There are a small number of chic green consumer products, like the Tesla sports car or Jonano designer organic clothes or the Voltaic solar-powered backpack. There are many more not-so-glamorous green products, most aimed at business customers. Like Hycrete.
Hycrete is a liquid solution thatâ€™s added to concrete, which is the most widely used construction material in the world, so that the concrete will repel water. â€œThe biggest pain in construction is waterproofing,â€ says David Rosenberg, the CEO of Hycrete, a company based in the New Jersey Meadowlands that makes the admixture. â€œThe biggest complaint of homeowners is a damp or moist basement. In commercial construction, thatâ€™s no different.â€
Whatâ€™s environmentally-friendly about waterproofing concrete? It turns out that Hycrete can replace external membranes that currently are used to keep water from seeping into concrete; these external membranes make it hard for concrete to be recycled after buildings or other structures are no longer needed. Because concrete treated with Hycrete can be recycled, less construction debris should end up in landfills and less energy is needed to make more concrete. Whatâ€™s more, using Hycrete can eliminate the need for the subcontractors to apply membranes, saving energy and greenhouse gases. I canâ€™t say I understand the science here but I’m persuaded by the fact that Hycrete has been has been certified as a â€œcradle-to-cradleâ€ product by McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry, the product and design firm created by the green architect Bill McDonough and his partner, chemist Michael Braungart.
Hycrete was invented by a team of chemists led by Michael Rhodes, Rosenbergâ€™s grandfather. Rosenberg, who is 36 and–fun fact–a former NCAA fencing champion–joined his familyâ€™s chemical company after graduating from Columbia Business School, then spun off Hycrete as its own firm in 2005. The startup’s backers include venture capital firms NGEN Partners and Rockport Capital Partners.
Hycrete is â€œbetter, faster, cheaper and green,â€ Rosenberg told me when we met from breakfast at a Washington hotel last week. Most CEOs come to D.C. to do politics, but he was here to meet with a commercial contractor and a concrete producer. Your nationâ€™s capital, built on what was a swamp, uses lots of concrete.
Hycrete wonâ€™t disclose revenues but Rosenberg says its product was used in about 40 construction projects in 2007. Hycrete has been used in Marriott and Hilton hotels, condos and apartments in Seattle, the basement wall of a New Jersey hospital, bridge overpasses in Kansas and New Jersey, and a ferry terminal in Maine.
At FORTUNEâ€™s Brainstorm: Green conference on Earth Day, we will have a session called â€œTen Great Green Ideas,â€ in which entrepreneurs will present products or services aimed at solving environmental problems. David Rosenberg of Hycrete will be there, along with companies in an array of businesses, from electric cars and fashion to recycling and ecosystem services.