Squamish lands low-carbon construction startup Nexii to bolster clean-tech cred

Credit to Author: Derrick Penner| Date: Fri, 24 Jan 2020 13:56:30 +0000

Nexii Building Solutions, the Vancouver-headquartered startup selling the construction sector on an alternative, lower-carbon building system, is proposing to produce its materials in Squamish, the company said Thursday.

That is a welcome development for the District of Squamish, home to clean-tech poster case Carbon Engineering and a growing cluster of environmentally friendly businesses.

“Squamish is clearly charting a future to reach carbon neutrality, so I believe these companies want to be part of that journey with us,” said Squamish Mayor Karen Elliott. “There is a lot of alignment with the vision were creating and people like Carbon Engineering and Nexii see for their companies.”

Nexii CEO Stephen Sidwell said his company has signed a lease to take over a 90,000-square-foot industrial space in Squamish and that they were attracted by the district’s green reputation.

“The area is quickly becoming a hub for clean-tech companies and we are eager to become part of the community” and tap into “a strong workforce,” said Sidwell.

Nexii has developed a building system that involves prefabricating building components such as floors, walls and roofs that are trucked to sites for assembly into commercial buildings or mixed-use, multi-family housing.

The method uses proprietary materials, primarily Nexiite, which the company describes as being like cement, but lighter and less carbon intensive, to manufacture panels into components that take less time to assemble than conventional construction, but is cost-competitive with conventional methods, Sidwell said.

Nexii hasn’t built any buildings in B.C. using the technology yet, although there are six in Moose Jaw, Sask., Sidwell said. The company has enough customers in B.C. to begin rolling out production later this year and could be at full production by the end of 2020, employing up to 150 people.

That would fit with Squamish council’s priority to increase the number of local, high-quality jobs to help anchor “a very talented workforce” within a rapidly growing population.

“Twenty-six per cent of our population commutes each day, whether that is south to the city or north to Whistler,” Elliott said, “and we want to change that.”

Sidwell said Nexii, which established a smaller pilot plant in Moose Jaw to develop its technology, has about 85 employees and is adding to the roster all the time. Their investors include Lotus Capital Corp., Beedie Group and Omicron Canada Inc.

Former Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson, who on Wednesday signed on as Nexii’s vice-president for strategy and partnerships, is one of their latest hires.

Robertson said he didn’t hesitate when Nexii asked him to join, because of their system’s potential to reduce the carbon impact of construction with a quick-to-assemble, sustainable and cost-effective method.

Speed and cost competitiveness, Robertson said, also has the potential to help with housing shortages that many cities struggle with.

Elliott said Nexii will put up a demonstration building in Squamish as part of its development, which she said she is “really interested in seeing.”

“Nexii is trying to change how we build, make it more efficient, and are very much about reducing emissions,” Elliott said.