With the economy in the doldrums and the construction trades out of work, the time has never been better to introduce something new,” says Dale R. Siens, president and CEO of APEX Block Corp. The Roseburg, Ore.-based company is the creator and producer of the APEX Block, a revolutionary building product that will change the building industry for the better and “is now being discovered through our website, articles such as this and on the ‘Green Segment’ of the show ‘Designing Spaces,’ which will air on the Lifetime Movie Network,” Siens says.
By combining 100 percent recycled expanded polystyrene (EPS) with the strength elements of cement, APEX has created a building material that is not only environmentally friendly, fire-resistant and energy-efficient, but also can sustain the wrath of a EF5 tornado, a Category 4 hurricane or an earthquake with a seismic rating of 8.5 or higher.
What’s more, the APEX Block’s unique interlocking keystone alignment requires less labor, fewer materials and fewer construction steps than the average insulated concrete form (ICF) system, making it the most economical and time-efficient ICF for any project, whether it’s residential, commercial, institutional or industrial, Siens says.
“We did not want to obliterate standard building processes,” he stresses. “What we wanted to do was build a better product, providing builders and homeowners with a ‘Smarter Way to Build™.’”
APEX Block was founded in 2003 with the intent to perfect the EPS cement blend block, which was invented in the Soviet Union more than 30 years ago. Siens was the original investment banker who helped get the company off the ground because he believed in the product and the benefits it could offer to the construction industry, he says. In fact, Siens was so excited by APEX’s potential he bought the company two years ago and brought in several other key investors determined to bring it the global recognition it deserves.
“I knew it was a great product,” Siens says. “So, I reinforced the company with new investors and a new vision, and began to put the block in the hands of all people in the construction industry, whether it’s for new construction, remodeling, commercial, multifamily, light industrial, etc.” Previously, the product had only been used in the construction of high-end homes. “That worked great until the crash of 2008,” he remarks.
After he and Chief Operations Director Lynn Mortenson acquired the company, Siens absorbed himself in the operations of the APEX plant, looking for ways to increase production capacity, elevate the yield and perfect the product. “When we first started mixing it for production, we mixed it by hand in an oversized plastic wheelbarrow, poured it into a mold, formed it and compressed it,” he says. “Now, we have a fully automated system.”
The newly engineered production system is so efficient, “I can produce and sell APEX Blocks less expensively than you can purchase and build with 2-by-4 construction,” Siens asserts. “The price point is middle of the road strategically between lumber construction on the lower price end and concrete masonry unit (CMU) and tilt-up on the higher price end.
“It’s a better-quality product than both and at a high-quality, value-driven price point,” he adds. “Long-term, it brings substantial savings to the homeowner, where the block more than pays for itself. It puts money back into the consumers’ hands and gives the homeowner the financial ability to shorten the length of their mortgage by lowering energy operational costs, allowing for extra mortgage principal payments.”
Siens was diligent in attending the fire, wind and seismic tests himself to prove the APEX Block’s durability. Inspired by tragedies like the 2011 Joplin, Mo., tornado, “We designed a storm shelter that could withstand 250-mph sustained and gusting winds, and we built it in five days from conception to the final pour,” Siens says. “The actual shelter only takes about 2.5 hours to build. It also could double as a wine cellar, he adds.
“Imagine an entire house at that level of strength,” he marvels. “That is what you achieve with APEX Block. APEX is eight times stronger than standard lumber/wood construction. There is no thermal transfer inside or outside, which is ideal for cold and hot climates. There is no thermal convection [the rising and falling of air in a lumber or CMU wall], which effectively reduces those wall systems to half of their R-value rating.
“It has a decibel rating of 55, meaning the only sound transmitting through the house is through the windows and doors,” Siens continues. “It will not burn, mold or mildew. And it’s an open canvas; you can finish it with anything you want, be it traditional sheetrock or plaster for the interior, or rock, brick or stucco for the exterior.”
The green elements of the APEX Block are substantial, he adds. The polystyrene used in the product is post-consumer, post-industrial and/or construction site waste that has been ground up to serve a new application.
Substandard blocks can be ground up to make new blocks, which results in zero waste. Plus, its thermal insulation makes it more energy-efficient than other ICFs.
“By building with the block alone, you get 22 out of 26 LEED credit points and qualify for energy tax credits,” Siens says.
The benefits to the APEX Block™ are obvious, which is why “we were approached by every major retailer to set up distribution with them,” Siens says. “We chose Lowe’s to start with nationally. They are progressive, extremely professional, and we wanted to get this to the do-it-yourselfer as well as the professional contractor. Lowe’s is a very green company, and we are proud to be a green building product of theirs nationwide.
“Other national, regional and local distributors and retailers will soon bring the APEX Block™ to all of America as well as the rest of world because the constant demands for the APEX product line keeps increasing daily,” he adds.
In late October 2011, Lowe’s™ began distributing APEX Blocks™ to more than 1,700 locations in the United States. Mexico and Australia will soon follow.
“That was a huge milestone for us,” Siens explains. “In addition to serving the homeowner, Lowes’s™ also has a commercial division, and they have a GSA [General Services Administration] number for providing components and materials to government contracts.”
From day one, Siens has had global aspirations for APEX Block™. Based on its weather-resistance, durability and efficiency, he believes the product could play a significant role in relief efforts worldwide, particularly for the construction of social housing in a variety of climates. “We’ve been engaging with Habitat for Humanity for large disaster relief efforts throughout the world,” he notes. “We have several large contracts in Iraq for the reconstruction efforts there.”
One of the product’s shining attributes, he says, is the rapidity with which a home can be built utilizing APEX Blocks™.
“We wanted to know how fast we could build a studio home in Jamaica,” Siens says. “It took two hours and 45 minutes for the blocks to be stacked and ready to be poured. You can watch the video on our website.”
Siens predicts APEX Block™ “will be the lead product to build with for the next several decades,” he says. “And we have five more sizes of blocks coming out plus panel systems to use with lumber and CMU construction for improved insulation, exterior finishes, fire, mold and mildew resistance.”
The company currently is engaged with countries in Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas. “Any civilization can build with this, and we have a great video series to educate them,” he says. “We’re teaching new people and making a difference one block at a time. Every day, we’re expanding – literally, every single day.
Ultimately, Siens mission is to witness and contribute to the rehabilitation of the American economy. “As the President said in his State of the Union address, we all want to see the full recovery and success of the economy,” he says. “America needs to get a hold of itself and start manufacturing again. We need to develop technologies that start here in the U.S. and can be exported to other nations. I made it a point to buy everything American that I could.
“From the production of the APEX Block to the contractors and skilled professionals that construct buildings with our product to the homeowners and business owners that inhabit those buildings – all of this will contribute to a new American success story,” Siens asserts.“That is why APEX launched ‘Build America™’ in 2010. APEX is better to build with, it’s easier to construct, it’s less expensive to operate, and once a building is constructed with APEX Block, owners will enjoy extensive energy savings.
“Last but not least, it puts everybody back to work – masonry, carpentry, plumbers, electricians, every professional trade.”