Eco Bloque Construction for Costa Rica

Eco Bloques in Costa Rica for green building construction

Wayne E Bird took the time to answer a few questions for about his amazing eco-bloques, which are a long-awaited addition to the green building materials in Costa Rica. With this technology, builders nationwide will be able to build concrete-block style construction for cheaper as well as much more ecologically. The eco-bloques are made mostly from the dirt found onsite, using a machine imported by Mr Bird that uses high pressure to create them.

How did you get started with the Eco Bloques project and what was your motivation?

I was actually introduced to these products by a con man from the US. Long story but he professed to have exclusive rights to Costa Rica for Compressed Earth Blocks (CEB’s). He did not.

I knew this was a perfect product for Costa Rica and all of Latin America. Since then I have been on a mission to get these products approved for use in Costa Rica.

It has been a long and hard road to say the least. Almost 3 years until I got the go ahead from CFIA. Right now I am the only company approved by the CFIA to make and use these blocks. I am the rep for the only company that manufactures machines that make blocks that will be allowed to be used here. Our block design meets all sizemic regulations. There are several designs of blocks and machine manufacturers but only ours has the holes necessary for vertical rebar.

There is an interlocking block made by a machine manufactured in South Aftrica called Hydraform. I spent 12 month trying to get approval for use of this style block. Finally I was told ‘Never going to be used in Costa Rica”. “It has no provisions for vertical rebar”. “It will never meet the sizemic codes and requirements in Costa Rica.”

There is a con man operating in Costa Rica at this time trying to sell these interlocking blocks and “exclusive rights” to manufacture them in Costa Rica. Watch out for this scammer. He works his way into communities by going to church there.

There are a couple other people in Costa Rica trying to sell earth block products but I caution anyone to look into their testing documents and association with Lamani testing labs and CFIA (college for engineers and architechts). BUYER BEWARE!! Using unaproved products can cause great danger.

The system seems to simple and effective. Why isn’t everyone doing this instead of mining to make concrete?

Government regulations, antiquated mind set of local officials. We have to educate each customer, engineer, architecht, and developer. I enjoy this part of the business. With my team we can answer all questions and do everything you need to create a beautiful Earth friendly structure.

Even though these style blocks have been used in 70 countries for over 20 years. The CEB itself has been around over 50 years they are still new to most everyone I meet.

There are thousands of homes and commercial buildings built with this style block. These are not adobe bricks with straw and mud. These will test to 1000 PSI. 3 times the strength of a cement block. They are 3 times better insulating that a solid cement wall. The building is cooler and less humid in the daytime. They are bullett proof. An AK47 round can not penetrate these blocks. One of my associates is working with the US army in Afghanistan at this time. Quick and easy bullett proof buildings and walls.

How long does it take to make these bloques? Let’s start with a practical example. If someone wants to make a bodega four meters by four meters square, and walls two and half meters high, how long will it take for your machine to make all those eco-bloques?

It takes 30 Eco Bloques per square meter allowing for a 1/2 to 3/4 inch mortar joint. With the wet soil we encountered in Playa Samara we could make 1200 to 1500 a day with one machine. We have 2 machines for big jobs. This bodega will use 40 sq. mtrs or 1200 blocks.. 10 hours or less. In the dry season our producction rate goes up and we use 3 to 4 less men at each machine. The blocks have to be stacked and cured for 15 to 30 days before use building a residence. For 1 meter to meter walls 10 days is the cure time. Diring this cure time we wrap them in plastic and seal them tight. This allows the cement to have the necessary chemical reaction to bond with the sand.

What are the various ecological benefits of people using eco-bloques as opposed to concrete?

First off there is no transportation costs and fuel used getting the blocks to the development. We make them right there or within a killometer of the site.

We only use 10% maximum cement content. Cement is number 8 on the polluters list when it comes to polluting the soil and water. I did not know this until I asked for permits for a manufacturing plant in Santa Ana. Large cement plants set beside rivers dump thousands of gallons of chemicals daily into the rivers. The residue from cement trucks that wash out daily is really a huge problem.

With the small amount of cement we use and the small amount of water we are virtually pollution free at our sites. We never have huge cement trucks or batch plants to rinse out at the end of the day. 3 minutes with a very small pressure washer and we are clean. Less than 12 gallons of water per day for clean up.

