I’d like to begin by introducing an incredible mineral by the name of gypsum. In nature, gypsum comes in the form of a very strong stone. However, modern-day technology is incapable of retaining the material’s natural strength following calcination. Consequently, gypsum is not viewed as a structural material. Rather, with construction, gypsum’s sole purpose is to support finishing-related tasks by being the main ingredient in drywall, join compound, and plaster.
Fortunately, this no longer has to be the case. Our startup, AMATEC, has developed new high-density gypsum technologies, which, as you can probably already guess by the name, can increase the density and strength of gypsum to levels never imagined before. As a result, from now on, this material can finally be used as a basic construction material on par with concrete. Unlike concrete, however, HDG is the only building material that fully complies with the principles of sustainable development and is the most compatible with high-level automation.
For numerous reasons, AMATEC’s business plan is to build low-rise PreFab houses using gypsum in a way that has never been done before. Not only is it significantly cheaper and faster to build high-quality and durable houses using this material, but it is also a much eco-friendlier option than any other alternative solution out there.
However, if there’s one mission we have in mind for the greater good, it’s to create an entirely new industry for gypsum. Now that its capabilities have reached new levels never previously imagined, gypsum can finally become the catalyst for the construction industry’s transition toward meaningful sustainability.
Tell us about yourself?
By education, I am a specialist in mathematical physics and programming. However, life had different plans for me because, for over 20 years, my focus was on developing new technologies in the bio and food industries. The process went as follows. I would create a new technology, build a production facility, and introduce the respective product to the market. I have implemented four such projects, and I sold all of them successfully.
However, one day, my scientific advisor drew my attention to a paradox that had been stumping him for some time; natural gypsum stone is very strong, but all man-made gypsum products are fairly weak (an up to five times difference in strength!). The sheer fact that nature created such a strong material which man could not replicate led me to spend my last nine years researching and developing gypsum technologies for construction. This led me to the successful creation of what we call High-Density Gypsum, or HDG for short. AMATEC is my fifth project.
If you could go back in time a year or two, what piece of advice would you give yourself?
This is a difficult question for me as I have been solely developing gypsum technologies since 2014. Given my success at achieving the technological results that I envisioned, I would probably just tell myself: “You can do it, and you will do it.” I’m not sure if this counts as “advice”, per se, but I would surely say it if I could.
What problem does your business solve?
Today’s construction industry does not meet the principles of a sustainable, circular, and low-carbon economy. There is a massive housing shortage (over 5.3 million homes in the U.S. alone, to be exact). More than 50 per cent of homes have complete physical deterioration, and prices are just rising into space.
Unfortunately, existing technologies cannot solve these problems, and consequently, it is predicted that this crisis will worsen in the coming years as more of the labour force retires.
Of course, we do not claim to solve every single problem in the industry. However, high-density gypsum is very much a material that complies with the aforementioned principles. By also being able to build houses significantly faster and more affordably, we believe that AMATEC possesses the power to shake up the construction industry to its core and potentially initiate a reversal in the downhill trend that it’s been heading toward for several decades now.
What is the inspiration behind your business?
As already mentioned, we were very surprised by the dramatic difference in strength between gypsum in nature and man-made gypsum products. We realized that mankind had not taken advantage of the true potential of this mineral at all.
A major trend in the construction industry today, intended to solve many problems, is the transition towards prefab technology. However, this is being done with the same old traditional materials, which have technological disadvantages when it comes to the manufacturing of large-format building elements. Gypsum has unique technical characteristics – it hardens within minutes, has no shrinkage-induced deformations, and does not require any further procedures such as drying. Not to mention, with sustainability now being at the forefront of the issues facing the construction industry today, there are currently little to no meaningful solutions. No other building material today offers the combination of eco-friendliness, speed, affordability, and strength that gypsum does. Once again, gypsum is very well the catalyst of the construction industry’s transition toward sustainability and automation.
What is your magic sauce?
In the past, many attempts were made to make gypsum stronger. However, all attempts demanded a search for some kind of strengthening additive. Such solutions exist nowadays, but they are not affordable and, as a result, are rarely used.
Funny enough, we wouldn’t particularly say that the “secret sauce” is ours. Rather, it is nature’s. All we did was figure out how gypsum produces strong gypsum, and we are now able to reproduce it industrially.
What is the plan for the next 5 years? What do you want to achieve?
We want to build over 10,000 single-family houses in a single year by 2028. This is a very ambitious goal, but we know what to do to achieve it.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?
The biggest challenge that we’ve probably faced and continue to face is people’s preconception that gypsum is weak. While the preconception can be quite problematic in some cases, it is quite humorous, considering our gypsum is several times stronger than ordinary structural concrete.
More often than not, however, as soon as those individuals get to know our gypsum, see it and feel it (our material looks and feels like marble), they fall in love with it. In other words, this isn’t much of an issue.
If we’re talking about technological challenges, however, I would say that it was a massive headache figuring out how to produce high-density gypsum in industrial quantities (not just lab-scale quantities). Overcoming that challenge was not only an expensive mission, but it took a long time as well as it demanded the creation of completely new equipment. Thankfully, that chapter is behind us, and we can focus on implementation now.
How can people get involved?
Right now, we’re looking to expand our board of advisors who can help us navigate through the complex process of certifying a new building and using it to build houses ourselves. We’re also open to potential partnerships with developers, so if you see an opportunity to collaborate with AMATEC, feel free to reach out to me at [email protected]. As for the rest, if you have any questions, I’m also happy to answer them, so don’t be shy to reach out!