An emerging huge economic opportunity is the industry of manufacturing of ‘bricks’ or ‘blocks’. But, not the stereotypical red clay bricks traditionally baked in environmentally disastrous ovens, or, the common hollow concrete blocks used in masonry. The emerging industry is the manufacturing and use of one of the oldest and most reliable building products known to mankind, ‘compressed earth blocks’ (CEBs) also known as ‘rammed earth blocks’.
Environmentally Respectful And Fiscally Delightful
Compressed earth blocks are seeing a huge global resurgence in popularity because unlike oven fired red brick, sun dried adobe or concrete blocks they require no individual frames to pour into, they need no heat to bake them, nor do they need drying or curing time in order to build with. When mixed with straw, the blocks provide increased insulative properties, they’re literally dirt cheap and they can be manufactured on site using locally sourced materials. But, how strong are compressed earth blocks?
Still Standing After Thousands Of Years
Well, they’re so strong that the ancient Egyptians (in 1300 B.C.) used them to build structures that still stand thousands of years later. There are compressed earth block buildings in Iraq and Iran that are over ten stories tall built over 600 years ago still being used and lived in to this very day. All through northern Europe, Asia, the Middle East and equatorial regions compressed earth blocks have stood the test of time. In many areas entire communities are built from them. And the world’s most massive compressed block construction is the longest, largest, strongest and most enduring wall in the world, built to protect China.
The Building Industry Is Evolving
The compressed earth block industry in now re-entering the construction limelight because as the forestry industry collapses, mineral mining becomes increasing unpopular and the Earth grows warmer, people are very quickly beginning to turn to ‘alternative’ building materials with earnest. The move toward greener products and systems by demand and necessity has changed building codes and now forces commercial builders to use more environmentally friendly and energy efficient products.
Popular Green Building Materials
Some of the popular ‘green’ materials for do it yourself builders currently include earth bags, sun dried adobe bricks and blocks, hay bales, dirt filled tires, cob (a mud-like mixture used in Great Britain), hemp products and number of other green materials. However, compressed earth blocks have very distinct advantages over other ‘green’ building materials because they can be made quickly and easily as needed on site using local materials. Because there’s no drying time required before use, the blocks can be built with immediately and there are no legal restrictions to impede their use (such as with hemp products). Unlike conventional hardened bricks and blocks, compressed earth blocks are also easily molded/cut/sanded to angles and curves allowing them to remain plumb and follow natural terrain.
Structures With Small Carbon Footprints
Structures built with pressed earth blocks are 100% recyclable, have a small carbon footprint, are incredibly safe, strong, long lasting and super efficient to heat and keep cool. They protect occupants better than all other building materials and structures built with them are very, very inexpensive and fast to repair using materials available right on site. In addition to building superior exterior walls, compressed earth blocks are also used to build arched domes far stronger and longer lasting than conventional trussed roofs. And probably their best feature is that compressed earth block homes cost a mere fraction of what wood framed homes cost.
Impervious To Moisture
All that’s required to make compressed earth blocks almost impervious to moisture is to add a small percentage of cement (9%) to the moist clay/dirt/gravel mixture. The mixture is then pressed into blocks under hydraulic pressure by both manual or motorized machines, squeezing out excess moisture while fusing the earth together. Forms used to size, shape and texture blocks can make blocks that interlock and even have rebar, electrical and plumbing routes pre-pressed into them.
Building Industry Standards
By now you’re asking yourself, “If compressed earth blocks are so wonderful, why aren’t more people using them?” Sadly, the answer to that question is that lumber, steel and concrete industries positioned themselves long ago to be the ‘building material standards’. And because of previous abundant availability and affordability, there was little serious discussion about ever using anything else to build with. However, times have changed dramatically and those industries now face diminishing resources, escalating costs, environmental opposition and obsolescence, so their prices, availability and sustainability have become obstacles rather than advantages.
Change In Industrial Dynamics
This change in industrial dynamics positions the compressed earth block market to see enormous growth because of its availability, ecological and environmental sensibility, convenience, affordability, ease of access, ease of use, speed of construction and longevity of structures. And wherever there’s a great deal of money to be made, big business is sure to come. Compressed earth blocks are some of the best natural materials on Earth to build environmentally friendly, super energy efficient, fireproof, soundproof and stormproof homes with.
Small Investment – Huge Return
For those who may be interested in the commercial and communal aspects of producing and building with compressed earth blocks, the required investment for all of the equipment needed to produce them is far, far less than other types of brick or blocks. And most of the construction can be performed by completely unskilled workers. This makes compressed earth block production far more affordable for business start-ups and developers with very small budgets. Because much of the available equipment is mobile and can easily be towed behind a pickup, builders are able to use materials found right on building sites. This allows strong, safe and energy efficient structures to be built quickly and affordably where other building materials and methods may be labor, time, cost and availability prohibitive, such as in isolated communities.
Mobile Building Material Manufacturing Plants
Several manufacturers of compressed earth block presses, mixers and other related equipment can easily be found on the internet, such as AECT. Hand operated presses can produce a few hundred blocks in a day and commonly run from a few hundred to as many as tens of thousand dollars. Motorized mobile presses and related equipment can cost from a few thousand to several hundred thousand dollars, depending on mobility and capacity. A medium size motorized rammed earth block machine will produce several thousand blocks per day – enough to literally build all of the interior and exterior walls for an entire four bedroom house in a single day. Larger fixed equipment can produce significantly more blocks much faster.
Build On Gravel Footings Or Concrete Pads
Compressed earth block buildings can be built on raised and packed gravel footings or over concrete pads. Architectural building plans for them already exist and are readily available for purchase. There are a large number of suppliers of blocks online. Compressed earth block schools exist, instructors are available for hire and some even come to communities to teach certified compressed earth block building techniques. And it’s important to note that unlike some other green building materials, compressed earth blocks don’t require building code engineering and application approval for use because they’re already approved materials in most building codes.
Long Lasting Building Materials Are Under Your Feet
So, being able to build large, high quality, extremely safe, long lasting and very easy to heat and cool homes using natural building materials and powered by reliable green energy has never been more affordable or faster than it is today. Nor has there ever been such a need for affordable safe homes to protect communities from natural disasters like huge windstorms and wildfires. So, if you’re looking for an affordable way to build an environmentally friendly and energy efficient home that will last for many generations, compressed earths blocks are laying right under your feet.