Tag Archives: Cleantech

MAY THE FOREST BE WITH YOU

Neil Kane TUsing Whole Trees in Building Construction

Neil Kane

If there was ever a way to combine high tech and high touch as John Naisbitt stated in High Tech, High Touch, his 1999 follow-up to his 1982 bestseller Megatrends, “embracing technology that preserves our humanness”, WholeTrees Architecture & Structures of Madison, Wisconsin epitomizes it. WholeTrees is an innovative company that has hit it out of the park in terms of innovating on technology while providing a substantial impact return, all while having one of the most gorgeous and aesthetically pleasing product lines you’ll ever see.

WholeTrees uses trees as turn-key structural systems in commercial and residential building construction. Until you see the photos, however, the description doesn’t do justice to the warmth of their offering.

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Myrick Hixon EcoPark, LaCrosse, Wisconsin

The co-founding team of Roald Gundersen AIA, an architect, and Amelia Baxter, in partnership with the Forest Products Laboratory of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service, have developed a process that allows them to cost-effectively grade, engineer and manufacture the small trees removed from routine forest thinning (called small diameter round-timber), and use the timber as patented trusses, beams and joists in building construction. In doing so they turn forest waste into a sustainable and high value building material.

Round timber is an abundant and renewable resource. The timber is sustainably harvested then dried and treated to protect against shrinkage and pests. Pound for pound as strong as steel in tension, unmilled timber requires less than two percent of the energy of concrete and steel materials for processing and transportation.

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YMCA lobby, Dallas, Texas, 2015

“We are positioned to occupy a large niche in the approximately $13 billion U.S. sustainable structural systems market,” says Amelia Baxter, president. WholeTrees is a woman-owned business with pending Woman-Owned Business Enterprise (WBE) certification.

Last week they announced a $1.8 million debt and equity financing from investors who characterize themselves as “impact investors”. Impact investors seek environmental and social returns in addition to financial returns. WholeTrees also receives on-going grant support through the USDA’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.

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Neil Kane Portrait

Neil Kane writes about leadership and turning innovations into businesses.

This article first appeared in Forbes.com

and News from Heartland

Copyright © 2016 Neil Kane

Photographs: WholeTrees Architecture & Structures & Neil Kane

 

Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.

.Copyright © 2016 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

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Filed under big money, Cleantech, Economics, Education, Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, Entrepreneurship and Politics, Impact Investing, Innovation, Innovation and Culture, Invention, investor, new companies, Social Entrepreneur

CLEANTECH TRUTHS DEBUNKED

Pigs TGenerally Accepted Truths of Cleantech Investing – Debunked

Laurance K. Hayward – The Venture Lab

It is generally accepted in Cleantech investing that:

(1) the companies are capital intensive,

(2) there is a sustainability premium associated with buying the companies’ products and

(3) the adoption of the companies’ technologies requires a change of behavior.

All three can slow adoption and negatively impact scalability and internal rate of return. Certainly this can be true for many Cleantech companies, but it isn’t true for many others.

There has been an evolution and broadening in the definition of Cleantech, call it 2.0. Cleantech 1.0 involved funding solar, wind, battery and biofuel technologies. Many drew parallels to biotech investing in which large sums of capital and extended timeframes preceded product viability. Then add in the need to build factories and infrastructure. The faint of heart don’t change the world.

Often these 1.0 technologies required the end user to pay more for their use, many required subsidies, or incentives to be competitive. For example, there is a generally accepted “sustainability premium” associated with receiving power by solar relative to coal or natural gas. The technologies also required a change in behavior, such as installing new infrastructure on the roof of your building. Ironically, many of today’s demand response applications require the consumer to monitor or use energy in response to new information (i.e. creating more work).

So, these three so-called truths have validity, but now let’s debunk them with some real life examples in the world of Cleantech 2.0.

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Self-Healing Polymers

Every year billions of dollars in corroded metal hit the scrap heap. Some gets recycled. Besides filling our landfills with pollutants, these metals and their coatings require enormous inputs of energy to create and recycle. (Been to a steel mill lately?)

Various coatings are added to metals to help them last longer; there have been remarkable improvements. The old rust-bucket automobile is a rare sight today. But, coatings get damaged after which corrosion ensues. What if the coating could last several times longer? It would reduce the need for chemicals used in cleaning and recoating metals and keep more items out of the scrap heap.

Today, self-healing polymers can be added to a coating in small quantities to prolong the life of the coating and underlying material. Manufacturing can be outsourced to established suppliers and the paint can be applied like any other without a major behavioral change. The sustainability premium is small relative to the performance gain.

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On-Demand Technology

When a 500-bedroom hotel wants to heat water, how do they do it? They typically keep large tanks of water hot with a boiler system. These systems are large, expensive and redundant. They keep large quantities of water hot even during times when little is being used.

Enter on-demand technology, which only heats water when it is being used and has no storage tanks. On-demand technology is now available for use in commercial and industrial environments. Interestingly enough, the system can be less capital intensive than the system it replaces. It can cost the hotel the same or less to buy and install, avoiding the sustainability premium. And, it doesn’t require a significant change in behavior as it uses the same natural gas and connects in a similar fashion. It actually can be a little easier to install due to a smaller form factor and cooler exhaust.

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Chemical Advances

Beta Glucan is used to promote animal (and human) health and as an alternative to the potential overuse of antibiotics in our food sources. The conventional method of production involves extracting beta glucan from yeast. It is costly, messy and involves harsh chemicals.

There is now a proprietary method to produce Beta Glucan from algae in sterile fermentation tanks (not too dissimilar to the ones used to brew beer). It is a cleaner and more energy efficient method of producing Beta Glucan and results in a product with greater purity and lower cost.

The sustainability comes with a discount rather than a premium. The end product is used essentially the same requiring no change for the end user. And the production tanks are inexpensive – just as it is relatively inexpensive to start a craft brewery today.

These are just three examples of technologies that contradict commonly accepted truths; there are many more.

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Cleantech 2.0

Cleantech 2.0 isn’t better—it’s just different. Many disruptive and important technologies come with aforementioned truths and our world needs the investors who support them. A Tesla automobile doesn’t exist without major capital investments and a willingness of consumers to change the way they source fuel for their cars. (The sustainability premium is dropping).

The objective of this article is to cast light on generally accepted truths that have scared away many an investor or acted like blinders covering the eyes of others. The unaccepted truth is that there are numerous options to positively change the world without having to settle for a less attractive investment profile. As Cleantech investors ourselves, we don’t necessarily want too many investors back in the game, but a few additional kindred spirits wouldn’t hurt.

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Larry Hayward 2

Larry Hayward is a Chicago entrepreneur.

This article was adapted from TheVentureLab blog

Copyright © 2015 TheVentureLab

Photos – Larry Hayward

VentureLab logo

theventurelab.blogspot.com

This article appeared in News From Heartland

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Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.

.Copyright © 2016 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

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Filed under angel, angel capital, angel investor, big money, Chicago Ventures, Economics, Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, Entrepreneurship and Politics, Impact Investing, Innovation, Innovation and Culture, Invention, investor, new companies, vc, venture capital