In his previous posts, Gerhard Dust talked about what motivated him to set up his business and discussed the personal challenges he has encountered and the issues his company has had to deal with as his business developed. In this, his final blog post, Gerhard talks about the human desire to leave a lasting legacy, and gives us his six golden rules of entrepreneurship.
This is my last blog for the time being and, frankly, I would have liked to talk more about PolyCare. How environmentally friendly our invention is; how we are able to finish houses in a few days; how it can be made using only desert sand; and how inexpensive this solution is. Of course you can still find all of this information on our website or on YouTube.
But today I want to talk about entrepreneurship and what an entrepreneur actually is. You see, I have often been asked a very direct question that goes something like this….
“Gerhard, at your age and time of life, why did you start this business?”
Some might find this quite rude, but actually it lies at the heart of what inventors and entrepreneurs are about. The simple answer is that every person dreams of doing and creating something that will stand the test of time – something great that will outlast them and benefit mankind.
Doesn’t every person with even a gram of compassion carry a dual responsibility: on the one hand towards his fellow human beings and, on the other, towards the generations to come? My partners and I founded PolyCare because we recognised that affordable housing world-wide is no longer achievable for more than a billion people through the use of traditional building technologies. We might be of retirement age, but that doesn’t mean we have lost the ability to dream and to wish for a better world. A world where an ordinary person can build their own home; where the money needed to do this doesn’t leak away into the coffers of the multinationals; and where a home is more than a shabby tent made of plastic.
Sometimes we joke and say that we are like the elderly people in the blockbuster RED. Our definition of RED is slightly different: Retired, Experienced and Dedicated. I admit that we are proud that our solution has been described as one of the most important inventions of recent times and that it could provide millions of people with quick and inexpensive housing worth living in. So far, for us this has meant endless work, many sleepless nights and often-severe worries about money, technical solutions and bureaucratic hurdles.
But we do not regret any of it. Many believe that we have transformed a good idea into reality and we have gained many supporters and friends in the process. So we are proud of what we have achieved so far, but there is still much to do.
You see, being an entrepreneur can often be its own reward and this is especially true when it is also economically successful. But an entrepreneur does not have to become rich to be happy. If we provide the means to make the world just a little bit better, then that will be reward enough. These old REDs will be able to approach the ultimate finishing line knowing that they have made a difference. What could be more motivational than that?
The last six years with PolyCare has certainly taught me some golden rules. These are my golden rules for entrepreneurship:
- Fairness – always treat employees and business partners how you would like to be treated. Friends are more valuable than enemies.
- Dreams – everyone has the right to change the world. Be brave and set yourself goals that are as big as your confidence will allow, but make sure that you are practical about what is achievable.
- Planning – don’t leave things to chance. Plan your steps carefully, review them constantly and always have a plan B.
- Develop the team and yourself – look beyond your horizons and learn from others. Invest time in networking. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and lean on the best people you can find.
- Commercialise – the best invention is useless unless you can sell it. Everything revolves around the benefits to your customers. Make sure it provides benefits for them.
- Team – if you need staff, get the best people, share your vision with them and continually motivate them.
I wish you all success on your entrepreneurial path. Follow your dreams with courage and confidence and don´t be put off by small setbacks.
And finally…..believe in yourself.
I am grateful that you have read my blog and I am grateful for the interest that you have shown in our solution. Now this technology must reach the people in need. I ask you with all my heart for your support… please spread the word about this invention to the world. Tell your friends via Twitter, Facebook or e-mail. Let UNHCR and others know that there is a cheaper more practical and ethical alternative to the use of containers in the desert for refugees and for worldwide affordable housing.
Your words might just fall on the ears of the right person at the right time, and that could change the lives of millions.
Best of luck to you all.
To read more about Polycare :
In his previous posts  , Gerhard Dust outlined the events that led him to his current career path and described some of the challenges he has encountered as his new business develops. In this third blog post, Gerhard deals with some of the main questions that his new technology has raised and explains some of the concepts involved.
In my previous blogs I have tried to convey the huge advantages that the PolyCare system offers when building structures of up to three or four stories. However, some of the responses I have received recently have led me to understand that some of you are still struggling to accept that much of this is actually possible. How can you have a building with no real foundations, and how is it possible to build with blocks that are not cemented together? What’s more, doesn’t capillary attraction mean you still get rising damp, and can completely unskilled people really do all the building work?
These and many more questions have been continually raised and, if you think about it, with good reason. For over 2000 years there has been a standard way of building and we all understand it fairly well. The problem is that when something totally new arrives our immediate reaction is to compare it to what we know and the standards we are familiar with. Unfortunately this doesn’t always give us a clear picture.
Below I explain the building process with pictures taken on-site when my colleague Ramon Gray constructed a small Quality Control building for TATA in New Delhi, India.
