By David A. Kelm
“Sustainability” has become a buzzword of the 21st Century. Organizations are reducing their footprint with recycling policies and encouraging employees to carpool or use public transportation. Today it is de rigueur to receive an email with part of the signature line including a demand to “think before you print!” Legislation and regulations are brimming with encouragement, in some cases, and mandates, in others, to build as cleanly as possible with energy efficient materials. A number of projects in and around Springfield have bragged about the achievement of LEEDs Certification for their new buildings in recent years. (Before you hit Google, LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.)
The sustainability market is growing in leaps and bounds largely because of the demand for products that enable individuals and businesses to become more energy efficient and more environmentally friendly. For years, you may have schlepped your recyclables to the curb early one morning each week hoping to take up less landfill and also, perhaps, to contribute to the growing market of post-consumer products. Recently, a major fiberglass insulation company reported that demand for its post-consumer, recycled product has become so popular that it is having a difficult time sourcing enough recycled glass to fulfill orders.
A company in Springfield is at the leading edge of introducing a sustainable raw material – bamboo – to the market with diverse applications and enormous growth potential. Lamboo, Inc. started with the intent of developing a product that satisfies the need for sustainability in the 21st Century while also providing a material that spans a range of applications and exceeds expectations of more traditional materials.
When people hear or read about bamboo, they think flooring. Lamboo, Inc. does not produce bamboo flooring. They get a lot of calls asking about flooring. Please understand Lamboo, Inc. is not a bamboo flooring company.
By way of introduction, bamboo holds the promise of being the sustainability wunderkind of the 21st Century when compared with traditional materials such as wood, steel and aluminum for the following reasons. Bamboo produces approximately 14 tons of fiber per acre every six to eight years or six times that of timber, which takes 25-30 years to mature. Bamboo can be harvested without replanting and the silica content makes the plant resistant to insect infestation. Bamboo sequesters about 35 percent more carbon than timber, has natural anti-microbial properties and a root structure that helps to eliminate soil erosion.
Lamboo, Inc. has developed and brought to market a new bamboo product – Laminated Veneer Bamboo (LBV).
“We are truly leading an industrial materials revolution,” said Luke D. Schuette, President & Founder, Laboo, Inc. As an architecture student at Southern Illinois University, Schuette became interested in and began testing various materials for strength, flexibility and sustainability.
“I ended up paying for my own testing at a St. Louis lab in order to determine if the product was going to be sufficient,” Schuette said, explaining the start-up process for Lamboo, Inc.
Laminated bamboo veneer was an idea so ahead of the curve that an American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) category or standards did not exist prior to 2007. Schuette and his team presented LBV to ASTM in 2007 and were awarded a new category and standards to compare LBV to other construction and design materials. Since Lamboo, Inc. has achieved the certification, the company has grown to a worldwide presence receiving a 2013 Governor’s Export Award for increasing their export market 63 percent from 2011 to 2012.
Lamboo, Inc. has four broad market categories that it intends to exploit – Architectural/Structural/High Performance Buildings, Aviation/Maritime/Automotive, Design and Industrial. “Lamboo, Inc. makes a laminated veneer product that is lighter and stronger than many traditional products,” Shuette noted. “Lamboo, Inc. is not designing office desks or guitars or commercial beams. We are partnering with companies around the world who desire a sustainable material.”
Products that Lamboo has been involved with include laminated structural beams, architectural elements such as louvers and awnings and window and door systems. Important for designers, architects and builders, no other raw material receives as many LEED points as LBV. Given LBV’s strength and light weight properties it is also a good fit for veneer applications for plane, yacht and car finishes. A tour around the Laboo office also identified some partnerships in the form of a prototype electric guitar, rifle stock and chandelier parts.
Schuette located Lamboo, Inc. in Springfield purposefully. The high quality of life and low cost of living played a large role in looking at Springfield. “Although we have partners around the world and we travel quite a bit, much of our business is conducted via email and Skype,” Schuette said. In fact, the company has brought partners to the Capitol City to experience what Springfield has to offer in hopes of generating further synergy for Lamboo’s products and business plan.
Sustainability in our daily lives is here for the long haul. Buildings and products will continue to seek new and innovative materials that retain and enhance the role traditional materials but with an edge on energy efficiency and environmental stewardship. Lamboo, Inc. is leading a revolution in sustainable materials from its perch overlooking the Old State Capitol. Luke Schuette and Lamboo, Inc. have made great strides and have plans for continued growth in Springfield, Central Illinois and the world.
David A. Kelm is an attorney from Chatham with experience in environmental law.