By Vance Cariaga
Adopting a fully sustainable lifestyle can be expensive up front, as anyone who has ever bought solar panels or an electric vehicle can tell you. The same holds true for net-zero homes, which are specially designed to generate enough renewable energy to meet their consumption needs. On average, building a net-zero home costs 1% to 8% more than building a standard home, according to the Attainable Home website, which cited data from the Rocky Mountain Institute.
One company that aims to lower those costs is Vantem Global. The company is a Greensboro, North Carolina-based manufacturer of prefabricated modular structures made with the proprietary Vantem Structural Panels.
Vantem’s panels are large, lightweight, and easy to modify, making them ideal for automated factory production. They are also delivered to job sites completely finished, which improves their cost-efficiency even further. And because the panels are made from refractory materials, they are resistant to high temperatures, extreme weather events, and earthquakes.
This combination of cost-efficiency, durability, and sustainability has drawn investment interest from some pretty powerful players – including the Bill Gates-founded Breakthrough Energy Ventures. In June, Vantem announced a Series-A funding round co-led by Breakthrough Energy, Quadrant Management, and TEM Capital. The company will use proceeds to build 15 factories in the U.S. over the next seven years, each capable of producing one million square feet of homes each year.
Vantem did not disclose the dollar amount of the funding round, but the Crunchbase website reported that Vantem has raised a total of $10.1 million over two rounds.
The new factories will allow Vantem to ramp up production, expand its geographic reach, and bring affordable net-zero homes to a much larger customer base. So far, its business has been concentrated in South America and the Caribbean.
“We are excited to have the support of investors who share in our goal of meeting affordable housing needs while reducing energy and carbon emissions impacts,” Vantem CEO and Co-Founder Chris Anderson said in a press release. “Construction in this sector has seen the least amount of innovation and productivity gains and is one of the greatest direct and indirect sources of carbon emissions. At the same time, affordable housing is a global need that must be addressed, but if we build with traditional methods, we will solve one problem only to worsen another. At Vantem, we are committed to addressing both challenges on a global scale.”
Vantem’s panels are designed to work with most conventional finish materials, including paint, stucco, ceramic, stone, and brick veneers. They can be used to build structures up to three stories high without additional reinforcement. Over the past 15 years, the panels have been used to construct everything from high-end homes and schools to 5-star hotels. Vantem claims that its system has been deployed in more than 3 million square feet of living space internationally, including Uruguay, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, and the Caribbean.
The company establishes its factories as joint ventures with local developers that want to lower their costs and construction time, while also reducing their carbon footprints by building net-zero structures.
“Vantem’s approach allows the production of high-efficiency and net-zero homes at extremely competitive costs and low embodied carbon,” Carmichael Roberts, co-leader of Breakthrough Energy’s investment committee, said in a statement. “With their proven track record in South America and the Caribbean, we’re confident that the Vantem team can scale their modular approach to ensure homes everywhere can be energy efficient.”
Originally published on December 16, 2022