New Paradigm for Compressed Earth Blocks and Roofs

December 6, 2010

TSC Global, championing its innovative “Roofs for the World” program, met in Denver with a group of earth building advocates, including Partners Worldwide and Iowa-based Vermeer Tractors for a full production test run of the Vermeer’s mobile compressed earth block machine press.

Brad Wells, TSC executive director, says Vermeer drove its equipment from Iowa, setting up a mobile production facility to manufacture over 1000 compressed earth blocks (CEBs) which TSC will then use to complete the walls on a demonstration unit at its Denver headquarters. Wells believes this represents a new building paradigm for impoverished areas in the world.

The CEBs were manufactured on facilities west of Denver that had been donated by Church Ranch, where the team used “a mountain of blue ribbon dirt!” says Wells. The goal of this endeavor is to build durable, inexpensive structures that will resemble the Ugandan units developed by Moses Musaazi Kampala, as shown in the left photo.

This October, a group of international business people gathered to observe Vermeer’s portable CEB press – the 714 Dynabloc Press. Vermeer and Faith Tech Connect developed the machine to use in worldwide poverty areas to build low-cost CEB homes and provide jobs to local residents in the process. The blocks are produced using a mixture of clay-based soil and a small amount of cement for bonding.

“This is a forward-looking marriage of compressed earth blocks (CEB) and thin-shell concrete (TSC) Hypar roofs,” said Wells. “This is the direction TSC Global is going: affordable safe durable shelter and post-disaster housing, post-disaster. But we’re certainly not opposed to becoming involved with US domestic applications.”

The TSC roof, called a thin shell composite hyperbolic paraboloid, or TSC Hypar – a roof system designed by habitat pioneer, George Nez. He originally developed the roof for emergency resettlements in impoverished areas of the world as a low-cost shelter alternative to plastic structures currently found in many resettlement programs.

TSC Global proclaims the building methodology of the Nez roof has the potential for revolutionizing roofing and construction in the most impoverished and remote parts of the globe. The hypar roof has been used in many African countries, including Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, and Sudan.

Wells points out there are many options for wall infill, but this may be one of the most cost-effective solutions. “TSC Global believes that CEB is an ideal companion wall system for our roofs and the CEB people are big fans of our roofs for their walls equals a “1-2 Punch Dream Team.” CEB is widely used, particularly in South Africa, but nowhere near exploited as we think it should be.

If clay is available at a site and with attention to quality, this provides a very inexpensive and strong wall system.”


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Glenn Meyers

Writer, documentary producer, and director. Meyers is a contributor to CleanTechnica, and founder of Green Streets MediaTrain, a communications connection and eLearning hub. As an independent producer, he's been involved in the development, production and distribution of television and distance learning programs for both the education industry and corporate sector. He also is an avid gardener and loves sustainable innovation.
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