Energy and water are the two great challenges of the 21st century.
Having said that, how do we supply energy to a global population of 7 billion people and growing, while simultaneously preserving the environment? How do we curb energy consumption by designing and constructing buildings with energy conserving materials? How do we manage storm water? How do we supply water to the same global population? Masonry products will play a critical role in solving these challenges. At Ernest Maier, we chose to address and provide solutions to these challenges through "process" and "products".
What complicates masonry's role is the intense amount of energy required to produce cement for use in concrete masonry and to "fire" clay brick. Ernest Maier explored the market for solutions to reduce its carbon footprint from its production process and to determine what products that it could distribute or manufacture that have adopted innovative technologies to reduce their carbon footprint or conserve energy use with their application.
What process improvements from production to delivery of its products could be made to offset the production of carbon dioxide or reduce the use of fossil fuels? Seven years ago, Ernest Maier began to collect cooking oils from local restaurants and processed that oil into clean diesel for use in its "off road" equipment like forklifts and loaders. By converting cooking oil into diesel, the company eliminated the need for the cooking oil to enter the waste stream and reduced demand for refined fossil fuels. Concurrent with the commencement of biodiesel production, Ernest Maier partnered with the Go Zero program of The Conservation Fund to voluntarily offset the carbon dioxide generated from the production of its concrete block.
Reducing the carbon footprint with masonry products required seeking innovative products that did not require a complete revolution in masonry system design. Ernest Maier sought out products that seamlessly integrated with traditional construction methods.
At its core, Omni Block is a patented insulated cementitious masonry unit (CMU) wall system which combines the benefits of indigenous aggregates, Expanded Polystyrene, thermal lag (the delay, disruption and redirection of heat flow), exposed thermal mass (the absorption of heat), and air tightness. This results in a thermally efficient wall system with a high effective R-value and is consistent with well-known and widely accepted thermal performance concepts.
CalStar masonry products are manufactured from an innovative process that utilizes recycled fly ash as a primary component to provide the requisite strength and durability in a material without subjecting it to high-temperature, long-duration firing. CalStar is the one of the only manufacturers in masonry products with an Environmental Product Declaration (EPD). Following an intensive life cycle assessment by one of the world's leading architectural firms, Perkins + Will, CalStar was awarded an EPD that verifies our bricks require 81% less energy to manufacture, incorporate 37% recycled content, and emit 84% less CO2 during production (relative to traditional bricks). Their state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Mississippi has the capability to produce all traditional brick sizes, large facing units, cast stone, thru-wall structural brick, pavers and now wet cast products.
The ProBlock masonry wall system combines greater energy efficiency with higher productivity by eliminating a crossweb and having a balanced weight for easier installation. The resulting lowered product weight and reduction in thermal bridging gives the ProBlock wall system both economic and thermal advantages to competitive wall systems. By adding spray foam to the cavities, designers can attain R values in excess of 10 for their potential project. ProBlock reduces the carbon footprint and wall costs. It is a win-win for building designers.
The growth in global population and the awareness of the environmental impact of that growth on the supply and quality of water is driving innovation. Globally, much of this innovation has been focused on the processing of water into drinking water and driving sewer infrastructure. In the United States, governmental regulations, taxes and fees relating to the management of storm water have driven both changes in process management and product innovation.
With both a concrete block plant and volumetric ready mix trucks, Ernest Maier consumed a great amount of water monthly; however, it did not send water to the sewer system from its manufacturing operations. In 2008, the company began to collect storm water and recycle it into its ready mix and block operations. In 2015, the company expects to expand its storm water collection, treat that water, and re-introduce the treated water on an expanded scale into its concrete production.
Ernest Maier had sold permeable pavers and porous pavement solutions until 2009 with success; nevertheless, management sought out a product that worked at the "intersection" of transportation and storm water management. In late 2009, Ernest Maier signed on as a licensee for PaveDrain - a permeable articulating concrete block pavement system. PaveDrain has the highest surface infiltration rate (10,000 inches per hour per square foot according to University of Central Florida's Stormwater Management Academy as tested by a modified ASTM C-1701 method) among permeable or porous pavements, a compressive strength in excess of 4,000 pounds per square inch that meets freeze-thaw requirements, a modular system for easy design and installation, and the lowest life cycle costs of any pavement system based on a 25 year life.