Ex-NBA champ is changing ‘how the world builds’ to tackle climate crisis

CNN Business

Three years ago, a hurricane devastated the Bahamas, killing dozens. Now the country is building what it claims is the world’s first carbon-negative housing community to reduce the likelihood of future climate disasters and to alleviate the housing shortage caused by the storm.

Rick Fox, a former Los Angeles Lakers player, is the kingpin of the new real estate project. The former basketball player and Bahamian citizen was spurred into action after witnessing the destruction wrought by Hurricane Dorian in 2019. Fox partnered with architect Sam Marshall, whose Malibu home was severely damaged by wildfires in 2018, to develop Partanna, a building material that removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere .

The technology is being tested in the Bahamas, where Fox’s company Partanna Bahamas is partnering with the government to build 1,000 hurricane-proof homes, including single-family homes and apartments. The first 30 units will be delivered next year to the Abaco Islands, which were hardest hit by Dorian.

“Innovation and new technologies will play a crucial role in avoiding the worst climate scenarios,” Philip Davis, Prime Minister of the Bahamas, said in a statement. He is due to officially announce the partnership between the Government of the Bahamas and Partanna Bahamas on Wednesday at the COP27 climate summit in Egypt.

As a country on the front lines of the climate crisis, the Bahamas understands it is “out of time,” Fox told CNN Business. “They don’t have time to wait for someone to save them,” he added.

“Technology can turn the tide, and at Partanna we’ve developed a solution that can change the way the world is built,” Fox said.

Partanna is made with natural and recycled ingredients, including steel slag, a by-product of steelmaking, and brine from desalination. It contains no resins or plastics and avoids the pollution associated with cement production, which accounts for around 4-8% of global carbon emissions from human activities.

The use of brine, meanwhile, helps solve the desalination industry’s growing waste problem by preventing the toxic solution from being released into the ocean.

Almost all buildings naturally absorb carbon dioxide through a process called carbonation – where CO2 in the air reacts with minerals in the concrete – but Partanna claims that its houses remove carbon from the atmosphere at a much faster rate due to the density of the material.

The material also emits almost no carbon during manufacture.

A 1,250 square foot Partanna house contribute a “negligible amount” of CO2 during manufacturing, while removing 22.5 tons of CO2 from the atmosphere after production, making it “entirely carbon negative over the life cycle of the product,” according to the company.

In comparison, a standard cement house of the same size typically generates 70.2 tonnes of CO2 during production.

The use of salt water means that Partanna homes are also resistant to seawater corrosion, making them ideal for residents of small island countries such as the Bahamas. This could make it easier for homeowners to get insurance.

The carbon credits generated by each home will be traded and used to fund various social impact initiatives, including promoting home ownership among low-income families.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly mentioned the losses suffered by Rick Fox and Sam Marshall as a result of Hurricane Dorian and the wildfires.

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