William took a course on brick laying last week back in the UK, in preparation for the CEB construction adventures of Solar Village 2010 this year at Factor e Farm. Here is some documentation from his course:

In William’s words –

In preparation for building structures on the open source ecology farm, I thought it best to brush up my bricklaying skills with a week’s Introduction to Bricklaying course here in the UK. These sort of courses seem to be on offer in most cities and in my opinion give you more than enough experience to start building bungalows and small structures. This is because once the basics are mastered (which you can master in a few hours to be honest), it’s just like playing/building with what may best be described as giant Lego! In the video the structures built incorporate all the skills needed to build basic accommodations; walls, cavity walls, corners, inverted corners, spaces for windows or doors, lintels, pillars, chimneys and block work.

Our building concept for this year is evolving to double CEB brick walls, each 1 foot thick – with a 2.5 foot cavity. We have a hammer mill, and plan on chopping up large round hay bales to fill this cavity around the entire house. For the roof, we plan on a 1 foot deep cavity – the depth of the roof trusses – filled with the same chopped straw for insulation. If the bricks and hay are essentially free, we are talking of low-cost housing, and a super-insulated structure at that. The insulated cavity and its thermal performance is documented in a white paper on Chinese greenhouses. We are also considering a thermal insulation blanket as shown here.

Here’s the house plan from the top:

This .dxf drawing file is at the Open+Pario project management site, so you are free to download it and join the design process. Before we start building, we’d like to have working architectural detail drawings and visual models. If you can help, let us know. For more information, see the wiki page on the house design, and the wiki page on the masonry stove – which we will revisit this building season.


  1. Jeb

    Excellent work on the brick laying demo. The plans are coming along nicely. Here are a few thoughts I’ve had… Masonry and CEBs are great material, but unreinforced can generally be expected to collapse in significant earthquakes, like Haiti, no?

    I’d consider using straw bales, and facing them on the outside only with CEBs for a quick uniform finish and primary roof support. Then use standard thin earth-plaster slurry finish on the inside bale walls (less likely to harm occupants in earthquake). Of course, that’s only if straw bales are reasonably available there, which I haven’t seen as the round bales seem to dominate in that part of the country. Otherwise, maybe consider joined or extended hexayurt style plans, again using lightweight materials on the inside, then straw infill cavity to CEB walls on the outside. Roundish plans maximize floor space to wall length ratios, as you’ve already taken advantage of in the cordwood and earthbag structures.

    Only other thing I’d consider is moving the toilet/shower areas out to the corners of the greenhouse in front instead of taking up valuable kitchen/living space in the current drawings. Adding a small rocket stove to outside walls of those for quick heat in the winter might work well too.

  2. stu

    the problem with that design as i would see it, is that the thermal mass that u need to store the days heat in would be on the outside(in the blocks) which are insulated from the inside of the house, and no heat can radiate in thru the night…

    reverse the idea, and its good….outside bales for insulation, and inside blocks for thermal mass….

  3. Marcin

    Is not the whole point of the CEB-strawbale hybrid to avoid having to stucco or otherwise finish off strawbales? Is not stuccoing strawbales a labor of love that takes about 5-10x more time than laying a brick wall, if you have brick rollers delivering right to the wall and then you just stack bricks? Is not the whole point of using CEB that of replacing otherwise time-consuming (therefore expensive when time-cost is considered) methods?

  4. […] on CEB construction, where Take One was a great learning experience. Now we’ve got Will with experience in brick laying, we’ve got mature technology on the CEB press, and Prototype II is forthcoming on both the […]