Oregon BEST – The Hotbed of Sustainability

I visited Portland recently to attend the AIBD show and during my travels was made aware of a group called Oregon BEST (Oregon Built, Environment & Sustainable Technologies Center) which is based in the Oregon University System. Oregon BEST is meant to be an economic engine for Oregon creating deep collaboration between university research and business research wherever they touch upon sustainability and the green movement.

Here’s an example of the types of things Oregon BEST produces. One of their members, a researcher, was playing with his kids on the beach and pulled a mollusk off the rocks. He became fascinated with how a mollusk develops an adhesive that sticks to a rock, dry or wet, and does this using only what it finds either within itself or in the environment.  Back in the University lab, he studied the properties of the mollusk’s adhesive and wound up developing and patenting a super strong adhesive that is made from proteins and sea water.

Now Oregon BEST wants to use this new bonding agent to replace the adhesives and glues used in wood manufacturing in Oregon, thus lowering the Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) that are emitted from products.  Reducing the VOC’s in products improves indoor air quality.  The problem right now is that the cost to produce lower VOC adhesives is very expensive.  So if you buy kitchen cabinets with lower VOC’s, you may probably pay significantly more than you would for a standard kitchen cabinet.

However, because this new adhesive is inexpensive to manufacture and is patented and controlled by the University, Oregon BEST will work to keep it low cost to get over the price hump of going green for consumers.

This is exciting stuff! We are glad to know about these trailblazing groups who are transforming the sustainability movement and taking it to new levels.

Lucas Hamilton is the Manager of Building Science Application for CertainTeed Corporation.