It takes a special awareness to be able to look at the things we use every day and to think of how they can be made better. In the past, better was only defined as high quality and lasts longer. Now, better includes the environmental impact of a product – from cradle (produce / manufacture) to grave (reuse / recycle / landfill) and all steps in between. Doug Lamm, founder of Building Envelope Materials, is an innovator for the future by taking the existing building insulation technology and finding new ways to use it to optimize the energy efficiency of buildings – both new and existing buildings. He also only uses non-toxic materials, while still meeting complex building codes. If this technology is adopted everywhere in the US, it could reduce total carbon emissions by 8%. BEM’s innovation has gained recognition having now received seven grants from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, two large grants from US Department of Energy, and joint development with one of the largest building companies in the world.
Doug has fought for years to get this technology installed in buildings – and not sitting on a shelf in the building materials company’s planning department. The result recently has been the deployment of the insulation in public housing buildings. Not known for being well built to begin with, adding insulation improves the quality of life for residents in heat/cooling, saves them money on their heating bills, and adds a pleasantness that public housing isn’t known for. Doug has secured projects in both Boston and Somerville requiring his team to enter peoples’ homes in spite of the pandemic, not a minor achievement. This sector alone could conceivably keep Doug busy to eternity. At the same time, the state of Massachusetts’ grants are creating jobs in Massachusetts.
One partnership has BEM applying its insulation technology to solve another pressing problem: storing renewable energy. The answer to this problem is the Flow Battery. A significant deterrent to renewable energy projects – solar and wind – is the intermittent generation of electricity. This creates an uneven demand on the current electric grid, particularly with new generation coming onto the grid. The utilities will never fix this themselves. Flow batteries store and level the flow of electricity on to the grid and allows building off-takers to source from the battery and demand less power from the utilities – both saving money for them and costing money for utilities, hence utilities have been reluctant to approve projects without significantly expensive surveys and interconnect fees. With scale, it can be used to allow for energy to be produced, stored and distributed in a local area. With this technology power generation and storage can become decentralized and change the dynamics of how power is generated and distributed across the country. This would totally change the current market and create incentives for the private adoption of renewable energy infrastructure as a means of independence.
BEM first came to CI Works in Amesbury for a place where Doug had the space to build models, prototypes, and perform experiments. Doug was among the first businesses to locate here and initially planned to stay only six months. They now have been at CI works for 6 years and will continue to call it home. These are innovations that most people won't think about, but in the future will be in the walls of buildings they step into and supplying the power when they turn on the lights. To be able to create and harness energy in these ways will open the doors to
innovation that we haven't even yet conceived of. These incremental energy building blocks will become the future of renewable energy and benefit the planet in a positive way.