CalStar’s Impressive Green Fly Ash Brick

CalStar Products recently introduced a fly ash brick and fly ash paver that’s been getting major attention in the industry.  The innovative fly ash products are behind the company’s attention in the Wall Street Journal and finalist nomination for the Crunchies in the Best Cleantech category.  They’re made from 40% fly ash and 60% local aggregates, together with some proprietary ingredients.

The fly ash products are not formed with Portland cement or energy-intense firing, resulting in substantial savings in carbon impact terms.

CalStar claims the bricks require 850-1250 BTUs to produce, compared to 4800-8800 BTUs for clay bricks and 1240 BTUs for concrete bricks.  The company also claims the brick’s carbon footprint is .25 pounds, compared to 1.3 pounds for clay brick and .75 pounds for concrete brick.

Naturally — would you expect anything else of a competitor — executives at the Brick Industry Association told the Wall Street Journal that they question whether the fly ash bricks will last as long as clay bricks.

The brick comes in modular and utility sizes in seven colors, while the paver is available in six colors for pedestrian and light traffic applications.  The bricks have been designed and manufactured to sell competitively with commercial clay bricks.

In terms of safety, CalStar says the fly ash is bound within a strong crystalline matrix.  Therefore, the fly ash is sealed and not expected to result in any exposures to health.

CalStar officially opens its plant in Caledonia, Wisconsin tomorrow, January 11, 2010.  The plant will produce 40 million bricks annually recycling fly ash from Wisconsin Energy Corporation.

See further Putting Green Technology into Bricks by the WSJ.

Photo credit: CalStar Products.

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  • Anonymous

    Anything to reduce the load on the environment is a good thing. Great Blog we will come back here again!!

  • Anonymous

    Some takes from visiting the Calstar booth at Greenbuild and examining their bricks.

    The fly ash bricks look very different to clay bricks – even from a distance. Up close, they have a whitish bloom which rubs off.

    Edge hardness is poor and seams are porous and friable. Dimensions and edge/face structure are variable.

    Color is variable with pigment bleed around grain structure – since the coloring is from oxide pigment additions rather than firing.

    The bricks show water beading and mortar pullback – typical of masonry impregnated with water repellents/efflorescence control agents.

    Despite the additives, you still see salt migration – as pinhole breakthroughs, bleeding/staining and salt banding around sand grains and at the mortar joints.

  • lori dennis, asid, leed ap

    Lovin’ this clean, easy to read, no BS, green blog. It’s one of the best I’ve seen.. my green builder husband and I (green interior designer) are finding so much inspiration. THanks and keep up the great green bloggin!

    • Preston

      Thanks Lori. I see you’ve done some incredible green projects yourself. Love the website. Make sure to keep in touch … hopefully we can share you and your husband’s innovation with readers here.

  • Anonymous

    Calstar’s CEO – Michael Kane has jumped ship.

    In a striking and ironic refutal of Calstar’s fly ash brick product, Kane has moved to Boral, the largest clay brick producer in the US.

    So much for Calstar’s “Green” and “Eco-friendly” fly ash bricks. Even Calstar’s own CEO did not believe Calstar’s hype and greenwashing.

    Obviously Kane sees much better better prospects at Boral. Boral is a solid company with excellent products, including clay bricks, cement block and a range of building products made with fly ash. Quite the change from Calstar’s greenwash operations.

    Damage control time for Calstar.

  • Bkwaas

    Leland – you are incorrect.

    Roman used crushed rocks such as tuff, trass and pumice – all formed by the natural consolidation of VOLCANIC ash – NOT – COAL fly ash.

    The mineralogy of volcanic as is very different to that of coal fly ash. Volcanic ash is a much better pozzolan, and typically has much lower levels heavy metals than coal fly ash. Also, volcanic ash does not have organic contaminants such as dioxins.

    There are no ancient cements made with coal fly ash – coal fly ash is a byproduct of the industrial revolution. 

    Coal fly ash use in building materials dates only to the 1920s.

    Roman cement architecture has survived partly because the Romans formulated their cements with natural pozzolans such as volcanic fly ash. It has nothing to do with coal fly ash.

    Coal fly ash does not have a significant history in the building, while volcanic ash has over 2,000 years in use.

    As for Calstar – their pavers have a reputation for poor durability – measured in years – thus their low 10 year warranty on the pavers.

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