Tarland farmer's building blocks of success

A DEESIDE farmer's invention is being snapped up by construction and security firms at home and abroad, replacing traditional methods of landslide defence, flood control and agricultural containment in projects large and small.

As first reported in the Piper ( August 1), Ian Christie's patented euroBlock, which is made of pre-cast concrete and interlocks with special dimples, was designed as an alternative to stone-filled metal gabions, but has proved successful for landslips, grain storage, security and slurry containment throughout Britain in the few months since it first became available.

A strengthened version of the block is currently being tested by a British-based security firm, looking to protect the front of palaces and other designated buildings in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East.

Up to now, two councils in Scotland, Aberdeenshire and Argyll and Bute, have used euroBlocks for road protection or materials separation, but Ian, who farms at Leochil Cushnie, near Tarland, was delighted when North-east civil engineering and construction firm MTM, based in Blackburn, near Aberdeen, placed an order for 80 euroBlocks to build a retaining wall for a steep bank behind an office and workshop development near the company's headquarters.

"It's quite exciting," said Ian. "The MTM order was great news. I've had further enquiries from a firm in the south of England who may want more than 200, with the possibility of more, and people who made initial enquiries some months ago are coming back with renewed interest, having seen some of the recent stories in the newspapers."

euroBlock was invented and patented by Ian during long years of recovery from a serious accident, while he was also battling a particularly aggressive form of cancer.

He made the first prototype using a cement mixer on his farm, then developed and strengthened it with the help of father and son team Jim and Jason Adie at Inverurie Precast, who are the sole manufacturers.

Director of MTM, quantity surveyor Barry Ollason, said the company had chosen euroBlock from five different systems, including in situ concrete, mass blockwork and gabions.

"Speed and ease of installation are the advantage," said Barry. "It's a sensible solution with a quicker turnaround than other methods. For certain sites, that's a great advantage."