PALM SPRINGS, Fla. — A builder in Palm Beach County used the same concept as a popular children's toy to construct nearly 100 apartments in just two months.
They've done it with only a small crew and Lego-like blocks.
This new housing concept might eventually save homeowners money in more ways than one.
An apartment at Lakewood Village in Palm Springs has three bedrooms and two bathrooms. It may look like any other apartment, but inside the walls are Lego-like blocks that make the building materials cheaper and quicker to build.
It's an eco-friendly way to make affordable apartments in South Florida.
"We can build these buildings in about half the time of a traditional job," Patrick Murphy, the executive vice president of Coastal Construction, said. "It's greener. It's about 98% more green than traditional materials, and it is less expensive."
Murphy's company is the first in the U.S. to develop and patent this new housing concept.
"The tools for the day are a rubber mallet and a glue gun. That's it," Murphy said. "There is no heavy machinery. There's no cranes. It's a very simple product to build out of."
Murphy said it took only a team of 11 people just eight weeks to piece together the apartment buildings in Palm Springs.
The blocks are simply glued together and finished off with traditional stucco.
"When the blocks show up, they come with a set of plans," Murphy said. "There's a blue block and a red block, and a yellow block, and you put them where the plans tell you, and it's as simple as that."
The building system is called Renco, which is short for "renewable composite" since the materials are made with recycled products that are rated to withstand a Category 5 hurricane. And because of that, the homes are cheaper to insure.
"I think we're going to see this type of technology take hold," Stacey Giulianti, the co-founder of Florida Peninsula Insurance Company, said.
He said anything that's considered safer is going to reduce property insurance premiums during a time when premiums are skyrocketing in Florida.
"To have something that's new, fresher, and frankly safer, really could reduce insurance premiums across the board and also reduce reinsurance rates, which is where a lot of the cost comes from," Giulianti said.
"This is very good. If we can come up with a way to build homes faster, for less money," Florida Atlantic University real estate expert Ken Johnson said. "It's exactly what we need in the middle of a housing crisis."
However, Johnson thinks that some people will be skeptical about the building method.
"What do you think consumers might question about this new housing concept?" WPTV reporter Jessica Bruno asked.
"Just the issue of how to put it together," Johnson said. "I'm going to buy a house without a nail?"
Murphy said he knows public perception might be tough, but his company is hopeful this concept will take off. They're planning to open a Renco factory in Jupiter later this year.
"We are past due for a new way to build, and I believe there's a lot of people that we're talking to that are sort of welcoming this with open arms," Murphy said. "I think with time the more we build, the more people see it, the more we prove ourselves, the more it'll be accepted."