Green construction continues to be a growing trend in the United States. The United Soybean Board (USB) and soybean checkoff promote the inclusion of soy in construction materials, creating a solid foundation of soy-based products for use in this exciting segment of the industry.
Soy-based construction products have many environmental and economic advantages compared with similarly performing petrochemical products. Many soy-based construction products meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and/or Energy Star green building rating standards.
“Soy is a great part of many products in the construction industry, and with more companies and government agencies going green, use of soy-based products should continue to climb,” says Bob Kirchner, USB director and a soybean farmer from Brewster, Minn. “A number of programs promote green buildings, and using soy in construction applications is a great way to achieve certification in such programs.”
Soy-based construction products being developed typically fall into one of four categories: adhesives, coatings, lubricants and plastics.
For more than 70 years, common wood products such as plywood have used soy-based adhesives. The checkoff funds research studies to develop other soy-based adhesive alternatives across various lumber products. In addition, using soy flour offers a safer alternative to using formaldehyde in plywood adhesives.
Soy-based coatings have also shown their versatility in new applications, including ultraviolet and electron beam curing, roof coatings and faux finishing in building artwork. Soy concrete stains are acid-free and non-toxic stains that work for all interior and exterior porous surfaces such as concrete, masonry, brick, stucco, fiber cement and natural stone surfaces.
Growing regulatory impacts on lubricants could potentially increase the use of soy-based lubricants within the next five to 10 years, according to checkoff projections. Soy-based lubricants have the opportunity to expand in several applications, such as chain saws and other power equipment and offer advantages over petroleum-based lubricants because they offer a higher viscosity index, lower evaporation loss and indications of higher lubricity.
Checkoff leaders project the construction industry has the potential to utilize 150 million pounds of soy polyols by the year 2013. Checkoff funding has led to many soy-based applications for the construction industry, including insulation, molded millwork, doors and panels, and soy-backed carpeting.
“The construction industry has become a focus area for the checkoff to develop new uses for soy,” says Kirchner. “The soybean checkoff continues to fund projects to provide the construction industry with soy-based products they are demanding.”
USB is made up of 68 farmer-directors who oversee the investments of the soybean checkoff on behalf of all U.S. soybean farmers. Checkoff funds are invested in the areas of animal utilization, human utilization, industrial utilization, industry relations, market access and supply. As stipulated in the Soybean Promotion, Research and Consumer Information Act, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service has oversight responsibilities for USB and the soybean checkoff.