Construction Time

We have finally started construction after spending most of the year developing equipment. We finished the CEB press on Tuesday. The open source Tractor, CEB press, Power Cube, and Soil Pulverizer are now in action. The main obstacle of soil handling has been declared solved.

CEB Construction Time from Marcin Jakubowski on Vimeo.

We began building the columns for the modular construction system as described in a previous post.

We have until November 14 before we cut off our building experiments due to weather. We have an open invitation to anyone who wants to help. We will be out there until Nov. 14. By then, we aim to complete 2-4 modular sections, 16×16 feet each. We have the concrete pads already prepared. Whatever we don’t finish we will take up in spring starting April 1, 2011 – towards a complete workshop as in the former post.

We still need materials for the remailing 3 truss sections and 4 roof sections. We reported that the trusses total $250 per section ($750 total). Sheet metal roofing is $300 per section, for about 400 square feet including 3 foot overhangs ($1200 total). This covers over 1000 square feet of floor space, and the entire workshop will be three times this size – to allow comfortable production of 4 CEB presses or tractors at one time. The workshop is intended to help fund the revolution, under the assumption that we get our ducks in a row with marketing.

The interesting part is that we aim to demonstrate that it takes only 3 full days per 16×16 foot section with only 2 people working, including roof and columns, but no infill walls. We aim to get to this point as a result of the next 9 days of practice. We’re shaking down all the parts of the method, and so far the soil pulverizing workflow is solved. Our optimization includes installing the automatic controls for the CEB press by Sunday. Chip in:


  1. Daniel J. Morlan

    I HEARTILY applaud your work. You people stand to make a REAL difference in how our future unfolds just by doing what you’re doing. I hope enough critical mass, and momentum develops where financial aid doesn’t become necessary, but that is “miles” into the future. Please, keep up the good work. I am proud to be a true fan!

  2. Bill Falvey

    This is a good decision to make the profit making structure first, which sells open source CEB brickmakers, which will in turn liberate others in their own quest to make an affordable and strong building. Its like you guys are getting a hand to be pulled out of a giant hole, but you also stoop down and help others out at the same time.

    I like the idea that the earth can be turned into a house, grass, rocks, and all… That’s brilliant! One day I am going to purchase one of those CEB makers…

    I think you could also look into making/selling the Powercubes.

    I really think that this whole project’s idea and scope can easily be turned into a videogame sold as a “Garrysmod add-on” . That may be the most fun possibility for making your dream into a game that can play across the screens of the idle. Do a little research on Garrysmod and you will see how your project and that game are almost identical.

    1. Marcin

      Bill, you forgot aluminum and silicon as one of the products that earth can be turned into.

      Our next product release will be LifeTrac and Power Cubes. Remember that our goal is to become a veritable open source product development pipeline. Unless the product are viable economically, they would remain as non-replicable hippie toys.

      On the video game, we discussed that initially in this post with respect to a reality game. If you can help us pull together a team to make a videogame, we now believe that such an approach could be worthwhile.

  3. LucasG

    Exciting work, folks!

    I’m attempting to quickly transcribe, subtitle, translate into Spanish and dub this video.

    I’m calling this experience “prototype 2”, after doing

    I’m using to document and streamline the process.

  4. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by lucasgonzalez, lucasgonzalez. lucasgonzalez said: finally, construction time at @OSEcology […]

  5. Adam Mitchell

    @LucasG, that’s so important what you’re doing. It is an element that is missing too often in our Anglocentric discussions……thank you.

    @Bill Falvey – get in touch with Adam Shilling – we can even make a team for you guys to collaborate on that project at our upcoming open ecology website.

    It has been an exciting couple of days here at Factor e Farm! Two of my friends from northeast Missouri came by to help us with the building: Christian and Amanda. They have done lots of natural building before – Christian has built a community in Thailand made entirely of earthen buildings (see: ), but they were both blown away by the ease and simplicity of combining the LifeTrac II, soil pulverizer and CEB Press. Once we got it going, barring a few setbacks, we were rolling compressed earth bricks out faster than we could stack them! Here are some pictures I posted from the couple days:

    Thank you everyone for your support! These are indeed exciting times and together we are building a brighter future!

  6. LucasG

    @Adam so you’re one of the ones physically there! And there are quite a few of you!

    I didn’t want to ask you guys to take time to tell us about the experience, but
    a) your mini report: “they were both blown away by the ease and simplicity of combining the LifeTrac II, soil pulverizer and CEB Press. Once we got it going, barring a few setbacks, we were rolling compressed earth bricks out faster than we could stack them!”
    b) plus the picasa pictures
    well, it’s as close as it gets to smelling the bricks. 😀

    My first attempt at a subtitled video, both using the youtube’d vimeo file, is here in two locations:
    I should place the .srt file in the wikipage (later), but others can add more languages using universalsubtitles and, please, let us know how it goes.