The start of a PolyCare build requires a flat, level base of wet sand. This is usually accomplished by making a small 150-200mm channel in the ground, filling it with sand and then levelling it carefully. In this first picture (left) this wasn’t possible as the construction was being carried out on an uneven concrete base. However, the building system is simple and it can be adapted to practically any situation. Here, instead of making a channel, our team used some waste materials (the granite strip on the left and the steel box section on the right) to form a flat and level frame for the wet sand base.
The picture on the right shows the start of the build itself. On the right you can see that base lates have been simply laid on the sand base and bolted together with small steel plates. These continue around the building and form the base level.
Steel connecting rods are then screwed into the bases and these run right through the blocks, once they are laid on top, and connect to a similar set of plates at the top of the building. Once the connecting rods are in place work can start on laying the blocks.
The laying of the blocks continues with the blocks being placed over the rods and with the rods themselves being extended using simple screw thread connectors. Gaps are left for windows, doors etc. When the blocks reach the top of the building the top plates are added and the rods are bolted to them, giving the whole structure immense strength.
There is no sticking, gluing or anything else involved; the blocks are simply laid on top of each other. This is why our system has often been called “big boys’ LEGO” – for obvious reasons. But I’m not sure that this is an accurate description… the LEGO most ten year olds do is much more complicated!
So let me explain some of the concepts.
In this system no foundation is generally used (see note) as the structure itself is many times stronger and more resistant to bending forces than a brick or cement concrete wall. This is due to a combination of the huge strength of the polymer concrete as well as the way that the blocks lock together. This strength is further enhanced by the tie bar system that produces a very strong box-like structure. But there are further considerations. This structure is completely resistant to water, so foundation frost and capillary attraction occurs without any consequence. The wet sand technique is a copy of the system the Egyptians used to build the pyramids. While it may seem somewhat crude and primitive, no one can say that it hasn’t stood the test of time.
So, lastly, let me provide some assurances for anyone looking at this system for the first time. The Bauhaus University is one of the most respected institutions worldwide for architecture, design and materials testing. They have been working with PolyCare now for over four years, testing and officially certifying practically every aspect of what we do. They are so confident in our system of building that one of their professors recently assisted PolyCare in presenting and discussing its merits at an international exhibition. The efficacy of the system is therefore not in doubt and it is currently undergoing full building type approval in Germany.
[Note: PolyCare fully understands that, in some circumstances, extremely weak or unstable soils will need some level of foundation, whether strip or corner piles, etc. Site testing will determine where this is necessary.]
Learn more about Polycare
Previous EEPA blog post on Polycare:
In his previous blog post, Gerhard Dust described how an international humanitarian crisis caused him to re-evaluate his retirement plans and led him down a completely new career path. In this second post, Gerhard tells us about some of the issues his company encounters as his business develops.
You will have seen from my previous blog the huge advantages that our construction system can bring, and these were naturally of significant interest to our visitors from China. The Chinese delegation was keen to see if it would be possible to use waste residue from a gold mine as the main filler constituent in our polymer concrete and if the end product conformed to Chinese building standards. We demonstrated that not only could we use this waste material but that the resultant PolyCare polymer concrete was anything from 6 to 10 times stronger than required by their standard. This advantage was further enhanced when they discovered that just 1m3 of this material actually makes 3 to 4m3 of walling. Consequently, we have made significant progress with this important Chinese company and their delegation left acknowledging that our process could make a major contribution to meeting Chinese housing needs.
Working on the world stage with a breakthrough technology like ours doesn’t always attract such commercially aware and serious-minded approaches as that of the Chinese delegation. It can be frustrating at times, and sometimes quite amusing. Practically every week we are approached by individuals who claim to be close to, or related to, or a friend of, a king or queen, the president, the minister, etc. etc. In circumstances like these, naivety soon gives way to experience and the realisation that often these people only know someone who operates the lift in a building where someone else who works for the government lives. The bottom line is always that either they want something for nothing, or a payment in order to “oil the wheels.” On occasions, of course, our contacts are genuine, but there are also frustrations in what we do. This is almost an intrinsic part of the process. When you have something new, and especially when it is a disruptive technology, files seem to get left gathering dust on desks far too often.
For us, though, the world has so many bright imaginative people who are able to look to the future and can see what is needed. In July, I was invited to the Biennale Architettura 2016 in Venice. This is a biennial meeting of architects from across the world. In his keynote speech, the Director of the Biennale Alejandro Aravena described the current world situation in terms of the Urban Age. This term is used because the current generation will build more cities than all previous generations combined. By 2050, 70% of the entire world’s population will live in cities and globally there is a desperate need for housing. Alejandro quoted some startling figures from the US government, estimating that the world needs to build 1,000,000 houses a week at a cost of less than $10,000 (EUR 8,900) each and this needs to be achieved to prevent a further global security threat. In this regard Alejandro’s opinion was insightful, and possibly goes to the core of what it is that PolyCare is trying to achieve. He said that this rate of building could only be achieved by adopting new technologies that use new materials and new building methods.
