Company portrait

SMARTER HABITAT: From hemp to popcorn to the house

A sustainable building material for global climate change

SMARTER HABITAT’s mission to create affordable housing for millions of people around the world can be summed up as simply and succinctly as possible. The triad of ecological, economic and social-humanitarian responsibility defines the roadmap of the Munich-based company, which was founded in 2019. The goal: to create a building material from “green” bio-based materials and agricultural waste that can be produced regionally in large quantities in a cost-effective and energy-saving manner and can also be installed there quickly and easily. The product: – a plant-based and completely sustainable lightweight panel developed in cooperation with the Fraunhofer Institute IMWS and the University of Göttingen – meets all of these requirements. SMARTER HABITAT will license the know-how worldwide and thus contribute to solving one of the most pressing problems on this planet.

In the beginning was the "Awakening"

When Datty Ruth, CEO of SMARTER HABITAT, visited Haiti in 2012, two years after the devastating earthquake, he was struck by the inhumane housing and the disastrous rubble in which many people had lost their lives and was driven by the vision of providing people with a decent roof over their heads. In view of the increasing number of trouble spots around the world – whether due to natural and climate disasters, poverty or wars and the resulting streams of refugees – but also the increasing need for housing, this vision became a mission. As early as 2013, he took on this major social-humanitarian challenge and decided to do everything in his power to make affordable, safe and environmentally friendly accommodation available to everyone, everywhere. According to estimates by UN-Habitat and the World Bank, there is already a shortage of around 300 million homes for over two billion homeless people, and this number is set to double by 2030 – not including the estimated 80 million refugees worldwide.

 - from the idea to the product

SMARTER HABITAT has now come a big step closer to this goal with its composite panels . After years of research and development and supported by a network of experts from science, technology and industry, a building material has been created that will not only revolutionize the construction industry in the future as a “green” alternative, but will also accelerate the paradigm shift towards responsible sustainability in construction. The sandwich panels consist of two basic components: Natural fiber laminates as the top layer and a core material made from popped corn granules, which can be produced in a wide variety of different versions. The Natural Composite Laminates (NCL) can be made from natural materials such as hemp, flax, sisal or rice straw and other long-fiber agricultural waste, which are processed into fleece felt and pressed with special resin under high pressure.

From natural fibers to


Natural fiber

Natural fiber fleece

Natural fiber­laminate


Panel variations

Popcorn as the core material

In cooperation with the Fraunhofer Institute for Microstructure of Materials and Systems IMWS, a research institute of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft in Halle (Saale), and C3 Technologies Gmbh, which is also based there, the material and process engineering foundations for the industrial production of -laminates. Since 2016, there has been a show house on the institute’s premises that proves how sustainable, simple, cost-effective and infinitely scalable construction can be in the future. By acquiring a stake in C3 Technologies GmbH, SMARTER HABITAT is securing this innovative knowledge for the transfer of the process from laboratory scale to the production-ready industrial manufacture of composite panels.
Show house of the Fraunhofer Institute in Halle (Saale), which was built from NCL panels in 2016 and still shows no signs of weathering today.

Material technology made in Germany

At the same time, the “Chemistry and Process Engineering of Composite Materials” working group at the Faculty of Forest Sciences and Forest Ecology at the University of Göttingen, which has been conducting research into renewable raw materials for many years, has developed a popcorn granulate as a composite material for laminates made from hemp and flax, which could replace the PU foam previously used for panels in the future. The head of the research group, Prof. Dr. Alireza Kharazipour – often referred to as the “Popcorn Professor” – sees this unique process as an outstanding opportunity to replace the raw material and energy-intensive products made of cement, gypsum or petroleum-based products used in the construction industry to date with a cost-efficient, almost 100% natural product. Prof. Kharazipour has obtained several patent rights in 14 years of research work.

