The Eco-Block Machine
In the Context of Big World Project Mission
Big World Project is committed to getting children out of the pipeline of exploitation, abuse, and poverty. The well-documented scourge of human trafficking is without dispute; Big World Project works to get children out of the pipeline before they become victims of human trafficking. To reach this goal, we provide shelter, food, clothing, education, and structure to their life. This requires a proverbial “brick & mortar” home for the care of the children.
Big World Project has historically depended upon indigenous builders and contractors to construct the homes and other support buildings we use to accomplish our mission. Reliance upon local craftsmen for the construction of these buildings has been challenging, as this introduces a significant variable, which BWP cannot control. As is often the case with US-led efforts, the local craftsmen begin a project with an initial cost estimate that steadily increases as the building project progresses. By the end of the project, the actual cost is often twice the original estimate. Unable to complete the project any other way, the construction project either comes to a stop or is funded to completion with the inflated costs. Big World Project, like many other NGO’s, simply budgets an amount that is twice the initial estimate. However, BWP believes there is a better way; we bring the building project back under our own auspices.
Our journey began rather inauspiciously when we saw pictures of a building method used by some NGO’s in developing countries. The pictures showed buildings of all sorts of shapes and sizes being built with what appeared to be large bricks. The bricks seemed to be forming the structural components of the structure. And, they were beautiful!
We learned that the bricks are known as CEB’s (compressed earth blocks). Intrigued, our Vice-President began researching the use of these bricks. The following is a compilation of his findings sourced from the leading maker of CEB machines, Dwell Earth in partnership with Vermeer.
What is a CEB, or as we call them “Eco-Blocks”?
Compressing clay, sand, and about 8 % Portland cement in a specially designed hydraulic press machine makes Eco-Blocks. These blocks can be used in construction projects after curing for 7 days. They reach full strength and become water resistant after a 28-day cure period. The blocks are 14 inches long by 7 inches wide and are 4 inches tall.
· Create superior indoor environments. Eco-Block structures are warm, solid, and quiet. Eco-Block walls are sound proof, fire proof, bullet proof, bug proof, and mold proof. It has been described as having a warm comfortable blanket wrapped around you.
· Are Non-Toxic. Since the blocks are made from natural materials they do not out-gas any toxic chemicals like most conventional building components.
· Are environmentally friendly. Eco-Blocks take very little energy to make compared to the large amounts of energy necessary to make cement, or the firing process required to make traditional bricks, or the deforestation required to build with wood.
· Are very energy efficient. Once completed, Eco-Block structures use only about 70-80% of the energy required to heat and cool comparable concrete block or wood frame structures.
· Are made from local materials. Materials to make Eco-Block are plentiful and can often be found locally, reducing costs and environmental impact.
· Can be made on-site. Eco-Block can often be made at the construction site, which eliminates the need to transport the materials required to build the walls.
· Will last for centuries. Average life of a wood frame building is 49 years.
Through a generous grant from a sponsor, BWP has been able to acquire Vermeer’s BP714 V-Lock Block machine. The V Lock Block is uniform in all three dimensions. The blocks have a unique interlocking design, which allows them to be dry stacked or mortared, and does not require traditional labor intensive skill associated with masonry construction. The BP714 machine creates round cavities in the blocks that allow for seismic reinforcement, roof tie-downs, electrical conduit, and other utilities.
The blocks may be stacked using a thin slurry made from the same material as the blocks, instead of traditional mortar; making the wall a monolithic structure, and also reducing costs.
Walls can be built much faster than conventional masonry with unskilled labor while under the supervision of someone who is familiar with basic construction techniques. All of these features make for a much more economical wall system.
Eight Benefits – A Quick Glance
1. Allows BWP to control the costs of construction. We are no longer at the mercy of indigenous contractors.
2. The Eco Block machine will allow BWP to maintain a higher lever of quality control.
3. Rescues demand facilities. The Eco-Block machine will allow us to efficiently expand homes and facilities in proportion to the number of rescues being made as needed.
4. The Eco-Block machine will give BWP in
dependence from the vacillating dry spells of supply and demand common in developing countries.
5. Often, construction projects by NGOs is either very poor quality or far too extravagant. The Eco-Block machine will allow BWP to strike a much-needed balance in the realm of “ministry” or “NGO” construction appropriate to the context.
6. Nearly anyone can learn to construct with the Eco-block technology. The Eco-Block machine will allow BWP to get US-based churches involved by attracting competent volunteers to help us build homes in places outside the US; giving our volunteers opportunity to take ownership in the on-going work of the ministry.
7. The Eco-Block machine will allow BWP to produce what it needs for construction projects rather than simply acting as a consumer in a foreign market. This approach will give BWP more freedom to build and expand according to a planned development.
8. The Eco-Block machine will allow BWP to potentially create a business for material supply of eco-blocks and construction/contracting into the surrounding community; improving living conditions of local populations while making income for the on-going expenses of caring for the rescued children.