Three years ago, a hurricane destroyed the Bahamas, claiming dozens of lives. Today, 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 ease the housing shortage caused by the a storm.
Rick Fox, former Los Angeles Lakers player, is the foundation of the new housing project. The former basketball player and Bahamian citizen was spurred into action after he saw the devastation caused by Hurricane Dorian in 2019. Fox teamed up with architect Sam Marshall, whose home in Malibu was severely damaged by wildfires in 2018, to develop Partanna, a building material that removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
The technology is being trialled in the Bahamas, where Fox’s company, Partanna Bahamas, is partnering with the government to build 1,000 hurricane-resistant homes, including single-family houses and apartments. The first 30 units will be delivered next year in the Abaco Islands, which were hardest hit by Dorian.
“Innovation and new technology will play a critical role in avoiding the worst climate scenarios,” said Philip Davis, the prime minister of the Bahamas, in a statement. He is expected to formally announce the partnership between the Bahamian government 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 that 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 have developed a solution that can change how the world builds,” said Fox.
Partanna contains natural and recycled ingredients, including steel slag, a by-product of steel manufacturing, and brine from desalination. It contains no resins and plastics and avoids the pollution associated with cement production, which accounts for approximately 4%-8% of global carbon emissions from human activities.
Meanwhile, using brine helps solve the desalination industry’s growing waste problem by preventing the toxic solution from being thrown back into the ocean.
Almost all buildings absorb carbon dioxide naturally through a process known as carbonation – which is where CO2 in the air reacts with minerals in the concrete – but Partanna says his homes remove carbon from the atmosphere much faster because of the density of the material.
The material also emits almost no carbon during manufacture.
Partanna’s home will be 1,250 square feet contributing a “negligible amount” of CO2 during manufacturing, while removing 22.5 tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere after production, making it “completely carbon negative within the product’s life cycle,” according to the company.
In comparison, a standard cement home of the same size typically produces 70.2 tonnes of CO2 in production.
The use of salt water means that Partanna homes are also resistant to corrosion from sea water, making them ideal for residents of small island countries such as the Bahamas. That could make it easier for homeowners to get insurance.
The carbon credits generated from 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 stated the losses suffered by Rick Fox and Sam Marshall as a result of Hurricane Dorian and wildfires.