DCN ARCHIVES

September 25, 2009

Post-consumer crushed glass to be used as concrete aggregate.

ATLAS BLOCK

Crushed glass is used as filler in blocks.

FEATURE: Concrete and masonry

A green makeover for the concrete block

The days of concrete manufacturers relying solely on traditional aggregates to produce concrete block are past.

Through technological advancements, new aggregates are being created that maintain or even improve the performance of block.

One of those technologies—Poraver— crushes and refines post consumer glass (typically collected through municipal box programs) to create lightweight pellets which expand and generate a fine-pored granulate. Atlas Block Co. Ltd. uses up to 30 per cent Poraver in PCR Block, the company’s new lightweight enviro-friendly concrete block.

PCR Block is non-toxic, chemically stable, mold proof, odorless and unaffected by moisture, says Don Gordon, president of Atlas Block.

It is also recognized by LEED, he says and its performance has proven to be on a par with other lightweight blocks.

“I think we’ve broken a barrier. You no longer have to make a block with sand, limestone and cement. This proves there are alternatives,” he says.

After going through testing for three years, PCR Block was introduced in small quantities to the market last year. Tom Farr, president of masonry contractor Burling-Pranger Company Inc., was impressed enough with PCR Block when he used it for the construction of a school in Barrie last fall that he has gone on to use it for the new media centre at the prestigious G8 Summit which will be held in Huntsville in 2010.

It is priced competitively with other lightweight blocks and is easy to install, he says: “It’s a good product—good for the environment and it is recognized by LEED.”

Atlas Block first heard about Poraver about three years ago. At the time the Poraver production plant in Innisfil was producing glass recycling materials for other products.

Gordon says there is some insulation value to the PCR Block but an R-value has yet to be determined.

The manufacturer isn’t sitting still with the development of its new product. Atlas has developed a prototype block with Poraver that is substantially lighter than the lightest block on the market today. The block could weigh as little as 10 pounds, about 20-22 pounds lighter than other lightweight blocks (including PCR Block) currently produced in the industry.

The lightweight prototype has received favorable reviews from architects. However, it must go through extensive testing to determine load tables and other important criteria before it can get approval from CSA.

Gordon says using recycled glass as an aggregate in concrete block is sensible because it is readily available. Conventional aggregates, on the other hand, are becoming increasingly difficult to obtain from local sources — meaning manufacturers have to pay more to go further afield.

Paul Hargest, vice-president of MasonryWorx and president of the Canadian Concrete Masonry Producers Association, says Poraver technology fits nicely into the concrete block industry’s push to gain recognition for its green products. The new block “shows innovation” from Atlas.

He adds if other block producers follow Atlas’s move, it would make a significant impact on the recycled glass industry in Canada.

Though the product may cost slightly more than traditional block, Gordon says builders have to look at the bigger picture: “We have to stop digging holes and taking aggregate out of the ground when we can use aggregate (used wine bottles) that is in our recycling blue boxes which would, otherwise, be very hard to find any reuse for.”

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