Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Covestro Targets Housing Crisis for Refugees in Germany

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Covestro Targets Housing Crisis for Refugees in Germany

Article excerpt

In Tacloban, Philippines, which was ravaged by a typhoon in 2013, plastics maker Covestro is partnering with Habitat for Humanity to construct 4,000 houses built with energy-efficient foam cement that can withstand winds of up to 140 miles per hour.

The German materials company, which has similar housing initiatives underway in developing nations including India, Malaysia and Indonesia, now wants to tackle a housing crisis that hits much closer to its home base: providing accommodations for thousands of refugees who have migrated to the German town of Bergisch Gladbach from war-torn nations, including Syria and Afghanistan.

"We want to build homes, not shelter," said Richard Northcote, chief sustainability officer for Covestro, which was formerly the material sciences division of drug and pharmaceutical giant Bayer AG.

During a visit to Covestro's North American headquarters in Robinson this week, Mr. Northcote said the company is waiting for government approval to begin construction on 100, 500-square-foot, single-story dwellings that could house a family of four in the town near Cologne. It would partner with Logelis, a French company that would produce and assemble the houses using Covestro's polyurethane materials.

Mr. Northcote described it as "fast housing" that would be highly insulated and durable even though the foam cement is lightweight.

If the pilot project is approved, German officials could expand the concept to other cities that have experienced an influx of refugees, Mr. Northcote said.

The project is part of Covestro's global sustainability strategy that includes conducting business with an awareness of how processes and products impact the environment and social issues as well as the bottom line. With its housing initiatives aimed at helping needy populations, "We would get a return but not super normal profits," Mr. Northcote said. "We want it to be sustainable."

Since Covestro was spun off from Bayer last September, the company has been crafting sustainability initiatives that include addressing global health, poverty, food distribution and education. …

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