Calstar Products’ Green Take on Bricks


With apologies to Gertrude Stein, a brick is a brick is a brick, right? Well maybe not anymore according to CalStar Products.

CalStar, based in Newark, CA is a sustainable building products startup with a new, green approach to brick-making that uses fly ash, a coal by-product, instead of clay.

Production of traditional clay brick gobbles energy while releasing a lot of CO2, says Julie Rapoport, CalStar’s vice president of product management.

She explains that the fly ash brick – or aptly, FAB – does not use clay and it’s not fired. For a normal clay brick, clay is taken from the ground, put into a kiln and fired at 2000 degrees F for one to four days. Making FABs requires 85 percent less energy and produces 85 percent less carbon-dioxide emissions than standard kiln-fired bricks, she says.

CalStar uses advanced technology to make architectural facing bricks and durable pavers for the green building market. Its FAB meets or exceeds the same standards of equivalent masonry products, is available in modular and utility sizes, and comes in eight colors, the company says.

It opened its first FAB manufacturing plant in Racine, WI in January. The plant makes the architectural bricks and pavers using fly ash sourced from the nearby electric utility We Energies’ Oak Creek Power Plant. At peak production it could turn out at least 40 million bricks a year.

Coal-fired generation is responsible for about 50 percent of the power supplied to the electricity grid, CalStar says, and U.S. electric utilities generate 130 million tons of CCP’s (coal combustion products) every year. Fly ash has been used as a substitute and complement for Ordinary Portland Cement for decades; “it is a ubiquitous material in modern construction and design,” the company continues. “When used in building materials, fly ash is bound safely within a solid matrix. The EPA’s C2P2 (Coal Combustion Products Partnership) program has encouraged fly ash use to reduce CO2 emissions and reduce landfill burdens since the early 1990s.”

CalStar’s first project is planned for Tallahassee, FL at a K2 Urban development called Evening Rose. In this project, its modular face brick are being installed on two small commercial projects.

As you read this, CalStar is exhibiting its face brick and pavers  at the Innovation Pipeline at West Coast Green in San Francisco (September 30 – October 2).

Wherever coal is used to produce energy, there’s fly ash. Because that reality won’t change anytime soon, why not recycle it into something useful and environmentally sound?

One step at a time, another brick in the wall.

writer, editor, reader and general good (ok mostly good, well sometimes good) guy trying to get by