Problem — Our world is changing rapidly and we will either adapt or suffer. To paraphrase on old saying — “If you keep doing the same thing you’ll continue to get the same result.” This pretty well sums up the housing industry. Hurricane Katrina and Super Storm Sandy proved current housing methods fail to adequately protect families. Our current stock of housing also fails to hold its value during bad economic times, and contributes to global climate change. WE simply must find a better way to construct housing and infrastructure. One that maximizes our return on energy use while reducing CO2 production. WE have a solution and it’s called the EarthCo Megablock process.
The EarthCo Megablock Process is a new transformational construction delivery system that provides architects and builders with a simple construction process by which sustainable, superior performing earthen walls (18″ thick and up) can be built at twice the speed and 1/2 the cost of conventional construction methods. Our simple build process maximizes efficiency of time, energy, labor, and resources throughout the whole building cycle from acquisition of raw materials to deconstruction and recycling. EarthCo’s innovative process features an extremely efficient and patented on-site manufacturing process that converts local earthen materials into Giant Compressed Earth Block (GCEB) — EarthCo MegablockTM, which are placed utilizing a synchronized mechanical placement cycle that minimizes manual labor. We believe EarthCo’s integrated manufacturing/construction process results in the Lowest Embodied Energy Costs and Best Life Cycle Assessment Costs of any manufactured product or construction method. This process produces healthy, affordable, high thermal mass earthen wall systems that offer superior protection from tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, electromagnetic waves, noise, insect or rodent infestation, and gunfire.
Our goal is to produce the most cost effective, energy efficient and environmentally friendly building system available. To accomplish this goal I believe we must take advantage of lessons learned in the past. Many ancient civilizations used earthen wall construction to house the majority of their peoples. The use of local earthen materials produced environmentally sustainable structures that allowed them to flourish in localized areas for thousands of years without damaging the local environment. We should be taking advantage of the same qualities of earth that they employed namely insulative, high thermal mass walls that heat and cool structures naturally. This could reduce our use of fossil fuels to heat and cool our homes by up to 90%. And by adding small renewable energy sources we can achieve energy positive carbon negative housing. However, earth is heavy and up till now, very labor intensive to build with. That is why I have collaborated with Texas Tech University for the past 5 years to develop the machinery and placement process that has become known as the EarthCo Megablock Process.
The EarthCo Megablock process is capable of producing massive earthen wall systems 18” to 36” thick while reducing labor by up to 90%. Our simple construction process also eliminates hundreds of manual steps required by conventional wood frame, steel and concrete construction methods.
We seek to maximize efficiency throughout the build cycle from acquisition of raw materials all the way through to deconstruction and recycling. Earthen materials are estimated to be a trillion times more abundant than all the forest resources on this planet so they provide an almost infinite source of easily recyclable building material, and if located on-site it’s free. Use of on-site materials also eliminates most if not all shipping costs. Combining the use of local earthen materials with our extremely efficient method of manufacturing, it takes only a few seconds to compress raw earthen into a Giant Compressed Earth Block (GCEB) results in the fastest manufacturing method for a building product on the planet. And GCEB can be produced to any desired length (on demand) to fit specific architectural features such as the placement of windows and doors. GCEB are immediately removed and placed into a structural system (handled only once) by use of a specialized lifting device and common construction equipment. The placement cycle is synchronized with the production cycle so that we build with Megablocks at the same rate as their manufacture. So if we have a machine capable of manufacturing 40 tons per hour we also have a build cycle capable of placing 40 tons of Megablock into a wall system. This maximize the efficiency of the whole process and results in the lowest embodied energy costs and the Best Life cycle assessment costs of any manufactured building product or construction process known to man. Our method of manufacture can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S3UoDgRnDqs. And our simple mechanical placement cycle can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1xn9zyhf1o.
This EarthCo Megablock structure (each wall section is composed of 11 — 10 foot long Megablocks simple stacked up like giant “Lincoln logs” to produce a massive 18” thick wall. This structure was the first project to use the EarthCo Megablock process and serves as an Educational Environmental center for the Girl Scouts at Camp Rio Blanco outside Crosbyton, Texas. This is a zero energy carbon neutral structure, the first for the Girl Scouts worldwide, and was the dream of Sarah Joe Lambert of Lubbock, Texas, and her Gold Award project.
Megablocks are extremely strong with compressive strengths far above code requirements. The UBC code requires 300 psi of compressive strength while unstabilized Megablocks typically exit the machine at over 1000 psi and cure to 1250 to 2400 psi (soil dependent). When compared to concrete, earth is often looked upon as a weaker material but when subjected to flying debris such as might be produced in an EF5 tornado or large caliber rifle fire, massive earthen walls are superior to concrete in their ability to absorb tremendous amounts of energy with minimal damage. Please view our tests at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TQ7gN-Srlo&feature=related and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x6SZzZOMfV8.
But the most important factor to builders and homeowners alike is cost. And that is where the EarthCo Megablock process has no equal. The following is a cost estimate for an EarthCo Megablock system designed to produce and place 20 — 18” wide by 2’’ tall by 10’ long Megablock per hour which means averaging — producing and placing a 10’ long Megablock every 3 minutes. This commercial unit will feature two production chambers cycling at 10 seconds per compressed lift = 4” per cycle = 24” extruded per minute— so in 5 minutes 10’ of Megablock can be produced. An additional minute is allotted to cut the Megablock to desired length for placement within the wall system. Timing is such that as chamber #1 is finishing a 10’ long’ Megablock — chamber #2 is 1/2 way through (has extruded 5’ of Megablock onto support structure. So our placement machinery has 3 minutes to set Megablock #1 and get back to the production machine to pick up the next 10’’ long Megablock from chamber #2 and so on and so on.
This estimate is based upon costs in the USA.
- $ 6500/day rental — Megablock production machine, lifting device and soil conditioner
- $ 600/ day sky-track or truck crane
- $ 500/day loader tractor
- $ 1700/ day crew of 5 (4 @ $30/hr + 1@ $50)
- $ 1200/ day diesel fuel (300 gal @ $4)
- $ 500/ day misc.
- $ 500/ day insurance and overhead.
Please note the rates for the sky-track or truck crane, loader tractor, rental rates are exaggerated to represent a highest cost scenario.
Working for one (10 hour) day — this system is capable of producing an 18” thick wall that is 8 foot tall by 500 feet long comprising 4,000 sqft. of wall surface area at an installation cost of roughly $11,500 or $2.88/ sqft. The average price for 2″ by 4″ uninsulated timber frame housing in 2005 was $14.78 per sqft. Use of this system in large housing developments would produce significant profits for the developer and superior performing, energy efficient housing for home-buyers.
Thanks for taking time to review this new construction methodology. More info is available at www.earthcomegablock.com. Please feel free to contact me if you have a question or a project where the EarthCo Megablock process would be of benefit. Larry Williamson, inventor and CEO of EarthCo Building Systems.