Shamrock Materials recently conducted a test pour of Ekocrete at its Petaluma, Calif., plant.
Shamrock Materials recently conducted a test pour of Ekocrete at its Petaluma, Calif., plant.

Jim Glessner and Richard Mc-Cabe met when their companies were working together to improve concrete with nanofiber technology. Their shared interest in the environment led them to create Ekocrete, which they call “the most environmentally sensitive concrete product on the market.”

Glessner, owner of GST International, Reno, Nev., has worked with concrete and sealers his whole life. His father founded Glaze ‘N Seal in 1962, in Irvine, Calif. “We have always been ahead of the EPA to make our products as eco-friendly as possible,” he says.

McCabe is the technical director and formulator of Ekocrete, and self-described “mud man” of the operation. He became interested in green concrete while working for a chemical company developing nanofibers to reduce concrete cracking. When he began researching green concrete, he was surprised to learn that “there was nothing out there.”

Ekocrete is made of 90% recycled materials, including concrete and byproducts such as fly ash and silica fume. “These materials make the concrete much stronger and longer-lived,” says McCabe. “It's not going to break down in five years; in fact, we estimate a 100-year lifespan.”

The basic mix is 5000 psi, but it can be produced from 2000 psi up to 10,000 psi. “We work with local materials to customize the mix according to clients' requirements,” he explains. Recycled carpet fiber reduces cracking, and fine particles make the concrete more durable by creating a dense surface that increases water impermeability and resists abrasion.

The sum of the product's parts equals sustainability. Its strength and durability increase the “cradle to grave” life cycle for projects in which it is used. Because the formulation uses recycled concrete instead of newly mined aggregates, it reduces landfill waste and transportation. Ekocrete also helps fight global warming because it uses post consumer waste products, reducing additional carbon dioxide emissions.

As far as customers are concerned, Ekocrete's performance is comparable to regular concrete. The same concrete equipment and processes can be used for mixing, handling, placing, and finishing. The product can be colored, stained, acid-etched, or stamped for a decorative finish. And, the low cost of recycled materials makes it more economical to produce than traditional concrete.

Uncharted territory

Glessner and McCabe couldn't believe the “Ekocrete” and “UltraGreen Concrete” trademarks were available. Many concrete producers are developing environmentally friendly mix designs, and they have been using recycled materials, such as fly ash, for years. But GST claims to be the only company in the country specifically marketing and developing truly eco-friendly concrete by eliminating all virgin aggregate, which makes up 80% of the mix design.

Going green is no walk in the park, they admit. GST's main challenge is creating a consistent concrete mix with inconsistent materials, such as recycled concrete, or even road bed, as aggregate. Where pure concrete is available, the product is much stronger. Ekocrete's bagged mix uses only crushed concrete as aggregate and delivers a stronger product.