Comparing the Sustainability of a Compressed Earth Block House to a

EPA Grant Number: SU835289
Title: Comparing the Sustainability of a Compressed Earth Block House to a
Investigators: Holliday, Lisa M. , Butko, Daniel J. , Graham, Charles , McManus, Bill , Williams, Scott
Institution: University of Oklahoma
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Phase: II
Project Period: August 15, 2012 through August 14, 2014
Project Amount: $89,721
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet - Phase 2 (2012) Recipients Lists
Research Category: P3 Challenge Area - Energy , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Awards , Sustainability


This project will allow a multi-disciplinary team of students to construct, instrument, analyze, and document a Habitat for Humanity (HFH) house built of compressed earth blocks (CEB). This house will be built adjacent to a new conventional frame house built to National Green Building Standards, which will also be instrumented and monitored. Attributes of the two houses relating to all aspects of sustainability as defined by the National Green Building Standard will be compared. The results will be distributed to Habitat for Humanity International, their affiliates, and other interested parties worldwide.


The objective of this multi-phase research project is to produce new knowledge and develop best practices for the CEB construction process that will enable broad implementation of CEB technology in domestic and international housing construction. The CEB construction methods are comparatively simple for individuals and social organizations that rely on volunteer labor, i.e. Habitat for Humanity. CEBs are inherently sustainable, economical, and energy efficient; they require little energy to produce, conserve natural resources, virtually eliminate landfill waste, and reduce energy consumption required for residential heating and cooling. CEBs have been proven structurally sound, even in earthquake prone areas, with the appropriate modifications. If CEB construction can be successfully demonstrated to be a viable residential construction solution in Oklahoma (harsh winters, hot summers, and strong winds), then it will be viable for almost any location in the developed or developing world.


To examine this hypothesis, the team has partnered with CCHFH to build a single-family residence using CEBs as load-bearing walls adjacent to a recently built CCHFH house constructed of wood framing. The team chose to use this existing house as the control house not only because it is newly constructed, but also because it was built according to high standards for sustainability as defined by the National Green Building Standards (NGBS). The CEB house will be nearly identical to the control house in layout, area, and inhabitable volume. Both houses will be rigorously evaluated by the research team and outside agencies to compare sustainable features. In addition to these initial tests, both houses will be instrumented and monitored over time for structural performance, energy consumption, thermal properties, indoor air quality, and acoustical criteria. Based on the findings, CCHFH also plans to build a third residence that will be optimized for CEBs, using the knowledge of design and construction learned from this project.

Expected Results:

Expected results are: 1) a comparison of two houses including energy use of both houses, material comparisons defining carbon footprint and embodied energy and 2) document of best practices.

Supplemental Keywords:

Earthen Construction,

Relevant Websites:

Phase 1 Abstract

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2013
  • Final

  • P3 Phase I:

    Comparing the Sustainability of a Compressed Earth Block House to a Conventionally Framed House Built to National Green Building Standards  | Final Report