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.
In a world increasingly concerned with questions of energy production and raw material shortages, this project by Markus Kayser explores the potential of desert manufacturing, where energy and material occur in abundance.
In this experiment sunlight and sand are used as raw energy and material to produce glass objects using a 3D printing process, that combines natural energy and material with high-tech production technology. Solar-sintering aims to raise questions about the future of manufacturing and triggers dreams of the full utilisation of the production potential of the world’s most efficient energy resource – the sun. Whilst not providing definitive answers, this experiment aims to provide a point of departure for fresh thinking.
After weeks of enduring the ash brought on by Chile’s Puyehue volcano, one Argentine woman has decided to transform the grey sediment into something useful. Maria Irma Mansilla used the sediment and sand spewed by the volcano to create bricks. She hopes she and her neighbours will be able to produce them on a large scale to build homes for the poor. Watch
The winner of the 2010 Metropolis Next Generation Design Competition proposes a radical alternative to the common brick: don’t bake the brick; grow it. In a lab at the American University of Sharjah, in the United Arab Emirates, Ginger Krieg Dosier, an assistant architecture professor, sprouts building blocks from sand, common bacteria, calcium chloride, and urea (yes, the stuff in your pee). The process, known as microbial-induced calcite precipitation, or MICP, uses the microbes on sand to bind the grains together like glue with a chain of chemical reactions. The resulting mass resembles sandstone but, depending on how it’s made, can reproduce the strength of fired-clay brick or even marble. If Dosier’s biomanufactured masonry replaced each new brick on the planet, it would reduce carbon-dioxide emissions by at least 800 million tons a year. “We’re running out of all of our energy sources,” she said in March in a phone interview from the United Arab Emirates. “Four hundred trees are burned to make 25,000 bricks. It’s a consumption issue, and honestly, it’s starting to scare me.” Read more…
Dune Anti-Desertification Architecture investigates adaptive (as opposed to mitigatory) strategies leading to the creation of a climate-conscious
architecture that responds to the extreme environments of tomorrow’s globally-warmed world. Highly speculative yet buildable, the scheme aims to find innovative solutions to combat desertification in the Sahel region of Africa, where sand dunes are currently moving southward at a breathtaking
pace of around 600m per year, ruining the land and making it impossible for the inhabitants of this area to make a living or even stay in their homes. The forced migration of desertification refugees is perhaps more threatening in Nigeria than anywhere else. With a population of over 140 million people, Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa, with serious desertification issues throughout its northern states. It was Nigeria’s former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, who initiated the anti-desertification Green Wall Sahara initiative in 2005. This pan-African scheme seeks to plant a shelterbelt across the continent, from Mauritania in the west to Djibouti in the east, in an attempt to stop the dunes from migrating. The trees are being planted right now.
An architectural response to this campaign would be to go beyond the mere planting of a mitigatory shelterbelt. Habitable spaces can be created in close proximity to the trees. By cutting through the sand dunes and digging down to find water and shade, an artificial oasis can be formed underground.
The sand is solidified using bacillus pasteurii, a microorganism with which professor Jason DeJong has turned sand into sandstone in a mere 1,400 minutes. This technology of organically cementing networks of sand dunes into habitable barriers that stop the desert from spreading has never been proposed before, but on hearing about this project, the professor was enthusiastic: “I do think the application you are talking about is possible”. I’m proposing anti-desertifi cation structures made out of the desert itself, sand-stopping devices made of sand: a poetic proposal that simultaneously works in a sustainable way with local materials and assets.
Special emphasis has been put on finding a solution that is high-tech in result but low-tech in application and construction, with the economical scenario being hard to pin down as this method is virgin territory. It is recognized that poor people are highly vulnerable to the effects of weather, as drought can cause famine while good rains can cause drops in crop prices. The architecture presented here could form a stable base from which to fight back against both effects.
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.
