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Building a better block -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

Building a better block

Habitat uses technology to improve earthquake resistance — and reduce emissions.



Several countries in Habitat for Humanity’s Asia/Pacific region are finding a new reason to switch to building with interlocking compressed earth blocks and adobe: fewer greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

By building with sun-cured blocks instead of traditional fired-clay bricks, Habitat can avoid burning up to 2.5 tons of material per 36- to 40-square-meter Habitat house. The thermal mass of the blocks helps insulate the houses from temperature extremes, and the interlocking compressed earth blocks are more stable during seismic activity.

To make the blocks, water is mixed with finely sifted soil, sand and cement (for stabilization) and placed inside a mold. When the block is ejected, it dries for eight hours and then is cured for seven days under a tarpaulin or plastic to maintain humidity. After a week, the blocks are ready for building.

“There is no need to seal the walls if you have good roof eaves, and the cement added in the block performs for the life of the block,” says Fernando Morales, appropriate technology construction manager in the region.