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Side Story:
Brick & Block - Outdoor Rooms

While a commercial building constructed out of CMU block isn't that rare, it's not very often that you get to see block being used so thoroughly and splendidly in a residential setting — especially in Southern California. As you will see, the Blue residence is far from usual, though.

"The owners were interested in using CMU block, so we investigated as to whether that was a good use," says Mark Silva, Architect of the Blue residence and Owner of Silva Studios. "The owners are in Canyon Lake, where it gets very hot in the summertime, so I wanted to use the insulation abilities of the concrete block, and they wanted something unusual and kind of a mix between rustic and contemporary."

"It was quite an interesting project, because not only is it CMU, but it's slump block, and it's mostly round," says Joshua Moody, Cannon Associates' Structural Engineer of Record for the Blue project. "I think that wood stud, with some kind of stucco or masonry face, could have worked, but it wouldn't have given you the authentic feeling that you get with the slump block masonry."

Silva agrees, "You can pretty much open any architectural magazine and everything looks all slick and clean, but if you try to picture yourself living in it, in terms of a home, there's not a lot of warmth there. I think that concrete block lends itself to making a home feel warm."


Silva not only used color-matched slump and precision block to interplay between smooth and rough surfaces, but also showcases the splendor of CMU by using the material in grand arches, a fireplace and a courtyard, complete with masonry fountain. He also used some mental deception by shifting between four- and six-inch block sizes.

"As you can see in the picture, the architect started out with a large block and then went to a smaller block at the top, so it made the building look massive," admires Roger Coons, the mason contractor on the project and Owner of Nu Way, Inc.

While writing this article, one thing kept coming up with all of those interviewed: The quality of the craftsmanship, teamwork and dedication given by each of the parties involved, including the owners, really made the project a success. Like Coons says, "These people were exceptional to work with."

Coons is also pleased to participate in such large-scale and elaborate masonry residential project.

"In Southern California, you just don't build a block house," states Coons. "They just don't do them.

"I would love to get masonry residential projects back into the marketplace in California," he says.



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