8 Reasons You Should be Using MgO Boards in Your High-Performance Builds

Scott Lidberg Aug 8, 2022 mgO

Magnesium Oxide Background 

The building trades have been marked by innovation and adaptation for millennia. One of the primary reasons the Romans are remembered is because the things they built are so enduring. From Hadrian’s Wall in northern England to the Pont du Gard Aqueduct in France — not to mention sites throughout Italy and the rest of Europe and parts of Asia and Africa — their work in stone and concrete can still be seen. 

And one reason they still stand is that the Romans used magnesium oxide (MgO) in their cement. It has long been understood to be a superior building material, which is why it’s also present in structures as diverse as the Great Wall of China and the Brooklyn Bridge. 

MgO knowledge wasn’t exactly lost during the 20th century, but other materials with a lower price point — such as gypsum board and concrete products —were developed. But there were tradeoffs, such as their being less durable and more prone to damage from fire, water, and insects. 

But over the last two decades, Magnesium Oxide based building materials have made a comeback as raw material costs have shifted and better, more eco-friendly manufacturing processes using MgO have been developed. Today, magnesium oxide board and MgO Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) have become staples in high-performance building projects throughout the world and are now making substantial inroads into the North American market. 

Light bulb for Key Takeaway

Key Takeaway

MgO-based boards, sheathing, underlayment, siding, and building panels can be used to create high-performance buildings that are more energy efficient, eco-friendly, and safer than those built using currently common materials like gypsum drywall. 


8 Important MgO Construction Benefits  

Here are the top eight benefits of incorporating MgO products as part of your next high-performance build: 

1. Fire Resistant 

According to the Insurance Information Institute, a home fire occurs every 87 seconds resulting in 3,500 deaths per year. 40 years ago, a person may have had up to 17 minutes to escape a home fire, but today due to the flammable materials used in building and furnishing homes that time has dropped to 3 minutes. Additionally, data from the U.S. Fire Administration shows that residential building fire dollar loss has been trending up and reached $7,866,900,000 in 2019. MgO boards are fire-resistant and have some of the highest fire-safety classifications as calculated by industry regulators. This is especially significant when using MgO Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs). Generally used on a building’s exterior, SIPs are comprised of an insulating foam core inserted between MgO sheathing to provide superior insulation. But the double-sided layers of fire-resistant material also provide a very low flame spread rating (the classification of a material’s surface burning characteristics). 

2. Water Resistant 

When just one inch of flood water can cause more than $25,000 in damage - it’s not hard to believe that nationwide - household water damage costs up to $20 billion annually. Using a building product that is water resistant has never made more sense. MgO products do not rapidly deteriorate when immersed in water over a short period — as happens in floods and extreme rainfall events — and can maintain structural stability even under the force of minor bending. High-performance magnesium oxide building materials do not warp, swell, or delaminate. They are not fully waterproof but compared to most wood and all gypsum drywall products they are far more resilient when facing temporary water inundation. 

3. Insect and Pest Resistant 

One of the intriguing benefits of MgO products, especially when replacing plywood and other wood products, is that termites and other pests do not like MgO as a food source. Insects cause over $5 billion in damage to U.S. homes every year according to the National Pest Management Association. Limiting or completely leaving out organic materials means that termites, carpenter ants, wood borers, powder post beetles, and every other wood-munching bug won’t make a meal out of magnesium oxide board and other high-performance building materials made with MgO. 

4. Mold and Mildew Resistant 

Just as insects don’t find anything edible in MgO products, mold and other fungi also do not find any nutrients that are attractive. One of the enduring symbols of Hurricane Katrina was the piles and piles of moldy, ruined gypsum drywall that littered New Orleans after the flooding, and which caused hundreds of homes to be demolished because fungus had grown so rapidly once the bottom portion of sheetrock became water-logged. As flood events become more common due to climate change, utilizing materials that are more impervious to water and mold damage like MgO is a clear path forward. 

5. Storm Resistant 

MgO products are not just more resistant to insects, fire, moisture, and mold — they are also more impact resistant, meaning high-speed collisions from debris driven by high winds can be better endured by structures incorporating MgO Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) and other exterior MgO building materials. Coupled with fire resistance (lightning strikes) and the ability to withstand water damage (flooding), MgO materials are an especially cost-effective option in the wide swathes of the United States that are prone to hurricanes and other ever-more-common extreme weather events. 

6. Earthquake Resistant 

The previous 5 benefits, along with intrinsic dimensional stability, make MgO building materials a great choice for earthquake-resistant building designs. Since MgO products are molded using coordinated chemical reactions, they are extremely solid when cured, creating a hardened material that is enduringly stable. Remember, those Roman buildings are still around after thousands of years for a reason. 

7. Energy Efficient 

One of the most attractive aspects of MgO products is their energy efficiency features, both in their production process and as a building material. The energy consumed in manufacturing MgO is very low since it’s largely driven by chemical reactions and not heating materials to extreme temperatures (as is the case with gypsum drywall, which is an energy-intensive production process). 

And when used on buildings — especially in the case of SIPs — MgO products provide high R-values in a sturdy, easy-to-use, and dust-free form. 

8. Eco-Friendly 

Their energy efficiency is a big part of why MgO products are so good for the environment. They are constructed without the use of toxic materials, are completely recyclable, can be disposed of safely without fear of leaching toxins into surrounding groundwater, and their manufacture actually captures carbon dioxide. In fact, significant research into using magnesium oxide as a tool to lessen the buildup of greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere is currently underway. 

NEXGEN MgO – The Ideal Building Products for Today’s World  

The use of MgO-based building materials has already taken root in many parts of the world and their superior qualities are increasingly being recognized in the United States. MgO building products’ combination of utility on construction sites, long life in finished buildings, and small environmental footprint during production will make them an increasingly important part of the 21st-century construction sector. Want to learn more? Contact support@nexgenbp.com.

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