James Bryant, Founder & Managing Director
It was an event etched in everyone’s memory. In 2017, when tropical storm Lidia hit parts of Mexico in the Baja California Peninsula, it destroyed almost everything in its path with merciless fury. With winds reaching a speed of 65 miles per hour, Lidia blew away houses, followed by severe flash flooding. Many lost homes or had them almost half a foot underwater. While the storm wreaked havoc, a few homes in Baja California managed to escape its rage. The homeowners, who had built houses with Duratherm Building Systems’ structural insulated panels (SIPs), found that their buildings remained unscathed. They witnessed the advantages of Duratherm’s SIP home firsthand when the property withstood nature’s fury with its strength, integrity, and practicality. As the storm left behind destruction and debris, these homeowners shoveled the mud out of their house and pressure washed the floors and walls inside. What caught their attention was that the Duratherm panels showed no signs of damage or cracks, despite the winds rampaging all over the area.
Duratherm, which offers a new generation of durable and efficient SIPs, not only scores on strength but also on sustainability and as a budget-friendly solution for construction across the globe—a goal the founder and managing director of Duratherm, James Bryant, set out to accomplish as part of his desire to provide green technology solutions and responsible stewardship of natural resources.
Bringing Sustainable, Eco- Friendly Houses to Life
At the start of his building career, when Bryant moved to Mexico to build houses for the retired and expatriates, due to the high frequency of earthquakes in the locality, he dug deeper and developed a building system that was earthquake resistant as well. Meanwhile, the figures from UN reports that stated how about 1.8 million people in Mexico were homeless or unable to afford a home had also caught Bryant’s attention. He realized that building homes were not affordable to many. As he considered different aspects such as construction costs, maintenance costs, social responsibilities, and the long-term return on investment, “The need of the hour was a high-quality building system that was sustainable as well as affordable for people from different economic groups,” says Bryant.
Taking into consideration the different factors, Bryant and his team decided that it was high time to take a step toward socially responsible housing and look for ways to reduce the carbon footprint while improving comfort and affordability. In the move to make eco-friendly, earthquake-safe houses, Bryant researched structural insulated panels (SIPs), initially introduced by the US forestry service department in 1932. Although SIPs existed before, they were not well known in the market; however, as the construction sector evolved, builders began to look at sustainable approaches, which gave life to the utilization of SIPs in buildings. And, this ultimately led to the inception of Duratherm Building Systems in 2007.
In a move to offer safer solutions in construction, Bryant and his team took the concept of SIPs, added their ingredients, and formulated a recipe that met the needs of the harsh seismic and unstable weather conditions of Mexico’s Emerald Coast.
Through Duratherm Building Systems, the team facilitates the construction of sustainable, safe, and earthquake-resistant homes while ensuring that their houses bring comfort to the homeowners and their pocketbooks. “We did not want to overwhelm people financially with technology that is too expensive,” says Bryant.
The Ingredient for Better Housing
A key highlight of the Duratherm SIP is, unlike the regular cement walls, it eliminates the need for repainting and maintenance, along with a much lower usage of timber. Another notable feature is Duratherm Building Systems’ use of elastomeric materials for wall finish. The reason being, elastomeric painting or synthetic stucco has elongation capabilities built into them, which prevents the formation of cracks. Bryant’s goal of being environmentally responsible by offering sustainable solutions is at the core of all the processes and activities at Duratherm Building Systems. To this end, the company has partnered with Elementia/ Mexalit to produce its fiber-cement board. As one of Duratherm’s key ingredients, the fiber-cement board, developed by Eng. Fernando Gonzalez, is impervious to water and is fireproof, along with a significant number of other advantages and does not require huge amounts of potable water in the production process. Bryant points out that their board is a practical solution, which works from both an ecological as well as a safety standpoint.
Stronger, Sturdier, and Long-Lasting
Elaborating on a success story, Bryant highlights a San Antonio-based businessman’s experience with Duratherm Building Systems. The businessman built a fishing cabin on one of the little islands just north of Padre Island in Texas. In July 2020, when the eye of Hurricane Hanna went right over his island, the fishing cabin stayed intact while his neighbors’ houses were completely destroyed. Bryant points out that despite six to eight foot waves from the hurricane’s rage, their panels showed no signs of failure or cracks.
What sets Duratherm Building Systems apart from the rest is its resolute focus on sustainability and reduction of the carbon footprint. Homeowners can observe a 50-70 percent reduction in heating and air conditioning costs, which positively impacts the carbon footprint as well. Interestingly, through a simple statistical study, Bryant explains that unlike the common misconception that cars utilize huge amounts of energy, the average amount of energy used by a hospital building during a year was more than that of a thousand cars. If a building could move toward net-zero energy usage and become self-sufficient in energy production as a part of becoming eco-friendly, it would bring more returns to the hospital.
As a system highly recommended by builders, Duratherm’s SIP reduces the cost of maintenance and labor for end-users and developers. “With our wall panels, the framing, insulation, interior and exterior vapor barriers, drywall, sheeting and siding can be handled simultaneously,” remarks Bryant. Duratherm Building Systems’ solutions not only meet the needs of end-users but also offer benefits to builders, developers, and bankers alike. For bankers, shorter construction loan time lessens the risks.
“Our focus moving forward is not just on enhancing the technology; we want to take advantage of the design and ergonomics of the landscape and leverage its benefits in our building systems to exploit every eco-friendly option,” says Bryant.
The Road to Sustainability
By offering budget-friendly prices in construction and strategically partnering with suppliers like Elementia/Mexalit, RST, PAGFoam and EcoSips by S3D firms in the industry, Duratherm Building Systems is continually staying ahead of the curve. In its endeavor to make the system available worldwide and reach out to a wider audience, the company is moving in the direction of franchising. As a part of its innovation program, the company follows a ‘just in time’ approach to reduce its carbon footprint in any location and the costs associated with transporting. To this end, the company is collaborating with firms and opening factories to expand its geographic reach. The company is also collaborating with firms that can help lower prices to mitigate the housing crisis in the U.S. and Mexico.
"Our aim is help people in this “new normal” world realize their dream by providing safe, eco-friendly building systems within a reasonable budget"
Duratherm Building Systems’ major focus lies in offering sustainable housing to those in the low and medium-income categories while continuing to service the upper echelon. Due to its zero failure record in earthquake and hurricane-prone zones and cost effectiveness, the team has done projects in the African, the Middle-East and is set to embark on a new one in India. The company is currently working with EcoSips by S3D, in California, to increase its distribution and assist with opening their franchise in India. Other projects in progress include developments in California, Washington, Florida and Texas, tiny homes and cabins for tourist rentals options, Habitat for Humanity projects and orphanages in Mexico, to name a few.
With COVID-19 hitting hard across countries and marketplaces, Duratherm Building Systems has also driven its attention toward being sensitive to meet its customers’ needs from different economic sections. By strategically collaborating with NGOs, the company is helping them leverage eco-friendly practices that are financially beneficial to them.
As a proven construction solution that is one of the safest in the market, the Duratherm Building Systems’ SIP has become the solution of choice for building structures worldwide, especially in earthquake zones. “Our aim is to help people from different walks of life realize their dream by providing safe, eco-friendly building systems at a reasonable budget. The COVID-19 reality has awakened the building market to the reality that our homes must offer more than just a shelter for the family. They have become our offices, our schoolrooms, gyms, etc... We want to step up to meet the need,” concludes Bryant.