Watershed Materials - Technology for New Concrete Blocks
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Blog - Watershed Materials - Watershed Block

Blog updates by Watershed Materials. Developments for sustainable new concrete block technology funded by the National Science Foundation.

Watershed Materials Hires Director of Research and Development Dustin Hulbert, Ph.D., Formerly of CalStar Products

We’re proud to announce the recent hire of the very talented Dustin Hulbert as Watershed Materials’ Director of Research and Development. Dustin is charged with continuing development of high compression low cement masonry products, designing novel non-cement binder designs, and developing a growth strategy for expanding into other markets like Southern California and Central Texas.

Here’s a short interview we had with Dustin to introduce himself and describe where’s he’s been and where he’s going.

Tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Dustin Hulbert and I am the Director of Research and Development and Watershed Materials. My background is in Materials Science and Engineering. I completed my undergraduate studies in Materials Engineering at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and my graduate studies at U.C. Davis. My Ph.D. dissertation was on advanced ceramic composites like nanocrystalline sapphire and zirconia. I am passionate about science and sustainability. 

What did you do before joining Watershed Materials?

Prior to joining the Watershed Materials team, I worked as the Director of Research and Development at CalStar Products. CalStar was a building materials startup from Newark, CA. While working at CalStar we developed masonry products and processes based on a Class C fly ash binder and some proprietary chemicals. The product was totally void of portland cement, which is the typical binder in precast masonry. The products offered by CalStar have an over 80% reduction in carbon emissions and embodied energy as well as up to 40% post-industrial materials. CalStar was awarded 4 U.S. patents based on their sustainable masonry technology. Last year CalStar sold the technology to Headwaters Block Group who is presently manufacturing masonry products using the CalStar name and intellectual property.

How did you find out about Watershed Materials?

I first heard about Watershed materials from the company’s web-site. At that time I was working for CalStar Products. As part of my duties at CalStar I was always interested in developing relationships with other alternative masonry and cement companies. Since I was geographically very close to Watershed’s headquarters in Napa, CA I called David up to meet him and the team in person. After a couple of e-mails and a phone call David invited me out for a visit. I was very impressed with Watershed’s capabilities, resources and most importantly, people.

What are you working on right now?

Presently, I am still pursuing my dream of increasing the sustainability of our built environment using technology and innovation. I feel very fortunate to be able to execute on that dream while working with the Watershed team. Right now the R&D team and I are working on developing alternate cementitious binders suitable for construction, on-site block forming technologies, masonry product performance as well as developing certifications and specification documents for our masonry products.

Where do you see sustainability in the built environment going over the next several years?

Right now we about 7 billion people on the planet. Approximately 6 billion of those people are in developing countries. If even a fraction of those 6 billion want developed world lifestyles, then we can’t keep building our infrastructure using 19th and 20th century materials and methods. 

We are in seeing a renaissance within in the construction and building materials industry. On the construction side I see practices like on-site manufacturing of building materials becoming normalized. This includes things like using on-site soil and aggregates to manufacturing the masonry that is used to make the building. On the building materials side things like: embodied energy, carbon footprint, recycled content, regionalism and life cycle analysis (LCA) becoming standard metrics by which we select materials.

Initially, I see most of the commercial interest in sustainable built environments happening in the developed world. But as different materials and technologies develop and mature I think it is incumbent on the developed world to introduce sustainability into the developing world’s infrastructure. 

Any last thoughts?

I feel really fortunate to be working with such great people here at Watershed materials. There is such an awesome flow and balance of ideas and actions here. In my experience true innovation happens when you have that free flow of consciousness between motivated people with the same goals and ambitions.