recyclable, and it has the potential to recreate everlasting raw materials and eliminate waste. Ecor is an advanced environmental composite panel that is formed from the conversion of cellulose fiber, pressure, and heat, and this fiber-based waste can consist of office paper, cardboard, recycled fabrics, wood dust and trimmings, and many other waste products. The company says Ecor can be used as a sustainable alternative to wood, composites, aluminum, and plastics. This material can also be engineered into a variety of shapes for different applications making its possibilities very diverse, exciting, and endless.

Some concerns I initially had after reading about this material was related to Ecor’s strength and cost; however, after further research another source stated that Ecor is 30% denser than medium density fiberboard, which means it is more durable and will last longer, and the panels are low in cost, because of the low raw material costs (even negative cost) due to the fact that the raw materials are waste. Google, Whole Foods and Toms Shoes are among the companies already using Ecor — Whole Food has used Ecor for signage, Google used Ecor for wavy interior panels and Toms’ for shoe hangers, and I think it would be interesting to see Starbucks partner with this company as well. Starbucks could recycle their coffee grounds and cups and convert it into signage, more cups, and furniture for example. It would be amazing if the furniture you were using in Starbucks was made from recycled coffee grounds. Ecor has the ability to generate sizable economic and socially accretive returns.

Sources –

http://ecorglobal.com/

http://www.proudgreenbuilding.com/news/could-new-product-be-future-of-green-building-materials/

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One comment

  1. ktowberman

    Kyle Towberman Week 15

    I think that turning waste into a material that has construction applications is a great step that must be taken if we are ever going to truly “go green”. That being said, I think that Ecor, is not the material that we need. First, while it may be useful for signage and cups, I believe that it has limited applications, if any, for any sort of structural element in construction. As it states in the article, Ecor is 30% stronger than particle board. While this may seem like a great thing, particleboard is not actually very strong and is not typically considered a structural material. A 30% increase, while impressive, still puts it under the structural strength of concrete or engineered wood.
    Also, I noticed that there was no mention of how the materials are held together. I assume that, since the materials are not homogenous, they have to be glued together some how. While this may not seem like a problem, when you talk about sustainable materials, it becomes very important. Most of the time, the pieces that make up the material are extremely eco friendly, but the glues some times use more energy to produce than the other materials save, making it worse for the environment than materials such as wood.
    Speaking of which, I believe the traditional material that Ecor is in competition with is wood, and wood based products such as paper and cardboard. While waste will always be something that is produced, not all waste that is produced is viable for use in Ecor. Thinking beyond the now, and looking into the future, if were to replace composites completely by Ecor, the demand for waste may be higher than the amount being produced. This is where other sustainable materials shine above Ecor. Take bamboo for example. Bamboo can be grown in extremely tight arrangement, it has great insulation properties as well as an outstanding strength to weight ratio. On top of this, bamboo requires no human input of energy to grow, and there are also species of bamboo that can grow 6 inches in just a single day.
    Repurposing waste into useable forms is a step in material technology that we will have to take, and Ecor is a good starting point. However, given the alternatives, I do not think it is the final step, yet. I believe that there are a few kinks that need to be taken into account for Ecor to be a truly ground breaking material.

    Sources –
    http://ecorglobal.com/
    http://www.proudgreenbuilding.com/news/could-new-product-be-future-of-green-building-materials/
    http://www.sustainablematerials.org.uk/resource/bamboo.html

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