CEB Vault Construction Workshop

Here is our formal initial announcement of the 10-day Compressed Earth Block (CEB) Vault Construction Workshop. It will be held at Factor e Farm, in the Kansas City area, Missouri, USA, at the end of September, 2009.

Examples: Modern, earth-sheltered vault homes made of compressed earth have been built in Germany and other countries, but we know of no precedent in America. This is an example from Germany:


Here is another vault home as seen from the inside:


Workshop Description: This is North America’s first workshop on the construction of vaults from CEBs. This is a hands-on, immersion workshop in which participants will work on the construction of a vaulted house with a living roof and solar design. In this workshop, you will get hands-on experience in the entire process of building a CEB vault with a structural, arched roof made of the same material. We will be building a triple-vault structure similar to the one shown in a previous post. We are calling it Inga’s House. We will use wooden forms as guides for the vault to make this accessible to entry-level builders. There is a limit of 25 participants for each session of this workshop, so reserve your space early by filling out the 2009 pplication. Preference will be given to those with experience in building.

When: The tentative schedule is set for September 22 – October 1. This date may shift in either direction by a few days, and this date will be finalized by August 15. Payment is due by August 22, so that appropriate supplies can be secured. This is a 10 day workshop, but people can sign up for either the whole workshop or one of its 5-day sessions.

Why: This workshop is noteworthy in that it is a rare opportunity to learn about the detailed procedure for completing a living structure with the walls and roof made entirely from local, compressed soil. We know of no similar workshop where a participant actually goes through the process of completing an entire vault structure. While vault construction is a proven, ancient technique, we are exploring its potential for modern living solutions. Moreover, we are using open source equipment that we have designed, built, and are now testing as part of the workshop throughout the entire process. This equipment base includes the high-performance, hydraulically-driven CEB machine, a tractor-loader, walk-behind tractor, soil pulverizer, slurry mixer, and backhoe. We are engaging this entire process from the open source approach in order to make such construction replicable by many others.

Where/Accommodations: The location is Factor e Farm in the Kansas City, Missouri, USA, area. Accommodation options include camping on site, bed-and-breakfast with local farmers, or several hotels in Cameron (15 miles away).

Who: Dipl.-Ing. Dittmar Hecken is our main instructor. He studied under Prof. Dr. Gernot Minke, from the University of Kassel in Germany – where Dr. Minke leads the Research Laboratory for Experimental Building. He has long concerned himself with developments in earth building, and he has dealt with clay as a building material – in theory and practice since 1977. Prof. Minke is the world’s foremost authority on earth construction methods, and we recommend his numerous books for examples of his work. Dittmar is an instructor at Prof. Minke’s courses on earth construction, and he has built a number of vault structures, among others.

Goals: Our goals are to complete at least one vault during the 10 day workshop, which will be a part of a triple-vault living structure for use by participants of the Factor e Farm experiment. Construction includes wall finish, water-sealing, and topping it off with a living roof. The first half will focus on laying bricks in place to create the vault, while the second half will focus on finishing of the vault with water protection and a living roof. Both halves will offer the opportunity for participants to go through the entire cycle of laying bricks – roofing – and finishing the structure. The exact nature of each half of the workshop will be determined by the number of participants signing up for the workshop. If a vault is completed, we will be moving right on to the next.

Cost: The cost of the workshop is $400 for a 5 day session and $600 for the 10 day session. This includes a dinner each day and drinking water, but participants are expected to provide their own lunch and breakfast. We have ample space for camping, which is free if you bring your own gear. There will be options for bed-and-breakfast with local farmers at about $25-50 per night, or you can get a hotel room in nearby Cameron, 15 miles away. People who cannot afford the workshop fee are welcome to negotiate or do some other exchange for a discount.

Workshop Details: We are working with compressed, unbaked bricks, referred to as soil blocks. This is distinct from mud bricks or adobes, which refer to handmade, uncompressed, unbaked bricks. This is also different from rammed earth, which is soil compacted within a formwork. For the workshop, we will have the site and foundation prepared prior to the workshop, and we will have pressed bricks available. There will be laying, mortaring, plastering, waterproofing, and covering steps, as well as some carpentry for doors and windows. Allowance will be made for central hydronic heating with an outdoor stove. Participants can also see the CEB press, tractor, and supporting equipment in operation. There will be a one hour introduction by Dittmar, and participants will receive a copy of workshop documentation after the end of the workshop. Each day, the work day will go from 8 until 5, with a break for lunch and time for longer discussions after the work day and over dinner. Participants are encouraged to work at their own pace to keep the operation safe and enjoyable. Attendees are also required to sign a liability release waiver. There are no dogs allowed on the farm, as we have free range fowl. Vistitors are expected to follow Factor e Farm’s basic rules of conduct. A shower is available for those interested in camping. We presently use composting toilets.

Bring work clothes and gloves and be ready to get dirty and to meet interesting people. We will undoubtedly have stimulating discussions, and we are also looking for qualified people to join our ongoing experiment on-site. This workshop will be one of our experiments towards building modern, ecolocially-integrated, resilient communities.


  1. Franz

    I will post it on the arcology yahoogroup, but there are more efficient lists around Arcosanti, too.

  2. Noaidi

    Thrilling event ! 🙂

    Will the video documentation/tutorials for the rest of the world be provided after the meeting ?

    CHeers from Europe, Poland
    Pawel Sroczynski

  3. Inga

    Yes, I will do us much video documentation as possible. Dittmar is an excellent teacher/trainer and I will concentrate a lot on his explanations. This is going to be an awesome workshop! Wish you could join us.

  4. […] at the Factor e Farm email list, workshops (such as the forthcoming CEB vault workshop in the last post), open source agroecology projects, and now – dedicated project visits as the core of scaling our […]

  5. […] promised an article in the Financial Times upon successful product release of the CEB press. The vault construction workshop at the end of September will be a good example of the practical results. We also predict visible […]

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    Helpful information.