Soy Based Building Materials Give Green Building New Meaning
“I wanted to make better products that have a significant impact. The developing world aspires to our lifestyle which the planet cannot sustain , and America needs to step up with innovation to lead the way forward.” – Patrick Govang
KissMyCountry had the chance to talk with Patrick Govang, CEO of e2eMaterials based in Ithaca, New York (www.e2ematerials.com). A Green building company, e2e Materials creates a soy-based grass fiber composite that can be used in place of wood or other building materials, and is strong, Green, and fire retardant – truly an amazing breakthrough. The company is a spin-off from Cornell University, based on the discoveries of the Netravali Research Group at Cornell, and is providing an exciting alternative to traditional building materials. Patrick Govang is enthusiastic about e2e Materials and Green building, and is using his experience in the US and internationally to save our planet.
KissMyCountry: Tell us a little bit about e2e Materials – how you got started spinning off from Cornell University to become a private company, and the plans you have for e2e Materials in the future.
Patrick: Research was going on at Cornell from the early 90’s to develop high performance ‘green’ materials – something as strong as Kevlar® or carbon fiber. Kevlar® and carbon fiber are strong but not earth friendly, and there was interest in developing high performance products that were Greener. Researchers wondered how could nature duplicate that strength, and the result was a material with similar strengths that was Green. The technology is a true material platform giving us a very broad palate of properties that can go in many applications.
KissMyCountry: When did you first become interested in Green and how did you become involved with e2e Materials? What made you decide to be the CEO?
Patrick: I guess I’ve always had a bit of Green in me. I built a house that’s off the grid with an alternative water supply as a hobby. It was more of a technical challenge and for my curiosity than anything else, but I was interested in Green. While working in the automotive industry, I built several manufacturing facilities in India to California emission standards in the 90’s because it was the right thing to do. With e2e, I was the Director of the Cornell Center for Materials Research at the time, helping researchers bring their discoveries to market. The invention of this material personally resonated with me, and I knew I wanted to bring it to market. I saw that I could use a lot of my experience from the automotive industry, and saw this as a real opportunity to do something great for the environment and build an exciting company. I wanted to make better products that have a significant impact. The developing world aspires to our lifestyle which the planet cannot sustain , and America needs to step up with innovation to lead the way forward. Our responsibility is to show the world new technologies that save the planet and offer an unparalleled quality of life. It’s exciting, and our mission easily infects everyone in the company. It’s a true cradle-to-cradle concept that leverages a business model that’s inherently competitive. By locating our agricultural feedstocks near the production facility and shipping within a 500 mile radius we enable a regional business model that creates sustainable, green collar jobs spanning agriculture, manufacturing and high-technology.
KissMyCountry: One of your customers is Comet Skateboards, which is a great example of how the products you create can save our planet. How did you come to work with Comet Skateboards? Can you tell us a little bit about why your materials are an improvement on how skateboards are generally made?
Patrick: Our technology is broad, but we started with skateboards. A Cornell graduate, Jason Salfi, co-founded Comet Skateboards, and was looking for ways to make his boards Greener. He came to us. With Comet we worked to eliminate epoxy and fiberglass from the boards. The new boards have both high-performance and are earth-friendly . Before, when the company used epoxy and fiberglass to make their boards Jason did not bring his daughter to the shop. Now with our materials used for the boards he lets her crawl around the floor – pretty unusual for a manufacturing environment.
KissMyCountry: What do people always ask you about Green building, and what do you wish people asked?
Patrick: When it comes to building materials, the materials and the processes we use today have had as much cost taken out of them through years of competition. So, anything new – new materials, new processes – usually means higher cost, initially. The resulting perception is that Green means higher costs. The first question we always hear ‘That’s great, how much more does it cost?’. The reality is that we can take out 50% of the cost of the products we replace. We can make a product that truly reduces our reliance on petroleum, and we can make our shareholders happy because the cost benefits translate to higher margins. We focus on higher performing and more cost effective products that just happen to deliver unparalleled sustainability.
KissMyCountry: At KissMyCountry we talk about saving the planet, but we also talk about enjoying the planet. What are your favorite places and why?
Patrick: My favorite place is Ithaca, New York, where the company is headquartered and where I live. I love the cultural and geographic diversity. The campuses are a great meeting place for different viewpoints coming together, and the city is forward looking. It’s an idyllic, beautiful area with waterfalls everywhere. There’s a tremendous entrepreneurial community with a great vibe – lots of startups. We’re all friends, we support each other and we’re excited about changing the world.
KissMyCountry: As a CEO you travel on business. Do you have a favorite city for business travel? What’s great about that city?
Patrick: San Francisco. I travel there quite a bit, and what I really enjoy is the ability to fly in, walk over to the train, and take the train to my hotel. I feel like I’m reducing my footprint, and I feel great about that. Like Ithaca, it’s a very forward looking city.
KissMyCountry: Have you ever been to a place that surprised you – either positively or negatively? What surprised you?
Patrick: I spent part of my career in the automotive industry in India. In India I saw the impact of such a large population on the lifestyle and resources in the country. It made me think about population and how so many people living together affects everything. I lived there for three years developing manufacturing facilities for the automotive industry in India. To be a success there we had to focus on coming up with solutions. People there really are committed to creating a better quality of life.
KissMyCountry: Have you been on a vacation within the past few months, or are you planning a vacation in the next few months?
Patrick: My whole life is a vacation. When you love what you’re doing that’s how you feel. I have no current plans for a vacation. But my wife and I visited New Zealand several years ago for our honeymoon. I was really impressed seeing such a self supportive lifestyle. There’s a tremendous national feeling there to be self sufficient.
KissMyCountry: Patrick, we greatly appreciate the time you took to talk with KissMyCountry – and look forward to checking back with you as e2e Materials grows. All the best to you and your entire group at e2e Materials as you help save our planet and build a great company!
Article appearing courtesy KissMyCountry.
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