Green building startup iCrete, which says it can reduce the amount of cement needed for typical construction projects by 40 percent, has landed a deal to provide its materials to giant California contractor Webcor, the companies announced Thursday.
Under the deal, Webcor will offer iCrete's energy-efficient concrete mixes for major construction projects. The two companies will also work together to land projects on the West Coast.
Founded in 2006, Beverly Hills, Calif.-based iCrete optimizes the design of concrete to cut down on the amount of cement that goes into it as a bonding agent. Since cement manufacturing is the largest source of greenhouse-gas emissions outside of fossil fuel consumption – about 7 percent to 8 percent of the world's total emissions, according to the Canadian nonprofit EcoSmart Foundation – using less of it can be seen as a way to cut down on a construction project's carbon footprint.
Cement manufacturing accounted for 46 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States in 2007, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. While that's a very distant second to the roughly 5.9 billion tons of carbon dioxide emitted from the use of fossil fuels in the country in 2007, it's still a hefty target for reduction.
Also, construction accounts for about 12 percent of the country's energy use, according to DOE. That provides a ready market for iCrete and other companies providing "green building" materials and methods that can cut down on builders' energy costs.
Gary Winnick, the founder of once-mighty telecommunications firm Global Crossing, is founder and co-chairman of iCrete. The company's other co-chairman is John Cushman, who is also chairman of real estate giant Cushman & Wakefield (see Global Crossing Founder Gets Into Cement).
This isn't the first high-profile deal for iCrete. The company landed a contract to provide concrete design for the Freedom Tower being built at the former site of the World Trade Center in New York, and is working on about 30 other projects in New York, as well as a hotel construction project in Atlantic City, N.J.
As for Webcor, it has been making a big push into green building. It earned more revenue in 2007 from LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)-qualifying buildings than it did from traditional buildings, a trend the builder said accelerated in 2008.
LEED-certified buildings are rated on the efficiency of their design as well as that of the materials used in their construction. Builders and investors say LEED-certified buildings can command higher valuations, rents and occupancy rates than traditional building, which along with energy cost savings makes them attractive investments (see Green Building: Cheaper Than You Thought).
Webcor is also getting aiming its money at green building startups, becoming a limited partner in a green building fund managed by Navitas Capital in November (see California's Biggest Builder Dips Into VC Investing).
Navitas Capital has invested in Serious Materials, creator of drywall from recycled materials that requires 80 percent less energy to make than traditional gypsum-based drywall; Integrity Block, which says it can make building blocks out of rammed earth at a 40-percent reduction in energy use compared to concrete block manufacturing; and Powermat, which has developed technology to supply wireless power to electronic devices through table or wall surfaces.
Other green concrete startups include Hycrete, which makes waterproof concrete that's been used in 100 projects to date. The Carlstadt, N.J.-based company landed $15 million in a Series C investment round led by Mohr Davidow Ventures in July (see Next Cleantech Hub: India?).