The Ultimate Green Building Material: Dirt?

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In a time of increasing weather-induced natural disasters, viable, affordable, durable shelter options are becoming vitally important. Additionally, as entirely new cities spring up, a greener building option is crucial to minimize use of resources and overall lifetime impact.

Dwell Earth has high aspirations for a humble building material: Dirt. Compressed Earth Bricks are an impressively simple modern interpretation of a building material that’s been perfected over the centuries by many indigenous populations. They are the ultimate locally sourced material, more energy efficient to heat and cool than wood or concrete based structures, do not offgas VOCs, and are able to provide a source of employment and pride in developing countries.

While Passive House has a common sense approach and Living Building Challenge boasts LEED besting high standards, both require a substantial investment and assistance from professionals in both the design and construction phases. This precludes them from being a valid option in developing countries, and their upfront expense will often be a deal breaker domestically, where bottom line leads most developer’s considerations.

The genius of Dwell Earth’s CEBs are the simplicity of manufacture, ease of construction, durable, remote location friendly brick building machines, and the ability to accept steel reinforcement in earthquake prone zones.

As much as these bricks lend themselves to being put to use in disaster zones by unskilled laborers, Dwell Earth sees them being put to use in a variety of settings that most green building companies wouldn’t dare suggest: toxic waste storage, mining, and military applications such as barricades. As unorthodox as this may seem, green building techniques are a great addition to these unexpected locales because they can turn out to be a source of inspiration at those sites.

One use you wouldn’t expect, given CEBs are dirt based: walls and linings for canals, dams, drains and erosion protection. Giving people the ability to better maintain water flow around them, using resources immediately available to them, is huge. This is especially so, given the increasing impact of water on people’s lives due to climate change.

The two potential downsides of CEBs as I see it are: the unintended consequence of flooding and other erosion related damage due to excessive use of dirt in area construction. Dwell Earth’s CEBs take 7 days curing to be usable as bricks, and 28 to become completely watertight.

A brief video demonstrating how Dwell Earth CEBs are made and structures built:

CEBs being put into use at a high end construction site:

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Paul Smith is a sustainable business innovator, the founder of GreenSmith Consulting, and has an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco. He creates interest in, conversations about, and business for green (and greening) companies, via social media marketing.

Paul Smith is a sustainable business innovator, the founder of GreenSmith Consulting, and has an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco. He creates interest in, conversations about, and business for green (and greening) companies, via social media marketing. || ==> For more, see GreenSmithConsulting.com