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Molded bricks offer greener footprint

The same way Trex introduced the concept of composite lumber to the building and construction industry, startup company Vast Enterprises LLC (Minneapolis, MN) hopes its injection molded composite masonry gives builders and homeowners an option beyond today’s clay and concrete offerings.

The same way Trex introduced the concept of composite lumber to the building and construction industry, startup company Vast Enterprises LLC (Minneapolis, MN) hopes its injection molded composite masonry gives builders and homeowners an option beyond today’s clay and concrete offerings.

Launched in the middle of 2007, Vast has come to market with composite pavers and decorative “thin bricks” composed of postconsumer plastic, rubber, and “secret sauce,” according to company CEO Andy Vander Woude. Explaining his company’s technology as part of the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE) Global Plastics Environmental Conference (GPEC; March 8-10; Orlando, FL) Clean Technology competition, Vander Woude said Vast’s composite pavers use injection molding for their manufacture, but given the proprietary nature of the product, he wouldn’t offer much detail, saying only Vast’s version is “Frankenstein-ian.” IM is well represented in the company’s management, however, with two molding veterans, including the product’s inventor, among the executives.



Injection molded from a mix of postconsumer rubber and plastic plus “special sauce,” Vast’s composite pavers are one-third the weight of concrete and clay counterparts, but offer a variety of colors and durability, with a 10-year warranty and lifetime guarantee against cracking.
Steve Thorkelson, who invented the product, is Vast’s technology development head and has more than 25 years of experience in the injection molding industry. VP of engineering and operations Troy Ackterkirch, meanwhile, boasts 14 years of experience in injection molding and manufacturing management.

Concrete and clay in their sights
The final product is composed primarily of postconsumer crumb rubber from tires, along with postconsumer plastic and the aforementioned special sauce, according to Vander Woude, resulting in a product with 95% recycled content. Compared to concrete bricks or pavers, the composite version is one-third the weight, and producing it requires 82% less energy. has no need for water, and emits 89% less carbon dioxide.

The product has a 10-year warranty, but aims for a 25- to 30-year product life, with a lifetime warranty against cracking. Vast says that, in addition to offering rich colors, the composite masonry is slip resistant and has “excellent” strength. The bricks are supplied with a grid system that automatically aligns and spaces them, with that underlay and the lighter overall weight combining to cut paver installation time by more than 50%. Because of their lower mass, Vast bricks can be used for rooftop patios and decks as well as landscape pavers for lots, driveways, walkways, and patios. The product is permeable for storm water management and maintenance-free, according to Vast, with no staining, sealing, or fasteners required, as well as having inherent resistance to mold and mildew.

Vast has distribution agreements with some of the larger U.S. hardscape/landscape companies and representation in 22 states. It intends to add additional partners in 2010, and plans to enter the big-box market this year as well. There are more than 300 residential and commercial installs covering more than 300,000 ft2, using 2.75 million lb of plastic and rubber waste diverted from landfills.

At the Clean Technology competition, Vast finished as the runner-up to Dutch chemical and catalyst company Avantium, but its composite masonry was recognized with the conference’s Design for Sustainability award. Tony Deligio
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