Advancing the Structural Use of Earth-based Bricks: Addressing Key Challenges in the East African Context
The research discussed in this paper is a subset of a bigger, NSF funded research project that is directed at investigating the use of sustainable building materials. The deployment context for the research is the hot and humid climate using selected cases from the East African region. The overarching goal for the research is advancing the structural use of earth-based technologies. Significant strides can be made through developing strategies for countering the adverse factors that affect the structural performance of the resulting wall, especially ones related to moisture dynamics. The research was executed in two phases. The first phase was a two-day NSF supported workshop which was held in Tanzania in July 2009. It provided a forum for sharing best practices in earth-based building technologies and developing a research and development roadmap. The priority research areas were broadly classified as optimizing the physio-mechanical properties of earth as a building material and managing socio-cultural impediments. In the second phase of the research, the authors collaborated with researchers from East Africa to conduct experimental work on the optimization of physio-mechanical properties. The specific research issues that have been addressed are: (1) characterizing the chemical reactions that can be linked to deterioration triggered by hygrothermal loads based on the hot and humid context, and; (2) developing a prototype for a simpler, portable, affordable and viable compressed brick production machine. The paper discusses the results from the characterization work that ultimately will be used to design bricks that have specific properties based on an understanding of how different stabilizers affect the hydration process. It also describes a cheaper, portable and more efficient prototype machine that has been developed as part of the follow-up research activities.
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