Andrea Morgante, founder of Shiro Studio, has collaborated with D-Shape to produce the Radiolaria pavilion, a complex, free-form structure produced using the world’s largest 3D printer. Measuring 3 x 3 x 3 metres, the structure is a scale model of a final 10-metre tall pavilion to be built in Pontedera, Italy, in 2010. D-Shape developed the first large-scale stereolithic printer in 2008 aiming to offer architects the design freedom that rapid prototyping allows them but has so far been confined to scale models. When D-Shape commissioned Andrea Morgante the design for the first large-scale structure to be printed the ultimate aim was to produce a geometry that could be self-supporting and demonstrate the capabilities of this innovative technology: being made of artificial sand-stone material and without any internal steel reinforcement the pavilion’s design and execution had to be intrinsically resilient to several static stresses.
The printing process takes place in a continuous work session: during the printing of each section a ‘structural ink’ is deposited by the printer’s nozzles on the sand. The solidification process takes 24 hours to complete. The new material (inorganic binder + sand or mineral dust) has been subjected to traction, compression and bending tests. The results have been extraordinary and the artificial sandstone features excellent resistance properties. Effectively this process returns any type of sand or mineral dust back to its original compact stone state. The binder transforms any kind of sand or marble dust into a stone-like material (i.e. a mineral with microcrystalline characteristics) with a resistance and traction superior to portland cement, to a point where there is no need to use iron to reinforce the structure. This artificial stone is chemically one hundred percent environmentally friendly.
Historically, the daily life of the inhabitants of Al Ain, today the second largest city in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, took place in the palm gardens of the oasis and the surrounding settlements and markets. To protect the oases, watchtowers and forts were erected. The Jahili Fort located in the modern-day centre of the city is the largest of Al Ain’s forts. Built in the 19th century by Sheikh Zayed the First, it can be seen from the Al Ain oasis to the west of the city. With its distinct three-tiered profile, the fort is now a national monument, pictured on the 50 Dirham note and often used as a logo or model for new architecture. The old fort was erected at the end of the 19th century.
The fort was recently restored by Roswag & Jankowski Architekten, Berlin.
The interior surfaces remain true to the historical appearance. The ceiling consists of palm rafters and palm leaves. A local clay plaster has been used for the interior wall surfaces. In the exhibition areas a grey coloured fine clay finishing plaster made by Claytec was used to create a neutral background for the exhibition spaces. The floors likewise follow historical precedence and are made of rammed earth stabilised with a wax to cope with greater wear and tear.
All new insertions such as doors and furniture, made of corian or wood composite, are coloured white differentiating them from the surrounding building. The external render of the existing walls was examined and repaired where necessary. Previous renovation works had employed a non-traditional plaster with added gypsum for the crenelations. This plaster is too rigid and already exhibited defects; it was replaced with a clay plaster. The building was then given an overall finishing coat of clay plaster. The earth plaster is maintained at regular intervals as is traditional with this historical material. When used as an external render, clay plaster should be regarded as a weathering surface that needs ongoing maintenance, typically every two years, sometimes after sustained periods of heavy rain. Sandstorms are also a cause of erosion.
Most of the spaces will house a permanent exhibition “Mubarak bin London: Wilfried Thesiger and the Freedom of the Desert” showing photographs taken in the 1940s by the researcher and explorer Wilfried Thesiger who in the 1940s crossed the deserts of the Arabian peninsula repeatedly travelling with Bedouins and documenting what he saw with a Leica camera.
The 90 cm thick external earth walls offer excellent thermal insulation. The additional insulation on the roof improves still further the indoor room temperature and together with the solar protection windows on the façade provide effective protection against the extreme heat outdoors. The building is kept at a constant 24°C using a water-based cooling system integrated into the plaster layer of the walls. This minimizes the need for additional air cooling so that only fresh air is required. The cool indoor temperature of the walls and the reduced need for cold air makes the indoor climate more comfortable and reduces the energy consumption. An actual room temperature of 24°C equates to a felt room temperature of 22°C. The plant and technical installations for the entire fort are located below ground in the buffer zone.
The construction is made of traditionally available building materials including earth, palm products and to a lesser degree also timber. The quartered palm trunks can span a room of about 2.70 m and dictate the strongly partitioned structure of the historic buildings. The walls consist of air-dried earth blocks which can be built directly on the sandy ground without the need for foundations. A matting made of palm fronds covered with earth is laid on rafters made of split and quartered palm trunks arranged at an incline. The small amount of timber available was used for the door and window frames.