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Re: GSBN:re: Exterior cladding question

Bruce and All,

For what its worth --- What I saw in Saudi Arabia may not be called
compressed earth blocks, but in fact thats what they were. I saw 150
year old standing buildings, unoccupied and uncared for during last 30
years, made with hand-made sundried mud, not clay, blocks. The house I
was shown through was three stories tall, approx. 25' high. The hand
made blocks were 2"x4"x8" with a loaf shaped rise on the top. The wall
surfaces were plastered with the same mud. And, yes Saudi can have
winter rains, but not always the torrents I experienced. The new blocks
made for the library project had some straw mixed in the mud, but I can
not say the old blocks had any reinforcing.

Regards, Chris Stafford

On Feb 14, 2005, at 8:47 AM, Bruce King wrote:

On Feb 10, 2005, at 8:44 PM, Catherine Wanek wrote:

Hi Chris & all--

One thing that has not been mentioned..... I understand that there is
usually about 9% cement added to compressed earth blocks, which makes
more durable to the weather and would also affect their permeability.

But how much, I wonder?

Bruce King here, and so do I.  I'm about to start two different design
and research projects, ie houses with experiments and monitoring on the
side, using compressed earth blocks.

In both cases, the owner also wants to start selling blocks, and both
are in high seismic areas (Portland, Oregon and Nevada City, California
(Sierra foothills).

A recent visit with Tom Morton, a Scottish architect working with earth
blocks, really convinced me that adding cement is not only sometimes
unnecessary, but even detrimental to performance by several measures.
Can anyone refer me to field experience and/or testing information
(strength and durability, mainly) for compressed earth blocks without


Bruce King, PE
Director, Ecological Building Network
209 Caledonia St.
Sausalito, CA 94965  USA
(415) 331-7630
fax 332-4072
bruce@ ecobuildnetwork.org

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