Startup builds new homes with old packing foam
With a goal of relocating manufacturing to the U.S. by early 2016, a Portland-based veteran of the construction industry is pioneering the repurposing of old packing foam, fashioning them into Lego-like blocks for residential and commercial buildings.
For every average sized residence constructed with the blocks, called BLU BLOC, an estimated 2,500 pounds of polystyrene is diverted from landfills, according to Michael Miner, the company's founder and CEO.
In addition to being eco-friendly, the innovative product is energy-efficient, pest-resistant and immune to water damage. The product has a fire rating at four hours, meaning it won't burn.
The manufacturers say their Blu Blocs are 700 times stronger than wood, making them extremely resistant to earthquakes, hurricanes and tornadoes. Other promised features include ease of use (cutting labor costs), extreme sound and thermal insulating (with the potential to cut heating and cooling bills in half), and no mildew, mold, rot, decay, termite or rodent pockets.
Company officials say local rebates are (or will be) available from utilities. The product contributes to ENERGY STAR® ratings, and also meets requirements for LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.
One early adopter of the product is homebuilder Tony Brown from Tri-Cities. He plans to build around 10 homes this summer, with a goal of using them on a large subdivision next year.
Blu Bloc is an Insulated Compound Concrete Form (ICCF) consisting of 85 percent recycled Polystyrene and 15 percent Portland cement. It uses only 100 percent post-consumer and post-industrial Polystyrene. Once established in Portland it expects to use packing foam from corporate partners such as SolarWorld America and Microsoft.
In addition to residential and commercial structures, other uses include interior walls, basement walls, stem walls, yard walls, and retaining walls. The blocks can be cut, shaped, and molded using a hand saw, rasp or electric chainsaw.
Blu Bloc is headquartered in Oregon where it won support from the Portland Development Commission. It has applied to Oregon BEST for a $250,000 grant for research and development and is seeking venture capital to help fund its transition to a commercial operation as it shifts manufacturing from China to the Portland area.