Mind & Matter


DIY Earth Bricks

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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.



Comments (1 Total)

  • Posted by: Sanjeev | Time: 12:53 PM Thursday, February 24, 2011

    It took so long? And even now it's not officially recognized? I say, forget the cement, too!

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About the Blogger

Blaine Brownell

thumbnail image Minnesota-based architect and author Blaine Brownell, AIA, is a self-defined materials researcher and sustainable building adviser. His "Product of the Week" emails and three volumes of Transmaterial (2006, 2008, 2010) provide designers with a steady flow of inspiration—a 21st-century Grammar of Ornament. Blaine has practiced architecture in Japan and the U.S. and has been published in more than 40 design, business, and science publications. The recipient of a Fulbright fellowship for 2006–07, he researched contemporary Japanese material innovations at the Tokyo University of Science. He currently teaches architecture and co-directs the M.S. in Sustainable Design program at the University of Minnesota. His book Matter in the Floating World was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2011.