DIY Earth Bricks
Compressed earthen brick. Image courtesy of Meco'concept.
Rammed earth construction has many positive attributes. Made from local, common materials harvested at minimal excavation depth and requiring little processing, rammed earth has negligible embodied energy and does not burden the waste stream. Although architects like Rick Joy have gained notoriety from working with the material, it is surprising that rammed earth is not used more commonly in the developed world—especially considering the fact that earthen structures shelter approximately a third of humanity located elsewhere.
Toulouse-based Meco'concept has attempted to make rammed earth more accessible with a hydraulic press designed to produce bricks out of conventional mud. According to the manufacturer, each machine can be used to produce up to 120 earthen bricks per hour. Mud is first mixed with cement and lime, and then pressed for 30 seconds to make a refined building block with Lego-like protrusions for easy stacking.
Although building codes in many U.S. municipalities do not recognize or facilitate the construction of buildings using rammed earth, the fabrication of non-structural facades up to two stories in height with Meco'concept's device could be a more feasible way of employing this low environmental impact material in common construction.