I’ve included a number of news items in this week’s newsletter about proposed new building products. Activists in the green building movement are increasingly investing their time, talent, and treasure in projects to create a new generation of building materials. These innovative products are often units shaped like conventional clay-fired brick and concrete masonry units. And at first glance, these products appear to be less harmful to the environment. But are they viable replacements?

Do you want to see some examples of what our craftsmen might be placing in our walls in the not too distant future? I’ve posted the announcement of the winner in the annual Cradle-to-Grave program. In Conventional Materials Get a Green Redux, http://www.architectmagazine.com/products/cradle-to-cradle-product-innovation-challenge-announces-finalists.aspx?utm_source=newsletter&utm_content=jump&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=ANW_091813&day=2013-09-18, the editors of Architect report on 10 ideas that have received international acclaim for eco-innovation.

Some researchers have opted for biological or organic of ingredients. Click here,http://inhabitat.com/award-winning-biomason-grows-bricks-from-sand-and-bacteria-to-reduce-co2-emissions/, and you’ll learn how researcher Ginger Krieg Dosier is planning to market a low-impact way to simply grow building blocks instead. Her award-winning company Biomason recently received 500,000 EUR from the 2013 Postcode Lottery Green Challenge to continue the groundbreaking work of producing bricks from sand and bacteria.

These eco-inventors join researchers who have designed masonry-like units to become the final repository of waste materials from other industrial waste streams. Inventors have developed patent-pending processes that include using wood chips and shredded plastic pieces.

The real question is, when does the traditional product take on different performance qualities such as compressive strength, durability, and fire resistance? Does the replacement percentage of 1% affect a unit’s safety factor? How about a replacement of 30%? And what does the purchaser think of products that have varying levels of replacement materials?

While it’s important to support the quest for new building materials, researchers must evaluate the full array of qualities that evolved into each unit. Products such as clay fired brick have been tested and improved for decades. But the problem is, how can the traditional masonry manufacturers and design community work with these alternative ingredients?

That’s why I posted the announcement of the formation of C15.12 on Alternative Masonry Materials and Related Units. When the subcommittee completes its work, the consensus document will provide a road map to help inventors ensure their prototypes can be an accepted part of a community of masonry systems.

Subcommittee members are challenged with a difficult task. They must design an approach that encourages the inventors of these new materials to participate in the rigorous investigative review process. And just as important, they must develop an approach that safeguards public safety.

As with all committees, ASTM C-15.12 would welcome new members to help develop the proposed guide. You can learn more about the subcommittee’s purpose and how to join by reading, New ASTM Subcommittee on Alternative Masonry Materials, http://www.masonryconstruction.com/masonry/new-astm-subcommitte-on-alternative-masonry-materials.aspx.