Characterization of dry-stack interlocking compressed earth blocks


Moreira, Thomas Wilfried Sturm; Ramos, Luís F.; Lourenço, Paulo B.

Compressed earth blocks; Dry-stack; Masonry; Interlocking; Testing

Earth has been a traditional building material to construct houses in Africa. One of the most common techniques is the use of sun dried or kiln fired adobe bricks with mud mortar. Fired bricks are the main cause for deforestation in countries like Malawi. Although this technique is low-cost, the bricks vary largely in shape, strength and durability. This leads to weak houses which suffer considerable damage during floods and seismic events. One solution is the use of dry-stack masonry with stabilized interlocking compressed earth blocks (ICEB). This technology has the potential of substituting the current bricks by a more sustainable kind of block. This study was made in the context of the HiLoTec project, which focuses on houses in rural areas of developing countries. For this study, Malawi was chosen for a case study. This paper presents the experimental results of tests made with dry-stack ICEBs. Soil samples from Malawi were taken and studied. Since the experimental campaign could not be carried out in Malawi, a homogenization process of Portuguese soil was made to produce ICEBs at the University of Minho, Portugal. Then, the compression and tensile strength of the materials was determined via small cylinder samples. Subsequently, the compression and flexural strength of units were determined. Finally, tests to determine the compressive strength of both prisms and masonry wallets and to determine the initial shear strength of the dry interfaces were carried out. This work provides valuable data for low-cost eco-efficient housing