Ernest Maier has been delivering quality construction solutions to the mid-Atlantic region since 1926. It began as Washington, DC’s most trusted masonry block manufacturer, then—when Brendan Quinn purchased the company from the Maier family in 2001—it grew steadily to provide an array of concrete and building solutions to its customers across the region.
Today, the Ernest Maier family manufactures and distributes aggregates, bricks, drainage, hardscapes, insulation, lintels, natural stone, pavers, sand, stone, stormwater solutions, tools, and precast/prestressed concrete.
Ernest Maier is committed to delivering high-quality, sustainable products to its community. Driven by the desire to provide greener concrete, the group began evaluating CarbonCure’s technologies way back in 2012. Since then, Ernest Maier’s businesses have successfully used low-carbon concrete made with CarbonCure in masonry and ready mix applications across various project types.
During a recent webinar, we caught up with Brendan Quinn, CEO of Ernest Maier, and Nate Tarbox, General Manager of Bay Ready Mix—part of the Ernest Maier family—to discuss their experiences implementing CarbonCure across its businesses.
A Sustainable Mission
According to Ernest Maier, the biggest threat to any concrete producer’s business model is the lack of sustainability due to cement consumption. “We’re going to come to a stage where society won’t tolerate it anymore. Whether you believe in global warming or not, society will dictate the change,” said Nate.
As such, Ernest Maier’s motivation for adopting CarbonCure was its ability to enhance the environmental sustainability of the company.
In 2012, Brendan met CarbonCure CEO Rob Niven at the NRMCA convention. Ernest Meier was already very focused on sustainability across all its businesses and had several initiatives on the go:
- Experimenting with biodiesel made from the used oil from local restaurants
- Recycling water at its volumetric ready mix and block-making plants
- Installing solar panels on the roofs of all its businesses
- Investing in electric fleet vehicles, including forklifts and pickup trucks
- Building a sustainable product strategy that included lighter blocks, insulated block systems, permeable pavement products that enable water storage in their base
Brendan was intrigued by CarbonCure. He had already conducted experiments with Drexel University, using calcium carbonate to make concrete blocks without cement, so he was familiar with the chemistry behind the technology.
“Change is something I strive for all the time,” said Brendan. “CarbonCure really fit with what our plants were already doing on the sustainability front, so it made sense to roll it out.”
Evaluating and Implementing CarbonCure
The Ernest Maier teams received support from CarbonCure with everything from installation and testing to sales and marketing resources to ensure the teams reap the maximum benefits from the partnership.
CarbonCure's dedicated Installation and Maintenance team assisted with the quick installation of the equipment so Nate’s team was up and running within hours and could begin testing. Once the installation was completed, CarbonCure's Technical Services and Support (TSS) team worked with Ernest Maier’s quality control teams on commissioning trials, optimizing mix designs, testing and analyzing data, and submitting mix designs.
“I was so impressed with how the CarbonCure team worked side by side with us. They didn’t rush it—they came in for a couple of days and returned several times so we could refine our approach as we learned more,” said Nate. “That support was priceless, and I can't say thank you enough.”
After its comprehensive testing process, Bay Ready Mix recognized the potential to reduce the cement content of their concrete mix designs to produce more sustainable and economical concrete. It started by reducing cement by 3% and has succeeded in reducing it by 5-10% in some performance mixes.
The concrete products maintain the same performance the company is renowned for—but with the benefit of significant reductions in cement content for a more profitable mix and a reduced carbon footprint.
“CarbonCure makes better concrete. So even if you're cutting a little bit of cement out, you're still making a better product overall.”Nate Tarbox, General Manager, Bay Ready Mix
A Bottom-Line Advantage
Typically, when Ernest Maier invests in new technology to create innovative solutions for its market, it will charge a premium for those solutions. With CarbonCure, however, the team took a different approach.
“We wanted to make CarbonCure part of what we did across the board,” said Brendan. “We also want to stay ahead of the decision-makers. If sustainability is going to be an increasing part of the discussion, we want to be ahead of it as opposed to reacting to it.”
Despite its environmental motivations, Ernest Maier benefitted from the reduced cement content. “While the motivation for using CarbonCure was an environmental one, we could also see the impact it had on our bottom line from the reduction in cement costs,” said Brendan.
The company has been steadily increasing its usage of CarbonCure and is seeing a significant return on its investment as a result.
Where to Next?
Ernest Maier has a strong culture of innovation. Brendan encourages his leaders to say yes to new ideas. “We've tried many things over the years that have been complete failures. But we tried them. It's the openness to try and change and then have quality control people like Nate to help us verify if the results match the dream,” he said.
In addition to being good corporate citizens, Ernest Maier’s innovative approach is strategic. The company expects to see legislation in its surrounding states that mandates the use of low-carbon concrete—and it intends to be ahead of the game.
According to Brendan, a long-lasting product like concrete is intrinsically sustainable due to its lifecycle costs. “Innovations like CarbonCure just elevate this sustainability by being able to sequester CO2 and reduce the cement content,” he said. “We need many tools in our toolbox to keep up with where regulations will take us—and CarbonCure is one of those tools.”
To learn more, watch the full webinar discussion with Ernest Maier.