The cement industry accounts for at least five percent of the total greenhouse gas emissions. Masonry block used extensively in the housing arena contributes to this footprint. Watershed Materials stand to take a huge dent out of the conventional masonry carbon footprint with its low cement block. But its natural good looks will win our hearts.
How Are the Blocks Produced?
Watershed Block is manufactured using a proprietary process that fuses soil grains and fragments of rock together to create a hollow cell block as strong as concrete block. The soil is locally sourced and the aggregate is comprised of recycled materials. Best yet, the cement content is 50% less than conventional masonry block.
What caught my eye was the aesthetics of the product. The color striation of the block is more like stone than concrete. The color of the blocks is dependent on local soils used, and can range in color from deep chocolate, beige to tan and light gray. No synthetic dyes are used in the blocks formation.
One of the product’s outstanding attributes is the design functionality of the product.
“Part of the idea of the block is that it provides structure and finish in one application. Rather than needing to clad the exterior and interior of the structural elements with finish, this product provides a beautiful finish along with the structure. That being said, it could certainly be finished on one (or both) side if the builder preferred,” stated Alex Wright as Marketing Director for the Company via email.
Green Building Design Compared to Traditional Masonry Block.
Watershed Blocks are as strong as concrete block but are 10 to 15 percent heavier. According to the Company, the extra weight contribute to increased thermal storage, which reduces heating and cooling costs to make the building more energy efficient. Insulation can easily be added to the hollow cells of the block.
The block is laid like traditional concrete block and costs about 10 to 20% more than a dyed split face or ground face concrete block. However, the increased cost of this product can be offset by deducting the labor and material costs of purchasing and installing drywall.
From a green building perspective, using less materials is always better.
Currently the block is only available within 200 miles of San Francisco, California. However interested parties are urged to contact the Company in order to increase product distribution.
Ram Earth Connection
Interestingly, the Company was co-founded by David Easton, who also founded in 1978 Rammed Earth Works. Easton “fashioned the foundations of what would become the modern rammed earth movement.” Watershed Block seems to be a chip off the old block.
The Company received a National Science Foundation grant to create a durable masonry block without cement. Easton and team could fashion the foundations of another industry–one that needs a carbon footprint haircut. The team already has a good head start with the invention of the Watershed Block.
All photos were supplied by Watershed Materials and ©2014.
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