Workshop Addition

We have just built a 750 square foot workshop addition:

Workshop Addition from Open Source Ecology on Vimeo.

Rosa from Los Angeles is an early adopter who invested in our Tractor-Soil Pulverizer-Compressed Eearth Brick (CEB) Press package – to start a construction business. We will be producing one of the equipment packages for her in our workshop addition.

The workshop addition will allow us to build 4 pieces of equipment at a time comfortably, to fill our orders of 4 complete CEB Construction Packages. Yes, we have a total of 4 orders in our April-May production run – for the complete set of CEB construction equipment.

Nate Styles is one of Rosa’s construction partners – a stakeholder who came to Factor e Farm to help with the addition so that we make sure that we can finish our production run in time. I met Rosa and Nate in Long Beach during the TED Conference, and I’m glad that we can collaborate. They are brave in their endeavor, so it makes us both serious boundary-crossers. In this case – the building project in California will have to deal with earthquake codes.

The build time that we have allotted for the 4 tractors, 4 CEB presses, 2 Soil Pulverizers, and 8 Power Cubes is 2 months starting in April. Here is some explanation from Nate, who helped for the 7 day build:

Nate at Factor e Farm from Open Source Ecology on Vimeo.

And, here is the finished product.

This is the first project that we actually completed ahead of schedule – 7 days instead of the 10 allotted. The addition consists of 3 sections, each being 256 square feet (16’x16′). The total materials cost per section is $500. So for about 2 days of work and $500 – we now know that we can add on workshop space on-demand, if needed. We tied the workshop down with metal wire and earth anchors – to address the fact that we’re in tornado country.

Ergonomically speaking – it is possible to do this structure easily with 2 people. It is even possible to do it with one person – because the partially complete roof is light enough for one moderately strong person to lift. With one person – one can simply walk the roof up the 4 corner posts, about a foot at a time, by lifting the roof, then attaching at each corner, and then lifting and attaching successive corners, around around and around – to essentially walk the roof up the 4 corner posts (as shown in video). The trick is to start with the roof on the ground in the place it will go up – and then cementing in the posts on the inside corners of the roof section – so that one does not have to lift the roof over the posts, but so that the roof can simply walked up the posts.

A brief summary of the procedure is as follows (you can follow the video). 2×8 lumber, 16 feet long, is used with joist hangers.

  1. Put together the roof frame – starting with a box from the 2x8s.
  2. Install 2 joists in the square roof section from the last step, hanging them with joist hangers.
  3. Install joist hangers for 3 additional joists – but do not attach the joists yet to keep the structure light but stable.
  4. Dig hole for post, mix cement, and set post in cement – on the inside corners of the roof section. To set post in cement, we drove nails into the wood to hold the cement better. We used about one 80 lb bag of Readymix per post. The posts are 4×4 treated lumber.
  5. Walk the roof section up the posts as discussed above. Use a drill and screws to attach the roof section as it goes up.
  6. Once roof section is on top – attach with a 1/2″ bolt going through the post and roof frame. We used 2 bolts per post.
  7. Attach remaining roof joists (3) to the roof section.
  8. Attach roofing. Cap the ridge if there’s a ridge, and add a gutter to address drainage issues if needed.
  9. Tie down the structure with earth anchors and 1/4″ wire if you are in a high wind area.

We produced an open air structure, which is great for ventilation in welding. We can retrofit walls later.

You may be asking, why have we not completed the modular CEB workshop that we started last year? We will finish that after our production run – starting in June. We plan on doing a CEB construction workshop to build out the rest of the modular CEB workshop – a total of 3000 square feet. We will also do prototype CEB/straw housing units with the assistance from our new Polish friends. I am looking forward to this – as our equipment base has now been shaken down almost completely, so we can really do some effective construction. It appears that this year will produce significant built infrastructure additions that will increase the population of Factor e Farm significantly from the existing 2 person average.

Thanks to Nate and Rosa for supporting us, and we look forward to CEB Construction going on in California, Missouri, Poland, and other places.

Join the adventures by supporting this work,  buying our equipment to bootstrap our efforts, participating in our CEB construction workshop after May, or replicating production of our machines. Open source is the next trillion dollar industry.


  1. Mike

    How would one who is interested in CEB construction go about assessing the soil where they live for suitability?

  2. Bruce Berryhill

    Half fill a quart jar with soil. Add water and shake it up. Let sit for a day. The clay sized particles will settle out last. Measure the top layer, that’s your clay.

  3. Brad

    Can the design operate in very high clay soils?

    Obviously, using your topsoil to create building materials wouldn’t be worthwhile – has anyone tried it in caliche?