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Calstar Products Dedicates First Fly Ash-Based Unit Masonry Line

Green building-driven CalStar Products Inc. capped an accelerated production ramp-up for its Fly Ash Brick and Fly Ash Pavers earlier this year in Caledonia,

Don Marsh

Green building-driven CalStar Products Inc. capped an accelerated production ramp-up for its Fly Ash Brick and Fly Ash Pavers earlier this year in Caledonia, Wis. Dedicating a 50 million-unit/year line, company officials told a group of about 175 distributors, material and equipment suppliers that brick production Û once a state staple Û had returned to Wisconsin. On a grander timeline, they indicated their brick-making process represents a sharp reduction in the fossil fuel consumption that has typified vertical and tunnel kiln methods in the U.S. for 350-plus years.

CalStar President and CEO Tom Pounds credited site selection and construction schedule to Wisconsin Energy Corp., whose nearby Oak Creek station is supplying Class C ash central to the brick and paver process; and, $2.45 million in U.S. Department of Energy tax incentives rooted in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, one of whose supporters, Sen. Russell Feingold (D-WI) topped the dedication ceremony's guest list.

After reviewing the company's recycling and low-energy process value propositions, and a business plan calling for five additional fly ash-based unit masonry lines across the country over the next five years, Pounds led a tour of the 63,000-sq.-ft. Caledonia line. Occupying an existing shell with 40-ft. square bays, it is equipped similar to other paver operations: molding machinery, steel pallet-handling and retrieval devices, and semi-automated cubing Û all supplied by a leading clay brick plant specialist.

CalStar's proprietary process is based on ash-rich mix designs, yielding units whose curing requirements are considerably less energy-intensive than those for conventional clay products. Each of the Caledonia plant industrial steam bath curing chambers has a dedicated energy unit, ensuring precise controls for brick or paving products.

CalStar has 29 committed brick and paver dealers from 24 states, representing 46 regions across the U.S. Charter dealers include St. Louis-based Midwest Block & Brick, whose president, Mark Wilhelms, is National Concrete Masonry Association chairman-elect (separate report). With this entrepreneurial group of distributors, we can educate the top 5,000 LEED designers on sustainable masonry, says CalStar National Sales Manager Gene Guetzow, LEED AP. An Illinois Brick veteran, Guetzow is also a pioneer of the calcium silicate brick business in his work with ArrisCraft and Building Stone Products.

This plant is a culmination of 14 months of engineering, planning and construction, affirms CalStar Director of Manufacturing Mike Telischak. We are making modular and utility-size commercial face brick with very high dimensional tolerances, along with sustainable pavers for light pedestrian traffic like walkways and other hardscapes. The facility will initially focus on eight earth-tone colors CalStar unveiled at the 2009 Greenbuild Expo in Phoenix, he adds, while future product development could include thin brick, thin-brick precast panels, structural oversized masonry, and hardscape products to form retaining walls. The plant is launching with a payroll of 35, climbing toward 50 at full production.

We are well positioned to enter the main commercial masonry markets: K-12 schools, colleges and universities, municipal buildings, healthcare facilities and retail, concludes CalStar Vice President of Marketing and Business Development Luke Pustejovsky.

The premier commercial order, he adds, is scheduled for a spring delivery to K2 Urbancorp, Tallahassee, Fla., which has specified Fly Ash Brick for retail facilities at its Evening Rose development.