New Insulated Concrete Blocks Made From Recycled Styrofoam

BluBloc insulated concrete forms

A new company in Portland, Oregon is gearing up to manufacture large quantities of the latest product in the ICF (insulated concrete forms) world.  BluBloc offers a twist on standard ICF products – it uses recycled styrofoam instead of manufacturing new for use in the forms.

BluBloc is 85% recycled polystyrene foam (styrofoam) and 15% cement.  Like other ICF products, the “blocks” interlock to form the outside structure of a building.  Cement is then poured inside the forms, creating a solid and interconnected structure.  From there, interior and exterior treatments are added.  ICF can be used in virtually any type or size of building, residential or commercial.

The advantages of ICF include increased insulation properties, soundproofing, and disaster, pest, and moisture resistance.  One of the down sides has been than most products are made of new petroleum-based styrofoam.  BluBloc takes post-consumer styrofoam, grinds it up, adds cement as a binder, and casts its forms from this material.

Michael Miner, CEO of BluBloc, estimates that more than 1,200 truckloads of polystyrene are hauled to Portland-area landfills each year (polystyrene is not recycled curbside or at the landfill).  An average home constructed using BluBloc would use 2,500 pounds of the material, he said.

BluBloc insulated concrete formsBluBloc has attracted the attention of some Portland architects who’ve used similar products.  Portland architect Hilary Mackenzie, principal of Sundeleaf Mackenzie Architecture, said she has used other building materials similar to BluBloc.  Homes built with polystyrene and cement blocks often are the only ones left standing in neighborhoods hit by a wildfire or hurricane, Mackenzie said.

A Portland multifamily project Mackenzie designed called the Graham Street Lofts was built using a similar product and the insulating polystyrene and cement walls block out most of the traffic noise from a busy thoroughfare.

Some architects may be intimidated that it’s different, Mackenzie said, but the building material appeals to her creativity.  “I like that you can sculpt it,” she said.  BluBloc can be cut using a chainsaw and shaped using a rasp, allowing for flexibility in shaping.  “I like that you can stack it. It’s like building with blocks. There’s something very appealing to me about that.”

The fact that the polystyrene is reused makes BluBloc a better choice than other ICFs.  But Jordan Palmeri, a science and policy analyst in the green building program for the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, cautions that combining it with cement doesn’t make it an entirely sustainable building material.  It takes a lot of energy and more carbon emissions to produce cement versus lumber used for wood construction, he said.

However BluBloc is more green than concrete-only construction, which would require even more energy to produce.  “Recycling the polystyrene does significantly cut down on the (environmental) impact,” Palmeri said.  “If this is replacing typical concrete construction, there could be a lot of benefits.”

Source and Photos: DJC Oregon, BluBloc


About the Author

has over 15 years experience in the construction industry and is the author of Green Building Design 101, an e-book available from Amazon. She is a LEED AP and Certified Green Building Advisor, and has worked on the LEED Certification of three projects in Salem, Oregon. She is currently a Contract Administrator at Rich Duncan Construction.  
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  • New for you but this product is decades old and very popular in the Arizona area

  • JeanSC

    FYI “ICF” spells out to “Insulating Concrete Forms.” The forms are not insulated; they do the insulating of the concrete. “Insulating” modifies the word “forms” not the word “concrete.” I have been a big advocate of these for years. EFTornadoSafeHome.com.

  • Rhaverlock

    So lets redirect and talk about Faswall, also a 25 year old Oregon product made with insulated wood chip-cement wall form system is exceptionally healthy and durable and boasts stellar thermal properties. And, what about addressing and resolving the costly and dangerous Portland concrete failures that are increasingly plaguing our building?

    …During the 20th Century Portland concrete became the most used man-made material in the world. Approximately 8 cubic kilometers of concrete are made each year—this equates to more than one cubic meter for every person on Earth. But, is it the best use of material? Thats a high level of CO2 and mercury emissions inherent in the production of Portland concrete.

    From the mid-20th Century until the present numerous engineering studies have verified that a high percentage of aging Portland concrete bridges, tunnels, dams, levees, highways and buildings are cracking, crumbling and collapsing as witnessed by the concrete failures that now routinely occur including the disastrous bridge failure and loss of life in Minneapolis and the repeated collapse of concrete buildings throughout the the rest of the world…

    Limestone-bonded Portland concrete remains a 19th Century technology with serious cracking, corrosion and environmental limitations. Think phosphate-bonded concrete instead!

  • Grady

    Eterna Building System in Arizona was the manufacturer of the block pictured.
    And the gentleman is right cement over time destroys its self through expansion and contraction. Because the cement is insulated there is no expansion and contraction.

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  • ICF PANELS

    GRADY, you are correct .. the company Blue bloc of mike miner is plagiarizing other companies products and photos and using it to attract investors, to date we have not seen them produce a single block ..why are they using some other companies product photos? we have been aware for 3 years. we have had personal contact with them and they admit to not producing any blocks .. so .. is this article another means to attract investors … should not production and ability to produce be part of the equation .. not just a cowboy with a 20 gallon hat and no horse trying to get people to invest … something to think about. again, Grady, thank you for pointing out the identity of the block in the photo.