Todd Shupe Explores the Growing Popularity of Bio-Based Spray Foam Insulation

Todd Shupe Explores the Growing Popularity
of Bio-Based Spray Foam Insulation

The agricultural and forest industries both produce residues or waste streams that have little or no economic value. The challenge that remains for agricultural and forestry residues is how to best utilize this material for maximum efficiency and economic profit. While at LSU, Dr. Todd Shupe received $250,000 from the USDA to examine the suitability of a rapidly-developing new technology known as continuous microwave-assisted liquefaction to convert this under-utilized material to bio-polyols for the production of spray-foam insulation. Liquefaction is a process that can be used to dissolve biomass in an organic solvent (also called a reagent solvent) at moderate temperatures (120 to 250 ºC) with or without acid catalysts (Hse et al. 2011; Pan 2007; Pan et al. 2012). Liquefied biomass can be concentrated and used as a raw material for other value-added products such as polyurethane foam, epoxy resin or phenolic resin

depending on the reagent solvent used in the liquefaction (Pan 2007). “Our application of microwave technology to the liquefaction process has received a U.S. patent (#8,043,399) and has been shown to dramatically improve the liquefaction rate, shorten the reaction time, lower operational temperature, and use less chemical input as compared to traditional liquefaction reactions,” Todd Shupe says, (Hse et al. 2011).

Spray-foam insulation is growing in popularity as a type of insulation for residential and commercial housing. Spray-foam is a substitute for traditional fiberglass insulation. The chemical agent is stored in canisters and sprayed with a special application device; it then expands and dries, forming a barrier. The advantage of foam insulation is that it expands and leaves no gaps as is the case with typical fiberglass insulation. Therefore, there are no pathways for air to escape – thus an efficient vapor barrier is established. The foam also prevents the buildup of moisture, lowering the incidence of mildew and mold problems, and makes it more difficult for insects and other pests to burrow into a building. Says Todd Shupe, “Spray-foam insulation is recognized as an important part of the wall component in ‘green’ buildings, and also is one of the fastest growing areas in building products.” These advantages and the “green” aspect of foam insulation can be rolled into one with the development of spray-foam insulation from liquefied biomass to attain a new renewable and sustainable product.

While with LSU, Todd Shupe oversaw a laboratory that performed tests on wood products and biocides to gain approval and/or registration with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Dr. Shupe was directly responsible for final reports, internal quality control, working with third-party auditors and more. His data and document control and workflow were crucial for ensuring that smart solutions to new and existing chemically-treated wood were developed. As the holder of a Ph.D. in wood science from LSU, Todd Shupe knows solutions to preservative-treated wood are currently in the works. At the same time, he knows that sending these scraps to landfills only means that the CCA used during pressure-treating – which contains copper, chromim, and arsenic – does not belong in the soil beneath our feet. That’s why he thoroughly encourages readers to find sensible solutions to disposing of hazardous goods after their spring clean-up has wrapped up.

Meet the Author

Todd Shupe is the President of DrToddShupe.com and is a well recognized expert on wood-based housing and wood science.  Shupe worked as a  professor and lab director at LSU for over 20 years. He is active in several ministries including his Christian blog ToddShupe.com. Todd is the Secretary of the Baton Rouge District of United Methodist Men, Database Coordinator for Gulf South Men, and volunteer for the Walk to Emmaus, Grace Camp, Iron Sharpens Iron, Open Air Ministries, HOPE Ministries food pantry. Todd is currently preparing to be a Men’s Ministry Specialist through the General Commission of United Methodist Men.

Todd Shupe Explains Significance of, and Market for, Bio-Based Spray Foam Insulation

Todd Shupe Explains Significance of,
and Market for,
Bio-Based Spray Foam Insulation

A viable bio-based spray foam industry is likely to lead to economic development opportunities due to the growing interest in spray foam insulation and increasing consumer demand for green products. The successful utilization of agricultural and forestry residues will benefit the agricultural producers, wood processing industries and forest landowners. These sectors combined contributed $4.1 billion to the Louisiana economy in 2013 (LSU AgCenter 2014). The state has more than 14 million acres in forests and another approximately 2 million acres in agricultural plant commodities. “Most of this land is located in rural communities and consequently, this project has great

First, a word on why we’re taking special precautions on safe disposal during our spring cleaning processes. Chromated copper arsenate (CCA) is a heavy metal that will eventually leave the wood rotting in a landfill and seep into the ground. As a former professor at LSU, Todd Shupe says that this is unfortunate and can be minimized by knowing what to do with leftover lumber. According to construction goods store Home Depot, “deck wood” and other hazardous construction materials can be taken to municipal disposal sites to be properly dealt with. This is similar to what we do with motor oil or paint so folks don’t turn to dumping gallons upon gallons of waste down the drain. Another option for those doing construction renovations of decks or tree forts damaged by winter is to call a trash-hauling company that will take away the lumber for a fee. Todd Shupe says that other wood-waste dealers could be consulted, and recycling or reuse is also a possibility.

