Saturday, November 24, 2007

Interlocking soil bricks, pressed without burning

Interlocking soil bricks, pressed without burning
Soil brick making machines for rural people in developing countries

This is how most of the rural people in Cambodia live, brick houses are very rare. In rural areas, usually of tropical developing countries, houses and shelters are mainly build of wood, bamboo and leaves and not very durable. When there is some money to spend, bricks are preferred as building material. Bricks are made in kilns, which requires wood for operation. Wood is becoming limited, as most countries hardly have replanting projects, or "wood-growing industries", that keeps this circle going.

Most households and small enterprises (such as brick kilns, bakeries, and food processing industry) use fuel-wood and charcoal as their main fuel for firing/cooking. Fuel-wood and charcoal consumption add to deforestation, effecting the environment, whilst also having a detrimental effect on human health (acute and chronic respiratory diseases, eye diseases and infant mortality ..).

Firewood is mostly taken from natural forest. In the past these tropical countries had abundant natural rain forests. Unfortunately, their forest resources have significantly declined, due to the civil war, illegal logging or over cutting, population growth, etc. The population growth has been increasing pressure on wood supply with annual demand for fuel wood, in for example Cambodia increasing from 1.8 million m³ for the period 1961-71 to 6 million m³ for 1991-94 (World Bank et al. 1996).

Deforestation has economic and environmental consequences. It leads to firewood shortages, and adversely effects living conditions, especially of those in the rural areas. Every day more forest and bushes are disappearing. The wood prices have increased significant over the past years and is becoming alarmingly expensive for the poor. If rural people want to go for bricks, the road conditions are often poor and transport doesn't guarantee the fragile bricks to be delivered in one piece.

A key feature of most of the UNDP conservation projects is encouragement of community engagement in forest protection and wildlife conservation. In this way, those who live in natural resource areas, become part of the solution for their sustainability.  UNDP projects also link these countries to actions under the Kyoto protocol, to reduce emissions of harmful greenhouse gases, CO2 from combustion processes (wood), being one of the major ones

Durable homes in rural areas can be cheaply made by the owners themselves, from free soil around on the construction site. It is therefore proposed to manufacture simple and yet innovative hydraulic brick presses,  to produce interlocking soil bricks without burning from the freely available soil around, allowing the rural population to build their own durable houses. This fits well in environmental programs, that aim to reduce rural poverty and sustain economic growth, ensuring that future generations will be able to benefit from the rich environmental resources of the country, while reversing the loss of them.

The bricks consist of soil for the greater part, mixed with cement, sand and some water, pressed to a high density in the brick making machine When the bricks leave the machine, they are already strong enough to be handled for storage and they reach there final strength about a day later, when the cement has cured.

There is hence no need to burn the bricks, which makes this process a very low-energy requiring one. The soil is thought to originate for free from the building site itself and constitutes between 70 and 80% of the total mass of the bricks.

The press delivers bricks that are interlocking and thus don't require jointing cement. This process uses 75% less cement than the conventional method and results in a complete saving on wood consumption of kilns.

The history The future How it worksThe bricks have cavities, that are filled by pouring thin cement, as to seal the bricks over their whole length and between the vertical joints, keeping small insects (ants) and rain water (draught) out. It also assures a perfect fit between all the bricks, in a rigid structure. If required, steel or bamboo rods can be placed in the cavities as well, which would provide for earthquake resistant structures.

The main features of this new brick type is, that it has more resilient strength than its fired counterparts. The secret of its success, is the composition of materials and the forming under  moderate pressures.

The soil brick is suitable especially for use in multi story buildings, due to its durability and robustness. It allows to abandon the inflexible and costly steel supported concrete column construction.

The bricks' cell interlocking system, eliminates the need for a horizontal mortar bed and anchoring reinforcements in wall corners and joints, thus reducing the demand for highly skilled brick layers, all together cutting the costs of construction considerably. Apart from the environmental benefits, the expected price of a pressed brick versus a conventional, fired brick, is at least 1:4 lower.

Read the history in the brochure, that also describes the specifics of his technique. It is about a manual brick press, or rather a "footable" one, as it is powered by stepping on pedals.

It is an innovative machine and a definitely unique design in combining hydraulics with muscle power. It allows rural people in developing countries to create independently their own affordable bricks to build houses themselves and not have to rely on salesmen and production in towns, bad roads, transport problems and fluctuating prices.

The brick press can be operated by the house builder himself, or somebody can make a business by serving other members of his community. The press and other equipment can be placed on a pick-up truck, to travel around to various building sites.

soil brick making machine Presently, the blue prints are ready for the construction of a first prototype, for which we already have a contractor in Germany. We (my partner and I) have registered a company for this in the UK and we are looking for investors, not only to build the first prototype, but also its further development into a commercial machine and marketing efforts, which includes training of customers in the preparation of soil mixtures, allowing us to sell several machines, as to start up a sustainable business.

We estimate that it will take at least a year from start, before we can make the first profits to start paying off the investments. We offer investors a total of 60% ownership in the company, having unanimous decision right, as per UK company law. Our company presentation, with financial and contact information is to be found in the brochure above, as well as a preliminary shareholder's agreement.

Btw, if you would be interested to invest, but rather together with others to divide the risk taking, you can have your name and contact info here below, so others with the same intention can contact you and each other on the matter.

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