Julie Rapoport, Ph.D., P.E., LEED® AP

Since its founding, CalStar Products has been developing technologies that ease the immense burden building materials have on the environment. Our masonry products are beautiful with performance equal to or better than traditional products, but with a dramatically lower embodied energy and carbon footprint, making a dent in climate change with each project. From the products available now to the technologies under development, CalStar is committed to leading the industry in carbon and cost reduction. In fact, CalStar was the first manufacturer in the brick industry to offer full transparency via an Environmental Product Declaration (EPD). Following an intensive life cycle assessment, the EPD verifies that CalStar bricks require 81% less energy to produce and emit 84% less CO2 than traditional brick products.

Reducing masonry’s environmental impact

CalStar’s bricks, pavers, thru-wall units, facing units, and cast stone, are not only attractive, but they deliver the performance of traditional masonry products with dramatically lower carbon footprints. Traditional masonry products use clay or Portland Cement and require energy intensive firing in kilns at thousands of degrees. Our innovative technology and manufacturing processes use 81% less energy emit 84% less CO2, and utilizing up to 37% post-industrial recycled material. This dramatic reduction in environmental impact comes without sacrificing aesthetics, performance, or budgets.

Building materials and climate change

Traditional masonry has a number of environmentally friendly characteristics, such as durability and thermal mass. However, as our collective understanding of environmental science and especially of climate change advances, we’ve had to revise our definition of green building. The manufacturing of building materials (concrete, clay brick, gypsum wallboard, steel, etc.) accounts for about 12% of all emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2)–a greenhouse gas that is significantly impacting the climate.

CO2 and embodied energy

One increasingly useful way to measure a product’s environmental impact is to audit its “embodied energy” and “carbon footprint”—the amount of energy consumed and CO2 released in the extraction, processing, and transportation of raw materials, and in the manufacturing of finished product. One focus of materials research and development is finding ways to reduce environmental footprint without sacrificing other product benefits.

Why firing brick emits lots of CO2

Clay brick is high in both embodied energy and carbon emissions. Clay brick manufacturing is energy-intensive because clay requires firing for up to three days to achieve desired hardness and durability. Brick-firing kilns operate at about 2,000 degrees F and are generally kept hot even when not in use. The heat for most kilns is generated by burning natural gas, coal and/or petroleum coke. All of these energy sources emit significant CO2 during combustion, though coal and petroleum coke emit even more CO2 than natural gas.

Calculating the impact

CalStar worked with leading architectural firm Perkins+Will to perform an ISO-compliant life cycle assessment (LCA) for our brick, the results of which were third-party verified and published in the industries only Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) for brick. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Building for Environmental and Economic Sustainability (BEES) online database lists the average embodied energy for a common fired clay brick at 6,251 BTUs and CO2 emissions at 0.81 lbs. Our EPD shows that an equivalent CalStar brick requires only 1,203 BTUs of energy, a savings of 81%, and emits only 0.13 lbs. of CO2, a savings of 84%.

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