From rooftop to insulation to asphalt, soy has the building industry covered as it continues to look for products made with renewable ingredients. With more than 1,000 soy-based products on the market, homes, offices and other buildings have the opportunity to be built using more sustainable materials than ever before. While the focus on renewable, sustainable materials might be a newer trend, incorporating soy ingredients for performance and economic reasons has long been in style.

Used as a renewable ingredient in products such as paint, soybeans were a popular agricultural product among chemists as early as the 1920s. The practice of using agricultural products, such as soy, in consumer goods was so popular in fact that a new sector was created for and by these scientists, researchers and inventors — chemurgy. The growing interest in this new industry combined with the increasing surplus of crops also spurred the U.S. Department of Agriculture to create four regional research laboratories focused on finding new, diverse opportunities to use crops. These laboratories are still in use today.

When it comes to private companies, the Glidden Company was one of the first to research and extensively use soy in paints, cosmetics and plastics. Since then, plenty of other companies have followed suit and now soy is commonly used in products throughout many industries.

Adding Performance Benefits

In addition to being a renewable ingredient as soy is grown on millions of acres in the United States every year, soybeans also offer performance benefits. For example, a roof rejuvenating spray that is formulated with soybean oil helps restore a roof’s flexibility and waterproofing protection. Because it uses soy, a natural ingredient, the spray is also safe for the environment.

Soy-based wood stains and finishes reportedly also perform better with the addition of this renewable ingredient with one soy-based stain line reporting that their products penetrate wood twice as deep as other products on the market due to the properties soybean oil brings to the stain. Soy also increases the water resistance of wood stains, making it a great option for outdoor applications.

When it comes to paving, a soy-based asphalt combines 100% recycled asphalt pavement mixed with a soy-based polymer. This mix enhances durability and longevity while reducing maintenance costs.

Reducing Potentially Harmful Ingredients

Even though soy was originally included in some products because it’s abundantly available, in addition to performance benefits companies are finding that there are environmental reasons to consider a soy-based formulation as well. In nonfood uses, soy can replace petrochemicals leading to environmental and economic benefits for manufacturers, builders and homeowners.

Using soy in place of petroleum-based ingredients also reduces the release of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can be found in materials such as adhesives that are used in insulation, plywood and paneling. Floor coverings are also cutting back on VOCs by using soy with soy-based carpet backing. There’s even soy-backed astroturf that lowers VOCs and yard maintenance for homeowners.

Offering a Sustainable Solution

While soy was originally included in many materials because of its availability, it’s been found to have many benefits and to be a renewable ingredient which is growing in importance. Not only have consumers been paying more attention to ingredients in building materials and seeking out sustainable solutions, but there are more requirements and certifications that encourage builders to seek out and use renewable materials whenever possible. As a proven ingredient for generations, the potential for soy to improve sustainability in building materials and other industries seems sky high.

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