Interlocking concrete blocks

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Safety when using Mass Blocks

At Interbloc, we are passionate mass block modular construction systems. This is why we actively seek to provide useful information on the benefits of using these systems. This info sheet aims to provide basic information on how mass blocks work, and outline some key characteristics of a good block you should look for when making a purchasing decision. It isn’t just about price – when you’re dealing with heavy concrete blocks it’s about safety and quality.

About Mass Blocks

Mass block based modular construction systems inherently rely on gravity to stop the wall tipping over. There are different forces exerted on any given wall. The most common forces are overturning, sliding, and bearing capacity. Ensuring the wall is able to withstand these forces requires engineering. A well designed block provides an engineer with multiple options when designing a structure to withstand those forces. The engineering is only as good as the building material used however – this is why it is so important to choose a good block.

What about Safety?

Safety is the most important consideration when choosing any construction material. Unfortunately there are currently no regulatory standards for the mass block industry. A 1+ tonne block can cause significant damage if not used correctly. Below are some questions you should ask when selecting a safe mass block, and block system:

Are the blocks stable?

Blocks with a low centre of gravity are more stable. Narrow, tall blocks are more prone to overturning. There are two key features to look for when determining whether a block is stable:

Block Sizing: Aim for a block with even proportionality. Even proportionality is about the height and width of the block. A lower, wider block has a lower centre of gravity and so will be more stable.

Dimensional Tolerance: Dimensional tolerance ensures a wall, once constructed, is stable. Dimensional tolerance is about the ability of the blocks to interlock in a stable way. Blocks with a low degree of dimensional tolerance reduce the potential for unwanted movement in a wall.

Do the blocks interlock?

The block should have a comprehensive interlocking capacity. A comprehensive interlocking capacity should have an interlocking key which provides horizontal sheer strength in all directions. Blocks with low profile or ‘ramped’ interlocking designs are more prone to sliding off potentially causing damage to property, or injury.

Warning: Some blocks on the market incorrectly claim to be interlocking.

Is the block guaranteed, or covered by a warranty?

If the block isn’t, this should be a red flag. A lack of warranty/guarantee often implies there are no quality control or engineering standards in the manufacture of the blocks.

Are the blocks part of an engineered system?

Using blocks which are not supported by an engineered system increases your liability if anything were to happen. Any supplier claiming to have an engineered block or system should be able to provide documentary evidence of a generic engineering designs with supporting calculations which can form the basis of specific engineering for your project.

Is the lifting mechanism safe?

Not all mass block manufacturers use certified lifting anchors in their blocks. Certified lifting anchors, like the ones used in Interbloc blocks, are the perferred lifting mechanism specified in the Department of Labour's Approved Code of Practice for the Safe Handling, Transportation, and Erection of Precast Concrete. When using manufacturer supplied lifting equipment you should ask to view the testing certificate and the inspection log. If the supplier are unable to produce this then chances are the equipment isn't compliant.

Click here to view the Approved Code of Practice for the Safe Handling, Transportation, and Erection of Precast Concrete

It is a common misconception that all blocks are the same. The design of the blocks is central to the performance of the structure.

Choosing a block which ticks all the boxes will provide you with a safer, better quality structure.

Are you an Engineer?

Find out how the Interbloc modular construction system can deliver flexible, durable, cost effective solutions. 

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