Sometimes innovation comes from unlikely places. However, more and more likely is that Europe and Asia are ahead of the US with building practices. Here a manufacturer in Maine used concrete block technology he found in Germany to create an innovative new product.

A Maine-based concrete block manufacturer, Genest Concrete, has developed an insulated block combining concrete and expanded polystyrene. The blocks are designed to be assembled with a thin layer of adhesive rather than conventional mortar.

The product, called Comfort Block, was developed at the manufacturer's Sanford, Maine, plant after co-general manager Chris Genest returned from a trip to Germany in 2006. It's an inside-out version of an insulated concrete form (ICF), a building component that also combines rigid insulation and concrete but in a way that leaves the insulation exposed on both outside faces of the wall.

Comfort Block uses three 2 1/2-inch-thick pieces of EPS insulation, protected inside concrete cavities. Like ICFs, Comfort Block is reinforced with steel and grout. It forms a wall 16 inches thick.
Blocks sell for about $7 each, or $10.50 per square foot of wall, not including labor to set the block or the application of plaster and stucco finishes.

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