Watershed Materials - Technology for New Concrete Blocks
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Blog - Watershed Materials - Watershed Block

Blog updates by Watershed Materials. Developments for sustainable new concrete block technology funded by the National Science Foundation.

Watershed One Demonstration House - Building with Watershed Blocks

We lost Monday to rain, but then settled into a very efficient block-laying routine.  We're using four masons and three helpers and working on both buildings - the second floor kitchen/family room and the lower floor of the bedroom wing. As you can see in this photo of the second floor walls the block pattern is changing as the walls rise higher. On the first floor Juliet used eight-inch blocks with a soldier course every fourth row. On the second floors she called out four-inch and six-inch blocks with some blocks rotated. There's a pattern to the rotation. Can you spot it?

It's been encouraging this week to see our rate of production improving.  It's not simply adding one more helper, but also a factor of everyone learning their way around the process and getting more comfortable in their roles and with our expectations. What is patently clear, however, is that working with smaller blocks and the rotated block pattern takes a lot more time - probably three times as long to lay than with the eight-inch running bond pattern. When we're finished, we'll compare the cost per square foot of each type of wall and then try and decide whether the effect of the pixilated block patterning justifies the extra expense.  I'll bet most of us will say that it does. The photos below show Ramon working on the walls of the family room next to a floor to ceiling window, and Aurelio laying eight-inch blocks in the corner of the master bathroom where it meets the rock bank.  (We're going to shoot a shotcrete and pise wall against the cutbank).

Incorporating the electrical services into the block walls continues to be almost a full time job. I lay it out as best I can, and Rigo notches blocks and snakes the conduit around the corners and past the rebar. This has been especially complicated for the kitchen walls where we need a total of six separate circuits: frig, microwave, garbage disposal, dishwasher, and two for counter plugs. Fortunately some of the circuits can share a neutral, and they can all share the ground, but try pulling ten wires through a 3/4" conduit with three sweeps. Here's Rigo cutting a notch for an outlet box.

My map of the conduits and the various electric outlet and lighting circuits was getting so full of lines and notes, I thought we'd better start pulling wires before we lost track of where things went. Khyber and I spent half of Thursday and half of Friday fishing and labeling wires.

Now that the walls in both buildings are laid up to the five feet, we'll pump the cells full of grout on Monday, then try to finish to plate height by the end of the week. That means we can set the clerestory frames on the kitchen/family room wing and the floor beams and pan deck on the bedroom walls. Here's how the project looked at the end of the day Friday.