Paving a New Way

| FROM THE PRINT EDITION |
 
 
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Fifteen years ago, a microbiologist in South America
invented a new way to pave roads. It doesn’t require gravel or cement mixers,
it can last for years without maintenance or repair, and it’s completely
environmentally friendly.

Unable to capitalize on it himself, he is now partnering
with Bellevue-based GreenStone International to bring the product, now
rebranded GreenStone 1000, to market. One way the company has garnered exposure
was teaming up with students, who developed a plan that won Seattle
University’s business plan competition.

The GreenStone process involves a unique enzyme which, when
mixed with soil and clay and compressed with a steamroller or similar vehicle,
creates a waterproof substance as hard as concrete. Because very little
excavation and other material are required, paving a GreenStone road costs
anywhere from a third to half as much as an asphalt road, and the enzyme is
completely organic and nontoxic.

“You can drink our road goo,” says Emily Marshall, one of
the Seattle University graduates who is now working for the company.

Ping Chee, director of business development for GreenStone
and one of the company’s co-founders, learned about the technology from an
acquaintance five years ago. When he went to Brazil to look at some test roads,
he found the surfaces showed almost no wear despite having been used as logging
roads for 10 years.

Chee sees huge potential for the product, especially in the
developing world where conventional building materials are expensive.
GreenStone, by contrast, requires only pressure to solidify, resulting in a far
cheaper and more efficient process.

GreenStone is now trying to raise capital and build a
manufacturing facility. The company is now paving a test road in Auburn on a
site owned by Icon Materials, a paving and site development firm that may be
interested in distributing the product in the U.S.