A Whole NewMeaning to “Painting the Town Red”
When you think of wood, fire engine red might not be the first color that comes to mind. This, however, might soon change. The California-based company Eco Building Products, (ECOB), makes a wood protection treatment that transforms wood to a color as bold as their ambition: to change worldwide how we build and what we build with. An impressive goal indeed – but what’s even more impressive is that they might just succeed. Eco has a winning alchemy in both their product and in their business plan. They turn wood red – but they also turn what’s rotten into gold.
Eco’s primary product, Eco Red Shield, is a proprietary, patent-pending wood coating that, unique among its competitors, protects against mold, wood rot, wood-ingesting insects, and fire. It is nontoxic and environmentally friendly. And beyond just developing this remarkable chemistry, Eco has also figured out how to make it affordable in the U.S. market, attractive to both builders and home owners, and leveraged for strategic entrance into a wide range of international markets. Also, they have already accomplished huge feats of financial and logistic positioning for a massive increase in distribution. Both Eco’s products and their growth plan are savvy responses, combining decades of experience in the building industry with bold vision, to the perfect storm of disastrous conditions that brewed in the U.S. building industry for decades but were brought to a critical point by the housing collapse of 2007 to 2009 – an event that engendered the particular blend of economic and cultural circumstances that Eco Building Supplies is uniquely poised to capitalize on.
To understand the value of what Eco is bringing to the market requires a little background in the U.S. building industry. The tradition of wood-framed houses in North America is rooted in the historic availability and quality of timber from the old-growth forests that used to spread across almost the entire northern swath of the country. Lumber from these trees, especially from the legendary Douglas Fir of the Pacific Northwest, was of a size and strength that made for ideal building material.
Over time, however, these forests were depleted and to protect what remains building material is now harvested from forests that are planted and managed specifically for lumber. Modern forest management techniques maximize sunlight and nutrients per tree and yield straight, disease-free trees in one third the time of natural forests.
The wood of faster-grown trees has a different composition than that of trees that grew more slowly, and trees from second-growth forests tend to be cut when they are still relatively young. The lumber from these less mature, fastergrowing trees has different structural properties than that of old growth. In younger trees there’s a higher percentage of sapwood, which is saturated with water. This gives timber from these younger trees greater moisture content and a pulpier composition.
The different quality of second-growth lumber is one of the factors that has impelled changes and innovations in the building industry in the past half century. For example, since juvenile lumber does not produce the same quality veneers as older lumber, the industry developed OSB sheathing, which is made from wood chips glued together. In many instances this has replaced where plywood panels, which used to be standard. Also flooring and roofing techniques have evolved from a dependence on large, long, solid wood beams to engineered products that combine smaller wood with other materials for products that not only do the job more efficiently, but more effectively as well.
The past several decades has also seen building code evolve, with the incorporation of more stipulations pertaining to seismic activity and insulation. As a result modern homes not only use less wood but are stronger and more flexible than ever before, and are sealed with building wraps that significantly reduce energy consumption for heating and cooling. These changes are practical engineering advancements in response to modern-day environmental realities and our improved understanding of how to build for seismic activity.
However, these very advancements have introduced and exacerbated some very serious problems. One of them: black mold. Black mold is more a problem now than ever before. Black mold leads to wood rot and makes wood more palatable to termites – both of which dangerously compromise wood strength. According to an Eco spokesman, 5 percent wood rot equates to 80 percent degradation in engineering quality of wood. In other words, even if a structure is built in accordance with the best techniques to accommodate seismic movement, if the wood is contaminated with mold – which is often invisible in the interior of lumber – the structure is 75 percent more likely to collapse during an earth tremor [check numbers].
Recent scientific evidence has revealed another serious problem with black mold. Many of the most common varieties that grow on lumber produce mycotoxins that contribute to serious health problems, including mental impairment, respiratory ailments, and damage to internal organs. These problems with mold are not prevented by house wrap seals. In fact, seals elevate the problem, because the seals trap in moisture that contributes to mold’s growth. Frighteningly, the problems with mold exceed, so far, the response in building code and code enforcement. [For example: When lumber is graded – if graded only when fresh cut doesn’t take into account the moisture introduced by storing methods that keep wood wet to prevent cracking.]
