Sustainable Building with Compressed Earth -

Sustainable Building with Compressed Earth -

An old idea made new again, creating homes from the very elements that make up the Earth.  Sustainable building goes old school.

In today’s society, it is widely recognized that the basic foundation of a home is wood-based. Wood has disadvantages:

  • Wood isn’t uniform in strength characteristics. It is a natural product with knots and flaws
  • Wood  is combustible
  • Untreated wood will decay and is subject to insect damage 1
  • Wood is often doused with preservatives, which can be caustic and environmentally damaging

An alternative product that is completely natural, manufactured locally, makes for sustainable building and can be beautifully crafted is a technique called Compressed Earth .

Adobe brick production bricks dry in the sun

Compressed Earth Blocks otherwise known as CEBs or pressed adobes, commonly seen in the American Southwest, are made purely from natural elements. Blending a combination of clay, gravel, sand and a stabilizing agent, such as lime or Portland cement, CEBs are uniformly shaped and pressed in a hydraulic or lever arm machine. 2 Because the hydraulic method can be costly, the majority of CEBs are pressed with the manual lever arm machine. The quality of manually pressed blocks is slightly less than the hydraulic method blocks. 3

Sustainable Building with Compressed Earth -

Compressed Earth Advantages for Sustainable Building:

  • Local and natural materials
  • The finished building has excellent thermal and acoustic properties
  • CEBs are fire and insect resistant 4
  • The thickness of the walls reduce heating and cooling costs
  • CEBs are able to withstand most, but not all, weather and natural disaster incidences
  • Minimal to low maintenance properties for sustainable buildings
  • CEBs are load bearing, meaning no internal supports are required
  • Rapid construction times (structures can be erected in a week) 5
  • Cost effectiveness

“Unlike most types of masonry, rammed (or compressed) earth walls don’t need core filling or reinforcing. Nor do they need gyprocking, plastering, painting or wallpapering. This saves money and energy when you build — and goes on saving them for years.” 5

Modern adobe structure

The great thing about Compressed Earth is that it can be used in nearly every facet of a home’s construction process. From floors to walls, to basements, to partitions, to closets, to ceilings, CEBs are ideal.

What Roofing Pairs with CEB buildings?

Looking strictly at eco-friendly roofing options, consider metal roofing made from recycled products, wood shingles, recycled rubber or a living roof. 6 A living roof in particular is an amazing option. For instance living roofs provide all of the following benefits to a sustainable building project:

  • Reductions in energy costs, particularly by lessening thermal loading during warm months
  •  Storm water management by reducing impermeable surface area and retaining 65-100% of rainwater
  • Increased longevity of roof membranes by blocking UV rays and preventing extreme surface temperature fluctuations
  • Improved air quality since living roofs gather and absorb pollutants
  • Reductions in urban heat island effects by cooling roof surfaces
  • Contributing to biodiversity by providing wildlife habitat for insects and birds
  • Adding aesthetic quality and increased quality of life since living roofs have positive impact on people living and working around them
  • Increasing green space in urban environments

Compressed Earth Block construction is an amazing means by which to create a beautifully crafted home.  Make that home an energy efficient, sustainable building.  It will be cost effective and sturdy enough to withstand some of the harshest conditions Mother Earth can throw at it.

Resources for Sustainable Building with Compressed Earth:

(2)     Compressed Earth Blocks — Deep Green Architecture


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