Building Blocks in Mozambique

Building Blocks in Mozambique

  • by Architecture for Humanity
  • Aug 07, 2012
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Compressed Earth Blocks training in Manica.

Design Fellows by day, masons by night, Alina Jeronimo and Paulo Fernandes, are hosting a “how to make earth bricks” workshop in Mozambique. Providing skills training, the bricks produced will support the Manica Football for Hope Center.

Paulo and Alina give us their insight and reasons for the training:

After the Mozambican civil war most of the traditional techniques were forgotten or badly misappropriated. The consequences of this are that the quality of buildings decreased and some “myths” were spread like earthen brick should always be fired to gain strength and to be waterproof. This “myth” contributed to the massive use of wood in kilns and consequently significant deforestation and soil erosion in Manica province. The main reasons we chose Compressed Earth Bricks (CEB) were to reduce the building’s environmental impact in the area and to develop a traditional building technique that is very connected to the place and to the people.

18 people attended the training that including a hands-on approach to, not just making the bricks, but also testing their strength and learning basic brick laying techniques. In another training about mortar and wall construction, the students learned by doing: they built a bread oven. After successful completion of the workshop the contractor has agreed to hire half of these workers during the FFH Community Centre construction phase.

The 12 week process started with the building of a 130 square meter shelter, sieves and mixture slab, purchasing the materials and tools to support an effective skills training workshop and the final bricks production phase.

The brick shelter under construction

The first workshops focused on basic design and building concepts, including the potential and limits of the material. Later workshops covered the entire production cycle and typical details that improve the quality and resistance of the CEB'S (Compressed Earth Blocks - Stabilized). We also performed basic strength and water resistance tests for the workers to understand CEB behavior under different environmental conditions.

Training on site: mixing the soil, using the hand press

This technique and knowledge allows the center host Grupo Desportivo de Manica and the local community to achieve low-cost yet high-quality bricks. The technical perspectives introduced improve overall building quality and standards in the community as well as contributing to heightened social and economic security. The builders are proud of the bricks and no longer need to import them from other places.

This technique uses a very low amount of cement compared to cement bricks commonly produced locally. There is virtually no wood needed. Building with local resources, with little cement and no wood content makes CEB an environmentally, economically and socially friendly technique, in other words sustainable.

After the workshop, all 18 attendees received a "worker’s" or "monitor’s" certificate that will aid in future job acquisition. The community is very excited to see how the bricks in action at the new FFH Community Centre.

These bricks also received an independent certification from the laboratory Administração Nacional de Estradas (ANE) for their compressive strength. The results were well above average, demonstrating their high quality of fabrication and potential as a viable, durable and competitive building product.

This training is a part of our post-master research in CRAterre-ENSAG on “Earth Architecture and Sustainable Development”.

Paulo Carneiro and Alina Jeronimo, Design Fellows, Architecture for Humanity

After receiving training, the monitors from Grupo Desportivo de Manica can train other workers in the village on how to make bricks (in this case Hard from GDM explains to the new workers)

The first brick!

Testing the bricks on site and in the laboratory

Last day of brick production: 22000 bricks done!

Workers receiving training certificates