Raw earth has been used for the construction of buildings since the most ancient times, and the traditional housing that exists in many parts of our planet bears witness to this fact. Abandoned and forgotten with the advent of industrial building materials, particularly concrete and steel, it is today the subject of renewed interest in developing countries as well as in industrialized countries.
Often criticized for its sentitivity to water and its lack of durability, this building material has in its present form many advantages for the construction of durable, comfortable and low-cost housing. If logic and modern methods are applied to its use, it can be all of the following :
efficient and durable;
available locally and cheaply;
economical in energy and in foreign currency;
an encouragement for the development of building trade skills;
capital gains generating;
a dynamic force for the building sector;
ideal for small and medium scale industries.
Today, earth building production techniques range from the most rudimentary, manual and craft-based to the most sophisticated, mechanized and industrial. At the top of this range, which has been the subject of unprecedented scientific research, the production of earth building materials is no longer in any way inferior to that of other current building materials, even the most elaborate. In the case of the compressed earth block, this trend towards industrialization emerged approximately 25 years ago. Earth technology is therefore no longer a matter of strictly craft-based practices without development potential. The evolution from craft to industrial is possible, and is taking place, but it is clear that this trend need to be justified with regard to the parameters of particular situations: global development policy, socio-economic and cultural aspects, economic and technological interdependence. It is therefore particularly important to select equipment in the light of these parameters and criteria in order to ensure the best possible match of production machinery to a given context.
The object of the present guide is to met a growing demand for information from ACP countries regarding this technology. The guide is principally intended to enable entrepreneurs, national decision-makers, industrial groups and professional bodies to make a short-list in full knowledge of the facts, and using a soundly structured approach. The guide makes no claim to replace manufacturers' technical and marketing documentation. Users are strongly urged to contact the manufacturers they short-list before proceeding with their final choice of production equipment.