In 2007, Genest Concrete of Sanford, Maine began to design a masonry product that could be used to help build extremely durable and energy efficient buildings. The research began in Germany to better understand a culture with most of its housing constructed of masonry; structures that are known to be some of the most efficient in the world.
Germany, as well as other neighboring European Countries, has extremely high energy prices. They have perhaps the most Passivhaus homes constructed in the world and many of these are built using all masonry construction. These homes are built using extremely thick, insulated monolithic external masonry walls as well as concrete floors and internal masonry partition walls. The walls are covered with renderings such as stucco and plaster.
These homes are extremely air tight and become a concrete thermal battery able to balance internal temperature and maintain consistent temperatures through extreme cold and extreme heat. Accompanied with high performing triple pane windows, high performance tapes and house wraps, as well as clay or steel roof tile, these homes are built to withstand the most extreme weather events and natural disasters you can throw at them. These masonry homes are durable and enjoy low maintenance costs over their lifetime.
Genest Concrete has brought this insulated monolithic masonry building to the United States with the introduction of Comfort Block. The blocks are 16” thick with four layers of insulation. The blocks are machine calibrated so that they may be constructed using nothing more than a couple of millimeters of adhesive between the blocks. This type of construction allows for quicker build times. The blocks reflect the latest masonry building technology from Europe but are designed to current American masonry ASTM specifications. Due to the thickness of the concrete mass accompanied by insulation, these blocks are expected to have a performance of R-30+. More research is being conducted continuously by Genest Concrete to be able to provide the building industry with efficient building methods with excellent building performance.
(Chris Genest is general manager of Genest Concrete of Sanford, Maine and President of its Comfort Block Division)