Compressed earth blocks are an ancient building material and technique – just ask the ancient Egyptians! There is no question such structures are durable.
Buildings made with compressed earth blocks have lasted hundreds and even thousands of years. As people are becoming more concerned about the environment and sustainable building materials, c ompressed earth block construction is enjoying a resurgence.
With modern techniques, compressed earth blocks, or CEBs, are more durable and effective than ever. Instead of the ancient method of pressing by hand, machines press a mixture of earth, clay, and sometimes sand into sturdy blocks. The blocks are then stacked by hand like bricks, held together with a thin layer of slurry made from the same material as the blocks but thinned down with water.
CEBs appeal to those with environmental concerns. Here are some of the eco-friendly aspects of this ancient form of construction.
1. Energy Savings
Thermal mass is an important aspect in saving energy. This refers to the heating and cooling of the walls themselves, or "passive" heating and cooling. A building with CEB walls absorbs heat and releases it evenly, adding to the comfort of the inhabitants. Energy savings are significant as a lot less energy is required to heat and cool such buildings.
2. Renewable Materials
Earth is a renewable, abundant resource. Unlike fiber board, plywood, and other modern building materials, its production does not require the use of dangerous chemicals.
3. Natural Materials
With "sick building" syndrome a real concern, natural building materials are being looked at as a viable means of avoiding such sensitivities. CEB walls do not "out-gas" chemicals like formaldehyde.
In poor communities, CEB is especially advantageous. The compression machines can be powered or operated by hand. The earth is readily available, and there is no cost to import building materials. Also, CEBs do not require a lot of energy to produce like brick or concrete.
CEBs are made from local earth. This means there are no fossil fuels used to transport building materials from as far away as China.
6. Save a Tree
Perhaps the most obvious but still significant environmental advantage of CEB construction is that is reduces reliance on forest-based materials. In other words, it does not require the use of wood.
7. Insect Control
Many homeowners have had to call in a pest control specialist at one time or another. Some people have regular applications of pesticide in and around their homes. The environmental issues with pesticide use are numerous. But CEB homes are naturally insect resistant, reducing the need for chemical pesticides.
8. Less Waste
CEB homes are fire, insect, and water resistant. They last for many years. This means less waste in the long run. Fewer repairs will be needed for the structure, and rebuilding due to fire or water damage are practically unheard of in CEB homes.