Building Blocks for Better Buildings

The great mosque of Djenne looms over one of the larger marketplaces in Mali, Africa. On the flat brown flood planes, mud walls up to 24 inches thick bear the weight of what looks like a giant sand castle. Protruding from the structure are carefully placed wooden poles and ostrich eggs adorn the tips of the spires at the mosque entrance.

A mosque has stood in the spot since the 13th century. This is quite a feat since the incredible structure is made from nothing more than sun-baked mud bricks and mud. The original mud used for the mosque fell to the ground centuries ago and the current structure has stood in its place since 1906, but the size and overall strength of the building proves that the right mixture of sand, water, straw and gravel has immense potential as a building material.

Integrity Block has developed a modern version of the ancient mudbrick that is perfect for today’s architectural and landscape design. The company specializes in manufacturing green building alternatives and, as proudly stated on their website, “has developed the first green replacement for concrete blocks.”

The Great Mosque of Djenné, Mali, is the
largest mud brick building in the world.

Designing a brick takes more than just throwing a few ingredients together. It took the company two years of research and development before finding the perfect balance which allowed for easy production, and structural integrity.

Unlike the bricks used in mud huts and mosques that need annual replacement or patching up, the Integrity Block has the same strength and durability of cement.

Not only that, but the blocks are in fact a step up from the cement blocks: They are much easier to produce than traditional bricks, requiring less than half the energy of concrete production. It is also made up of 50% pre-recycled content and can generate LEED credits. The LEED (standing for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) system, rates buildings at a variety of levels depending on their environmental performance. The higher a building’s rating, the easier a building is to lease or sell since this also implies that the building uses less energy for such tasks as heating, cooling and lighting. More information on specific LEED credits here.

Integrity Blocks improve a home’s temperature regulations, for example, by storing heat during the day (keeping the indoors cool) and releasing the stored heat at night. They are also excellent barriers against outdoor noise.

Sometimes it’s good to go back to the basics.

Categorized | Buildings, Homes & Buildings
One Response to “Building Blocks for Better Buildings”
  1. [...] technology and commercialize it into the form of concrete blocks. Ecoworld gets into some of the history of earthen design and highlights an example of the versatility and beauty of this practical “down to [...]

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