Solving the problem of helping preserve South Australia’s newest state treasure – the City of Adelaide clipper – fell to a company that was established because the owner was allergic to modern solvents.
Gripset Industries was founded in 1986 by Sam Scardigno, a licensed builder with a background in cement and bitumen – who battled severe skin reactions to the chemicals he had to use daily in his business.
“Poor dad used to come home from work covered in red rashes, he was forever putting on ointment or creams to help his skin irritations,’’ said his son Phil, who now operates the company after his father passed away last year.
We created a product that naturally preserves wood and prevents it drying out - which then stops it from rotting
“Instead of just giving the game away he went ahead and started looking for solutions – and he found them.
“He started Gripset using only solvent-free products and we have stayed true to those values to this day.”
The company created a critical solution for the preservation of the City of Adelaide clipper, currently under renovation in Port Adelaide. Built in 1864 it is the oldest surviving composite clipper ship in the world.
“We created a product that naturally preserves wood and prevents it drying out - which then stops it from rotting,’’ Scardigno said.
“It has also improved the integrity of the existing wood by eradicating fungus, insects and parasites which were weakening the wood.”
More than 2000 litres of a special coating were used to protect interior and external surfaces.
“Because the product we applied doesn’t contain solvents or chemicals people in other areas of the ship don’t have to stop work because there aren’t any hazardous odors,’’ Scardigno said.
“It was also vitally important to have a solution that would not impact on the public touring the ship or volunteers who are working on the restoration.’’
Scardigno said that because their products are not flammable or hazardous they don’t have to have warning signs on the packaging.
The other benefit is that many of their natural products don’t come with a restrictive shelf life or use by date.
Scardigno said the issue of toxic building waste finding its way into landfill was also becoming an important issue.
“We are finding there are more and more companies looking for green-friendly solutions, especially in Asia,” he said.
“This has allowed us to almost double our turnover in the past three years,” Scardigno said.
He is now concentrating on this burgeoning demand for other eco-friendly construction products across the Asia-Pacific.
According to Robin Mellon, the chief operating officer of the Green Building Council of Australia, green products and technologies are being embraced as many countries across Asia – most notably China – introduce policies and programs to reduce emissions.
“Australia has a long-standing international reputation as a world leader in delivering sustainable solutions in the building industry,’’ he said.
In the previous financial year Gripset Industries produced 2.3 million litres of product with 7 per cent exported.
The company identified increasing demand for its eco-friendly products in the Asia – primarily Singapore, Hong Kong and China and have set a target of tripling their exports by 2016-17.
The business already maintains a strong foothold in Macau, New Zealand, Fiji, and Papua New Guinea.
“With the positive feedback we are receiving from those overseas markets we are confident we can reach our goal,’’ Scardigno said.