Low cement masonry block - sustainable, resilient and beautiful, half the cement
The block with a smaller carbon footprint
Interior wall made from low carbon alternative green building material Watershed Block
Evolution from Rammed Earth
Interior kitchen wall made from green building materials - Watershed Block
Residence in Healdsburg, California designed by architects Arkin-Tilt using Watershed Block
Green low concrete Watershed Block in a demonstration home in Napa, California
Production of low cement Watershed Block
Watershed Blocks in the factory in Napa, California
Low cement masonry block - sustainable, resilient and beautiful, half the cement

Watershed Block rolling off the production line in our factory in Napa, California. 

Watershed Block is a beautiful, sustainable, and resilient alternative to conventional concrete masonry block. Watershed Blocks are produced from a blend of naturally occurring and recycled aggregates, clay minerals, ordinary cement, and pozzolanic binders. Our proprietary process creates durable structural masonry blocks that reflect the character of regional soils.

Cement is energy intensive and causes 7% of global CO2 emissions. Watershed Materials uses a special manufacturing process with locally sourced aggregate to attain the strength and durability of conventional concrete blocks with less than half the cement, reducing embodied energy between 50-65%.

Watershed Blocks express the color palette and material composition of local soils that vary region by region. Individual production express the unique geological attributes of local sites.

The block with a smaller carbon footprint

Watershed Block has significantly less embodied energy than comparable masonry products. Embodied energy, which measures the energy required to produce a product, is closely correlated to greenhouse gas emissions, a leading cause of global warming.

Watershed Block contains:

• Between 51% and 58% lower embodied energy than common gray concrete block
• Up to 67% lower embodied energy than premium, finished grade architectural concrete block

Interior wall made from low carbon alternative green building material Watershed Block

A soldier course of eight inch blocks with a white linen club chair and hand woven Odegard rug. Just as natural rock is made up of a million individual grains of quartz, feldspar, and trace elements, Watershed Blocks celebrate their unique composition. Unlike uniform concrete blocks, made of cement and dye, no two Watershed Blocks are exactly the same. Watershed Block offer the appearance of rammed earth.

Evolution from Rammed Earth

Watershed Block takes its root from the ancient past - the adobe and rammed earth walls of Babylon, the Ming Dynasty, and the casbahs of Marrakesh. Humans have been converting raw earth into building products for ten thousand years, yet over most of the intervening millennia, little has changed in the technology.

Beginning in the mid 1970’s, the practice of rammed earth began to experience a renaissance. Builders around the world refined the methodology and revived a lost art. Rammed Earth went from a status of “what?” to “wow!” It is beautiful, energy storing, low carbon, and durable.

Watershed Materials had the idea to capture the beauty and sustainability of rammed earth and squeeze it into the size and shape of the common concrete block. More people would build with earth. The planet would be better off.

Making a rammed earth block as strong as concrete isn’t easy. A Phase One Small Business Innovation Research grant from the National Science Foundation funded a study of applying nanoparticles and geopolymerization of naturally occurring aluminosilicates to replace cement in the block formulation. The hydraulic block press was reinvented to apply compressive forces so great as to actually lithify mineral grains, turning sediment into stone.

Watershed Blocks blend the aesthetics and resilience of rammed earth with the familiarity, speed, and affordability of the common concrete block. Small change - big gain.

Interior kitchen wall made from green building materials - Watershed Block

Bronze anodized window frames, black Cesarstone countertops, natural birch cabinets and Watershed Blocks. Lighted from above as they are here, the color variations in each individual block reveal the mineral origins of their composition.

Watershed Block currently qualifies for LEED 2009 in the following categories:

• Energy and Atmosphere | EA 1 | Optimize Energy
• Materials and Resources | MR4 | Recycled Content
• Materials and Resources | MR5 | Local / Regional Material
• Materials and Resources | MR8 | Durable Building

Watershed Materials is commissioning a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) study of Watershed Blocks. The LCA will offer a quantitative assessment of the environmental impacts of Watershed Block as compared to conventional concrete block products.

The LCA will be used to develop a Type III Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) according to the Product Category Rules (PCR) for unitized masonry, which are currently under development by the National Concrete Masonry Association with anticipated release in August, 2014. Watershed Materials is currently in the process of securing a Health Product Declaration (HPD) for its products.
These declarations will allow Watershed Block to continue to qualify for LEED points under the new LEED 4.0 revisions.

Residence in Healdsburg, California designed by architects Arkin-Tilt using Watershed Block

Arkin Tilt Architects is an award-winning firm specializing in energy and resource efficient design. This home was constructed using Watershed Block both for the sustainability profile and for the aesthetic connections to the earth surrounding the property.

Green low concrete Watershed Block in a demonstration home in Napa, California

Watershed Blocks are special in the way that they capture the character of the earth from which they are formed. The blocks are produced from local, recycled quarry material.

wa·ter·shed
noun

1. An area or ridge of land that separates waters flowing to different rivers, basins, or seas.

2. An event or period marking a turning point in a course of action or state of affairs.

A long time ago, before anyone invented the wheel, buildings were constructed from materials close by. Earth, stone, log, and thatch were used to build shelter, and they were always sourced locally — from the watershed.

Humans recently abandoned this approach — glass sourced from China, marble from Brazil, clearcut timber from mountainsides on another continent. All of which ships jobs elsewhere, consumes vast amounts of diesel, and makes no use of available material close by.

Watershed Block is made from locally sourced recycled material found piling up at mines and quarries. The quartz crystals, feldspar, and clays impart local characteristics. The color, tone, and composition respect and reflect that sense of place. Waste material is compressed into block.

The word watershed derives its two meanings from the idea of a dividing line, one separating geography and the other evolution. Watershed Materials takes its name from both.

Production of low cement Watershed Block

Watershed Blocks being produced and extracted from an eighty-thousand pound press at a rate of three per minute. Two men run the big machine, but the blocks are fragile when they first come out of the press and need to be handled with care.

Architecture 2030, an organization established in response to climate change, has identified two pressing needs for the building sector to address:

• The dramatic reduction in global fossil fuel consumption and GHG emissions of the built environment by changing the way cities, communities, infrastructure, and buildings are planned, designed, and constructed

• The regional development of an adaptive, resilient built environment that can manage the impacts of climate change, preserve natural resources, and access low- cost, renewable energy resources
Watershed Materials acknowledges and responds to the Architecture 2030 challenge by creatively combining ancient building techniques with modern nanoparticle science to transform the entrenched building materials, cement, and construction industries. Building a better world, one block at a time.

Watershed Blocks in the factory in Napa, California

Out of the press, the blocks spread out along the roller conveyors where they undergo a twelve hour misting prior to being stacked onto pallets. After seven days of curing under plastic “hoodies” they are ready to install. Concrete blocks, in contrast, are cured in kilns with heat and steam.