Posted in Architecture | Building Systems | Current Events | Energy Conservation | Housing | Innovative Solutions | Structural Engineering | Sustainable Design | Urban Development by Brad Breneisen (Graphic Design) on July 20, 2011
Is the push towards sustainability strong enough for the design and construction industries to kick old habits and reconsider the Concrete Masonry Unit (CMU)?
Personal views aside, I think it is safe to say that society at large is becoming more and more conscientious about our impact on the environment. With the growing push towards sustainability, we are starting to see long established practices go under the microscope.
This post came about when a friend of mine named Gary Summers told me that he was in the process of obtaining a full patent for the first modular self-locking building block. Basically, he wants to usurp the existing concrete masonry unit (CMU). He sees his design as the connecting link between energy efficiency and structural design. I have always sensed that the existing CMU design is a bit primitive in relation to the progress society has made in other areas; but considering how entrenched it is in the way we build, it’s hard to imagine using anything else…until you talk to Gary.
He’ll tell you how his design provides a CMU that is self-locking and self-aligning, reducing the need for mortar and streamlining the construction process. He’ll explain that it would offer much more resistance to horizontal and vertical sheer force (earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, etc.) and also allow for the blocks to be produced with a high amount of recycled content. Then he’ll show you how the block is completely modular (all blocks being the same form). He’ll show you the small holes in the block that provide enough space for rebars (metal support rods) and electrical wiring, and how the grooves on the outside edges of the block provide space for heat to rise and the ones on the inside can be used to quickly establish your wall with 2x4s. Then he’ll go on to explain the principal of thermal mass and how, by being almost completely solid (and nearly twice the weight of the existing CMU), his block will improve energy efficiency for all seasons, especially with insulation on the outside of the building.
If you’re like me, you’ll be seriously impressed by his inventiveness. The problem is that I’m just a graphic designer and would make a mistake to form a strong opinion without the proper background or credentials…but I do happen to work at a multi-discipline design firm that includes structural engineers, architects, and LEED® Accredited Professionals, not to mention a broad client-base and network of contractors in the construction industry who who are certainly qualified to provide Gary with informed opinions on how his design measures up and what challenges he may face in realizing his design.
This approach of creating a collaborative learning environment to gain a more comprehensive undertanding of a subject is nothing new at Larson Design Group, and those who have attended our Lunch ‘n’ Learns or have taken part in our CNG Focus Group know what I’m talking about. We invite you to join the discussion on this topic and hope to gather a wide range of perspectives. Do the pieces fit?
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