About Interlocking Blocks
Although building techniques and materials have evolved over thousands of years, construction is still a long, complex, and expensive process. And it is, by and large, not environmentally friendly. The energy required for construction, the materials used and the pollution that is to be found in the construction area are among the many things that negatively impact the environment. Interlocking blocks may not solve all construction problems, but they do resolve many issues associated with traditional materials.
1.What are Interlocking Blocks?
Interlocking blocks are like 2 adjoining pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Each block has a projection at one end and a depression at the other. The projection of one block fits in to the depression of the next so that they always align perfectly. The blocks have vertical holes in them which have a double purpose. Firstly, the holes reduce the amount of material required to make the block without compromising on it strength. Secondly, steel rods can be inserted or mortar poured into them to increase the building’s strength and stability. A paper presented at the 13th World Conference on Earthquake Engineering in Vancouver, Canada by Martin Wieland and R. Peter Brenner proved the structural benefit of this construction method. There are two main materials used in the manufacture of interlocking blocks. Soil cement blocks are made using a soil to cement ratio of between 1:6 to 1:10. Concrete blocks are made using cement to sand to gravel ratio of 1:5:3. To find the manufacturers and suppliers of different kinds of interlocking blocks in your area, you can check online to narrow down your search list.
2.The Advantages of Interlocking Blocks
Interlocking blocks offer numerous advantages to other building materials. The materials required for production are widely available so they do not have to be shipped in from long distances. Since the manufacturing process is a simple one, production facilities can be easily set up at convenient geographical locations, once again reducing the cost of transporting them to the construction site. In the case of very large construction projects, an interlocking block production facility can be set up at the construction site to provide the most cost effective supply solution.
Another cost saving is achieved because the simplicity with which the blocks can be laid and aligned reduces the number of high wage skilled masons required on a construction project. When compared to convention masonry block construction, interlocking blocks, which are dry assembled, save a great deal of mortar which is normally used for vertical and horizontal joints, which again produces savings in terms of both cost and time.
Any time you can save time is critically important. This means you can start building later on in the summer knowing you can have it completed before the rain and snow begin to arrive in sleets which can severely hamper the progress on any work site. This enables an owner or a business to be able to begin selling goods and/or services throughout the winter and sooner than if a building could not be started at all until the spring.
The structural stability and durability of interlocking blocks is much greater than that which is offered by timber construction. Another benefit is that, unlike timber, interlocking blocks are immune to termite and other insect damage. Vulnerable and high stress parts of a building can be reinforced by running steel bars through the aligned holes of the blocks. Because of the ease and economy with which interlocking block walls can be built, load bearing walls can be used where infill walls would normally be placed, thereby providing both additional strength and load bearing ability to accept future additions to the building. Interlocking block construction techniques can be used for everything from single to multi-story construction.
3.Interlocking Blocks are Used Everywhere
Initially popular in East Asia as an alternative of fast depleting timber resources, interlocking blocks have gained international acceptance for the many benefits they offer and are now used all over the world for all sorts of construction and structure building Interlocking soil-cement blocks allow for the quick and cost efficient construction of housing units and other buildings. South Africa-based Ecovision Interlocking Blockmaking Machines are currently being used across Africa by property developers, entrepreneurs, governments and NGOs.
A building constructed using Ecovision interlocking blocks. One such company that is benefitting from Ecovision technology is Malawi’s Hydra Homes Ltd. Formed in 2009 by a British Chartered Civil Engineer, the company has over 200 employees engaged in construction projects around Malawi.
Hydra Homes specialises in dry stacked interlocking construction utilising Ecovision blocks. This sets them apart from any other construction company in Malawi. Hydra Homes has an in-house architectural and engineering team that can offer simple advice on projects or develop full technical drawings for developments for planning and construction.Why interlocking blocksSteven Tucker, international sales manager at Ecovision, says that using interlocking blocks have numerous benefits, especially for companies operating on the continent. One of the advantages of interlocking blocks is that they can be dry-stacked with no mortar. “This greatly increases the speed of construction,” he says. This building system has been extensively tested for structural strength and durability, as well as for fire, rain and sound resistance.
Workers in Uganda receive training on using Ecovision blockmaking machine. Ecovision blockmaking machines only use three inputs, namely soil that can be sourced on site, a small amount of cement that provides stability to the blocks, and water. As a result, the machines are ideal for sites where transport costs for cement and sand are high. They are also an eco-friendly, cost-saving alternative to conventional vibration machines. Ecovision machines are available in diesel or electrical options. Depending on the model, the machines have the capacity to produce between 1,500 and 3,000 blocks per eight-hour shift. The machines are relatively labour intensive, requiring about six operators. Tucker says that for most companies and governments this is an advantage because it creates employment opportunities and allows for skills transfer. According to Tucker, the company’s technology is particularly popular in Africa’s mining industry, where entire communities often have to be relocated to make way for new mines.
Ecovision also provides full training on using its machines as well as building techniques for interlocking blocks. “We offer training programmes both here in South Africa and on-site across the continent. Our technicians would give workers training on operating the machines as well as maintenance. The machines are relatively easy to use and people normally learn quite quickly.” Tucker notes that although Africa is currently the company’s biggest market, its machines are being used extensively throughout the world, including South America, Central America, the US, Eastern Europe and India. Ecovision also has French-speaking sales and training staff.