Rammed Earth Made Easy with Watershed Blocks – By Michaela Harms

In the 1970’s David Easton began his innovative work modernizing rammed earth building techniques toMichaela Harms fit into California’s stringent building codes. Despite his success with Rammed Earth Works, David noticed that rammed earth was a hard wide-spread sell because engineers were apprehensive to understand it and upfront cost-focused contractors did not want to wait through the lifecycle for its benefits. He decided to make sustainable impact by focusing on a more familiar and lower cost alternative, which led to the development of the Watershed Block.



Image Credit Jacob Snavely

David’s company, Watershed Materials supplies low-concrete masonry blocks that are used like common CMUs, concrete masonry units, with half the embodied energy. By piggy-backing onto the already known CMU standards and uses, these blocks are an easy-to-sell green alternative. Watershed Blocks have many of the same benefits as rammed earth including long lifespan, high thermal mass, and natural material use at a much lower price.







“I like to believe we are not only reducing carbon in our atmosphere, but saving a time honored building technique” adds Watershed employee, Dan Alvarado. Revitalizing the art of masonry is a great asset of this company as they open up a sustainable job market for these skilled craftspeople. The beauty of the natural colors of the local aggregate that make up Watershed Blocks is apparent in the pixelated masonry walls they create that attract architects and designers. When speaking of his favorite building material, earth, Dan states “there is a character to earth buildings that is hard to define. You feel connected to it, protected by it.” That connection is essential to sustainable structures and truly unique to buildings of natural materials.




 Image Credit Jacob Snavely

Living roomoImage Credit Jacob Snavely

KitchenImage Credit Jacob Snavely

Watershed Blocks are still a little more expensive than their CMU counterparts but the company projects that improvement in production and inevitable larger market adoption will lower retail prices. If more companies consider full life cycle costs, the savings are apparent even now. Green materials that supply LEED points are already desirable and Watershed is clearly getting noticed, recently being selected as a finalist for SXSW’s Eco Startup Showcase Competition.  As more companies like Watershed modernize and familiarize natural building techniques the beauty and health of our built environment will benefit.


WatershedMaterials-Factory-2013-03Image Credit Jacob Snavely


PascaleImage Credit Mark Lutaringer