As a researcher studying soy oil uses for the past six years for Urethane Soy Systems (USS), Munjal Patel is sold on the environmental and economic benefits of using soy-based products. In fact, Patel has not only committed his career to developing new uses for soy, but recently constructed his own home with soy in mind.

Patel says, “In the current business climate, where the cost of products based on standard petroleum oil is going up, it's a good time to look at other options. What could be better than soy, which is also healthier for our environment and pocketbook?”

The Patel home in Brookings, SD, was insulated using energy-efficient SoyTherm, a USS spray foam product that offers the potential to save up to 60% in consumer utility bills. Patel and his wife moved into the home in November 2009. “I already have noticed a savings in our heating bill,” he says.

The Patels also considered countertops using soy-based polyols, but the research for that product is still in development.

Patel hopes his soy-insulated home will spur others to investigate their options, as well. “My sincere desire is that after hearing about this, more people will ask about it and look at the options available for using material made with soy,” says Patel. He adds, “The time and economics are right to continue research for opportunities for soy oil.”

MORE SUSTAINABLE OPTIONS

If you are looking to build with an environmentally friendly soy-based product, today's marketplace is offering more and more sustainable options. The United Soybean Board predicts the construction industry has the potential to use 150 million lbs. of soy polyols by the year 2013. Here's a look at some of the options:

  • Plywood and oriented strand board (OSB). Kaichang Li, an associate professor of wood science and engineering at Oregon State University, has developed a soy-based wood adhesive to bond both of these products. The soy adhesive costs less than the petrochemicals and is virtually free of formaldehyde, a known carcinogen.

  • Plywood developed with soy adhesive is now commercially available under the brand name PureBond from Columbia Forest Products. Li is hopeful that the soy-based wood adhesive will eventually be used for commercial production of OSB panels, as well. He reports that the strengths of OSB panels bonded with the soy-based wood adhesive are comparable to or higher than those of current commercial OSB panels.

  • Sealant and adhesive products. May National has teamed up with Dow Chemical to develop a sealant and adhesive product line that replaces traditional petroleum-based polyols with soy-based polyols. Products include the Bondaflex Soythane Construction Adhesive, which offers window installers and general construction trades a product with high movement capability and adhesion to a versatile group of building materials.

  • Staining products for concrete and wood. SoyCrete, a concrete stain from Eco Safety Products in Phoenix, AZ, contains over 60% renewable biocontent and is ultra-low in VOCs, making it suitable for use indoors as well as outdoors. SoyCrete's soy esters penetrate deep into a substrate, where they bond, while still giving color control for natural mottled variations and penetration without toxicity issues. And, because it requires between 40% and 60% less labor time to apply, it costs less per square foot than any other concrete stain.

    When developing Varathane, anew wood stain line to complement its polyurethanes, Rust-Oleum determined that soybean oil provided the clearest base and best penetration. Varathane stains can be used on any wood species for indoor use. The company also makes a line of soy-based polyurethanes to protect the stain and the wood.

  • Carpet backing for the residential market. Universal Textile Technologies has long been recognized in the commercial market for EnviroCel and BioCel carpet-backing lines. Now, through a partnership with Southwind Carpet Mills/Cherokee Carpet Industries based in Dalton, GA, UTT has introduced EnviroCel Home, the first soy-based, performance-enhancing polyurethane carpet backing for the residential market.

EnviroCel Home replaces over 90% of the petroleum-based polymers in the carpet backings with biobased polymers derived from U.S. soybeans. In addition, the carpet backing has insulating properties that reduce energy use and noise levels. It's manufactured with a secondary backing of 100% post-consumer recycled plastic, which improves air quality and makes a smaller environmental footprint by lasting longer, so less carpet winds up in landfills.

This is part of a series featuring new soy-based products.