Home Tech Former NBA Star Rick Fox Is Making a Play for Carbon-Neutral Concrete

Former NBA Star Rick Fox Is Making a Play for Carbon-Neutral Concrete

by Elijah
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Former NBA Star Rick Fox Is Making a Play for Carbon-Neutral Concrete

Rick Fox has spent a lot of time in Hollywood, so of course he has more than one origin story. The Canadian-born, Bahamas-raised Fox played professional basketball in the NBA in the 1990s and 2000s, starring for the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers. After retiring from the sport in 2004, he became a full-time actor and appeared in everything Ugly Betty And The Big Bang Theory Unpleasant Sharknado 3: Oh no! In 2015 he bought one League of Legends esports team, a venture that ended in considerable bitterness four years later. And then the pandemic hit, and everything slowed to a crawl.

“The world shut down,” Fox says. “All we were allowed to do was walk to the store.” So he walked around, reconnected with his children, reflected on the shape of his life, and on the Bahamas, which a few months before the pandemic had been hit by Hurricane Dorian, a “once in a century” cyclone that killed dozens of people. people and destroyed homes across the country. Fox had flown back to the Bahamas to help with the relief effort and saw first-hand the human and economic consequences of climate change. “I realized that we were experiencing these types of events more and more often. So the future was a little bleaker than people in a landlocked country would expect,” he says.

Looking for ways to help rebuild, his manager turned him to Sam Marshall, an architect in Venice Beach, seven miles from where Fox lived. Marshall had been on his own journey, wondering how the construction projects he had built his career on could be accomplished without such a huge impact on the environment. By the time he and Fox met, he had decided to repair concrete.

Concrete is responsible for about 8 percent of all global CO2 emissions, due to the enormous energy required to bake its parts in a kiln and the gases released during the resulting chemical reaction. Marshall, along with a few materials scientists, had developed a new type of concrete, made from byproducts of steelmaking and desalination plants, that could harden at ambient temperatures and actually consume CO2.2 as it did so, effectively making it carbon positive. In 2019 the product was ready for testing. Marshall was looking for partners to produce it on a large scale and had traveled to China. Then the pandemic hit and like Fox, it calmed down. “So here we were with this void in the world and our time for the next year,” Fox says.

For weeks, Fox walked into Marshall’s studio to talk about concrete. Soon they were operating together through a start-up, Partanna Global, and working in the Bahamas, where their materials were used to build 1,000 affordable homes in an area hit hard by Hurricane Dorian.

Because the material captures carbon, Partanna can use it to generate carbon credits, which Fox believes could be a way to help finance low-income housing in developing countries in the Caribbean. But their customers now also come from the other side of the spectrum. They have received orders from a Las Vegas casino and are working with a Saudi Arabian property developer, Red Sea Global, on luxury development projects in the Gulf.

The interest in their material comes like ‘a fire hose’, says Fox, but scaling is difficult. Partanna is reluctant to work with traditional construction and cement companies because of the risk of “catch and kill,” Fox says, a practice in which established companies buy up potential challengers to take them out of the market. But venture capitalists tend to want big wins and quick exits, something that’s hard to reconcile with building factories and pouring concrete.

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