This new composite framing material by Composite Building Structures is said to be stronger and more sustainable than any framing material now being used. Made from fiberglass resin, this new material is also incredibly lightweight: a typical 2,000 sq. ft. home requires about one ton of composite material vs. approximately 17 tons of wood...
We think it's pretty impressive. It's designed to replace the structural framing materials in construction —wood, concrete block or steel— while reducing weight and waste and providing strength and longevity. While it's currently being used mainly for homes in hurricane prone areas such as Florida (the manufacturer claims that composite-built homes can withstand wind speeds of up to 350 miles per hour), we would love to see it used in prefabs or smaller homes.
And cost? The company says that structures can be produced at prices comparable to wood frame homes and with less pricing volatility.
- Every part is identical in size, strength, and performance.
- Up to 21 points toward LEED green building certification.
- Superior insulation qualities.
- Reuse of waste in construction.
- Product's recyclability.
- Termite, pest and fire resistant.
- Will not sustain mold growth or interfere with electronic signals.
- Panels can be manufactured and assembled in sizes up to 50 feet long.
- Panels for a single home can be transported to a site on just one truck.
But is fiberglass green?
The concern over fiberglass in the past has been mainly from an inhalation standpoint for insulation: think those pink fiberglass batts with all of the airborne particles. Since this fiberglass is not airborne (panels seem to be assembled in the factory and thus cutting wouldn't happen very often), it seems that inhalation by the consumer wouldn't be an issue. See also "Tree Huggers's Fiberglass: Is Pink Really Green?"
But what about from a manufacturing perspective?
Fiberglass is essentially sand and (often) recycled glass which are melted at very high temperatures creating a fairly high amount of embodied energy. However, according to CBS, their composite material actually has significantly less embodied energy than wood, steel or concrete due to, in my estimation, the weight-to-strength ratio, thus making it "the most energy efficient building system available anywhere in the world."