Mark Porat founded CalStar Products (CalStar) in 2006 with the goal of providing innovation to an industry that was severely lacking. For more than 6,000 years, bricks have been produced in the same manner: manufacturers combine clay, sand, lime, iron oxide and magnesia, ground and mixed with water, shaped and fired in a kiln at approximately 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit for about a week. However, CalStar does things a little differently.
The team first started innovating in 2006, opening its first manufacturing facility in Wisconsin in 2010. Instead of sourcing materials from virgin clay, the company’s bricks, blocks, pavers and cast stone are comprised of 37 percent recycled material. The material is mixed, formed and cured overnight at less than 200 degrees. While the process is a lot faster, less expensive and more environmentally sound, buyers do not compromise quality – either in durability or aesthetics.
Building blocks of sustainability
“We are bringing innovation to an industry unchanged for thousands of years,” explains Joel Rood, CEO of CalStar. “Our bricks are the same shapes, sizes and colors available with a standard brick. They look like a brick and install like a brick. In fact, most masons can’t tell the difference, yet using this product means they are truly helping to improve the environment.”
The target market for CalStar’s bricks is mostly architects who specify and build the product into their designs. The team also sells these products to building owners and general contractors. CalStar’s bricks are most often incorporated into commercial buildings, such as schools, police stations, apartments, condominiums and large commercial spaces. CalStar’s pavers are found in projects of all kinds.
Another relatively new product from the business serves as a structural unit. “Brick rarely holds a building up; it serves as a façade,” Rood explains. “Our structural blocks are about the size of a cinder block and are used as what’s known as through-wall units. These structural units offer the same benefits as building with traditional cinder blocks, but are environmentally sensitive, contain a high perce
ntage of recycled content and offer a look that is much more finished.”
On the other end of the spectrum is CalStar’s newest line: decorative cast stone products. These products are used in the exteriors of theaters, restaurants, schools and other commercial buildings.
“Contractors usually install these around windows, on the mantels, sills and molding or as a band of decorative trim material,” Rood says. “Our cast stone is designed to look like cut limestone. Architects have enjoyed the creative freedom our products offer, without the high cost and environmental impact of quarried limestone.”
Keeping the green flowing both ways
CalStar products are attractive and contribute to LEED certification; as such masonry products offer distinct advantages. Made from recycled materials through an energy efficient process, these building blocks of the commercial landscape are making waves in the market. According to Rood, after all, contractors and architects can make a significant sustainable impact while cutting costs at the same time.
“It looks the same and performs the same on-site and in each building,” Rood adds. “Usually going green means added cost. However, on average, our customers see an 8 percent saving on jobs that use our products, because we are green, the way we make our products actually saves money.”
The company is also not mining or shipping clay to a factory, or participating in the higher energy consumption of a traditional brick or masonry product.
“What makes us unique is that we entered this industry through innovation,” he continues. “We are approaching masonry products in a different way. We saw an opportunity to participate in an industry with a true plug and play solution, with products that are good for the environment. And most save some money adopting the technology.”
CalStar has put forth significant product development within the last few years. Outside of the company’s growing line of unique masonry products, the team has a technology platform that allows the company to move into a wider share of products used in the construction industry. Furthermore, CalStar opened its second plant in Mississippi in July 2014.
Looking ahead, Rood says the company and its products are really taking off; CalStar has doubled revenue year after year and continues on a strong upward trend. According to Rood, providing more green for less green has become more than a viable business. Architects, contractors and building owners are embracing the value of the company’s products. In the years ahead, Rood and his team plan to keep innovating. Although the company got its start by reinventing the brick, CalStar Products is now making strides to revolutionize the entire building materials industry.
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