Brian Keevy has inherited an idea about 30 years ahead of its time. His grandfather and great-grandfather formed Hartstone Company in 1968 and developed construction blocks, similar to concrete masonry units (CMU), in conjunction with a research team from the University of Idaho.
The blocks came about as a way to recycle fibrous waste materials generated by the operation of Hartstone’s lumber mills in the Pacific Northwest. Regular Portland cement was mixed with a binding admixture, waste wood shavings or chips and formed in molds. The resulting blocks proved durable and easy to work with- although the blocks exhibited the properties of standard CMUs they could be cut or shaped with standard woodworking tools. The blocks also resisted rot and pests, performed well in fire tests and accepted paint and finishes comparable to or better than wood.
After successful tests and seeing the sustainability applications of these reused blocks, Brian’s progenitors designed and patented a portable machine for the rapid manufacturing of these blocks, which is capable of producing 1 completed block every 40 seconds. These blocks were then used in construction of over 30 commercial and residential structures across the American Northwest, many of which are still in excellent condition today.
However, despite the initial success of this product, the industry at large failed to pick up on the opportunity and the machine was mothballed while Brian’s grandfather and great-grandfather continued their other industries.
Brian’s involvement in this story 30 years later begins during his employment with a polystyrene molding facility, manufacturing insulated concrete forms (ICF) for several clients. Discussions with his grandparents led Brian to consider replacing the fibrous materials used in the original reused blocks with recycled, reground polystyrene foam. This method provides similar strengths to the original blocks and still makes use of recycled waste materials.
Currently in possession of the original machine, Brian is interested in pursuing this project but will require more testing and investor backing to make sure it meets industry standards and codes. Brian knows of at least one other company that has had favorable dealings with a similar product and feels that the industry as a whole is ready to benefit from the ease of production, portability and durability represented by this machine and its blocks.
As is, the prototype fits comfortably in a 2-wheeled trailer, meaning that one or more of these machines could be easily transported to a construction site, set up with minimal supervision and a project literally built around it, or several of the machines could be set up in a factory environment for constant production of the blocks. For multistory projects the blocks can easily be reinforced with rebar. With advances in engineering and materials in the past 30 years the machine’s design could be made even more portable and efficient.
For more information, comment here or contact Brian at firstname.lastname@example.org.