Think outside the box

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It is not often that a dead pine tree serves as an inspiration, but that is exactly what happened to Sorin Pasca. He has come up with a new type of concrete that he calls pine concrete. The cement is mixed with ground up pine trees, thus the name.

Mr. Pasca is a resident of British Columbia where a massive infestation of mountain pine bark beetles is destroying vast swaths of Canadian forest. Surrounded by untold quantities of dead and dying trees, Pasca concentrated his creative energy on finding a good use for this unusual resource. His solution, pine concrete, could be a boon to the building industry as it is suitable for producing drywall and gypsum board that have the added benefit of water resistance.

Pasca knows that cement binds better with sand or gravel than with organic material. However, by choosing just the right kind of organic matter, Pasca jumped his first hurdle, according to the Tyee Online news. Dead, beetle-infested lodgepole pines were the answer. These trees have lost a lot of their sugars and resins because of the mountain pine beetle, consequently making them more suitable for use in concrete.

In Pasca’s opinion, adding wood to the concrete mix makes a much friendlier looking product than normal concrete. Furthermore, pine concrete has proven highly versatile. It can be molded into counter tops, flower pots and a huge variety of other products. Pasca’s ambition is to build an entire house of pine concrete, from foundation to roof.

The abundant supply of dead pine trees not only served as Pasca’s inspiration, but gives his new product a market advantage as well. By some estimates, more than half of the province’s mature pines are dead and the toll could reach 80 percent by 2013. Pasca planned to use the waste product from mills, but the pines are dying faster than they can be harvested. Many are left standing until the wood is degraded and loses its commercial value as lumber. Even though the wood is in poor condition, most of these trees are still suitable for pine concrete.

Investors have flocked to Pasca’s door, but he needs more time in the lab for testing. And, while pine concrete seems like a great idea, he must still create an actual product to sell in the marketplace before reaping his rewards.

Linda is responsible for the PERC web sites, media relations, the national journalism conference, and the media fellows program. She is author of Forest Fires, part of a series of  environmental education books for high school students. She also wrote and produced Square One, a newsletter that introduced grassroots environmentalists to market...
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