FAQ

Does Building Blocks have a rep in my area?
The Building Blocks team is spread throughout the Midwest, South, Southeast and Northeast United States. We have at least one project manager within close proximity to most major metropolitan centers and travel frequently to pursue project and partnership opportunities. Contact us and we will be happy to review your project.
Does Building Blocks offer AIA continuing education?
Building Blocks is approved by the American Institute of Architects as a provider of continuing education for practicing architects. Each of our courses is worth one learning unit. We also offer Lunch & Learns for engineers and facade consultants. Read about our courses and request a session here.
What is GFRC?
GFRC is an abbreviation for “glass fiber reinforced concrete.” It is also known as GRC throughout Europe and the Middle East where the British English spelling “glassfibre reinforced concrete” is more common.

 

GFRC is a composite of Portland cement, sand, and polymer with alkali-resistant glass fibers dispersed throughout. Unlike traditional concrete, GFRC is sprayed rather than poured. This process randomizes the glass fibers into an overlapping mesh pattern.

 

The glass fiber mesh functions like the steel in reinforced concrete without the added weight. In fact, glass fibers add so much flexural, tensile and impact strength that much less concrete is used overall. Architectural panels made from GFRC are strong, durable, and lightweight.

How much does GFRC cost?

The cost of GFRC is calculated per square foot and can be supplied for material only or for material and installation.

 

Material costs vary depending on the overall project size, type of wall system used, size and complexity of panels, repetition of forms, and finishes selected. Installation costs are dependent upon average panel size, accessibility to building connection points, availability and size of cranes used, and the cost of labor in a project’s city or region.

What is PCI?
PCI is the Prestressed/Precast Concrete Institute. The organization is both a technical institute and a trade association. They are responsible for certifying the companies and individuals that manufacture and erect precast and prestressed concrete products.

 

Additionally, PCI conducts research with universities and labs nationwide, publishes technical resources, educates stakeholders about precast and prestressed concrete products, and represents the industry in code advocacy activities. It was founded in 1954.

Why is PCI certification important?
PCI certification guarantees that a GFRC product will be of consistent quality and performance. Good GFRC fabrication is dependent on process oversight, operator accuracy, and material control from batch to batch. PCI certified plants adhere to the precise quality control practices established by the institute.

 

To ensure compliance with these best practices, all PCI certified manufacturing facilities receive rigorous quality audits without advance notice two or three times each year. Audits are conducted by independent engineers on behalf of PCI. These third-party audits guarantee that the GFRC from a PCI certified supplier will be of high quality, consistent appearance, and perform as advertised.

Is GFRC durable, resilient, sustainable?
GFRC Durability, Resilience and Sustainability

Designing for resilience, durability and sustainability is the approach we provide to address uncertainty – climatic, dynamic, and economic.  Long term ownership requires a long-term vision.

      • Sustainability we define as the practice of creating structures and using processes that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building’s life-cycle.
      • Durability we define as the ability of a building and its parts to perform its required functions over a period of time and under the influence of normal conditions.
      • Resiliency we define as the ability to adapt to changing conditions and prepare for, withstand, and rapidly recover from disruption.

Glass fiber reinforced concrete is an ultra-efficient composite system composed of a light gauge steel frame and a high-density thin precast shell. This is in contrast to an 8″ concrete wall system that is inefficient in material, weight, and performance.  The material efficiency of GFRC reduces the amount of embodied energy and embodied carbon.

      • 1.5 kWh/SF of embodied energy for GFRC compared to 20.4 kWh/SF for 8″ precast
      • 0.2 lbs/SF of embodied carbon for GFRC compared to 2.7 lbs/SF for 8″ precast.

The three primary forces affecting the durability of a building envelope are water, heat, and UV radiation.  Building envelopes are affected by water in two ways – rainwater and vapor drive – both are controlled by GFRC.

      • ASTM E331 (Water Penetration) GFRC has 0 static water infiltration at 10.0 PSF
      • AAMA 501 (Exterior Wall Test Methodology for Leakage) GFRC has 0 dynamic water infiltration at 100.0 MPH
      • ASTM E96 (Water Vapor Transmission) GFRC has 0.036 Perm of vapor permeance

The exterior of our GFRC wall system is high-density precast concrete that is inert to UV degradation with a colorfast integral finish.  Furthermore, the panel is designed to accommodate thermal movement and mitigate thermal conduction via an integral mineral wool thermal barrier.  The surface of the GFRC skin is treated with a fluorosilane sealer that reduces the surface wetting and thereby the dirting of the GFRC.  This has the benefit of keeping the façade clean longer, and reducing the maintenance cycle of our GFRC.

The durability of GFRC has been tested in multiple technical studies, most importantly in “A Review of the Durability of Glass Fiber Reinforced Concrete (GFRC), Design, and Applications”, which provides the following conclusion:

The design principles first established for GFRC were based on projected long-term strengths for GFRC derived from accelerated aging tests. This has proved to be conservative because real time actual weathering has shown better than the projected long-term performance. Also the initial GFRC composite was based on sand:cement mixtures and this has now been superseded by other formulations containing either admixtures, such as acrylic copolymer and pozzolans, or cements other than Portland cement all of which offer GFRC composites that have significantly better long term performance in many different environments. It is believed that any questions about the durability of GFRC can now be put to rest and GFRC research should concentrate on developing more ambitious design procedures and more challenging applications for GFRC.

We stand behind the durability of our materials and designs by providing a 10-year system warranty – this is in contrast to almost all other unitized wall systems and certainly way beyond what is provided with a site build wall.

Natural and manmade hazardous events, such as hurricanes and fires, can impose a devastating cost upon buildings.  Building designs, therefore, need to consider effective and efficient ways to develop resilient building envelopes.  Establishing the tradeoffs between performance and cost requires evaluating the relationships between the initial cost of providing the building systems and the performance over the life of the asset.  This value needs to be considered from a total cost of ownership, not just a traditional first cost estimate.  The total cost of ownership must consider such factors as recovery costs from a disruption, structural efficiencies, and operational savings (energy and maintenance).  Our GFRC has passed TAS 201 Large and Small Missile Test Standards, TAS 202 Uniform Structural Load Standards, and TAS 203 Uniform Cyclic Pressure Test Standards. These are the Test Standards required for a Miami-Dade Product Approval.  Furthermore, our wall system has a 2 hours fire rating per UL CWS-2066.  In addition, we have designed our GFRC wall system to meet GSA blast-resistant design criteria of pressures of 8psi, and impulses of 36psi-msec.

Once constructed, a building becomes a machine that needs to be fed.  The more durable and resilient the building the longer it is around. The longer the building is around the more energy it consumes, and therefore, durable buildings must be energy efficient in order to be sustainable.  Durability in conjunction with energy efficiency are the requisites of sustainability and long-term value. Building Blocks’ unitized GFRC wall system delivers on the three criteria of Sustainability, Durability, and Resiliency in a smart design paired with our commitment to the customer’s success.