Using these bloques the homeowner untility use will be much lower. Especially if you air condition. This helps stop construction of more and larger power plants. In costa Rica and elsewhere around the World e are always short of electricity. In costa Rica during the high season power outages are an everyday problem. When a tourist comes to this clomate for the first time the A/C unit never shuts off in the hotel room. This is another story. i have done computations of daily energy use for A/C units for my other company. You will be amazed at the electricity used by hotels on a monthly basis. 75% is for A/C!!

With the lime based plaster on interior walls no mold can ever grow! Helps prevent allergies and many lung related diseases. See my other companies web site.

The lime plaster walls also have a natural “Wicking ” action during the day. As the outside of the walls warms up this draws the humidity into the walls. As this happens it has an evaporative cooling effect while it is lowering the the temperature several degrees and the humidity as much as 20%.

When filling the holes in the blocks, used for the vertical rebar our Eco Bloques only use 20% as much concrete as a standard cement block. I typical cement block takes as much or MORE concrete to fill the holes around the rebar as it does to MAKE THE BLOCK! This saves cement use and money as well.

When a builder is making a plantel (lot) to build the home on they end up pushing tons of dirt over the side of the hill. It is also eroding the hillsides in many areas of Costa Rica. This dirt flows into the rivers and eventually into the ocean. Polluting the rivers and killing fish and coral reefs. Instead of shoving all this dirt over the hill we can make it into Eco-Bloques.

Eco-Bloques do NOT need to be plastered or stuccoed. They can be left natural inside and outside. For development perimeter wall this will save the builder a lot of money and cuts down on cement normally used for the stucco.

The bloques are made out of mostly dirt. Why won’t they just erode in the rain? Will insects start living in the walls?

The clay is not part of the structure in the block. It is a very small part of the block. It is only used so we can remove the block from the machines and stack them to cure. We use the minimum amount possible. The strength comes from the cement and sand chemical reaction. Water does not harm Eco-Bloques once they are cured. There are thousands of Compressed Earth Block homes all over the world. Huge numbers in India where the rains come like here. Eco-Bloques are also much denser than a cement block. They weigh about 3 times as much as a cement block of the same size. They absorb very little water and allow no water to soak through. Unlike a cement block that allows water to flow through it like a screen. Bugs can not penetrat these. A bullett from an AK 47 will not either.

Do you recommend that your clients pour a concrete slab floor to begin with, or is there a way to build the base of a house out of eco-bloques?

For Costa Rica we recommend a concrete floor. In some areas I notice plastic is placed below the cement floor to stop water from coming up through the floor. A lot depends on the site. I have been in the building businesses all my life. I also have paid consultants who have built Eco-Bloque homes all over the World. From recent earth quake aid in Haiti to Santa Barbara California. We will work with the customer, engineer, architect, and builder to assure them everything is up to standards.

People have different types of soil in different areas. Can they use any soil? What about the red clay earth that’s so common in the Guanacaste area?

We need 10 to 35% clay. The red clay is perfect and makes beautiful blocks. I have also made blocks from the white clay in Guanacaste. It also works perfect. I perform a soil test to give me some idea of what is in the area. From there as we go to contract I send the soil to the Lamai Lab and get soil content test done. I give these results to my consultants and they give me the formula we need to use.

Can your machine be hauled out to remote areas that don’t have road access, perhaps pulled by a horse or oxen, and then make the bloques there using a generator to power it?

Yes. We have both machines powered by gasoline engines. The mixing of the materials can be done by hand. Our operation is not set up for small jobs. We are looking for larger projects and developments to do. The expense and time to move to a site, set up, and start production makes anything under 25,000 Eco bloques not feasable. This number covers an area equivalent to 8000 standard cement blocks. In the future we intend to have manufacturing plants in different areas of the country. Same as Pedregal only all eco products. We are working on floor times right now as well as a roof time.

Are there any downsides to using eco-bloques that people should be aware of before deciding to use them? Are there situations where concrete block or poured concrete would be more appropriate?

Using Eco-Bloques for a tall retaining wall is not recommended. They simply are to dense and do not drain any water through them effectively. The weight of thousands of gallons damed up behind a wall could cause failure. Around trees and for raised planters Eco-Bloques are great. If you are in an area of standing water around the base of your home I recommend you pour a stem wall when you pour the floor to stop and water from entering thru the mortar joints. If the home is back filled with dirt like a split level home built into a hill side I would also use a poured concrete wall poured at the same time as the floor. This will keep the water out.

For more information about eco-bloques, watch this video: Eco Bloques Video and contact:

Wayne E. Byrd / Owner
8707-4914 cell or 8377-4677 cell