I’ve seen a lot of ingenious uses of materials curing my research into green building materials. Leftover wheat straw is turned into kitchen cupboards, recycled tires into roofing shingles, bamboo into flooring and towels, but now soy, a crop that’s grown in our own backyard, is being turned into, well, just about everything. From countertops to urinals, soy is not only the food of the future, now it’s the building material of the future too.
Over two million tonnes of soy are grown and processed in Ontario every year. Because soy is grown, processed and used locally it cuts down on travel miles and CO2 production. Further, because soy is a nitrogen fixing annual crop it restores nitrogen to the soil meaning that no fertilizer is necessary. Soy employs farmers, manufacturers, craftsmen and scientists right here in Ontario — it’s the new miracle cure for the economy and the environment! Hmm, I might be getting a wee bit carried away…
My point is that soy is a very flexible crop and while 80% of the soy bean is turned to protein rich pellets for animal and human consumption, the remaining 20% is oil which can be used instead of petroleum products to make countertops, foam for mattresses and cushions and insulation and soap. Don’t believe me? The soy house at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair showcases all these different products.
The soy house in and of itself is a low-impact house as it is. A prefab house built in a factory by Quality Homes means that waste is minimal, weather is not an issue and there are no time delays in construction. Whereas houses built on-site usually produce two or more giant bins of waste, a prefab home can continue to use leftover materials on the next house built in the factory. After the Royal Winter Fair ends, the house will be uprooted and replanted in Acton, Ontario as a Habitat for Humanity Halton home.
A few of the highlights of this home:
Insulation: PolarFoam is manufactured by Polyurethane Foam Systems Inc., and was installed by CallRich Eco Services. The insulation is a mixture of soy and recycled plastic. It is mould and mildew resistant, provides its own vapour barrier and has the highest “R value” on the market (the R value is the measurement of thermal resistance per inch– i.e., how much heat a material can keep in or out of a room). The insulation is also shrinkage resistant so it doesn’t lose its initial R value over time. The product is formaldehyde free and doesn’t off gas harmful chemicals.
Kitchen: All the kitchen cabinets doors were made from soy as well as the kitchen countertop. The soy oil is turned into an eco-resin which is durable and can be mixed with other products to form hard/rigid objects. Cabinet facing and boxes as well as countertops were made by Bamco Custom Woodworking.
Livingroom: The upholstered furniture is made by a local Ontario company, Brentwood Classics. The foam in all the furniture is “Bioplush” foam, made from — you guessed it — soy beans.
Bathroom: Not only is the shower curtain made from soy, but the waterless urinal is made from 30% Envirez, a soy-based resin. (Provided by Watermatrix)
Bedroom: Foamite provided the natural foam mattress made from soybean oil.
Other green features of the home: In addition to the above products being made from soy, all paints were provided by Sherwin Williams from the Harmony line of zero-VOC paints.
The roof shingles were provided by EuroShield, and are made from recycled rubber tires (with a 50 year life span).
You can visit the house at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair on now until November 15th, 2009. If you go don’t forget to check out the giant pumpkins located outside the horse arena!