Building Blocks From Down Under

A recent article in The Roanoke Times by Sarah Cox highlights one of the NRVLiving Real Estate Group’s unique listings, a home in Floyd that truly practices the GREEN theme.  We’ve written about Auz-Bloc before, and mentioned it on the show, but here’s a good article on the product in application.  Because The Roanoke Times search engine sucks, however, there’s apparently no link to it.  So we’ve reprinted the entire article here … breaks, emphases, hyperlinks and spelling mistakes are entirely ours!
While on the surface a house made of composite waste materials may not be drawing crowds of buyers, Bill McGuire, Auz-Bloc franchisee for the United States, believes otherwise.  After all, Auz-Bloc is said not only to leave a very small carbon footprint, but gives back in energy efficiency all day – and night – long.  Auz-Bloc, less expensive than conventional building materials, is a poured mixture of recyclables that is put in a mold and sun-dried to resemble cinder-block.  Peter Collier of Australia, who invented the product, began experimenting with this idea more than 14 years ago, coming up with a formula that blended cellulose, cement, sand and binders, and other materials.

However, points out Eco-REALTOR Aaron Doyle of the NRVLiving Real Estate Group (Coldwell Banker Townside), the intention is to make a composite of waste products from whatever is used locally.  So, in McGuire’s case, much of the material is sawdust.  In other areas, Doyle pointed out, it could be eucalyptus or bamboo.

McGuire set about building a home in Floyd, where his business is based, to demonstrate the energy efficiency and cost effectiveness of this building material.  Doyle said it is structurally strong, denser than cinderblock, fire and termite resistant, and can be used not only for the framing of the house, but for the interior walls, as well.  "Because of its mass, in the winter it will absorb heat from the sun and continue to release heat into the house during the night," she explained.

McGuire found that his 2300 square foot, three-level house now has a utility bill of $100-120 per month.  He charged his son, for whom he built the home, full price for the manufacture of it – no discount – and the house averaged out to cost just under $90/square foot.  In South Carolina, McGuire built a 1500-square foot home whose utility bill has not gone higher than $63 per month – even during the summer months.

"The fire rating is also very important," pointed out Jeremy Hart, Doyle’s partner.  "When they tested the [Auz-Bloc] they built a wall and created a 1100-degree Celsius fire on one side.  On the other side of the wall, it got to 64 degrees Celsius after four hours."

Billy Weitzenfeld, executive director of the Association of Energy Conservation Professionals based in Floyd, had a portion of the association’s office built of Auz-Bloc.  A local church also is using it.  But, acknowledged McGuire, it will take some time to get the word out about this product.  In Australia, there 10 Auz-Bloc factories; extensive testing has been done on the product, but the United States will only recognize testing conducted in this country, according to McGuire.
Hart said this building material goes up quicker than traditional materials.  There is no transportation cost associated with bringing it in, so there is less overhead because of fuel.  "They make each block through a mold and run the plumbing and electrical at the same time they are putting up the walls, so it’s cheaper to put up," he said.  He pointed out that a combination of a timber frame and Auz-Bloc can also be designed.  "The other thing is that when you’re building a regular stick-built home, you have wood framing, a layer of drywall, insulation, and then all of this is wrapped in layers.  You have all these layers, but with Auz-Bloc, you just lay the block and it can be the interior and exterior wall," said Doyle.

Auz-Bloc, or Timbercrete as it is called in Australia, is patented or patent-pending in 27 countries.  A recent Home Energy Rating System (HERS) test, which is an independent audit, was conducted on the house in Floyd.

According to Energy Star, "The HERS Index is a scoring system established by the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) in which a home built to the specifications of the HERS Reference Home (based on the 2006 International Energy Conservation Code) scores a HERS Index of 100, while a net zero energy home scores a HERS Index of 0.  The lower a home’s HERS Index, the more energy efficient it is in comparison to the HERS Reference Home.  Each one point decrease in the HERS Index corresponds to a one percent reduction in energy consumption compared to the HERS Reference Home.  Thus a home with a HERS Index of 85 is 15 percent more energy efficient than the HERS Reference Home and a home with a HERS Index of 80 is 20 percent more energy efficient.

The home in Floyd scored 81 and on a scale of one to five Energy stars, received five stars.

We’re proud to be associated with a home like this.  For more information about Auz-Bloc, you can download the file "Why Choose Timbercrete", or contact Jeremy for a private appointment to see the home in action.

Download why_choose_timbercrete.pdf

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