A Porotherm solution to the concrete block crisis

There continues to be a lot of uncertainty and speculation in the construction industry with regards to the raw material availability for lightweight aggregate blocks.

A concrete block manufacturer recently commented, “The Climate Change policy to de-carbonise the UK economy has resulted in the closure of many coal fired power stations in the last 2 years, 6 in the last 6 months. This policy has denied lightweight aggregate block manufacturers huge volumes of Furnace Bottom Ash (FBA) and Pulverised Fuel Ash (PFA). The consequence of this alarming situation requires the import of large quantities of highly expensive lightweight aggregate and a significant increase in the usage of cement.”

The shortages in the industry, not to mention the price increases being imposed on traditional blocks, present a timely entrance for Porotherm. Porotherm is a modern clay building block with many commercial and environmental benefits. EH Smith, one of the UK’s largest independent builders’ merchants, is the prime supplier in the UK and has been successfully selling Porotherm for over six years. Porotherm is a direct alternative for traditional masonry, yet also provides benefits of build programme efficiencies, cleanliness, thermal and acoustic performance.

One of the key challenges in converting builders to Porotherm is overcoming their preconceptions. EH Smith discovered the single most effective way of doing this is through training – exposing potential customers to the product, simply letting them handle and build with it.

What are the typical preconceptions about Porotherm?

“Isn’t that the stuff you see in Spain? It doesn’t look like a quality product!”

  • Wienerberger have 226 plants in 30 countries – 14 of them in the UK – they lead the way offering more than 1,000 products encompassing the complete building envelope. They don’t manufacture the blocks that you tend to see in Spain. The secret of its speed and efficiency – is the precision engineered clay block. A unique interlocking design rules out the need for mortar in the vertical joints and consistent manufacturing quality allows for true 1mm bed joints. Used successfully for decades across Europe, and now well-established as a building solution for UK working conditions.

I don’t have the skills to lay it”

  • EH Smith provide FREE technical training and support. The hands-on training at the centre help bricklaying professionals become familiar with the system and provide them with the confidence to lay it on site.

“I think it de-skills the industry“

  • This is absolutely not the case, a skilled bricklayer will pick the system up very quickly. The skill required to lay the base course is paramount for a bricklayer and this cannot be underestimated. Porotherm offers the bricklayer an opportunity for bricklaying skills unlike that of construction methods such as timber frame and metsec.

“It isn’t faster than traditional block work”

  • Porotherm isn’t just about the speed of laying the blocks, it creates the opportunity for the builder to advance quicker with the inner skin of blockwork. Storey height can be achieved without the need to be backed up with brickwork, therefore allowing the possibility of achieving a water tight shell in a shorter period of time. The ability to work inside and out will therefore help to deliver an overall benefit.

“It fills up with water and leaks into the building“

  • As with any building system, you must make provision for covering up your block work, this should be done in accordance with the usual attention to health and safety and best practice on site. Even if the block does get wet, it will dry out considerably quicker than a traditional block.

“It is really expensive”

Porotherm is a fixed price and delivered through the EH Smith branch network. The blocks are shrink wrapped on pallets, delivered on rigid vehicles, no part load charges, guaranteed availability. The price of the Zero Plus mortar is included. All of these factors combined with the availability issues of block make Porotherm a very cost effective and viable alternative.

Free Training and technical support

EH Smith has been training customers and employees in the use and benefits of Porotherm since 2012. However in March 2016, EH Smith opened a new purpose built training centre in Solihull, West Midlands, dedicated exclusively to Porotherm training. The new centre represents a significant investment and commitment to training, offering FREE technical and practical training sessions to the construction industry.

Alongside this training facility EH Smith developed a training programme which regularly runs at the centre, it is designed to give attendees all the necessary information needed whether they are on the design and management side or physically building with it.

Who is using the product successfully?

McCarthy and Stone, the leading construction company in the retirement living sector, are a useful example of how the training programme has been used to great effect. They recognised that it was imperative their site teams bought into the practical and technical best practices of Porotherm, with group-wide consistency.

Click here to watch a video interview with Tim Lightfoot

As buy-in from the McCarthy & Stone construction team was vital, they invested time consulting with their technical directors and development managers to customise the training programme. This resulted in a series of two-day training programmes for all McCarthy & Stone site and contracts managers.

The training programme provides a thorough overview of Porotherm, including the technical benefits of the system and how to incorporate Porotherm into the design phase of buildings. Plenty of time is also devoted to practical training, allowing delegates to physically build with Porotherm.

As you will see from the video and the testimonial (below) from Tim Lightfoot, Construction Director at McCarthy & Stone, they are seeing huge benefits from utilising Porotherm within their projects. 


Tim Lightfoot, Construction Director, McCarthy & Stone

“I would recommend anyone to get their construction and technical teams to go to the innovation and training centre and engage with the staff at EH Smith. This will pay dividends in the construction process and they will certainly help. McCarthy & Stone now use Porotherm as the standard build method on Assisted Living schemes and we are currently in the process of updating our standard layout design to accommodate this method. The training centre and expertise of the EH Smith team have played a big part in this.”