Or maybe that should be Poroton® blocks. It seems to be a brand, but it also seems to be supplied by many manufacturers. (There are also other brands of very similar blocks. “Poroton” tends to be used as a generic, so I’m not sure exactly what they are using to build our house.)
The blocks are being used as part of the structure of the top floor base and the core of the walls. I’d never heard of them before, though they are widely used in European construction, with up to 90% of houses in Germany being built with them.
On the other hand, I’m not surprised I haven’t heard about them. There are almost no English-language web pages about them; I found mostly German and Italian. I’m also not surprised they aren’t used in the US more, since houses here are primarily built with wood frame construction.
By reading the sites in Italian, I was able to learn a little more about them.
They are a little like cinder blocks, in that they have hollow “channels” inside, but with some advantages. Among those are lighter weight and easier/faster construction.
They’re made out of baked clay (terracotta). Clay is used because it transfers moisture easily, so when used to build a wall, the moisture from inside passes to the outside through the “breathable” wall. This means the outside and inside need to be finished with breathable materials, including the paint.
The blocks have tiny pores in them, which gives them insulating and soundproofing properties. (Interestingly, the pores are created by mixing sawdust with the clay. When the blocks are fired at very high temperature, the wood burns and disintegrates, leaving the pores. Hence, I assume, the name Poroton.)
Here they are in place as part of the slab between the ground and top floor.
Poroton: | http://www.archiexpo.com/prod/ibl-spa/product-131841-1404463.html?utm_source=ProductDetail&utm_medium=Web&utm_content=SimilarProduct&utm_campaign=CA
Poroton in place in wall: | http://www.danesilaterizi.it/300/livA5/livA5_2/DF001/Quattro-fori-8.12.24/sp
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