Trash into treasure

My first season building in Nicaragua we made bricks from a mixture of sand and clay (from the nearby riverbank), water (from the same river) and cement (purchased from a local cement factory). We pressed the mixture into bricks using a CINVA ram – a press operated by muscle power (and leverage) to compress the bricks, which were then placed in the sun to dry and cure. The houses we built had a brick half-wall topped by a board and batten upper wall (framed and sided with local timber, selectively culled).

Our machine was a little different and made three bricks at a time, but this gives you the idea.

Sorry, I have no surviving photos of the construction process or of the ram in action (but I have a great image in my head of an old photo from then, if that helps).

This woman in Kenya is going at this from another angle. While we used local materials, she uses plastic waste. So far she is making only brick pavers, but construction materials look like the next stage. The CINVA ram was developed at the Inter-American Housing Center (CINVA is an acronym for the name in Spanish, and the device was developed by Raul Ramirez in Colombia) to provide a low-cost locally-produced product. For what it does, it’s great. Her product is higher tech, with more expensive machinery requiring a more centralized production facility, but looks like a great way to reduce the landfill load of plastic waste (as well as slowing the growth of the floating “islands” of plastic trash in the oceans).

I am not advocating for one over the other – one is a great low-tech building method using local materials, while the other reuses plastic waste. Neither is anything to sneeze at.

We, by the way, changed from brick construction to stone. The stone was more bulletproof (I mean that literally) as well as holding up better during torrential rains.