In addition to rural economic development related to the feedstock, there is also economic development potential related to the product – spray foam insulation. The insulation market in North America was an $11 billion dollar market in 2012 and growing each year. Spray foam comprises 9 percent of that market is the fasting growing segment of the market, estimated at an annual growth rate of almost 5 percent. There is a rapidly growing “green” market for numerous goods and services. This is particularly evident in the housing market as consumers are increasingly demanding that lumber that is used for new home construction be harvested from a certified managed forest (Green Home 2014). Consumers are demanding green products for their housing, transportation, energy, food and cosmetics. The common belief years ago, as Todd Shupe remembers, was that people would not pay extra for green products and while they may remain true to some extent, there is a growing market that is keenly interested in green products. These markets are particularly evident in more affluent, urban areas.

Meet the Author

Todd Shupe is the President of DrToddShupe.com and is a well recognized expert on wood-based housing and wood science.  Shupe worked as a  professor and lab director at LSU for over 20 years. He is active in several ministries including his Christian blog ToddShupe.com. Todd is the Secretary of the Baton Rouge District of United Methodist Men, Database Coordinator for Gulf South Men, and volunteer for the Walk to Emmaus, Grace Camp, Iron Sharpens Iron, Open Air Ministries, HOPE Ministries food pantry. Todd is currently preparing to be a Men’s Ministry Specialist through the General Commission of United Methodist Men.

CCA-Treated Guardrail Posts, Piles and Poles: Good for the Environment and the Economy

These Tips From Todd Shupe
Can Help You Properly Dispose Of
Chemically-Treated Wood

Our highway and interstate system is a critical component of our nation’s infrastructure and economy. These are essential for the transportation of goods and services, emergency responders, commuting to work and family vacations, says Todd Shupe. It is imperative that our highways provide safe travel for all. Highway guardrails, as you can see, are an important safety component of our highways. They typically consist of a galvanized metal rail, treated wood block, treated wood post and fasters. However, steel blocks and posts can also be used.

Chromated copper arsenate (CCA) has a long history as an EPA-approved wood preservative for numerous applications such as posts and blocks used in the guardrail assembly. “Numerous independent studies have shown that CCA is an environmentally-safe wood preservative and has very minimal leaching,” writes LSU’s Todd Shupe, a wood sciences expert and former lab leader.

Dr. Kenneth Brooks wrote in Pressure Treated Wooden Utility Poles and Our Environment, “pressure-treated wood utility poles pose no greater risk to the environment than growing the wheat used to bake your next loaf of bread, and present far less personal risk than driving to your local grocery store to purchase that bread.” Similarly, Dr. Paul Morris has written, “There are environmental risks associated with everything we do and with all of the material used to construct utility structures. For instance, the leaching of zinc from steel utility poles.”

The Treated Wood Council commissioned an independent study of the environmental impacts associated with the national production, use and disposition of treated wood and galvanized steel highway guard rail posts using life cycle assessment (LCA) methodologies. The results for treated wood compared to galvanized steel guard rail posts were significant (© Treated Wood Council, 2013).

  • Less Energy and Resource Use: Treated wood highway guard rail posts require less total energy and less fossil fuel than galvanized steel highway guard rail posts, Todd Shupe commented.
  • Lower Environmental Impacts: Treated wood highway guard rail posts have lower environmental impacts than galvanized steel highway guard rail posts in five of six impact indicator categories assessed: anthropogenic greenhouse gas, total greenhouse gas, acid rain, ecotoxicity, and smog-causing emissions.
  • Offsets Fossil Fuel Use: Reuse of treated wood highway guard rail posts for energy recovery will offset the use of fossil fuel energy and thereby reduce greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere.
“Here’s the bottom line,” says LSU’s Todd Shupe.CCA-treated wood is a critical part of our nation’s infrastructure and economy. It is safe for the environment and has a long history of EPA approval for both the environment and human exposure.”

The alternatives (steel and concrete) are not renewable and require more energy to produce than CCA-treated wood, he adds. Last but not least, CCA-treated wood is more cost effective than the alternatives. CCA-treated wood is good for the environment and the economy!

Meet the Author

Todd Shupe is the President of DrToddShupe.com and is a well recognized expert on wood-based housing and wood science.  Shupe worked as a  professor and lab director at LSU for over 20 years. He is active in several ministries including his Christian blog ToddShupe.com. Todd is the Secretary of the Baton Rouge District of United Methodist Men, Database Coordinator for Gulf South Men, and volunteer for the Walk to Emmaus, Grace Camp, Iron Sharpens Iron, Open Air Ministries, HOPE Ministries food pantry. Todd is currently preparing to be a Men’s Ministry Specialist through the General Commission of United Methodist Men.