Building a Sustainable Future

Vancouver’s Nexii is disrupting the construction industry

By Stephan Boissonneault

Many people may not know this, but our planet’s current building infrastructure is the number one contributor to global CO2 emissions. Buildings are usually held together by various forms of concrete—one of the most destructive compounds on Earth—and other high polluting materials. Nexii Building Solutions Inc., a Vancouver-based sustainable building company, is now looking to change the standard way of construction building.

“What Nexii does is we build buildings that use a fraction of the energy that is required to operate the buildings and do so with sustainable materials,” says Nexii CEO Stephen Sidwell. “The goal is very simply to advance the construction industry and be a catalyst for change.”

Nexii does this by using their material called Nexiite, a “proprietary blend of materials and sand that is stronger than concrete.” According to the Chatham House Report in 2018, concrete is the source of about eight percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions.

“Sidwell says that Nexiite is 99 percent Red List-free. The Red List is assembled by the International Living Future Institute and indicates the worst materials prevalent in the building industry.

“The International Living Future Institute has a list of materials that are harmful for the planet, humans, or animals, and we only have one tiny ingredient in all of our systems,” he says. “We don’t disclose the formula. It’s like the Coca-Cola formula. Only three people in the world know about it and it’s in a big safe somewhere. But I can say there are no Red Listed materials.”

Nexii also constructs buildings exponentially quicker than traditional building strategies. This is due to the company’s development methodology. The buildings frames are prefabricated in the Nexii factory, flat-packed on a semi, and then assembled on site.

“So if we were going to do a 100, multi-storey, multi-family unit, traditionally that would take 18 to 24 months and we would do that same building in about 45 to 60 days,” Sidwell says. “I’ve been doing this for 15 months and we have not found a company yet that is doing something similar. We want other companies to create and invent to make other significant impacts on the planet.”

This is huge not only on an environmental level, but also for the global housing and overpopulation crisis, especially in places like China and India. China has close to 1.3 billion people and that number grows by the minute. More and more people are needing quick housing and Sidwell says the builders cannot keep up at this point.

Nexii was established once Sidwell, a self-proclaimed “serial entrepreneur,” met with Ben and Michael Dombowsky, two builders focused on creating net zero buildings, and the creators of Nexiite, in Moosejaw, SK.

“I had been retired for five years and had no intentions of getting active in business again, but I really wanted to do humanitarian work the rest of my life,” Sidwell says. “So I went to meet Ben and Michael and one day later I said ‘OK I’m in.’ They had invented a new construction and building technology that had the potential to change the world and I couldn’t pass that up.”

Since then, Nexii has hired around 90 people, built a 20,000 square foot manufacturing plant in Moosejaw, and have now just leased another 90,000 square foot facility in Squamish, BC.

The company is only 15 months old, but Sidwell sees tremendous growth on the horizon.

“Every day we get somewhere between 10 to 20 inquiries from locals or somewhere in the world about Nexii. The demand far outstrips our ability to supply at the moment,” he says.

Nexii has also developed a global licensing program to expand its reach and already has potential licensees, including three in Africa. This is in part due to the fact that Nexii has partnered with former mayor of Vancouver, Gregor Robertson—a man who has dedicated most of his life to sustainability and climate action.

Sidwell met Robertson while he was on a six-month global sabbatical. The two had never met before and began talking about business ventures when Sidwell brought up his company Nexii.

“Three weeks later he sent me a message saying he was coming to join Nexii,” Sidwell says. “He said ‘I think it’s a great opportunity to make an impact on the climate.’ Gregor is a global authority on sustainability and cities. He’s working with us to help in our global rollout strategy to get our buildings all around the world and attack the number one issue for global CO2 emissions.”

Much like when Sidwell met the Dombowskys, Robertson was immediately intrigued by Nexiite and its many benefits and wanted to put his resources behind the company.

“He is passionate and has been for decades on the issue of climate and sustainability so he’s a fantastic ally to have on the team.”

On top of full building compositions, Nexiite can also be used to retrofit older buildings that were built with little to no insulating or energy efficiency efforts. A few clients in the States are now in talks with Nexii about future projects.

“We’re a great solution to revamp those buildings to become energy efficient and high performance. In the next few months we will have an announcement about one of the projects we are doing in New York State,” Sidwell says.

Nexii is also looking at incorporating purified air and water conservation systems in their buildings as well as greenhouses on the roofs.

“One of our clients builds hundreds of acres of industrial buildings a year and said to us ‘Why wouldn’t I put a greenhouse on my building? It’s a secondary source of income for us,’” Sidwell says. “Well, it also helps purify clean air so there’s all of the climate and social human benefits compelling the economic reasons to do it. I mean, food scarcity can also be addressed in that.”

Sidwell’s dreams for Nexii are considerable, but based on the company’s very small track record and the demand for their product, they seem quite achievable. If we were to check in with Nexii five years from now, Sidwell is quick to outline the company’s future.

“We will have several hundred plants around the world and have net-positive buildings with purified air systems, water conservation systems and greenhouses and be a leader in sustainable high-performance buildings,” he says. “We see this as a social enterprise where we can make profit and benefit the planet at the same time. If we cannot innovate to a point where it’s good for all and economics, we’re not interested.”

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