  7. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by lucasgonzalez, Open Source Ecology. Open Source Ecology said: Blog Comment on Construction Time by LucasG […]


    I am SOOO jealous of you all. The still photos are a great addition to the video. I’d love to be there working with you on this—and I am going to miss the frequent progress reports when you vacate for the winter. PS: I am curious about your use of topsoil for making the ceb’s. I have a pile of topsoil and a separate pile of subsoil on my lot–waiting for me to make a tractor and a press. I have been planning to use only the subsoil for ceb’s; the reading I’ve done says that although straw strengthens the puddled-type adobe bricks, organic matter weakens ceb’s. Also, I want to save the more fertile topsoil for gardening, raised beds, etc.

  9. Miquel

    Another one that would love to be there helping.

    It’s just a bit costly in both money and time to fly there from Europe 🙁

    @Ken: That worries me as well. The problem is, if you don’t have “a pile of subsoil” to use, it may not be so easy to make bricks out of something other than topsoil. Plus there are lots of regions on the planet which are very rocky.

    @all on site: have fun building, and good luck with the weather!

  10. Jeb Bateman

    Wow, great news indeed! Thanks for the pictures Adam. I tried to check your friend’s site but couldn’t get through.

    So you’re using a clay based soil slurry to glue the CEBs in the columns? That should be extremely strong. I’m still a little concerned about earthquake loads, and wonder if the slurry would work with some fine fiber (or straw) to add tensile strength. The size of the columns look solid for most areas though, and in high earthquake zones maybe that could be simply addressed by wrapping the columns in a tensile material before weather-proofing. The modular plans are excellent for minimized material and labor.

    Ken, you’re right to use sub-soil for the most part, although every site is different. At FeF they have quite a bit of experience with what soils around there can make strong bricks by now. Overall, they have a relatively high clay content, and digging areas with subsoil exposed (and happily growing new grass), I believe.

  11. Adam Mitchell

    The link to the Panya Project should be good now =)

    BTW – the slurry is mostly sub soil (high clay content) mixed with 20% sand to avoid cracking.

  12. Scott Gallant

    Marcin and Adam,

    Awesome work guys! I wish I could have stuck around longer to help! Maybe next summer! Great video too!


    I hope you finished your project by the deadline with no injuries.

  14. Global Village Construction Set - Hack a Day

    […] and feed it to their soil brick compressor. That machine spits out compressed dirt bricks which are used as building materials. They’re stacked on concrete footings and then limewashed to protect the un-baked bricks from […]

  15. neodynos

    Hey, great work! I’m glad building works out that well for you.

    As far as I can see, you still need money resp. material for the roof … maybe you could look into some alternative materials for roofing to get away more cheaply. Perhaps (and I’m not serious here, but just as an inspiration) using aluminium cans.

  16. Rasmus

    I somehow missed the ChipIn for the roofing materials. One extension of our CEB technology that should definitely be considered is to also make tiles, not just bricks. This opens up incredible possibilities, a la Guastavino tile architecture. Background on this here:

    1. Marcin

      The notechmagazine link points to the fact that “The popularity of the timbrel vault was not restricted to its aesthetic appeal. It was simply a very fast and economical method…” This is encouraging, and we will definitely take up this subject in the future. The conclusion appears clear that we should consider timbrel vaulting not only as an eco-elite treat, but a practical building option. Thanks for the heads up. There are also good links there to recent work at MIT, and other subject matter experts who we can tap with respect to vaults. We should consider a serious proposal for this. This should probably be after we build our workshop, upon which we’re relying for bootstrap earnings, so it is probably a good idea not to add the extra risk of vault roofing into the equation until we gain more experience.

  17. Rasmus

    FYI – recent article showing that bricks can be reinforced with… wool !

  18. Miquel

    Catalan vault for the world! 😉

    Actually, the largest Gothic civil building in the world is the Silk Exchange in Valencia:

    where I come from 😉
    And we brought them to the USA too:
    “Most masterpieces of catalan vaulting, however, are in the United States. The method was previously unknown in the Americas, until a family by the name of Guastavinos imported it. Rafael Guastavino, born in Valencia in 1842, improved the centuries-old technique and renamed it “cohesive construction”. He substituted bricks with thin tiles and the traditional mortar with rapidly hardening Portland cement, which enabled him to build vaults 3 to 5 times wider than the typical size of traditional timbrel arching.”

    It sounds very interesting indeed.

    @Marcin: As to “gaining more experience”, a first simple project could be to replicate what the MIT students you mention did:

    Really cool.

    1. Marcin

      @Miquel – the first replication of the MIT project would be a great first step. Can we find the contacts for technical assistance?

  19. Rasmus

    @Marcin – if you choose to build a tile-making liberator, I will CHIP IN !
    The link to the Ochsendorf video is very good, but one should skip the first 10 minutes.

    Ochsendorf has a book that just came out 6 weeks ago:
    “Guastavino Vaulting: The Art of Structural Tile” – this

    One example (the only one in the world ?) that used pressed tiles for this technique is the Mapungubwe National Park Interpretive Centre in South Africa, which won the Holcim Awards in 2008. Lots of pictures here: