Can Nexii construction solutions save the planet?

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What is Nexii? As described in its press release: “Nexii designs and manufactures innovative high performance buildings and green building products that are sustainable, cost effective and resilient in the face of climate change. Its building solutions have a smaller carbon footprint with 20 -33% less carbon incorporated, use 33% less energy and 55% less heating energy. ”

The company is in vogue and is “the fastest Canadian company to achieve unicorn status,” which means it is valued at over $ 1 billion.

“At Nexii, we’re incredibly proud of how far we’ve come since launching as a small startup in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan in 2019,” said Stephen Sidwell, CEO of Nexii. “Today, we have expanded our business to eight manufacturing plants in operation or in development across North America. We have global leaders on our board of directors, incredible investors, technology partners and a team of over 300 people, all committed to our mission to change the construction industry, by delivering construction solutions. sustainable performance in every industry and in every region of the world. ”

His lavish website begins with the question “Why are we on this planet if not to make it better?” He puts a lot of emphasis on the importance of solving the challenges of construction, also noting that “these emissions come not only from heating and cooling, but also from the carbon cost of the materials used in construction”, what we call the incorporated or initial carbon.

His first project is described in the video above as the first sustainably built Starbucks coffee shop, which is a bit of a stretch. Starbucks has been trying different sustainable designs for over a decade, and I’ve always complained that you can’t call Starbucks a sustainable self-contained suburb, but that’s a different story. Other completed projects include a Popeyes and a Courtyard by Marriott, projects that hardly change the world, but you have to start somewhere.

The website tells a glorious story of sustainability and environmental commitment. Its makeup is a wonder the company calls it “our polar star — guiding our people, our communities and our world.” It shapes our beliefs and actions to make sure we are always doing the right thing. ”

Nexii


What the website doesn’t tell you is what the product actually is – the closest is in that little strip where we learn it’s a form of panel made with Nexiite, a material revolutionary low carbon. Another page shows a sign and a description: “Nexii products are precision manufactured offsite and quickly assembled onsite, reducing build times and construction costs. Our buildings are made with Nexiite and are incredibly durable, adaptable to most designs and costs. -effective. They require a fraction of the materials and much less construction time compared to current construction methods. ”

In the company’s history, he describes how inventor brothers Michael and Ben Dombowsky “invested years of research and development into the creation of the Nexii system. Ben’s invention of Nexiite, a high-performance material that allows Nexii panels being strong and light, low carbon, fire and water resistant, was a key innovation in bringing the system to life. ”

So I went to do a patent search and found some of the Dombosky brothers.

Michael Dombowsky and Ben Dombowsky / Google Patents / Canadian Patent CA 3033991A1


Canadian patent CA3033991A1 describes a “prefabricated insulated building panel with opposing layers of hardened cement bonded to the insulation”. It is a structural insulation board (SIP) – a sandwich of cement and rigid insulation, with thickened edges for added strength. Nexii Secret Sauce is described herein as “a material comprising a plurality of constituent materials including cement which, when cured, forms a hard and durable material. Examples of cement-based composite materials include concrete and a coating based. of cementitious resin “. Basically a foam and cement sandwich, the improvement apparently being that it is a very thin layer of cementitious coating with no thermal bridge binding the layers of cement together.

Another Canadian patent, CA2994868 appears to have the same information and the same drawings.

Michael Dombowsky and Ben Dombowsky / Google Patents / Worldwide patent WO2021189156A1


Another patent, WO2021189156A1, shows how to turn panels into Starbucks. The abstract describes the panels as “comprising a first layer of cement, a second layer of cement and an insulating core, the insulating core being disposed between the first and second layers of cement. ”

At this point, I was really wondering what all the hype was about, why it’s worth a billion dollars, and why people like actor Michael Keaton are on board. I’m clearly missing something; it looks and smells like a sip of foam and cement and it doesn’t change the world.


Gregor Robertson with Monte Paulsen.

Lloyd alter


But Gregor Robertson, executive vice president of strategy and partnerships at Nexii, served as mayor of Vancouver for 10 years and was great at promoting green issues, cycling, building code changes, whatever. appreciated from treehugger types. I met him during a visit to the lane houses, another initiative on his part to increase the supply of housing. He was and still is charming, intelligent and impressive. So on Zoom, I asked him what the big deal was with Nexii.

He told Treehugger that the proprietary cementitious material contained 36% less carbon than Portland cement and was only 5/8 inches thick, they used much less. Expanded polystyrene foam was made with the best blowing agents. Buildings are 40% more airtight than conventional systems and the system is “simple, realistic and affordable”.

Perhaps I am naive and unrealistic in my expectations in these times of climate crisis. Maybe watching this video start with such a strong climate argument and end up in a suburban Starbucks distracts my attention from the real value of this product and this system. But being 33% better than a concrete tilting panel is no longer enough, nor is a 33% energy saving. And it’s still just a foam and cement sandwich. It’s better, but we need more.

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