Soy-Based Products on the Leading Edge of Sustainable Housing

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Higher performance, increased sustainability and lower cost — these are just a few of the demands that today’s modern customers expect from the home improvement industry. For companies relying on petroleum or formaldehyde in their products, this can seem like a challenging ask. But many find their sustainable solution in soy.

“Choosing soy is a win-win,” said Lee Walko, biobased business developer and technical advisor to the United Soybean Board. “Corporate sustainability initiatives and consumer demand for safe products drive soy technology development to replace petrochemicals and other additives.”

Although several biobased ingredients can appear as suitable replacements for petrochemicals, manufacturers need the most cost-effective and highest-performing ingredients — which in many cases presents an opportunity for soy.

Not only is soybean oil traditionally more affordable than canola or sunflower oil, its abundance of C-18 links (linolenic acid, etc.) and its fatty-acid profile make soybean oil very versatile. These qualities have allowed countless leading industrial product makers to successfully introduce soy, replacing chemicals based in petroleum while reducing volatile organic compounds.

Soy has already proven successful in this segment, and many of the success stories can be found in and around the home. A growing list of large and small companies already implement soy in their products and reap the benefits of how effective it can be. In fact, there are more than 1,000 soy-based products currently on the market, from flooring and roofing products to candles and carpets.

Several leading biobased home products using soybeans include:

  • Plywood: PureBond
    A decade ago, the International Agency for Cancer Research reclassified formaldehyde from a suspect carcinogen to a known carcinogen. Plywood producers who used formaldehyde to bond wood needed an alternative. With the support of USB, researchers developed a soy-based, formaldehyde-free resin that bonds wood naturally and tightly. Since 2005, the technology has spurred production of more than 100 million formaldehyde-free plywood panels at a price comparable to urea-formaldehyde panels.

    “Our customers want to know what they’re buying, how it was made, what it was made with and where it’s from,” said Todd Vogelsinger, with Columbia Forest Products, which is a business utilizing soy in their PureBond® plywood products. “We’re proud to say we shrank our environmental footprint with U.S. soy.”

  • Roofing Products: Roof Maxx
    Roof Maxx is the first soy-based, roof-rejuvenating spray treatment, developed by Battelle Labs, that is formulated with natural soybean oil to penetrate roof materials. This application restores a roof’s flexibility and waterproofing protection, extending the life of a roof by up to 15 years and reducing both the waste created from disposing of an old roof and the waste generated by manufacturing new roof shingles. Due to its incorporation of soy, Roof Maxx provides a safe option for people, pets, property and the environment.

    “Today, with all the environmental concerns, it only makes sense to look at renewable resources [like soy] to extend the life of anything,” said Roof Maxx Technologies CEO Mike Feazel.

  • Wood Stains: Rust-Oleum
    Long used by the coating industry, soybean oil is now a hit in wood stains and finishes, including those produced by Rust-Oleum. Rust-Oleum’s Varathane® wood stains deliver in both sustainability and performance. The soy-based stain line has seen their products penetrate wood twice as deep as other products on the market due to the properties soybean oil brings to the stain. Soy’s hydrophobic nature also increases the water resistance of wood stains, making it a great option for outdoor applications.

    “From a marketing standpoint, our products give a beautiful finish, which is a byproduct of the soybean oil,” says Jessica Bahn, brand manager at Rust-Oleum. “The soybean oil is like the secret sauce. It gives a beautiful end result, and it’s easy to apply due to the viscosity.”

  • Sealers: Acri-Soy
    Soy-based sealers have a superior ability to penetrate and protect a variety of porous substrate surfaces such as concrete, wood and grout. Biobased sealers create an integral bond and seal that allow the substrate to breathe while providing outstanding repellency. Because these sealers are nontoxic and high performing, they meet both consumer and producer needs.
  • Insulation: Demilec Heatlok Soy 200 Plus
    Environmentally friendly and energy-efficient insulation is possible with the introduction of soy. Demilec Inc.’s closed-cell spray foam polyurethane insulation contains 14% renewable and recycled materials, which is appealing to homeowners. The insulation also provides multiple control layers into a single application, saving both time and money in construction costs.

    “Environmental regulations and consumer demands are only going to grow stronger in the coming years,” Walko said. “So, it’s worthwhile for companies to get ahead of the curve now and invest in biobased solutions for their products.”

Companies interested in learning how soy can be used in specific products and applications can contact the United Soybean Board or visit the Soy New Uses website.

USB’s 73 farmer-directors work on behalf of all U.S. soybean farmers to achieve maximum value for their soy checkoff investments. These volunteers invest and leverage checkoff funds in programs and partnerships to drive soybean innovation beyond the bushel and increase preference for U.S. soy. That preference is based on U.S. soybean meal and oil quality and the sustainability of U.S. soybean farmers.

As stipulated in the federal Soybean Promotion, Research and Consumer Information Act, the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service has oversight responsibilities for USB and the soy checkoff. For more information on the United Soybean Board, visit unitedsoybean.org.


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