Who Needs a Gym Membership?!

Each of one of the compressed earth blocks used in this project weighs about 26 pounds. At approximately 48 blocks per linear foot on an 8 foot high wall section that calculates out to 1,248 pounds per linear foot. The rear wall of the building will be 8 feet high, the front 11 feet high in sections with the side walls sloping to meet the front. I don't know what a similarly sized building of conventional stick frame construction would weigh, but I doubt anything close to the 60,000 pounds or so of weight this build will!

Something that weighs so much deserves a name I think....perhaps "la casita ocho" would be appropriate given it's location behind old fire station 8. Or maybe even "la gordita!"

It's no wonder then that our intrepid crew is tired and sore at the end of a long day of block wall construction. I've joked with them that they need to star in that gym commercial where the guy simply says, "I pick things up, I put them down!" 

You can see the crew below hard at work putting the walls up in earnest......

...with great progress toward our first goal of an eight foot wall section.


Through trial and error the guys put together an optimal system of material handling, block making, equipment positioning and wall construction. Lots of detailing decisions were made as the door and window sections were added..then removed...modified...and replaced. You can see one of the retrofits between the door and window bucks. We had originally placed a pilaster between the door and window of 2-3 blocks wide. That detracted from the loft style look we were after so the command came forth to remove the pilaster, bring the window buck closer to the door and to leave just enough space for a dual light switch. Easier said than done! Removing the blocks that had been set in place with slurry proved to be one heck of a task a mere hours after they had been set. It was a true testament to the solidity of this construction methodology. They succeeded in the task and found that a block laid on edge between the door and window bucks provided just the right amount of space for the light switch and preserved the integrity of the building shell in terms of it being all compressed earth block.

But what would any job be without equipment failure?! The bobcat blew a hydraulic line late in the day, slowing block production. The bobcat has proven to be an indispensible tool in moving and working dirt, then bringing it to the block press. Men or machines...an age old calculation! In this case, we love the bobcat!

And with the setting sun, we find Robbie, boss of the job, still hard at work towards his goal on the rear wall section. This section has the western exposure and will carry the greatest heat load. My intention is to set the fresh air intake grills in the corners on the floor on the western wall. I'm no engineer, but with solar chimneys at the roof peak on the eastern exposure I'm betting on very effective drafting of any heat that manages to find its way through 12 inches of compacted earth on this wall. Other passive cooling concepts will come later with landscaping. The pecan tree behind will also provide significant shading. In fact, so much so that mounting solar panels on the roof would likely not be a possible energy strategy for powering DC fixtures, something we had considered for research.