The other major problem introduced by modern building techniques has to do with fire. Frames built of smaller pieces of wood burn faster, and the glue used in composite boards is both highly flammable and burns at a very high temperature, which contributes to the fast spread of fire. Houses built with modern technology ignite very quickly and once on fire can collapse within minutes. In many cases when these houses catch fire it is too dangerous for fire fighters to even try to save them. According to a report on Canadian News houses are now six times more flammable than they were 30 years ago. The amount of time firefighters can safely be inside a burning house has dropped from about 17 minutes to three minutes or less. That is when flashover – the moment when a room or building is fully engulfed in flames – occurs.
Until now, prevention of mold, rot, wood-ingesting insects, and fire required pressure treatments or coatings that were either prohibitively expensive for the average home owner, compromised the engineering value of wood, or were dangerously toxic.
The problems and dangers associated with poor quality lumber were exacerbated by the housing collapse. The plummet in demand [statistics] produced immediate problems for lumber companies. Demand plummeted and large, established companies ended up with huge stockpiles of material stored in the very conditions that produce mold. Simultaneously, a massive decrease in jobs for builders meant more competition and builders had an even harder time competitively pricing in the products that would alleviate wood degradation At the same time there was growing consumer demand for green, environmentally friendly building supplies. These too came at a higher premium. [From Eco: Most of the green technology introduced significantly raised the cost of construction. In today’s market the home prices are falling and the builders are looking to lower their cost per sq foot.]
The result is serious problems for home owners, and many may not even be aware of it: Compromised wood getting sealed into homes around the U.S. and in other countries that import North American wood. [statistics on N. America being main exporter of lumber].
It was this rotten mess, figuratively and literally, that inspired Steve Conboy, founder and CEO of Eco Building Products. Where others saw disaster, Conboy saw a major business opportunity [of precicely the sort that has always motivated him: helping people and solving big issue].
Conboy launched Eco Building Products based on, backed by, four decades of expertise in the building industry. [Started as builder, framer, moved into more technologies and products (will get details)] A career path distinguished by efforts to answer real needs and to improve the products and techniques and services the building industry provides. As early as 2005 Conboy recognized that the industry needed to develop coatings as a technique to for wood preservation [the pressure treatment too flawed], and when the housing collapse hit he was involved with [x company], producing one of the first environmentally-friendly coatings that did just that.
The housing collapse inspired him to start a new company because he recognized that the product he was developing would have to be affordable for builders if it was to have a chance of making an impact in the market.
Conboy recognized the tight predicament builders were in. Protected lumber was more expensive, and green technologies even more so, but mold was as much their enemy as it was to home owners. Builders are often targeted in engineering-related law suits. Of construction defect claims – 6.5 billion [check if this number refers to number of claims or dollar amount] – mold is highest source [date?].
So, to create a product that would be attractive to both builder and home-owners, Eco boldly invested in developed new pricing structure, vertically integrated – not selling coatings, but selling products, lumber, I-joists and other engineered products, whole housing units, that are coated.
This model has enabled Eco to bring the cost of their products, every single one of which offers the full arsenal of protection against mold, rot, insects and fire, to just a 10 percent increase on what raw lumber would be.
Making the product especially attractive is the incorporation of a fire inhibitor which delays ignition and also reduces smoke, thereby allow both inhabitants of structures to escape and fire fighters to respond. [Eco products endorsed by Fire Fighers].
Steve and staff have been focused on establishing extremely strong company base: extensive product testing, and connecting with distribution affiliates across the United States – Texas, Florida, Connecticut, California [Our Affiliates will support our Wholesale Positions in six locations around the US and Canada), as well fostering relationships internationally with the view to expand through the Caribbean, Africa, Asia. Also, establishing computer monitored system to ensure that the chemistry of coating products is identical no matter where it is mixed; and investing in marketing and outreach. [spreading word, gaining visibility, putting down roots and presence in all the major areas where housing market poised to be grow.] [Incorporate information about China and places rebuilding after disaster]
Recently, Eco Building Products received a major boost: in February of this year it revealed that it had received a massive injection of capital from Manhattan Resources Limited, a publicly-traded Singapore Corporation. The investment agreement and credit and warrant agreement Eco entered into with Manhattan Recourses amounts to the elimination of all the company’s debt as well as approximately $2,600,000 in cash added to the balance sheet, as well as an additional $5 million in credit.
This massive injection of capital allows Eco to accelerate outreach, education, and implementation plan.
[What Eco wants: paradigm shift – Discuss here scope of ambition]
With such blazing ambition, and blazing potential [improve this] red seems only appropriate color. “Whenever there’s been paradigm shift,” Conboy said. “Someone had to start it. Someone had to be the first.”