Popcorn granules - the ideal core material for panels made from natural fiber laminates
In addition to its outstanding physical properties, this building material is also reusable, recyclable and compostable and embodies a holistic sustainability claim like no other product thanks to the cradle-to-cradle principle. SMARTER HABITAT has concluded a license agreement with the University of Göttingen, which secures the company the worldwide commercial rights to use the patents for the distribution and production of the panels.

Synonym for a building material that is profitable at all levels

In ecological, economic and humanitarian terms, the innovative -panels have an outstanding balance in terms of raw material, material and production efficiency compared to conventional building materials:

Sustainability targets are met

  • inexpensive building material,
  • simple lightweight construction with faster and more efficient assembly (approx. one week for a 50m² -house),
  • reduced assembly, transportation, logistics and energy costs,
  • improved working conditions due to reduced dirt and dust exposure,
  • suitable for all types of surface treatment,
  • consistently high quality and good scalability through industrial production.

Lightweight construction that pays off

  • circular building material made from plant-based raw materials or their waste,
  • reduced energy consumption, as no sand, cement, steel, plaster, etc. with high energy and water-intensive construction and heavy machinery are used,
  • environmentally friendly production from regionally/locally available raw materials,
  • optimal thermal and sound insulation properties,
  • durable, as it is waterproof, fire-resistant and resistant to mold and vermin,
  • high load-bearing capacity and outstanding stability
  • .

Universally applicable

  • load-bearing construction elements for roofs, ceilings, exterior walls and foundations,
  • non-load-bearing applications such as partition walls or dry walls,
  • decorative applications such as building cladding, kitchen or sanitary elements,
  • Other applications: Trade fair and store construction, mobile homes and tiny houses Ship interior fittings and much more
  • .

UN sustainability goals

In total, the -panels contribute to eight of the 17 sustainability goals set by the United Nations. They have the potential to fundamentally construction in the future and thus alleviate the global housing crisis.

A valuable contribution to the sustainability goals of the United Nations

Provision of affordable housing

Provision of
modern schools

Job creation in the construction sector
Sustainable building
Helping to create modern, sustainable communities
Environmentally friendly production from local materials
Less energy requirement, significant carbon reduction
Collaborating closely with local communities
The need for affordable housing is huge – in both developing and industrialized countries. UN Habitat estimates that around 3 billion people will be without adequate housing by 2050, which corresponds to a market worth 424 billion US dollars. Governments and NGOs around the world are making huge budgets available to reduce this shortage.

A value-based business model for rapid global market development

The prerequisite for this is the expansion of two business areas:

SMARTER HABITAT- Pilot factory

The pilot factory is responsible for the production and sale of SMARTER HABITAT products (from panels to complete construction kits for houses) on the German and European market. The focus is on reversible partition walls made of natural products as a replacement for environmentally harmful plasterboard walls, for example for more cost-effective redensification in urban centers or the trend towards “low-cost building” with smaller residential units and tiny houses. Other tasks of the pilot factory include the development and testing of new materials (e.g. new resins, new natural fibers, etc.), the continuous improvement of production processes and the design and installation of production facilities for licensees, including technical service. The pilot factory is located in Ramstein, Rhineland-Palatinate, with existing production facilities. It also serves as a training center for international licensees.

SMARTER HABITAT license (franchise concept)

The key driver for a successful rollout of SMARTER HABITAT construction elements and rapid market penetration is the licensing of the material and production technology. This is awarded by the licensing company via a master license to construction companies with strong sales potential and a good credit rating. With the master license, the licensees not only acquire the technology, but also certified, highly automated, turnkey production lines, i.e. the entire know-how for the manufacture and marketing of all SMARTER HABITAT products and applications.
In return, the licensees must meet the capacity requirements for the agreed sales volume in their market. They can engage additional regional sub-licensees to ensure nationwide distribution in their respective areas. They will use two thirds of their respective production for low-priced SMARTER HABITAT homes. In addition, they must contractually commit to the value-based corporate philosophy set out in the “SMARTER HABITAT Code of Ethical Conduct”.

