Between the years 1946 and 1996, the average American home doubled in size from 1,100 to 2,200 square feet. At the same time, the household itself halved from 5 people to 2.6 1. With fewer people demanding double the space, architects and researchers came to realize that this aggressive expansion would not be environmentally sustainable, as it would inevitably require more materials, energy, and natural resources to keep pace with demand. In order to counter the ecological challenges, builders and designers began turning toward green solutions. And these same professionals are still leveraging eco-friendly materials for use in their construction projects today.

Further fueling the green building movement are high-performance plastic composites. Composites are a durable, corrosion-resistant, strong, lightweight, and low maintenance hybrid material that features the strengths of the substances used in its formation. Comprised of a reinforcement fiber and a polymer binder or matrix, the stiffness or strength of the composite is determined by the size, shape, proportional weight/volume, and material of the reinforcing fibers. The type and proportion of the plastic resin matrix influences characteristics such as resistance to impact. Epoxies, silicones, and other additives can also be included to further enhance the final product with attributes such as UV or fire resistance.

What makes composite plastics so attractive to green builders are their versatility. There are a wide range of plastic resin systems and fiber reinforcements that can be selected to form a desired plastic. Resins are usually thermoset plastics that hold the reinforcing fibers together, and include polyester, acrylic, vinyl ester, phenolic, and urethane. The fibers of the plastic resin matrix are arranged in an overlapping fashion to help transfer the load.2

Over the last decade, the housing market has seen a boom in demand for agricultural and wood fibers. While polyethylene, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), and polypropylene remain popular in forming natural-fiber composites, phenolics, polystyrene, polyurethane, polyester, and other polymer matrixes are also commonly selected. Natural fibers usually feature low specific weight, and relatively high specific strength, for enhanced bending stiffness.

Building materials have evolved over the century, with composite plastics currently leading the way. These advanced products consume less energy and perform more efficiently, helping to foster greater sustainability. With countless commercial and residential building applications, designers and builders are increasingly relying on composites to “green” both new construction projects and renovation projects alike.

Magnum Venus Products (MVP) is a leader in the manufacturing of composites, pumping, and spraying equipment for making molds, adhesives, and epoxies.

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