Revealing the Potential of Compressed Earth Blocks

Revealing the Potential of Compressed Earth Blocks—A Study in the Materiality of Compressed Earth Blocks (CEB): Lightness, Tactility, and Formability, by Egyptian architect Omar Rabie, documents explorations of the potential of CEB while studying at MIT, The Architectural Association and Auroville.

In these two experimental mock-ups, Rabie explored the different possibilities of bondings using one block—specifically how the shape of the single block influences the block bonding patterns in a stack bond and running bond.

This portion of a wall was built of specially formed interlocking blocks to increase friction to test how high friction masonry wall will highly resist lateral loads in comparison to walls constructed with standard blocks. In this case, the blocks are interlocked in the long direction of the wall. This experiment proved that it is possible to freely form more complex CEBs and build walls with an unusual bonds, like this strong zigzag bond.

[ Download Rabie’s entire report here. ]

Centre for Earth Architecture

The Centre for Earth Architecture, designed by Francis Kere Architecture, is located Mopti, Mali. The centre is divided into three different buildings which are connected by two roof surfaces.

All the walls and the barrel vaults are constructed of compressed earth blocks that comfortable indoor temperatures.

More at ArchDaily.com

Computer Modeling to Build Better Mud Bricks

Rammed earth and stabilized mud block or brick are cheap, easy to make, usually durable materials widely used for building homes and low-level structures, especially in developing countries. Despite their widespread use and long history, the structural properties of these materials are not well understood, so how they could be manufactured to better withstand destructive natural forces, such as earthquakes and weathering, remains a goal. Craig Foster, assistant professor of civil and materials engineering at the University of Illinois at Chicago, hopes a specially tailored set of computer models he is developing may provide the necessary answers. He has just won a three-year, $243,000 National Science Foundation grant to conduct the work.

MUMEMO

Mumemo is a blog about a training course carried out in Mumemo (Maputo, Mozambique) on earth construction by two Portuguese architects, Miguel Mendes and Teresa Beirao, during May and August 2006. The project was created for the inhabitants of a new village, created as a resettlement for the victims of the massive floods in the year 2000. The course gave students a wide and solid knowledge about earthen construction and three main techniques (rammed earth, adobe, compressed earth blocs) as well as provided them with the ability to direct similar courses in other communities. During the course, a small 50m2 house was built.

EarthCo Megablock™

The EarthCo Megablock™ is a construction delivery system that combines onsite manufacturing with a simple and efficient mechanical placement. The system converts local soils into giant modular building blocks—a small block can measure 18” wide by 12” tall is over 14 feet long and weighs more than 1 ton.


Example of an compressed and extruded Megablock™

Women’s Health Centre

The Centre pour le Bien-être des Femmes Women’s Health Centre in Burkina Faso was created between 2005 and 2007 by AIDOS, an Italian NGO fighting for Women’s Rights in Developing Countries.

Completed in 15 months by a local builder, under the direct supervision of FAREstudio, the CBF is functionally and cost-effective answer to the needs expressed by AIDOS, while simultaneously and primarily representing a centre of aggregation and identity for the entire local community.

The building walls are constructed using compressed dry stacked clay bricks, BTC [briques en terre comprimée], made on site using a rough mixture of earth, cement and water. The bricks were baked in the hot sun, with no energy consumption, thus limiting the environmental impact of the material.

Soil-Cement Vaults in South Africa

A team carried out a detailed design of structural vaults built from local soil for a new museum at the World Heritage Site of Mapungubwe in South Africa designed by Peter Rich Architects. Michael Ramage (Cambridge), John Ochsendorf, and Philippe Block designed the unreinforced structural masonry vaults in collaboration with Henry Fagan in South Africa. Matthew Hodge developed the cement-stabilized tiles in collaboration with Anne Fitchett (Univ. of Witwatersrand). Based on his experience building the domes of the Pines Calyx in the UK, James Bellamy supervised the vault construction on site. The project was part of masonry research conducted by MIT.

How To Build a Compressed Earth Block Home

Hallock’s Colorado-based company, Earth Block Inc, has developed an especially efficient and affordable process for earth block production. “Earthen walls have always been the best,” Hallock said during a press tour of the Baja, Mexico facility where he oversees the production of compressed earth blocks (CEBs) for construction at The Villages of Loreto Bay. Compressed earth blocks were chosen for the new resort community because they can be made economically from local materials. CEBs are also energy-efficient and durable. “Bugs don’t eat them and they don’t burn,” Hallock said. The How-To begins here.

Koudougou Central Market, Burkina Faso

The impact of Koudougou’s Central Market, designed by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) / Laurent Séchaud / Pierre Jequier for the Koudougou Municipality and completed in 2005, is twofold: at the urban scale, it reinforces and enhances the fabric of a mid-sized town, providing a monumental civic space for commercial and social exchange. On the level of construction, it introduces simple and easily assimilated improvements to a traditional material – stabilised earth – which allow it to achieve its full aesthetic and environmental potential. By using blocks of compressed earth, the market not only demonstrates the superior climactic performance of the local building material, but also shows how humble earth blocks can be used to create a sophisticated pattern language of vaults, domes and arches.

The market is the third of its type to be built under the direction of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) in cooperation with the Programme de Développement des Villes Moyennes of the Burkina Faso government, which aims to strengthen the country’s mid-sized towns through building commercial infrastructures. The market was the result of a truly participatory process that brought together and engaged the entire community in the site selection, design and construction of the market as well as its continuing use. A 1:1 prototype of a typical retail space was constructed which helped facilitate communication between the different collaborators, simultaneously allowing refinement of the design, development of innovative construction techniques and practical training of the local masons.