Aligning an Industry With A Nation’s Priorities

Plant air purification, as the name implies, is the purification of air by the use of plants and the microbes around their root systems. Plants most capable of air purification seem to have developed in the tropical rain forests where the air is stagnant, warm, and humid and where there is high airborne microbial activity. Plus there are high levels of VOCs. This is a hostile environment for plants and they have developed defense mechanisms to live in such an environment.

In some respects buildings are like tropical rain forests and become even more so as a building’s envelope is tightened to conserve energy. What with synthetic building materials being used in the construction of these buildings and with the off gassing of VOCs from building materials, from carpets, furniture , office equipment and humans living within them, and with new VOCs being formed as outdoor ozone laden air reacts with plastics and the like as it enters a building, plants are an ideal means of purifying indoor air.

Plant air purification lessens and all but eliminates the need for removing and replacing great quantities of poor indoor air through ventilation, thus saving on great amounts of energy. But plant air purification has not been widely used, because of building codes which require ventilation and because little proven information has been at hand which demonstrates that plant air purification actually cleans the air in buildings so that massive amounts of ventilation are not necessary. Now this company, along with the EPA and the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority in conjunction with Syracuse University have shown conclusively that plant air purification cleans indoor air in an actual building and can lessen the need for ventilation, which is a totally wasteful practice.

The construction industry is one of the most conservative in the world and is very reluctant to take up new methods unless there are great economic incentives for doing so, or unless demand for a change forces building owners to modify their behavior. While the concern of inhabitants in buildings for clean air is a priority, it is not a government one, nor is it a priority for property owners. This is because governments do not see poor indoor air as a national threat and building owners do not see its remediation as a financially rewarding practice. But were nations to see clean air as something that is aligned with a national priority, or were building owners to receive an economic benefit from installing it than plant air purification would readily gain in popularity and be installed.

If one looks at the history of three different industries,: the railroads, the synthetic rubber industry and air conditioning and compare their levels of assistance by the federal government and the speed with which they developed, we cannot help but come to the conclusion that if a government sees the development of an industry as being in its national interest, that it can have a marked effect on the speed with which that industry ramps up. In the case of the railroads and the synthetic rubber industry, the United States felt it in the national interest to develop these forms of enterprise, in the case of air conditioning it did not. I mention this because plant air purification is now about to be seen as being in the national interest. This I will deal with later.

Right now a quick summary of the history of three industries will be used as examples to document this point. Time lines of these three industries are readily available on the internet and can be obtained easily by looking there. However, I will provide summaries of each so the reader may follow along.

Of the three industries alluded to, the synthetic rubber industry is the best example to show how quickly a country can spark development.

Synthetic rubber was discovered in 1879, but it was not until World War I, when a blockade halted the import of natural rubber to Germany that synthetic rubber ramped up. However, because methyl rubber was an expensive and inferior imitation of natural rubber, production was abandoned at the war’s end. Whereupon development languished until 1941, when the natural rubber supply of America, from Southeast Asia, was cut off at the beginning of World War II.

It was at this point that the United States and its allies were faced with the loss of a strategic war material. This led the U.S. government to embark on a program to produce a substitute for this essential material quickly and on a very large scale, since they believed there was a real danger the war would be lost unless American scientists and technologists were able to replace almost a million tons of natural rubber with a synthetic substitute within 18 months.

This caused the U.S. government to join forces with the rubber companies, the young petrochemicals industry, and university research laboratories. The result, the synthetic rubber program was a remarkable scientific and engineering achievement, with the Federal Government providing all the capital. 51 factories were constructed and U.S. synthetic rubber production skyrocketed, from annual output of just 231 tons in 1941 to almost 840,000 tons of synthetic rubber in 1945. Government’s impact proved to be permanent and today 70 percent of the rubber used in manufacturing processes is synthetic. As a result, the industry has grown to be worth well over sixty billion dollars and is an international enterprise.

The second industry where national interests aligned with development was with railroads. Railroads took quite some time before everything was in place for them to naturally expand, George Stephenson completed and tested his locomotive on a regular line in 1815. The Stockton & Darlington Railroad Company began service as the first railroad to carry both goods and passengers on regular schedules using his locomotives in 1825. Yet by 1830 there was only 23 miles of track in the United States. Track mileage grew to 9,000 miles by 1850 when President Fillmore signed the first Railroad Land Grant Act, encouraging railroad construction in undeveloped territories, particularly in the South and West. Why did the government do this? Because it hoped to attract settlers, increase taxable wealth, and unify and strengthen the nation. The result: by 1870–just twenty years later– the United States had more than 50,000 miles of track, some of which crossed the entire country and railroad growth had increased by more than 550%, mainly due to government incentives. During that time the United States gave away more than one seventh of the United States to more than 80 railroads, the value of which is in excess of fifty billion dollars in today’s terms. All because it believed it was in the national interest.

Now compare that with the development of air conditioning, an industry which received no material support from the federal government. In 1902 air conditioning was installed at the New York Stock Exchange. In the same year it was installed in the Armour Building in Kansas City. In 1904 it was installed in the Missouri State Building, where thousands of attendees at the St. Louis World’s Fair experienced its public debut. In 1906 the first office building specifically designed for air conditioning was constructed by Frank Lloyd Wright in Buffalo and in the same year the first hospital installed it in Boston. Than in 1907 the Congress Hotel in Chicago placed it in its dining and meeting rooms.

But with all this hoopla it was not until the 20’s and 30’s that movie theaters install it in great numbers and not till 1932 when the first overnight train had air conditioning. Then not till 1939 before air conditioning was even offered as an option in a car and not till 1947 before the first mass produced low cost portable air conditioner was available, 45 years after air conditioning’s auspicious debut.

Why did air conditioning take so long to develop? And why did Peter Cooper Village Stuyvesant Town, a large residential development, with more than 11,000 apartments on the East Side of Manhattan not install air conditioning, as late as 1947, when this large project was built? Simply because there were no incentives to do so. In fact it was not until the late 50’s and 60’s, that air conditioning really took off, more than half a century after its inauguration. Now why did air condition have such slow development, especially when we could not imagine being without it today?

A major reason is lack of Federal support. No incentives were given for people to install it. That was because the Federal Government did not see installation as benefiting the national interest. As a result air conditioning developed at a snail’s pace.

If one thing is clear from a review of these industries it is the fact that industries supplied with government incentives develop far more rapidly than those without it and we believe plant air purification is no exception. That is why we have aligned ourselves with the national interest, in a way no other developer of this technology has done.

How did we do this? We saw that the Federal Government was concerned with energy, and with energy efficiency, and so we helped fund a $400,000 study at a leading research university which conclusively showed that the installation of plant air purification within a building saves on heating and cooling costs by up to 15% and on heating costs alone by as much as 26%. The results of this research will allow building owners to receive incentives for the installation of plant air purification in buildings, to receive tax deductions, government grants and financings all because plant air purification saves on energy. As a result it will spark this industry’s rapid development over the next few years.

Our competitors have focused on health, and while there is no question that plant air purification provides great health benefits, it is not a national priority, at least not to the extent of energy. By tapping into the desire of government to make buildings more energy efficient, our firm will reap great benefits. The 3 year study completed at Syracuse University’s Center for Excellence, in late 2009, now leaves this firm ready to take advantage of the study’s results, something no other firm in the industry can do. If one wants quick development of an industry, align it with the national interest and profits will flow to those who do.