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The following was written by Evan while he was interning with us in 2010 after working with our local partners to create an eco-friendly mud brick guest house in Isaan, Thailand. 

During my stay interning with Mundo Exchange in Nong Khai, Thailand, I spent close to three weeks working with Mundo and local Thai host Gyb to produce mud bricks, which will be used to build a guest-house. Mud bricks are a remarkably efficient and incredibly effective building material. These sustainable bricks require few resources and are very simple to construct. The bricks are durable and weatherproof making them ideal for Thai climate.

Because of these reasons, we feel strongly in sharing the art of mud brick making with the people of Isaan and people around the world who do not have the capitol to purchase relatively expensive building materials such as lumber and metals. Therefore, mud bricking is a cheap and environmental friendly way for anyone to recycle and reuse local materials in building safe and secure housing.

Creating the bricks was hard work but fun too. My experience was dirty and physically demanding, but always fun and rewarding. I worked under the terrific mentoring of Gyb and alongside Mundo Exchange Thai Host Prayoon. Gyb had already worked hard in perfecting the model mud brick and had the procedure down to an exact science. We spent the first two days learning the technique for mud brick making and in only about 4 hours of work we were able to produce almost 40 mud bricks! After filling our quota, and more, of mud bricks, we turned out attention towards working on the foundation. Battling fierce red tree ants, we successfully set up wooden and bamboo foundation poles and filled the space in between the poles with mud evened-out enough for brick laying. We then were able to cement in, with mud of course, our mud bricks stacking them 7 layers high. 

Seeing your creation start to take place is rewarding. The memorable moment of stepping back to examine our progress will stick with me for the rest of my life.

My stint with Gyb proved to be eye-opening and exciting! Few tools are required and the material and procedure list are short enough for anyone with a desire for mud-bricking to follow. It is also important to note that these conditions, while idyllic for our situation in Nong Khai, may not be the best for other environments around the world. Therefore, this model presented should be tweaked and experimented with according to the local resources readily available.

Tools to build a mud brick house:

– One shovel
– One bucket for moving water, mud, and rice husks
– One mixing tub big enough for the mud and rice husks to be mixed together
– Frame to build the bricks in, dimensions: 25cm x 20cm x 4-5cm.
– Water, for softening the mud and mixing
– Rice husks, to strengthen the mud
– Local and unused rocks and bricks that can be recycled to build the foundation
– Straw, used as the bricks backbone in creating the strongest bricks
– Grass arrangements used as shingles in many buildings in Thailand
– Bamboo that has been soaked in water to prevent from ants and termites for foundation poles
– And of course, mud!

Procedure for building the mud bricks:

– Place the frame down on level ground and cover the bottom of the frame with rice husks and a little water
– Shovel mud into the mixing tub until it’s about half way full
– Add rice husks and water to the tub to strengthen and mix the bricks
– Stomp and stir the mud so all the husks are mixed well in the mud
– Transfer the mixed mud into the frame to fill the frame about half way full
– Straw is then added lengthwise along the brick just enough to cover the bottom layer and provide the strong backbone for the mud-bricks
– More of the mud mixture is added and packed tightly to the height of the frame
– The frame can then be removed and the mud bricks can be left to dry
– Allow two to three weeks for drying before using.