EarthEnable is a floor made from locally found earth compressed and stabilized with a layer of oil.
EarthEnable is a floor made from locally found compressed earth and stabilized with a layer of oil. The floors are designed as a healthier alternative to dirt floors while being more affordable than concrete. The product is currently available on the market, but further product development is ongoing in order to improve the chemistry and provide more tiles and alternate colors.
2.5 USD (per sqm)
Low-income families, Households
This product is mass-produced in Uganda and Rwanda. It is constructed on-site by trained masons from Earthenable. They train local Rwandans as masons to learn exactly how to create and install an earthen floor. Then, the masons can go out and become income-generating entrepreneurs utilizing their new skills. They also hire and train helpers for the masons, chemists, managers, administrative staff, and student interns.
242,308 m² of flooring installed as of May 2021
Size of the component
List of primary materials in the component
List of secondary materials in the component
Measurement, calculated in hours, of the component’s resistance to fire
R value associated with material/product
The compressive strength of the component, measured in megapascals
List of suitable climates for use of this components
An earthen floor is an ancient flooring technique that has been revived and modernized in recent years. Earthen floors are made of natural materials 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 troweled flat. The floor is then sealed by a layer of drying oil that polymerizes 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 free from noxious fumes and can be produced at a fraction of the cost.
Users can contact the manufacturer for technical support through their trained masons.
To be replaced, the floor needs to be removed and redone either completely or in sections. More oil needs 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.
Customers can do the revarnishing by purchasing a varnish bottle 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.
No known safety hazards are related to this product.
Covered in Ph.D. dissertation thesis:
Nuwagaba, H. M., 2020, “Opportunities for affordable construction in Uganda using locally available materials,” Doctoral dissertation, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
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