A Minneapolis manufacturer of recycled pavers may have the next big idea in sustainability for precast.
Until recently, Vast Enterprises has focused on creating composite masonry products for landscaping, decks, and permeable paving.
Its pavers offer a lightweight, sustainable alternative to traditional clay or concrete products. Vast composite pavers contain up to 95% post-consumer and post-industrial materials, primarily recycled tires and plastic taken from landfills.
“We are in a serious situation with the environmental impact of our buildings today,” says president Andy Vander Woude. “The construction community absolutely needs products that are both cost-efficient and sustainable.”
The technology found a new market in spring 2008 when a mutual colleague introduced Vander Woude to Fabcon Inc., a precast producer in Savage, Minn. “The timing couldn't have been better,” recalls Tom Kuckhahn, vice president of engineering at Fabcon. “Demand for thin brick panels was reaching an all-time high, and customers were trying to differentiate between products.”
Vast's pavers, reconfigured as thin brick, fit easily into Fabcon's existing precast wall designs. At the same time, Fabcon was developing sustainable products geared toward LEED requirements, and Vast offered technological expertise in using recycled materials.
The greenest of them all
To create the new product, Fabcon combined Vast's composite brick with its VersaCore+Green precast wall panels, which are made with up to 58% recycled content. The resulting composite thin brick panel contains up to 85% recycled materials. Fabcon and Vast estimate that for every 50,000-square-foot structure built with the panels, about 7500 tires and 220,000 plastic containers will be diverted from landfills.
The composite thin brick panels also save energy. Producing recycled thin brick consumes less energy than traditional brick because it does not use raw materials that must be mined or fired. The finished panels create more energy-efficient buildings, with R-values as high as R-21.
Not surprisingly, the panel is LEED-friendly. On its own, VersaCore+Green can contribute up to 20 possible LEED points. Vast thin brick can earn points for Materials Reuse, Construction Waste Management, Innovation in Design, and Regional Materials.
“This is an ideal option for anyone interested in sustainability,” says Kuckhahn. “If we do it right, using clay brick will be the exception to the recycled choice.”
The new panels are available in two colors of rustic style thin brick, and Fabcon and Vast are working to develop new textures and colors. Because Vast thin brick uses recycled materials instead of natural clay, it is not limited to a certain range of colors.
“Long term, we will rethink what makes a high-performance, aesthetically pleasing wall panel,” says Vander Woude. “We're developing exciting responsible alternatives the world hasn't seen yet.”
Vast is also developing testing standards for its products. The new products “are forging new territory” in terms of ASTM standards, says Vander Woude. The company has conducted extensive testing and research of the recycled products' durability.
For Vast, the new thin brick wall panels are just a first step in collaborating with the concrete industry.
“Our goal is to take composite masonry technology further and deeper, and work with partners who share the same vision,” says Vander Woude. “With the marriage of green and cost-competitive products, we hope to create explosive opportunities.”