PRESSING OUR WAY TO THE FUTURE OF SUSTAINABLE & AFFORDABLE HOUSING
Humans, for millennia, have used mother earth to make shelters, homes and places of worship. The very dirt beneath our feet, is arguably the best material for constructing the places we live,work and pray.
If I were to tell you that this material is:
- Environmentally friendly
- Energy efficient
- Fireproof and bulletproof
- Temperature regulating
Would you believe me? Does this sound too good to be true – trust me, it’s true.
Compressed Earth Bricks (CEB) are made from subsoil that is present throughout the world and very prevalent here in our naturally rich country – Nigeria.
Laterite – the reddish brown ground that is all around us, is a perfect material to create such building bricks.
Traditional construction is done with cement blocks that are costly to produce and require a lot machinery and energy to create.
The benefit of laterite is that it is abundant, readily available, easy to mine, and works great as the main aggregate of compressed bricks. These materials are cheaper to make and maintain than typical cement blocks- and in my opinion, they look better.
If this is the case, why doesn’t everyone use them when constructing houses? I believe part of the reason is that it has not been the standard and modern practice to use such material , and the big construction conglomerates want to keep their stranglehold on the cement market – since it is making them super rich.
Beautiful and Sound?
Some also argue that compressed earth homes don’t look as luxurious as the typical cement block homes that dot the neighborhoods of Nigerian cities, and that cement homes are more structurally sound than those houses made of earth material.
To ensure that compressed earth bricks (CEB) meet the rigorous engineering standards of local municipalities; during formation of these bricks a small percentage of cement is used as a stabilizer – this ensures rigidity. CEB structures can be built up to two stories with no issues – plastering can also be added to walls to change the finish colour.
The best part about CEB is that you can make bricks right on the job site and with the use of the manual press that does not require electricity – a two person operation can make about 500 bricks in an 8 hour day!
Check out this video link below to see the process in action.
Large scale production of CEB can be done with industrial machinery which can produce bricks on a huge scale, these machines are readily available in the Africa and across the third world. This has the unique opportunity to transform the real estate landscape in Nigeria.
Pros and Cons of Compressed Earth Brick Housing
- Sustainable resource – earth is everywhere!
- Temperature regulating – CEB keeps you cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.
- ~25% savings when building structures.
- Environmentally friendly – no need to cut trees down.
- Non toxic – CEB do not contain any toxic materials.
- Fireproof – dirt don’t burn!
- Unskilled labour can produce the bricks.
- Stigma of using earth bricks persists.
- Durability questions, when not constructed properly.
- Pests can be an issue if there are open gaps.
- Mining of soil can complicate erosion.
So now that we have a basic understanding of Compressed Earth Bricks and all of their inherent advantages, why do you think this type of construction has not taken off in Nigeria?
This lower cost method could help alleviate Nigeria’s housing deficit which currently is around 17 million units!
Would you build or buy a CEB home? We would love to hear your voice- please vote below and add a comment too!