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Contractors have the building ‘blues’

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When you get right down to it, it’s kind of like working with Legos.

That’s the best way to describe the "Blue Max" system, noted Telford Advent of ETA Contracting. He and his partner, Eddy Tetu, set up shop in Stratton in May and are now building their first home using the Blue Max system for the walls and foundation.

But what exactly is Blue Max?

To put it simply, it’s a different way of pouring concrete. Blocks of heat-expanded polystyrene are locked together (much like Lego blocks) to form a six-inch wide pouring mold.

It’s a lot faster and easier than the traditional method of building wooden molds, Advent said.

"It’s quite an interesting concept actually," he noted. "For a regular bungalow, four guys can pour it in one day.

A few area homes have used Blue Max for their basements but the project Advent and Tetu were working on last week in Barwick will have concrete walls two stories up to the roof.

Laying out the first story wasn’t hard, either, with the blocks set or cut around wooden frames marking the doors and windows.

"We can pour four feet an hour [high] at 70 degree heat," Advent remarked. "Probably in three hours we’ll be done pouring this floor."

You can even pour in minus-40 degree weather with Blue Max. The polystyrene provides a good insulator, which cures the cement perfectly despite the cold.

And since the blocks aren’t removed after the concrete is poured, each wall will have 2.5 inches of polystyrene insulation on each side.

"It exceeds an R-2000 home--super-insulated is what it turns out to be," Advent said. "The cost of heating is way down with this compared to any other kind of construction.

"Chances are you don’t need air condition with it, either."

Advent also said it’s got a three-hour fire rating. "It’s an inert product. Basically, it’s fire-proof," he explained.

But what might be most important to a new home builder is the cost. While building with Blue Max isn’t any cheaper, Advent noted it isn’t really that more expensive, either.

"The materials itself are a lot more expensive but there’s a massive savings in labour," he stressed. "The ease of construction is really important."

Advent first heard of Blue Max, a Canadian invention, five years ago while working for a pipeline company. Since then, the small company that created it has been featured on "Venture" on CBC and has grown at a phenomenal rate.

Tetu and Advent brought some Blue Max blocks to the Farm Progress Building at the Emo fall fair earlier this month, and they said response from local people was phenomenal.

"I didn’t know if we got any negative comments," he said. "Once the facts are laid out, we don’t have to sell it. It sells itself."

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