Watershed Materials Selected as a Finalist for SXSW Eco Startup Showcase Competition

Words: Bronzella Cleveland

Watershed Materials will present its leading technology for manufacturing a green, low carbon, sustainable masonry building product called the Watershed Block.

Low cement Watershed Block installed in a home in Napa, Calif. The home withstood a recent magnitude 6.0 earthquake centered just miles away.

Watershed Materials (WM), a sustainable masonry products manufacturer, was selected as a finalist in the Greentech category for SXSW Eco’s entrepreneurial pitch competition, the Startup Showcase, taking place on Oct. 6-7, 2014 at the Austin Convention Center in Austin, TX.

Watershed Materials was chosen as a finalist in the SXSW Eco entrepreneurial pitch competition based on its cutting-edge approach to solving one of the building industry’s largest environmental problems – the CO2 footprint of concrete blocks. Tens of billions of concrete blocks are produced every year for millions of residential and commercial projects. The principle ingredient of concrete blocks is cement, a material with such a high carbon footprint that it alone is responsible for 6 percent of all CO2 emissions. Sustainability aside, concrete blocks fail to trigger positive aesthetic responses from architects and users.

Watershed Materials presents a solution to these problems, it says, with its versatile masonry units manufactured from crushed rock, earth, recycled concrete, and other raw materials. The company’s first-generation product, the Watershed Block, was designed as a direct replacement for the industry-standard concrete block while offering distinct improvements including less cement, less transportation, higher LEED ratings, lowered carbon footprint, and the look of natural stone. The manufacturing process produces dependable structural block with the strength and durability of concrete, and with 65 percent less embodied energy. With support of the National Science Foundation, WM is researching and developing the technology to produce structural masonry block with zero cement.

“I’ve spent 35 years launching technologies to improve the buildings we live in. Watershed Materials is the best yet,” says president David Easton. “We’re building something beautiful and resource conserving. And architects are loving it.”

According to WM, the first home built entirely of Watershed Block in Napa, Calif., sustained no structural damage during the recent magnitude 6.0 earthquake centered just miles from the home’s location. Not only did the home survive the earthquake with no structural damage, there was no damage to any of the contents inside the home during the area’s strongest earthquake in more than 20 years.

The SXSW Eco Startup Showcase, now in its third year, is a rapid-fire pitch competition spotlighting innovative, early-stage companies in the areas of greentech, cleanweb and social impact. Finalists in these categories were selected out of a pool of hundreds of applicants from around the world and will compete at SXSW Eco in front of a live audience and panel of judges from companies such as Target, Shell Technology Ventures, the Whole Planet Foundation, New Enterprise Associates and Sprint. In the past two years, participating companies have gone on to raise more than $27 million in funding and acquire global brands as clients.

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