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March 10, 2013
How to Build a Compressed Earth Block Home
contributor: Rob Goodier
Building with compressed-earth blocks makes sense, and not just because most of the construction materials are right under our feet. Earthen walls regulate temperatures, dampen sound, repel mold and, with the right build, they can resist earthquakes, fires and other disasters.
[For more on earth building solutions, please see our Q&A with Jim Hallock.]
We had heard that earthen blocks have another advantage, too, that building with them is simple. With the right blocks, building a wall can be like stacking huge Legos. To find out if that’s really the case, we turned to the earthen construction and earth building solutions expert Adam De Jong. Adam co-founded Dwell Earth, an earthen construction firm that works with both non-profits and businesses to create functional and beautiful buildings around the world.
Dwell Earth trains organizations and communities in block making, offers design guidance and then leads them through the construction process. The company helped the machinery manufacturer Vermeer design a block press that churns out easy-to-stack interlocking bricks. With these bricks, even novice builders can erect tough, straight walls with only a little training.
There is a village near Ciudad Barrios in the mountains of eastern El Salvador where a Dwell Earth crew taught families to build their own homes. It was a sweat-equity program in which the residents worked alongside Dwell Earth’s consultants. Using pictures of key stages of the process, Adam guided us through the construction of the walls up to the roof. We’ll run a how-to guide on roof construction in a later installment.
This is how to build a two-room home from compressed-earth blocks. See an animation of this build on YouTube. For up-to-date videos and animated construction guides, please see Dwell Earth’s YouTube channel. And follow the company on Facebook for updates on its earth building solutions worldwide.