Rasta blocks?

Does anyone know if these are available in Nica? I've just heard about them and am curious about their availability, earthquake resistance, cost, etc. Also, what about adobe bricks for building a house?

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Probably not worth it here

I have never heard of them being available here but I believe we discussed the idea of making them in a thread maybe a year ago. Here, meaning in a year-round warm climate, the insulation value is not that important. You generally need to moderate heat and that is easily done with thermal mass.

As for earthquake resistance, it seems that mostly comes from the concrete fill. I haven't read the details but there may be suggestions for fill (including rebar changes) to address this.

There are some old adobe buildings in Nicaragua and even some new construction with adobe along the Pan American highway north of Estelí. The biggest issue with adobe is keeping the rain off it. Assuming you are where there is not a lot or rain or you build to protect it, it is a great building material because of the thermal mass with very low energy input.

Some other things worth considering are earth bags (basically sacks filled with dirt) and straw bale. Both can be designed to not have problems in earthquake zones. And, of course, there is earth-filled tires.

not straw bale

I went back and read the thread about LiteBlocks made in Houston - is that what you meant? It looked like still only two places they are sold, both in the States.

I was told some time ago that straw bale isn't such a good idea because if there is seismic activity, and a crack forms, it would allow infiltration of dampness/humidity, and thereby start a process of decay in the straw bale. I'd had my heart set on this, but abandoned it when I heard this. I do plan on building with a wide overhang to the porch, but with adobe, is there a covering that can be applied to protect it from rain in any event?

I'll be checking out the Earthship when I get down there later this month - I'm not real keen on tires, but it sure would be a good use for them.

That was it


You pretty much have the same decay issue with wood as well. Or, probably more important, termites. Rammed earth or earth bags avoids this issue. Also, an elastomeric paint over however you protect the straw bales will deal with a lot of cracking.

If you can still find it, the book The Art of Natural Building may offer additional ideas.


I don't have that book, but do have Hand Sculpted House, and Building with Cob - as well as numerous ones on straw bale construction. I did plan on using minimal wood, as those termites and ants are such pests. Plus I want to live in my house, not have it collapse at my feet....

The advice against straw bale came from Pelican Eyes, by the way. I'd suspect some of their problems were due to lack of overhang on most sides of their buildings. I think I've seen overhangs only one one or two sides at most, so that when cracks appear, they might be far more exposed to rain and humidity. I am being plagued by cracks in my house here in NH, and am finding it's something that makes me a little crazy. We have earthquakes here, though very rare, but these cracks aren't from that. Everyone tells me houses move, and I know for a fact the earth is moving around out there, but not in the cold of dead winter, which is when these cracks have appeared.

Compressed Earth Blocks (CEB's)


The Newton/San Juan del Sur (Nicaragua) Sister City Project has received an extraordinary tool from the machine shop at Grace Davison in Cambridge: a Compressed Earth Block Press, which will allow people in Nicaragua to manufacture sturdy building blocks using mostly the soil beneath their feet.

Sister City Vice President David Gullette explains that Compressed Earth Blocks (CEBs) are becoming increasing popular as an alternative building material, and not only in the developing world. “Soil with a certain clay content, sometime mixed with a little sand or crushed limestone, and a little water, can produce large blocks that can be stacked in place without needing cement-based mortar. The mix is first put in the press, then a lever compresses it from below, then the press ejects the block and the process is repeated. Fortunately, the soil in our part of southern Nicaragua has a high clay content and baked crushed limestone is easily available. We look forward to beginning work in January on a preschool made entirely of CEBs.”

One reason CEBs make sense is that by using only a minimum of cement, and almost no rebar, one avoids a pair of major carbon footprints. It’s estimated that 6-8% of all greenhouse gasses are produced by manufacturing Portland cement, and making iron rebar is also extremely energy intensive.

The Newton/San Juan Sister City Project (www.newtonsanjuan.org) has built 18 schools in Nicaragua over the past 22 years. Says Gullette, “We’ve used tons of cement and rebar, and thousands of home-made bricks, which are fired by cutting down tropical hardwood trees to be burned. It will be a great relief—and a lot cheaper and greener—to switch over to locally-produced building blocks turned out by folks in their home communities. We’re deeply grateful to Grace for this donation.”

The Compressed Earth Block Press (see photo below) was produced in the Machine Shop of Grace Davison in Cambridge under the supervision of Mike Wilson, Manager of Machinery Operations, and his team. It can be easily transported to rural sites, and wheeled about to the ideal position.

Grace Construction Products and Grace Davison are pioneers in developing innovative construction and chemical materials. They also help biorefineries manufacture alternatives to gasoline and diesel that promote clean energy sources.

Linking the Sister City Project with Grace so the CEB Press could be built was facilitated by Jim Lee and Jerry Hopcroft of the Wentworth Institute of Technology. It is hoped that students at Wentworth will become expert in its use and be able to travel to Nicaragua to see the CEB Press in action.

For more information contact David Gullette, 617-965-2164, david.gullette@simmons.edu.

Source (and Photo) : http://delsurnewsonline.com/2268/compressed-earth-blocks-san-juan-del-su...

Adobe replication

The use of soil, like main compost to produce brick (not burned) to build house without use of cement, has been used in our country for centuries. Is what we call adobe.

The adobe here has been made from mud and straw . In Nicaragua still a lot o building made from adobe.

Till some years ago,must of the houses in the north of the country (Yalaguina,Palacaguina,Totogalpa,Ocotal,Condega,etc) were build with adobe.

Here in Nicaragua are few project to maintain and revive the use of adobe.

Here is an article in the national press about adobe in our country.


I have a question; this system has been tested or will be doing here?

I made this question because one of the principles of the adobe is its thickness, is a fat brick to build ticker wall to support the structural load. I think this is because the absence of rigid structural frames like columns or the same use of cement .