This past week, I attended an interesting Silicon Valley TIE (The Indus Entrepreneurs) Cleantech event titled: Green Building Materials. The promotional materials cited the following descriptions of the panelists: Founder of the US and World Green Building Council, Head of Research for Abu Dhabi (Masdar) Green City, along with executives from leading start-ups including Serious Materials, LED Engin and Calera.
Additionally, some statistics cited in the promotional materials included a recent estimate from Pike Research valuing untapped energy efficiency projects at $400B as well as study from McKinsey which estimated that $520B in green building materials and efficiency initiatives by 2020 will yield $1.2 trillion in economic benefits. Certainly, some compelling statistics to draw a crowd of Bay Area technology entrepreneurs and a reason to bring my father in law who has been in construction for 25 years to listen to new opportunities to apply his expertise.
Some of the more interesting comments, anecdotes, and developments I heard during the evening were:
- 52% of CO2 source is from building operations and materials. This is the cheapest and greenest energy efficiency that can be focused on— through better building design and materials, you can save a portion of the energy from being used in the first place. Additional money doesn’t have to be spent to save this energy usage if the energy usage never occurred.
- One of the executives from Abu Dhabi’s Green City initiative, Masdar City, was one of the panelists. A key objective of Masdar City are to be the first from scratch green cities- a carbon neutral, zero waste, 100% renewable energy center. The government is investing $14 billion into the development of the city, plus $8 billion has been raised from private investors– $22 billion to be spent over the next 7-8 years as this vision unfolds. This will be a fascinating development to follow over the next decade.
- A Bay Area start-up called Calera is doing some very interesting things. They basically convert CO2 waste into cement. Of course, there is not enough of a market to sell products simply because it is green—it has to have an ROI that people can measure and believe in. That’s what Calera is starting to be able do with their cement.
- One of the observations from the Masdar City research is the discovery that elevators take up to 11% of the energy consumption of the building. They are looking at lighter, different materials for the elevators to reduce that load.
- One anecdote about the global road ahead—in China, there will be potentially up to 3x to 4x the number of buildings being built and retrofitted than the number of homes and stock existing in the US. According to one of the panelists, he believed there were about 200 millions homes in the US.
- And finally, a comment about the identity of Americans vs Europeans which may color how each culture views energy consumption as well as building materials.
A Yank views 100 miles as a short distance. A Brit views 100 years as a short time.
Gives some perspective on the vehicles and gas consumption rates in the US while it may explain how some of the European buildings and homes were built using materials that should last hundreds of years while buildings in US often need to have certain components replaced in 40 years.