BuildBlock News

Sustainable Practices in ICF Molding: CBIS

BuildBlock molder CBIS is making the already clean process of ICF manufacturing even more efficient.

There are so many reasons to choose Insulating Concrete Forms over a traditional wood-frame build – expanded polystyrene provides air-tight insulation around a monolithic concrete structure that is proven to provide the benefits of disaster resilience, comfort, and quiet. For many, it is the sustainable nature of ICFs that drive their use in place of more traditional building routes: ICFs are designed to last, with insulation that doesn’t break down over time. BuildBlock ICFs are designed with a one-inch repeating interlock pattern that allows for easy implementation of scrap into other areas of the build, and subsequentially creating less waste on the jobsite. ICF structures are an end-use product for EPS foam which means they stay in place and don’t end up in a landfill later on. And finally, ICFs are scientifically proven to create an inherently more energy-efficient wall system, which is great for the pocketbook as well as the environment.

Clean Manufacturing

ICFs are one of the cleanest materials to manufacture – the beads are expanded using only steam. Any extra beads can be recycled, and most foam molding facilities have very little waste. BuildBlock molder Concrete Block Insulating Systems (CBIS), located in West Brookfield, Massachusetts, is taking energy efficiency to the next level by implementing innovative tools and practices. Through BuildBlock’s partnership with molders like CBIS, green begins long before your build.

Solar Powered Facility

Solar panels at CBIS are pitched at five degrees

CBIS employs a 375 KW solar system that handles nearly 75 percent of the electricity the facility uses on a yearly basis. “It would probably cover 100 percent if we didn’t get snow,” said Jeff Nickerson, President and CEO of CBIS. Though the snow coverage prevents reliable solar power during much of December-March, the system provides the vast majority of the power needed to fuel the already low-waste, clean process of creating BuildBlock ICFs. CBIS’s panels are pitched at a five-degree angle on a flat roof facing due south, a design that is based on the facility’s location, the irradiance of the sun, and sunrise/sunset times.

Recirculating Condensation

All ICFs are manufactured with steam, and while CBIS’s use of steam is similar to other ICF manufacturers, one thing is unique about their process: the recirculation of condensate. “When we give up the heat from the steam and it turns back to water it’s usually a very hot temperature,” explained Nickerson. “On all of our molding machines, we have steam traps that will direct the hot condensate back to a feed water tank, so when we direct the feedwater into the boiler, it’s already at a much higher temperature.” Every ten-degree increase in feedwater temperature provides a one percent increase in efficiency, allowing CBIS to use less energy in its molding process. While some EPS molding facilities will dump condensate into a drain, CBIS directs nearly 100 percent of condensate back to the boiler for reuse.

High-efficiency Boiler

CBIS utilizes a relatively new and highly efficient firetube boiler, equipped with a servo motor and mechanisms for constant monitoring if CO2 discharge, temperature, water temperature, and efficiency. Many other plants employ what Nickerson calls a “down-and-dirty” boiler that simply heats up the water when more pressure is needed – but CBIS’s $42,000 investment into efficiency will pay for itself in just a few short years. The plant’s highly efficient boiler allows adjustments to be made based on the firing rate of the boiler, giving CBIS a very sophisticated and responsive system. This investment will provide savings for years to come in both energy costs and use of resources.

Recycling EPS

CBIS’s EPS compactor allows them to recycle EPS in-house

CBIS recycles 100 percent of expanded polystyrene (EPS) in-house utilizing their EPS compactor. Additionally, Nickerson reports that the plant is currently making plans to start a municipal recycling program. “Anybody – especially around Christmastime – if they get a new TV or toaster or something that has EPS components to the packaging, they can drop that off here and we’ll recycle it,” said Nickerson. The EPS beads in BuildBlock ICFs are treated with a fire-retardant which assists in the high fire rating of completed ICF structures. So while CBIS doesn’t use recycled material in the molding of BuildBlock products they are able to recycle the limited amount of waste produced alongside similar EPS beads. The high-density plastic webs inside Buildblock are 100% recyclable.


CBIS takes care to use all materials as efficiently as possible: “In the case of BuildBlock, we do our best to try and break the webs out. If we can re-use the webs we do, if we can’t we get them back to the manufacturer to recycle,” Nickerson explained.

Quality with Commitment to the Future

BuildBlock is proud to work with manufacturers who strive for efficiency and innovation, allowing us to provide our customers with not only the highest quality product but one they can feel great about using for years to come. Find more information on BuildBlock manufacturers here and visit CBIS’s website for more details here.