Growing Green: One MBI Member is a Catalyst for Environmentally Friendly Modular Construction
Veristeel is one business that was inspired by the "green building" movement from inception. Scott Cathcart, CEO and founder of the company, recently shared with MBI some of the thinking behind its line of sustainable structural component products that were designed specifically for the modular industry. "Modular has many inherent 'green' advantages over site-built construction, such as reduced emissions from jobsite travel, less raw material waste during construction, and less harmful environmental impact on site," says Cathcart. "But the principles of 'sustainable design' also extend far beyond the initial construction and placement of buildings--they encompass the overall lifecycle of the building. We believe that the modular industry--through the inherent advantages of modular construction combined with the integration of innovative, lifecycle-minded products and thoughtful manufacturing process changes--has the opportunity to leapfrog site-built construction from a sustainability perspective. This, in turn, should lead to increased market share for our industry, and we believe that our products will make an increasingly meaningful contribution."
AIA's Committee on the Environment (COTE) defines "sustainable design" as it relates to raw materials, the building envelope, and building construction as follows: "Using a life cycle lens, selection of materials and products can conserve resources, reduce the impacts of harvest/manufacture/transport, improve building performance, and secure human health and comfort. High-performance building envelopes improve comfort and reduce energy use and pollution."
In response, Veristeel introduced a patented line of light gauge steel composite structural panels branded VeriClad (TM). Designed to replace traditional wood and concrete structural sub-floors and roof truss systems, the company's foam core structural panels contribute to the fundamental principles of sustainable design through:
:: Energy Conservation. By delivering an overall R-21.5 insulation value, the panels provide significant thermal efficiency.
:: Increased Building Lifespan. The panels are not subject to warping, rot, termites, or water damage so they help increase the projected lifespan of buildings.
:: Eco-Friendly Construction. Eliminating wood reduces further deforestation, and it prevents construction waste from future repair work required from damaged wood floors.
:: Improved Air Quality. The panels help provide a safer, healthier, and "greener" building because they are not susceptible to mold.
:: Reduced Emissions. The panels provide the structural rigidity of concrete at 80-90% less weight. This dramatic overall building weight reduction reduces transportation- and installation-related costs and harmful emissions.
:: Less Raw Materials Waste. The panels are produced on a just-in-time basis to precise customer specifications, which further reduces raw material waste at the factory "job site."
:: Increased Efficiency. By replacing three installation steps (framing, insulation and vapor barrier) with one step, the panels ultimately save manufacturers time and energy, as well as increasing overall production throughput for greater efficiency.
But while Veristeel determined that it was imperative to offer environmentally-friendly products when the company set out in 2004 to begin bringing its products to market, Cathcart also realized that to succeed the panels must have fundamental "real world" advantages over existing materials and methods. "Being 'green' is great--and something we should all strive toward. But we also believe it is important to recognize that for the green movement itself to be sustainable, each product considered 'green' must also be at least on or very close to par with existing methods from a cost and performance standpoint. And this leads us to what we call the 'magic green bullet:' a product that is better for the environment, better for customers and end users, and which is priced at parity or better than the existing solution it displaces."
Along these lines, Cathcart points to another market trend that influenced Veristeel's product development. "Currently there appears to be more comprehensive interest in improving module quality than at any time in the preceding twenty years. This increasing focus on quality is a further boost for modular," he says.
With states such as California leading the way with groundbreaking legislation aimed at reducing energy consumption and emissions, Veristeel believes that the green building movement will only continue to gather momentum. And looking ahead, Cathcart is not at all surprised by the projected 15% annual growth rates for the commercial modular construction industry. Veristeel is beginning to see that trend unfolding first-hand as they produce custom orders for manufacturers on a just-in-time basis on their highly-automated, computer-controlled manufacturing line in Nevada. "Simply put, we set out to give our customers a superior product with long-term value that is also environmentally-friendly," Cathcart says. This is truly a business built with sustainability in mind.
To learn more about commercial modular construction and its applications, visit Modular Building Institute: The Voice Of Commercial Modular ConstructionTM.