This, of course, is where we at PolyCare started six years ago. At that time we were only looking at disaster reconstruction, but the same analysis was true for that situation as it is for global housing. We needed a new technology for slum development and to build low-cost refugee housing, which is precisely why we developed the PolyCare system.
We continue to work to improve the lives of the millions of people who are currently either homeless or living in wretched conditions and continue to work towards achieving the ambitious targets outlined by the US government and described by Alejandro Aravena.
To see more about PolyCare and our revolutionary building technique go to: https://www.dropbox.com/s/hg3qujz7jj9ss1h/VTS_04_1.VOB?dl=0
This month our EiR is PolyCare CEO Gerhard Dust. Following a successful career in business, Gerhard was looking at a life of cosy retirement. However, things were to take an unexpected turn. A humanitarian crisis forced him to re-evaluate his position, with major consequences for his future. In this blog post, Gerhard tells us about his motivation, his experience and what it was that led him on his current path.
This morning I am driving from my home in Gummersbach to Gehlberg in the German Thuringian Forest. It’s 350 km and a minimum three-hour drive. It’s quite tiring but I have been doing this each week, sometimes twice a week, for 6 years. Today, we are meeting a delegation from China that is interested in our breakthrough technology for building houses. For those of you who don’t know me, I am Gerhard Dust, the Managing Director of PolyCare Research Technology GmbH. We have invented a new way of building that uses essentially waste materials and unskilled labour to make houses and other structures. But inventing something radically new, something that has even won international acclaim doesn’t automatically mean success. Success ultimately relies on being able to enter the market and having the market accept what you do. So today’s meeting with the Chinese delegation is another critical step on the long road often faced by inventors and developers.
For us at PolyCare, and for me personally, this all started six and a half years earlier. It was another bright and sunny day in Florida. The most difficult decision I had to face that day was whether to play another round of golf, go for a swim, or just walk the dog. Life in retirement looked so good then – I had previously stepped down as the General Manager of Europe’s largest book wholesaler business.
But not too far away from where I was at the time, people’s experience of this day would be totally different. There, Mother Nature would lift her head and wreak havoc for millions. By the end of that day, more than 100,000 people would die and millions would lose their homes, their jobs and many – their loved ones. I didn’t realise it at the time, but this would also be a turning point in my life. From then on I would also be inextricably linked to that disaster. Haiti and its consequences had set me on a different course.
In the weeks following that terrible tragedy I had a constant feeling of futility. I had little to offer. Moreover, it seemed that the entire international community could not do much better. Relief in these circumstances relies on food, water, medicines and a tent, if you are lucky. But for me, rebuilding lives, rebuilding families and communities means so much more. It must involve building proper homes, homes that can stand the worst of the weather, and building them quickly. Having all those people sitting around with no work and nothing to do was such a waste of talent and positive energy. And that’s when I started to think…
Why do we continue to use a building process very similar to that used by the Romans two thousand years ago? Why can’t we bring modern technology to building and do something different? What if we could make super concrete from local materials and use it to make components for houses that fit together like LEGO? Wouldn’t that enable the ‘unskilled’ survivors to build their own houses? Can’t we all build with LEGO? If we could, wouldn’t that massively improve the building speed? At the very least this would provide just a chance of motivating and stimulating those survivors who had thought that, for them, all hope had gone.
A few months earlier I had a chance meeting with Gunter Plötner, a former builder and developer who told me of his idea to turn ordinary local/desert sand into a super form of concrete. This concrete was much stronger than ordinary concrete and was completely impervious to water and frost and could be set in extremely accurate shapes.
The memory of that meeting, and my determination to do something to help those unable to help themselves, led me to the path I am now on.
The meeting I am driving to will demonstrate just such a building technique. However, it has developed so quickly and to such an extent that it is no longer destined just for disaster relief and reconstruction. With a massive worldwide deficit in housing construction it is just as relevant for ordinary housing in Germany, the Netherlands and the UK as it is in Africa, India, South America etc. It provides super strong, very fast build homes for all markets, together with schools, medical centres etc.
So far the building industry has shown ‘interest’ but not much more. Nevertheless, since becoming a winner at the recent TEDx Binnenhof EU invention competition, the world has started to come to Gehlberg to see what we are doing. The Chinese delegation isn’t the first nor, judging by the enquiries we are receiving, will it be the last.
To see more about PolyCare and our revolutionary building technique go to: https://www.dropbox.com/s/hg3qujz7jj9ss1h/VTS_04_1.VOB?dl=0