Contract Surety

Stronger Than Concrete: Building With Legos?



With the speedy completion of an apartment complex in Florida, builders have proof: Renco bricks, which are quite lego-like in appearance, and an alternative to concrete, have passed more than 400 performance tests. Communities and builders across the country are now considering the possibilities.


Making A Dent: Housing and Labor Shortages…

After a labyrinth of approval processes which took 10 years to navigate, it took just 2 months for 11 laborers to build a 96 unit, hurricane-proof apartment complex made from Renco blocks in Palm Springs: 

The key to this super fast building project is its unique new construction material—an interlocking block system that snaps together like Lego bricks. Stacked like conventional cinderblocks and hammered into place, the blocks are a streamlined alternative to constructing buildings out of wood, concrete, and steel. The material is called Renco, and it’s made of a fully recyclable mix of repurposed glass and plastic, calcite dust, and resin … .The blocks made of this composite have high strength and stability, and are able to withstand a wide range of environmental forces. First developed in Turkey and used there in more than 100 building projects since 2012, the material has now been licensed and approved for construction in the U.S. The 96-unit apartment building, located in Palm Springs, Florida, is the first building in the U.S. to use Renco. 

The name, “Renco,” represents a mashup of the key words renewable and composite. Analysts say that a comparison of the Palm Springs build against a conventional concrete build found that the building constructed with Renco blocks was “20% faster and cheaper.” As a new material, developed in Turkey, Renco has now been put to the test in the U.S.: Indeed over 400 performance tests were performed by Coastal Construction Company related to the Palm Springs complex to ensure its structural integrity, safety from off-gassing and other environmental hazards. They also tested against termite and pest infestations, mold, earthquakes, and, this being Florida, hurricanes. The material is rated to withstand a Category 5 storm.” Ease of construction is seen as another advantage of building with Renco:

The system was designed to be easily assembled by people who aren’t trained in construction, of which there is currently a huge shortage. Color-coded instructions show builders which blocks go where, and they are easily attached to one another with a spray of two-part methyl methacrylate industrial adhesive from a glue gun and a few taps of a mallet. Blocks range in size from two inches to 42 inches long. The heaviest is 80 pounds, but most can be lifted by a single person. For the Palm Springs apartment complex, the entire four-building project relied on just 22 block shapes.That may sound like a recipe for a boring box, but the system is surprisingly adaptable to different designs, according to the project’s architect, Arquitectonica. “For the first one we were being cautious,” says Bernardo Fort-Brescia, the firm’s co-founder. “Now I realize we can be even more radical.”

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