When Haiti’s recent earthquakes exposed problems left residents without shelter and exposed the need for better infrastructure, one composites manufacturer found a way to do good…and good business.

InnoVida manufactures composite panels and assembles structures for housing applications in the residential and defense markets. The Miami-based company has pledged to donate 1,000 homes to Haitians. The implementation of such a large sample of composite homes is a charitable act, but it will also demonstrate the role composites can play in rehabilitating housing infrastructure in areas ravaged by natural disasters and elsewhere.

The company’s fiber composite panel (FCP) system is a load-bearing insulating panel system with structural skins made of E-Glass fiber fabrics impregnated with a fire-resistant polymeric epoxy resin and a core made of a construction foam material. They use a combination of fiber composite panels laminated with a proprietary bonding material. This bonding agent is made from the same material used to fabricate the skin of the panels, and matches the chemical characteristics of the FCP when bonded. The result is a 100 percent composite monolithic building that can be constructed in one to three days from the prefabricated elements.

Mario Sanchez, vice president of construction, says that because the materials are centralized, the cost comes down. “If you add items like overhead costs, composites can be up to 25 percent less expensive compared to wood or concrete. Because we design everything ourselves, it leads to a cost savings because we cut out a lot of other things,” he says.

The use of composites in full-scale housing is in its infancy, but Sanchez thinks the material will prove itself during this tragedy. “Haiti’s an example of how change can be precipitated not due to economic forces, but rather natural forces,” says Sanchez. “We have people asking to remove concrete roofs and install our roofs because they’re afraid the concrete will kill them. It is becoming a social issue.”

Independent Testing Verifies Composites Deck Performance

Green Bay Decking didn’t start out as a deck manufacturer. The 10-year-old Wisconsin-based firm served a variety of markets by incorporating wastepaper sludge into composite products. But after several ownership changes, the company decided in 2006 to focus on decking because it was the best opportunity to market a product rather than a technology. “Many composite decks utilize sawdust and polyethylene, and we thought using reclaimed paper waste could boost performance in mechanical and strength resistance as well as moisture resistance,” says Shane O’Neill, director of research and development.