EarthEnable is a floor made from locally found earth that is compressed and stabilised with a layer of oil.
EarthEnable is a floor made from locally found earth that is compressed and stabilised with a layer of oil. The floors are being designed as a healthier alternative to dirt floors and yet to be a more affordable solution than concrete. The floor is on the market but further product development is ongoing to improve the chemistry and provide more offerings such as tile and alternate colours.
Rwanda, Uganda, Africa
EarthEnable Floors cost about $4 USD per square meter. A typical home is 20 square meters, costing $80 USD. They are exploring financing as an option so that customers only need to pay a few dollars each month. They are also working on launching a product for customers to self-install, which would reduce cost even further.
Dirt floors and concrete floors.
Goal 3: Aims to improve the health and well-being of households.
Trained and untrained individuals, households.
Made to order.
Users can obtain the product and service from the manufacturer. EarthEnable currently offers the option to pay roughly 25% of the price in 4 installments over 1.5 months. Though not yet implemented, they are exploring financing options that would allow payback over the course of several years so that customers are only paying a few dollars each month.
As of January of 2017, EarthEnable has installed over 32,000 square meters of earthen flooring. They serve customers in 2 districts and 10 different sectors of Rwanda with plans to expand to 2 additional districts of Rwanda during 2017.
An earthen floor is an ancient flooring technique that has been revived and modernized in recent years, and which is especially popular in the western United States. Earthen floors are made of natural materials that can be sourced locally (gravel, laterite, sand, clay and water). Earthen floors utilize layers to make them as strong and resilient as possible.
The gravel layer is applied first, followed by the laterite layer, and then a clay/sand/laterite mix. All of these layers are compacted manually. Finally, the top layer is made of sand and clay which is trowelled flat. The floor is then sealed by a layer of drying oil that polymerizes (plasticizes) as it dries to form a plastic-like resin on the floor.
In the US, linseed oil is traditionally used. However, given that linseed oil is expensive, not locally available in Rwanda, and slightly noxious, co-founder Rick Zuzow formulated an alternative oil that converts soya bean oil into a similarly performing drying oil that is free from noxious fumes and can be produced at a fraction of the cost.
Layer 1: Gravel or Laterite
Gravel or laterite is used to drain the floor (and to keep water from seeping up from under the floor and affecting the earthen mix) and also to level it out.
Layer 2: Fine Earthen Mix
This is fine sand and clay that has been sieved, which is burnished to form an incredibly smooth and beautiful top layer. Made of the same earthen materials, it binds with the coarse laterite.
Layer 3: Oil
The oil permeates the fine earthen mix and forms a waterproof and plastic-like resin on top. This is also the layer that gives the floor its shine, makes it easy to clean and incredibly durable.
The manufacturer can be contacted for technical support through their trained masons.
To be replaced the floor would need to be removed and redone either completely or in sections. More oil would need to be purchased from the manufacturer.
EarthEnable anticipates that the floor will last 10-15 years and that revarnishing will be required every few years.
The revarnishing can be done by customers themselves by purchasing a bottle of varnish and re-applying it according to Earth Enable’s floor maintenance manual. Another option would be to contact EarthEnable to have one of their trained employees re-apply the varnish. This service would be free if within the 6 month warranty period, or otherwise would have a small fee.
Manufacturer performance targets include health (ability to clean the floor), affordability, job creation, sustainability, and the scaleability of implementation.
Workers will be subject to the dangers of any construction site including working with sharp tools.
An average of the maximum compressive strength a typical structure could withstand with this building material. Units: σ (N/mm2)
An average of the maximum loads/forces perpendicular to the compressive forces that a typical structure could withstand with this building material. Units: σ (N/mm2)
A seismic design category expresses an area’s likelihood of experiencing damaging effects of an earthquake (A(low), B, C, D0, D1, D2, E(high)). This parameter denotes the highest acceptable SDC for the material.
Climatic zones appropriate for construction based on a material’s availability/feasibility in each climatic zone.
R value associated with material/product
Unknown, though there are likely no regulations for flooring in Rwanda and Uganda.
EarthEnable claims to be in the process of completing a health impact evaluation that compares the health of their customers before and after receiving the floors to similar control households in geographic areas where they have not yet scaled.
Apprentices are trained for 1-3 months to become a trained mason.
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