Top building products distributor BlueLinx champions ‘extremegreen’ board for multifamily construction
Why would a successful wholesale distributor known for its vast spectrum of tried-and-true products and superb customer service risk being innovative?
BlueLinx, a building materials and industrial products distribution company headquartered in Marietta, Georgia, has spent 15 years securing a nationwide reputation, ensuring customers find the exact materials they need for each project. The business has over 2,200 associates and offers more than 70,000 name-brand and private-label SKUs in its portfolio, distributing its comprehensive range of products to approximately 15,000 dealers nationwide as well as specialty distributors, national home centers, industrial and manufactured housing customers.
“BlueLinx has warehouses all over the country,” says Shannon Cawley, an Architectural and Design Specifier for BlueLinx. Shannon worked for The Blue Book Network® for a decade before joining the BlueLinx team over a year ago. “We distribute everything from roof shingles to lumber to siding—anything a contractor would need. We’re a wholesale distributor to the lumber and building material dealer who in turn serves the contractor, and we also distribute to industrial and manufacturing customers serving a wide range of end users and job types. I work directly with the architects and developers to ensure we specify the right products for each job.”
The company’s ability to form strong connections with product manufacturers, in particular, speaks volumes about the BlueLinx team and its targeted product selection practices.
A Data-Driven Product
When Shannon and the BlueLinx team were introduced to ‘extremegreen’—touted as a safe, durable and eco-friendly product that could ultimately replace traditional particleboard SIPs (structural insulated panels)—they looked at the data before making the decision to offer it to their customers. The team quickly discovered that the benefits of this groundbreaking product were extraordinary.
Shannon says, “extremegreen is a magnesium oxide structural building board. It’s 100% recyclable, organic and all natural—there’s no formaldehyde in it, so there’s no off-gassing. It can replace any 4-by-8 (feet), 4-by-9 or 4-by-10 sheet on a construction project, and can substitute for drywall, subfloor with gypsum concrete, sheathing and tile backer.”
Taking steps to promote extremegreen required the flexibility to embrace a new product that many people weren’t familiar with, which required extra effort to increase public buy-in. BlueLinx’s decision to offer extremegreen also took into consideration what was right for the end user.
“For flooring, extremegreen requires no dry time, whereas a more conventional product such as gypsum concrete usually takes four days’ time,” Shannon says. “If the contractor is behind schedule, using extremegreen could be the key to getting them back on schedule. They can drop the underlayment on and nail it into the trough right away. Plus, this innovative product won’t expand or contract with temperature fluctuations. It is also available square-edge, ship-lap or tapered-edge.”
Much of the distributor’s focus is on multifamily construction. One recent project where extremegreen was used is The Residences at Crosspoint, an apartment complex in Lowell, Massachusetts, where the contractor used the product underneath the showers and bathtubs because of its superior mold resistance. It was also used at Russell Terrace, a multifamily residential project in Holyoke, Massachusetts. Here, extremegreen was specified for a demising wall, providing the required sound transmission class and impact isolation class ratings for the project.
The product also has massive promise for the manufacturer—helping to save time and money in the long run—which is another reason BlueLinx got on board.
The BlueLinx team did its due diligence and reached out to the Owner and CEO of extremegreen, Sam Catling, to really understand the logic behind this state-of-the-art product and why it promises to be revolutionary for the future of multifamily construction and building technology.
“When I came to the states originally, I started testing the board on its own,” says Sam, who is originally from the U.K. “As all of my physical properties data were coming back, I was making comparisons to get a handle on conventional building materials. I wanted to know where we sat with the performance compared to plywood and exterior sheathings. As values started coming back, not only did extremegreen have amazing mold and mildew resistance, there was no off-gassing or toxic chemicals. We found we were really punching above our weight with it as a cement board, compared to OSB (oriented strand board) and plywood. That enabled us to start looking at it as a noncombustible exterior and interior wallboard option to replace conventional plywood.”
Sam explains extremegreen also has superior fastener performance and nail holder capacity, and is durable enough for high-impact, high-traffic areas in multifamily buildings. The product also has excellent fire ratings with its single layer, versus the two or three layers found in drywall.
“As we started to travel the country selling wall assemblies, we took a look at the subfloor market, which is predominantly wood and burns easily,” Sam says. “We said, ‘We can do this better.’ So, we created a floor system that cuts out the gypsum concrete component, presenting a new-and-improved subfloor that doesn’t warp and is stable and fire-rated.”
An Innovative Distributor…
“The BlueLinx team members saw the benefit of extremegreen and were interested in growing and developing its presence in the multifamily construction market,” Sam says. “They saw themselves as an innovative, two-step distributor, doing more than just selling lumber or OSB. They felt they could get their hands on something state-of-the-art and carve out a name for themselves by bringing something new to the marketplace. They’ve done well. We’ve championed the product together, and our company has trained their managers and gotten more people on board.”
He adds, “There is more to building than selling sticks and board. You have to get people to look at assemblies and understand the downstream benefits of cost and quality. BlueLinx is a delight to work with.”
…with a Customer-Centric Philosophy
On top of offering impactful product selections, BlueLinx’s multidisciplinary team of knowledgeable industry experts strives to provide tailored solutions and superior vendor support. The company has built its culture on a customer-centric philosophy, creating solid relationships by taking time to understand what is best for end users, which involves focusing on the safety and stability of each project.
“We’re constantly building relationships with our customers,” Shannon says. “We’re able to provide them with good products, quickly. It’s a teamwork culture. It’s not about individual sales. We really try to work together to make sure the company as a whole is successful, and when the company is successful, we’re all successful.”