If you are looking to build a concrete home, one of the many concrete construction systems you can consider using is autoclaved aerated concrete (AAC blocks).
In fact, this is one of our top recommendations overall, since this innovative form of concrete construction boasts many spectacular benefits.
We want you learn exactly what autoclaved aerated concrete is while reading this introduction guide. We will go over its benefits in detail, as well as any drawbacks you should be aware of. We will then point you in the right direction if you want to build your own home or commercial structure using autoclaved aerated concrete blocks.
What is Autoclaved Aerated Concrete?
The simplest way to describe autoclaved aerated concrete is with a metaphor. It is a bit like baking, except instead of producing a loaf of bread or cake, you are making a special form of concrete.
Here are the ingredients in AAC:
- Aluminum powder
- Fly ash or silica sand
Introducing an expansion agent into the mixture of cement and fine aggregates has the same effect as adding yeast to bread dough: the mixture rises, filling with pockets of air. The result is a material that features the strength and durability of traditional concrete, but which weighs a fraction as much. In fact, 80% of AAC is air.
Despite how cutting edge and sophisticated it seems, autoclaved aerated concrete has been around since 1924, which is when an architect in Sweden first patented it.
What are the Advantages of Autoclaved Aerated Concrete?
It should be pretty easy to picture the benefits of a material that is incredibly strong, yet also surprisingly lightweight.
- Strong and stable: Even with the air bubbles, AAC is an incredibly strong material from which to build a residential or commercial structure. A building made out of AAC will stand the test of time, just like one made out of traditional concrete.
- Easy and cost-effective to transport: Hauling traditional concrete blocks to a building site involves a higher expenditure of energy than hauling lightweight autoclaved aerated concrete. So, if you want to save money on transporting concrete components, AAC is the way to go.
- Easier to work with at a building site: Once the AAC blocks are at the site, construction crews also will have an easier time working with them than they would traditional heavier blocks. As a result, the construction process itself may be more rapid and less expensive to complete.
- Fantastic versatility: AAC is easier to modify than regular concrete. In fact, all you need to cut it is a regular handsaw. You can drive screws and nails into it or you can sculpt it. This makes it ideal for elaborate projects as well as projects that call for exceptional flexibility to meet changing demands.
- Excellent insulation: Buildings constructed out of AAC are well-insulated. The material is air-tight, and also has a high thermal mass. That means they can be good for maintaining a comfortable temperature inside during all four seasons while also maintaining energy efficiency for your home.
- Superior fire resistance: Autoclaved aerated concrete is not combustible. That means that unlike a wood-framed structure, your AAC home will not burn down. This may be especially important if you live in a region that is prone to wildfires.
- Weather resistance: Just as traditional concrete is strong enough to stand up to high winds, so is AAC. Moreover, AAC is not prone to rotting like wood is, and will not invite mold and mildew to eat away at your home. So, if your area gets a lot of stormy weather, it is a great choice.
- Pest resistance: Speaking of things that eat away at houses, termites, rodents, and other pests do not chew through AAC the way they do wood.
- Dampens sound: Autoclaved aerated concrete does a fantastic job at blocking noise. So, if you are building your home right next to a busy street, it is an excellent material for dampening the sounds of traffic. This also makes it ideal for increasing privacy (you do not have to listen to your neighbors through the walls, and they do not have to listen to you).
Does Autoclaved Concrete Have Any Drawbacks?
With so many benefits, you might be wondering why you do not hear more about autoclaved aerated concrete in the US.
AAC does have its downsides, but they are pretty minimal, and are far outpaced by its advantages.
One issue is that the load-bearing capacity of AAC is not as high on its own as is needed for some applications. In those situations, it is necessary to reinforce it. So, that is something to keep in mind when you are choosing a floor plan for an AAC home.
Another drawback of AAC is that it requires more extensive finishing than regular concrete. Despite the AAC’s strength, the reality is that it is still porous, which means that the surface can be subject to more wear and tear unless it is adequately protected.
Finally, if you live in the US, there are fewer options for building your home with AAC blocks. AAC building materials are all over Europe, but American builders and suppliers continue to lag behind.
Despite the fact that there are fewer companies in the US supplying aerated concrete blocks, however, they do exist. So, if you want to take advantage of all of the benefits of this lightweight form of concrete when building your own home, it can happen.
There are a couple of companies we can recommend in the USA that offer AAC blocks.
PSE Consulting Engineers, Inc.
PSE Consulting Engineers, Inc. has been around since 1998, and is based in Klamath Falls, OR. This company can help you with your AAC project anywhere in the US as well as in Canada.
Their services include structural analysis, consulting, and custom home design. Interestingly enough, their headquarters location is relevant to the work they do with AAC. The company explains, “AAC, along with all other fire resistant materials, hold a special place in our company. PSE is located in Southern Oregon and we have watched our neighboring buildings and cities fall victim to forest fires in the last 5-10 years. We highly recommend this product to our clients in the local area as well as any other client impacted by fires.”
The author of this piece happens to reside in the same region, and can confirm that forest fires are a big deal in this part of the world. It is typical to smell smoke and see haze from fire blanketing the sky multiple times each summer. So, if you live in an area like this, a company like PSE Consulting Engineers, Inc. can help you build a home that will be as safe as possible.
Next, we can recommend a company called Hebel, which is dedicated to autoclaved aerated concrete. Discussing Hebel blocks, the company says, “Hebel® AAC is 5 times lighter than traditional concrete, which not only has a significant impact on reducing construction time but cost savings are seen as well. Often Hebel® can reduce the use of steel, concrete and labor. Hebel® solutions result in sustainable and resilient results that deliver high energy efficiency in all types of buildings.”
If you are ready to get answers to your questions about autoclaved aerated concrete or build your own house out of strong, lightweight AAC blocks, visit on any of the companies in this guide.