We are not going to make it to the Midwest Renewable Energy Fair this year because it conflicts with a rare reunion of my far-flung family. I will miss it, and I will especially miss attending the workshops on compressed earth blocks by Midwest Earth Builders.
Looking through the Energy Fair Workshop Guide, I see there is going to be a class called Compressed Earth Wall Systems, which says compressed earth blocks can be incorporated into both new and existing structures to provide thermal mass heat storage.
We are still planning to build the walls of our house with straw bales, but our passive solar design will soak in the sun on winter days. We plan to have a concrete floor for that solar power to soak into and also a wall dividing the kitchen from the sitting area positioned to also soak up even more sun.
I am a believer in slow building. If you are going to build non-conventional, you should not rush into it. The information is all out there, but it takes a while to discover all the materials and techniques you will want.
After six years of planning, we are getting very close.
But until this week we were thinking that the thermal mass wall in the main living area would need to be rock that takes a lot of energy to get out of the ground, cut into shape and move to our site and also require people experienced in laying a stone wall to build.
Our other thought was that the wall could be made of reused brick. I’ve seen some lovely old brick that would make a gorgeous wall, but I’m not a brick layer, and that heavy brick would still have to be hauled to the house site.
Now we are very excited about compressed earth brick.
According to Midwest Earth Builders, Compressed Earth Blocks (CEBs) are natural masonry blocks produced hydraulically using an Earth Block press. Earth Blocks are typically made from the soils found directly on site or in the local area. Often they are able to take the soils from an excavated foundation and press them into blocks for the construction of the building’s walls.
Later this summer Doug and I are going to visit Midwest Earth Builders, and I’ll know a lot more about this process, but I already love it because:
- It’s a natural material coming right out of the building site – no transportation.
- It’s going to be a great material for thermal mass, which is going to make me toasty warm all winter
- It’s non toxic – that includes non-toxic to work with during building, non-toxic to live next to, and non-toxic when the house is someday torn down. (I’m sure that won’t happen for several hundred years at least – but as Jimmy H. said, “Even castles made of sand will fall into the sea, eventually.”)
- These bricks are easy to work with. They only require a thin mortar/slurry joint between blocks, and walls go up quickly.
- You can get creative with these puppies. We are planning to curve the wall to wrap it around the wood-burning stove , and that’s very possible with compressed earth bricks.
For a while I was feeling sad that we can’t build till next year, but now I’m wondering what else we are going to discover before we break ground next spring.
Categories: Eco architecture