Invest in a good cause

In light of the increasing number of climate disasters in recent years, which have caused massive damage in many regions of the world, it is high time for a general rethink. As early as 2020, the World Economic Forum listed the risks triggered by climate change among the top five in its Global Risk Report and sees ESG risks (E = Environmental, S = Social, G = Governance) in particular as the greatest dangers with enormous social and economic implications.
The motivation to make a positive contribution to a sustainable future for the environment and society should therefore be high. All the more so because an investment in environmentally friendly, CO₂-neutral technologies not only results in a return on investment, but – as SMARTER HABITAT’s business model shows – can also fundamentally improve the living conditions of millions and billions of people.

The company is now raising capital for its investments so that it can move from the project planning phase to implementation. The options for impact investors are direct investments as limited partners or via subordinated loans. Detailed financial plans and conditions can be requested. In addition, small investors and people with a social-humanitarian focus have the opportunity to get involved via crowdfunding approved by BAFIN. Anyone who wants to participate in the good cause and values a sustainable but also promising and future-oriented investment is invited to do so – private individuals as well as institutional investors or private equity and venture capital investment companies.

Further information:
Smarter Habitat GmbH & Co. KG
Baierbrunnerstrasse 25 – 29
81379 Munich
Phone: +49 (0) 89 212 314 811


CEO Datty G. Ruth was CEO of an M-DAX-listed entertainment company for 30 years and has extensive experience in the international licensing business. His task is to acquire international licensees and cooperation partners for SMARTER HABITAT and, as “spiritus rector”, to further develop the business model in all areas – always with the aim of establishing a contemporary social-humanitarian and globally active company.
CAO Michael Gassner has many years of experience in sales and organizational development as well as in-depth know-how in the loan and financing sector. He was managing director of a financial services company for 10 years. Michael Gassner will take over the administration of the company.
CTO: Dipl. Ing. Klaus-Jürgen Lauth is a mechanical engineer specializing in complex buildings with in-depth knowledge of the automation of production facilities. He brings with him 25 years of international experience – also as a consultant to the automotive industry and data centers. He has also developed a sophisticated storm and earthquake protection system for wooden buildings. At SMARTER HABITAT, he is responsible for setting up the pilot factory as well as planning and developing turnkey factories for licensees.

SMARTER HABITAT - Consulting team

SMARTER HABITAT’s management team is also supported by a number of internationally renowned consultants who contribute their respective expertise to the company:

The Hemmelrath Compagnie under the leadership of Prof. Dr. Alexander Hemmelrath combines tax, legal and business consulting for SMARTER HABITAT to form a holistic range of services. Business management advice, which is currently the main focus, is provided under the leadership of Konstantin Hemmelrath.

Benedikt Hoffmann, Advisor on International Finance/Board Member, has decades of experience as a bank manager, primarily with a regional focus on international growth markets. He has managed banks in various emerging markets and cultural environments. As an expert in various international regulatory and accounting standards, he will contribute his knowledge in the context of international finance.

Dr. Ndidi Nnoli-Edozien, Advisor on Corporate Sustainablility and Governance/Board Member, is an expert in social entrepreneurship and sustainability. She established the “Seven Pillars of Sustainability” based on 20 years of research in Africa’s largest company. She will advise SMARTER HABITAT on sustainability, corporate governance and international business development. Dr. Nnoli-Edozien is a member of the Club of Rome.

Peter Schalburg, MBA, Advisor Licensing, has spent most of his career managing international franchise companies. He has many years of international experience in all major markets, including 15 years as President and CEO of Midas Europe and South America with more than 600 franchisees/licensees.

Anabela Macieira, Advisor Engineering and Construction, is an international award-winning architect, owner of Core Architects – one of the few “Passive House” and NETZEB certified architecture firms in Portugal. She designs nature-inspired, sustainably chic buildings that support the holistic health of their occupants. In the projects approved by the government, which even exceed the latest sustainability standards, SMARTER HABITAT’s innovative building materials are used.