Compressed Earth Blocks for Residential Walls
Does the idea of a home made out of earth make you think of poverty and misfortune? The image of one room mud huts and dirt structures hastily thrown together is a far cry from the comfortable, modern-day homes that we have come to expect. On a worldwide scale, around 30 percent of the world’s population uses earth as a construction material for their homes. For many of these people, homes made from the dirt beneath their feet is the only economically feasible option to build a shelter for their family. But even if you can afford more, it’s worth noting that earthen construction methods offer a number of important sustainability benefits.
Compressed earth blocks (CEB) is a unique earthen construction technique that combines the sustainability benefits of using dirt for the walls of our homes while significantly improving the aesthetics and structural integrity and strength of earthen structures. This low cost sustainable building alternative allows homeowners to build beautiful earthen walls from local soils and clays that contribute to a heat-regulating and moisture resistant home. Homes made from compressed earth blocks proves that sustainability does not have to mean a sacrifice in comfort and beauty.
What are Compressed Earth Blocks?
Compressed Earth Blocks are an innovative, natural, and sustainable construction material. Whereas most vernacular, earthen building techniques are artisanal in nature, these blocks are a manufactured construction material that radically increase the strength, performance, and durability of traditional earthen structures. The compressed earthen blocks combine on site soils, non-expansive clays, and an aggregate (usually lime or Portland cement) to act as a stabilizer. The proportion of soil and clay is dependent on the type of dirt that can be found on site, but a mixture of 75 percent sandy soil and 25 percent of clay soil is ideal, as it will reduce shrinkage that can lead to cracking. A percentage of 4 to 8 percent of Portland cement is added in order to stabilize the mix, aid in the drying process, and offer moisture resistance.
Once the basic materials are mixed, they are placed in a mechanical press that can be taken to the building site. With a small work team, all of the earthen blocks can be made within a two to three day period. Once manufactured from the mechanical press, the blocks are left to dry for anywhere between 7 and 28 days before being ready to use. After one month of drying, the compressed earth blocks are completely water resistant, and can be used like regular bricks or cinder blocks for wall construction. In seismic areas, compressed earth blocks can be combined with concrete and rebar columns for added seismic resistance.
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