Calmura Natural Walls, a Canadian social venture, has developed a patented biocomposite wall system that provides healthy, durable and comprehensively protective shells to homes and buildings. We use waste wood from lumber mills, providing circular-economy value in our supply chain, to create carbon-negative building products.
The wood is chipped and cast with a lime and clay binder to make long-lasting modular biocomposite panels and insulating infill, which is then formed into a monolithic building envelope around standard wood framing. Our wall system protects from fire, pests, mould and thermal variations, giving visionary homeowners a fully comfortable and safe home for generations.
At end-of-life, our zero-waste product can be recycled into new biocomposite, or composted as a soil enhancement, but with the initial intention to create buildings that last as long as possible.
Calmura revives and modernizes historic building materials that used only regionally available natural materials to fashion sustainable and vernacular buildings, which still stand and are used today – mainly due to the use of lime as a building material, as the Romans demonstrated.
Calmura is an Italian portmanteau of “calce”=lime and “mura”=walls, and lime is a the key to sustainable building. Instead of building boxes of plastic and petroleum-based products, which eventually fill up landfills, we have a vision for enabling architects, builders and homeowners to construct healthy homes and building which can protect and be loved by the inhabitants for many generations.
Tell us about yourself?
Monty Chong-Walden has been in sustainability and has introduced novel products to the building industry for over 25 years. His concern for the environment and the damaging effects of extraction economies predates that by at least a decade.
Monty has a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of British Columbia but has focused more on building companies and using his skills in sales and marketing to effect change.
Calmura Natural Walls was created to help bring natural building products to commercial scale due to the fact that the company founders could not find these materials available in the local market.
Under his leadership, Calmura Natural Walls has been granted a USPTO patent for their novel wall system, bootstrapped product development since 2016, and became a regional winner in the 2021 Cleantech Open.
The company also achieved a Deep Tech Pioneer recognition by Hello Tomorrow and has received over $350k in funding and support for innovation.
A previous business Monty started was Ancient Forest Woods, which was focused on creating custom building projects using lake-rescued woods.
These woods come from the industrial waste of the North American logging industry left at the bottom of lakes and rivers in whole log form. This extremely valuable wood was designed and sold into many high-end projects in North America through Monty’s ability to connect with like-minded designers and architects.
If you could go back in time a year or two, what piece of advice would you give yourself?
Well, it seems that a year or two is not a very long time ago, so I don’t think there is much I can say to this question, as I feel like I have been making good choices for a long time now.
Of course, the past couple of years have been particularly challenging as the planet has faced a major disruption with a global pandemic, as well as on-going climate related disasters, so I think it has been quite a time of reflection of the serious and sever changes we are going to have to make in the world to make it more equitable and sustainable.
What problem does your business solve?
Our business solves the problems of high embodied carbon materials being used to build envelopes for residential buildings, along with the non-recyclability, wastefulness and toxicity of many building materials.
Our solution also helps reduce homeowner issues of mould and rot, pest, fire and poor indoor-air-quality. It really is a comprehensive solution and a modernization of historic building practices when buildings were built with local, natural materials and lasted a very long time.
What is the inspiration behind your business?
Our business and innovation were inspired by the work being done in Europe around this material in buildings for the past 30+ years. After searching for better ways for well over 20 years in the building industry, when I came across hempcrete (hemp-lime) being used in Europe, it really seemed like the kind of material everyone should be building with because of its comprehensive benefits and performance.
My friend and business partner also became entranced by this material and thought it would work well for a building he was currently planning to build. As we couldn’t find the material readily available to work and build with locally, we pivoted to developing a novel method for building with this monolithic building material.
Ultimately, the problem I am trying to solve is the current linear extraction model of product use that is very degrading not only for the environment, but also for human health in toxic buildings, and provide a more circular and regenerative model for building a future that will be healthy and beautiful for my sons, nieces and nephews to enjoy they way we have.
What is your magic sauce?
Our magic sauce is that we are persistent and patient and working towards a vision, not just for profit. We are dedicated to making a difference in the built environment and creating buildings that are healthy, comfortable, durable and very lasting so that they achieve a level of sustainability that makes sense for the future of humanity.
We are taking our time to build a solid foundation and then find the right values-aligned strategic partners that share our vision for the future and being leaders in sustainable walls and buildings.
What is the plan for the next 5 years? What do you want to achieve?
Our vision in the next 5 years is to establish pilot operations to produce our panels and wall system so we can demonstrate the efficacy of our products and the value to homebuilders, homeowners and the marketplace. It takes a long time to develop and establish a new building material, especially when it includes a new building science, so we expect things to take a while, but in the meantime we can make good strides towards building a new industry of monolithic biocomposite homebuilding products and techniques to take us into the next 50 – 100 years.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?
The biggest challenge that we face is getting people in the start-up and venture world to understand that our technology is in a different framework of development from the standard high-tech product or venture.
Buildings and the products used to build them are in a highly regulated environment due to the high-risk nature of creating structures, so it not only takes time to run all the tests and certifications on a building product and assembly to prove its effectiveness, but also needs a long duration to prove that it actually will stand the test of time.
How do people get involved/buy into your vision?
We are looking to connect with like-minded companies and people in the building products and construction industry that realize the need for better, more regenerative solutions.
We are seeking to connect with values-aligned strategic partners that want to lead the industry into a wholly sustainable future and capitalize now on the opportunity we have created to bring these products to the fore as the building industry changes.
We can and need to do better now to reduce the impacts of the construction industry so we can all live in a healthy and amazing natural world.