Portable Brick Production Providescure For Kabul

In a country ravaged by conflict over several decades, the availability of affordable building materials may help spur redevelopment. Geo-Building Technologies,

In a country ravaged by conflict over several decades, the availability of affordable building materials may help spur redevelopment. Geo-Building Technologies, LLC (GBT), a licensee of Middleburg, Va.-based TerraBuilt Corp. Int’l., has introduced The GreenMachine, a portable, self-powered hydraulic system designed to fabricate structural, precision-engineered, tongue-and-groove compressed-earth blocks. Named TerraBricks, the units are produced from subsoil and can be stabilized with small quantities of cement or lime for greater strength and weather resistance. The new technology provides potential for sound, sustainable, and cost-effective construction in Afghanistan, most immediately, as well as other developing countries worldwide and possibly North America, TerraBuilt engineers contend.

The interlocking components require no mortar for construction, GBT officials note, as the dimensional accuracy of each TerraBrick enables dry-stack assembly by unskilled labor while the units are still green. Producing TerraBrick requires less energy than making concrete or kiln-fired brick, they add, and entails less than half the cost of conventional kiln-fired bricks, currently the region’s most popular building material. Moreover, TerraBricks meet U.S. codes for single-story structures. With concrete or steel framing, they can be used as well for multistory buildings.

On site, the GreenMachine fabricates TerraBricks at a rate of five to six per minute, i.e., one brick every 10-12 seconds. The 4- _ 8- _ 10-in. units, comprising subsoil or 92 percent subsoil and 8 percent cement, reach a compressive strength of 2,240 psi. TerraBuilt CEO Stephen Keiley reports that the block typically is ready for use in wall systems 24 hours after ejection from the machine, since cement rapidly sets up the mix after initial hydration.

GBT parent company International Home Finance & Development, LLC (IHFD) is now planning to erect its first stationary TerraBricks production facility and a GreenMachine manufacturing plant in Kabul. Over the next 12 months, IHFD expects to invest nearly $2 million establishing infrastructure to promote the technology throughout Afghanistan. A guarantee of the investment against political risk, such as war, civil strife, expropriations and transfer restrictions, by the World Bank’s Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) constitutes an endorsement of the business model and encourages further investments promoting economic and social development in the country, contends IHFD President and CEO Rafaat Ludin, founder of GBT.

We already have seen a massive outpouring of interest in the GreenMachine TerraBrick technology, observes Ludin. We currently have orders for a number of rebuilding projects, including a Kabul housing complex, gymnasium, orphanage, and a vocational training institute. Afghans deserve every opportunity to access affordable and sustainable building materials; we believe this is critical to their long-term success as a nation.

A current project involving TerraBrick construction is the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul. Says Fredric Berger, vice chairman of the school’s board, The TerraBrick concept offers quicker, cost-effective implementation of our Phase One campus development program, not only allowing rapid development of urgently needed high-quality residential facilities for our faculty and staff, but also reflecting the long-term environmental responsibility the university must communicate to its students.

GreenMachine technology suits highly developed markets as well, emphasizes TerraBuilt’s Keiley. During the last six to eight months, he affirms, opportunities in the U.S. have been explored; and, several large construction materials companies are showing interest in the largely carbon-neutral TerraBricks as a cost-effective, energy-saving means of building ÎgreenÌ wall systems for housing or commercial structures, landscaping, and farm outbuildings. Rafaat Ludin notes that he is presently working with developers on construction of a 10,000-unit housing project using the proprietary system.

To supply the U.S. market, TerraBuilt envisions incorporating its patented process technology in production plants, turning out millions of TerraBricks weekly (at a rate of 10 units per minute) for distribution to builders, contractors, developers and DYI customers. Further, heavier-duty applications could be met with larger 4- _ 8- _ 12-in. block. And, besides providing a cost-effective solution for green building worldwide, Keiley asserts, TerraBricks could provide the basis for packaging and selling carbon offset credits.