Monthly Archives: January 2011

American Preppers radio interview

January 28, 2011 I was interviewed by Tom Martin for an hour about the recycled plastic block housing.  It was his first show and my first radio interview.  He did well. 

It’s about an hour long.  If you have questions you might find answers.

Recycled Plastic Block wall drawing

Dr. Owen Geiger has sent us drawings of  an engineered wall using recycled plastic blocks.

The first drawing has elevation showing foundation, windows, and doorways.  Click on the drawing to make it larger

Dr. Geiger shows using horizontal wall reinforcement.  (click on drawing to make full size 

Horizontal (Joint) CMU Wall Reinforcement:    (link to source of drawing below)

    1. Purposes:To strengthen the wall against “bowing” in due to lateral pressure (earth, wind, seismic)
    2. To make the wall more ductile (i.e., less brittle) and hold it together in extreme events such as earthquake or hurricane.

        b.  Horizontal joint reinforcement consists of heavy wire welded together to take the shape of a ladder (or truss), and is usually selected as follows:


    1. 10 Gage wire – for light duty interior or exterior applications
    2. 9 Gage wire – standard duty
    3. 8 Gage – heavy duty for use in seismic or other high-stress applications
    4. 3/16″ diameter wire – extra heavy duty for extreme conditions

        c.  Horizontal joint reinforcement placed in horizontal mortar joints as follows:


    1. Placed in every CMU course if used for foundation wall
    2. Placed every 2 or 3 courses for above-ground walls (or more if necessary)

The Recycled Plastic Block doesn’t have cavities for vertial supports like CMU blocks have.

Vertical CMU Wall Reinforcement:   (link to source of information below)

  1. Purpose – Greatly strengthen the wall to accommodate larger vertical loads as well as resist lateral loads.
  2. Vertical CMU wall reinforcement consists of inserting steel rebar (usually #4 or #5 rebar) into open cores of the wall, then filling those cores solid with a concrete-like grout.

We get the same vertical support by placing the rebar outside of the Recycled Plastic Blocks in our walls.  (see Dr. Geiger’s drawing at the top of the page)  The rebar is tied to the blocks it contacts and to the opposite rebar with wire ties.

We are working to get a local engineering school involved in the Recycled Plastic Blocks.  One of the facets of the Recycled Plastic Block wall that we want to study is the R value provided by the plastic blocks inside a plastered wall.  Intutition suggests that it will  provide a greater R value than CMU block construction.

3.  Possible disadvantages of CMU buildings: (link to information below)

  1. Expensive labor – CMU construction is labor-intensive. Depending on localities, labor CAN be very expensive.
  2. Heavy – Masonry buildings weigh more than comparable steel-framed and wood-framed buildings.
  3. Absorbent – CMU, like any other cementitious material is absorbent to water penetration and must be weather-proofed.
  4. Modular – Typical CMU has modular 8″ x 8″ x 16″ nominal dimensions, and is a bit difficult to have walls that have odd dimensions or smooth curves.
  5. Difficult to insulate – Block has a very low “R” value and generally, walls must be insulated by adding width to them – decreasing available floor square footage.

Most of the disadvantages of the CMU block construction don’t apply to the Recycled Plastic Block concept.

Anniversary of sorts, January 10

November 10, 2010 was when I heard Ronald Omyonga talk about holistic housing at the Beck building in downtown Dallas for the Hunt Institute.  It was afterwards that he challenged me to come up with a product that could be used for housing construction and create commerce out of plastic trash.

December 10, 2010 was my first post on about bottle bricks.

In two months time one thing after another has fallen into place.  We have the product, we have a working machine, and we have things coming together faster than we ever could have imagined.

It is amazing.

It’s the wire that makes it all work

One of the most common comments I get are about the use of the wire in making the block.  Usually heat or chemicals are suggested to make the block without the wire.

That is being done.  Peter Lewis in New Zealand is an aeronautical engineer and licensed architect.  Mr. Lewis has millions of dollars and about twelve years invested in his Byfusion system.  Watch the videos, read the story, you will be impressed.  A small Byfusion recycling machine will cost about $600,000.00 US.  It takes one kilowatt of electricity to make one block.  When volume is a consideration the Byfusion system is probably the most viable one out there.  Peter Lewis is a genius.

Our manual machine makes a compressed plastic block without any electricity or petrochemical fuels.  It transforms seven pounds of plastic trash into a seven pound building block, ten pounds of plastic trash into a ten pound building block.  There is no waste or loss of material in the compressing of the plastic into a recycled plastic building block.  It is one hundred percent efficient, ounce of trash, ounce of building block, no carbon based energy consumed.

I woke up from a sleep baling plastic blocks with wire.  That’s not genius.  That’s dreaming.  As I thought about it I realized that wire not only was perfect for holding the shape of the block, it also presented the best method to form a wall with the baled plastic blocks.  A couple of things need to be considered here.  One of them is my mind wasn’t working in a vacuum.  I knew wire was used to bale hay and straw.  The other was I  knew wire was used to help hold bales of straw together in strawbale houses.  Wire is also used to strengthen earth bag houses.

I appreciate that the recycled plastic block construction concept is difficult for most people to grasp.  That’s because most people aren’t familiar with earthbag home construction, strawblale houses, and compressed earth blocks for housing.  Those who are familiar with those methods of building shelters understand the recycled plastic block is another variation of what has been done to build shelters since mankind left caves and needed protection from the elements and predators.

The alternative to wire is either a mortar like conventional concrete and stone walls are put together.  Or there is the mortise and tenon fit method that offers a mechanical connection. Byfusion and Oryzatech use that approach.  Oryzatech also uses a contact type cement as I understand it.  So it uses the mortise and tenon and mortar approach to stack blocks to make walls.

I wasn’t able to form the recycled plastic blocks where the mortise and tenon approach would work.  Using all seven grades of plastic trash ruled out the use of a polymer answer to connecting the blocks in a wall.  So I was stuck with wire and re-bar.

This turned out to be a very good thing as I see it now.  The wire provides a more flexible connection than mortar or mortise and tenon connections do.  It also provides a stronger connection.  The wire method allows more creative shapes and designs of walls without sacrificing the integrity of the connections.  The wire connection I believe is in our genes too.  Before we stacked rocks I’ll bet we were tying limbs and grasses to make shelters.

The wire is what makes this system work.  It holds the shape of the block during and after it is placed in a wall.  The durability of the galvanized wire has been questioned.  The link suggests that it will last inside the wall almost as long as the plastic used to make the block.  It simplifies the construction process labor and material wise.  It takes less skill to build a shelter with wire than it does to lay a concrete block wall with mortar.  Concrete and mortar usually use cements that are not made locally.  They also consume petrochemical and electrical energy to produce, transport, and to build with.

Mother Earth News Blog

Dr. Owen Geiger did an article on the recycled plastic blocks in Mother Earth News.  He put the same article up on his Earthbag blog

If the name Dr. Owen Geiger sounds familiar it’s because it should be.   His passion and expertise is sustainable housing.