In the post-mortem reports about the Gulf oil spill, there is news of the US administration rejecting help from the Dutch to send ships equipped with oil-skimming booms, and lend their expertise in creating sand barriers. It seems the problem is the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, protectionist legislation which governs commerce on US waters. It could have been waived, but not without serious criticism from labor unions who demand protection from global competition.
And yet…. we have Walmart who very openly undermined US businesses when they moved the sourcing for the “made in America” goods to… China. So does the protectionism only work in one direction?
Global protection often reminds me of a teenager who has not yet reached the maturity to stand firm on their own two feet, ready to defend their own opinion, but also ready to accept the input from others. As we are learning with Passiv Haus materials, there is a world of building materials beyond our borders which we haven’t even begun to tap.
NEOPOR is an expanded polystyrene product with the added advantage of graphite for up to 20% better insulation. Patented in 1995, it is now the most widely used exterior insulation in Europe. In North America, there have only been pilot projects of use in sheet goods… about a 15 yr time lag to cross the ocean. Fortunately, one innovative ICF manufacturer has added NEOPOR at the platinum level product, so it can be purchased.
Martin Holladay had an excellent posting about the SIGA system of barrier tape installation and the great debate one one air barrier vs two, and laments are our basic lack of any air barrier in the US. No worries, Siga's head of product management, Patrick Haacke, says the SIGA's investigation of the U.S. market is still preliminary . Maybe another 15 yrs…
Occasionally the better options are right under our noses. But we are too busy buying defective gypboard from China to pay attention to the magnesium sheetrock which has been used in Europe and is now being manufactured in the US. Or what about the Rain Harvesting products made in Australia, a country which knows a thing or two about drought. Even just getting Canadian products introduced into the US is a big step - look at fiberglass windows.
There is a wide world beyond our borders. Our buildings should be the best of technology, the best of installation, the best of building science. But we’ll need to get past our protectionist shell and let the Dutch sail over with their ships if we want to get back on top of the game.