Watershed Materials Awarded $740,000 from the National Science Foundation to Develop Durable Green Masonry Building Materials with Zero Cement

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The National Science Foundation supports Watershed Materials’ cutting-edge development of zero cement masonry to significantly reduce the carbon footprint of one of the world’s most common building products.

Watershed Block low cement masonry.

Watershed Block installed in a home in Northern California. The research funded by the National Science Foundation will lead to durable masonry blocks called ZeroBlock that use zero cement.

We are looking for a sweet spot where old and new technologies are blended to address a huge environmental problem.

Watershed Materials, a sustainable masonry products manufacturer, has been awarded a $740,000 Phase II Small Business Innovation Research grant from the National Science Foundation to develop and commercialize structural masonry blocks with a significantly reduced carbon footprint achieved by the elimination of cement. The blocks - known as ZeroBlock - are designed as a drop-in replacement for the ordinary concrete block, also known as a cinder block or Concrete Masonry Unit (CMU).

Billions of concrete blocks are produced every year, releasing millions of tons of CO2 into the atmosphere from the high carbon emissions of cement production. Watershed Materials is developing replacements for the industry standard concrete block that will offer the same size and structural capacities with a lowered carbon footprint, use of locally sourced recycled material, and an appearance of natural stone.

Watershed Materials currently designs, manufactures, and distributes a first generation masonry block called Watershed Block that uses half the cement of an ordinary concrete block. Watershed Block was recently featured in a five page story in Dwell Magazine. Architects in the Bay Area of California are building with Watershed Block in commercial and residential projects. The National Science Foundation SBIR grant will be used to commercialize a second generation product called ZeroBlock that uses no cement in the manufacture of durable, resilient masonry. Watershed Materials anticipates a 2015 market release of ZeroBlock. Both Watershed Block and ZeroBlock incorporate recycled content such as quarry byproduct, mine tailings, and even recycled concrete in place of the virgin mined rock used in concrete.

Watershed Materials combines 21st century nanoparticle science with building systems first developed by Egyptians, Romans, and Babylonians to produce beautiful, sustainable masonry. The technology behind ZeroBlock involves activating the geopolymerization of naturally occurring nanoaluminosilicates to create the structural bonds normally provided by cement. Additionally, Watershed Materials has reinvented the hydraulic block press to apply compressive forces so great as to actually lithify mineral grains, turning loose sediment into stone. These technologies have the potential to reduce the energy required to produce ZeroBlock by 90% compared to an ordinary concrete block.

“We are looking for a sweet spot where old and new technologies are blended to address a huge environmental problem,” says David Easton, president of Watershed Materials, “it turns out that with the right combination of minerals and sediment, and the right machine technology, we can re-make rock.” “Applying nanotechnology to simulate geological processes enables us to eliminate cement, which is responsible for 6-7% of greenhouse gas emissions globally,” says Joe Dahmen, Director of Sustainability, “but we are equally excited about the new range of expression these materials offer to architects and designers."

Details of the grant are available here on the NSF website.

Company Information:
Watershed Materials LLC was founded in 2011 to develop technologies and formulations for reducing cement use in masonry products. Co-founders are David Easton, 35 year career pioneering earth building systems with BS from Stanford’s 1970 School of Product Design; Joe Dahmen, professor of architecture at the University of British Columbia, who formerly researched sustainable alternatives to concrete at MIT; and Dr. Jose Muñoz, specialist in the effect of synthetic nano-aluminosilicates in high volume fly ash mixtures at the Turner Fairbanks Highway Research Center with a PhD from University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Find out more at http://watershedmaterials.com

Media Contact:
Alex Wright
(917) 687-9943

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Alex Wright
since: 08/2013
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