Building Blocks at a Fraction of a Penny Each

Harvey Lacey’s Ubuntu-Blox block building machine was featured in seventh place in yesterday’s blog post on Top 10 Cottage Industry Products. Today’s blog post shows how his block making process has shifted to using extremely low cost materials – vetiver roots, the waste material from making vetiver oil. The end result is similar to straw bales except the bales are smaller, lighter, more insect resistant and they’re made on site with waste materials. The mini bales are less expensive than ordinary straw bales, take up less space and can be made without an expensive baling machine. His open source plans make it easy for anyone to build his machine quite easily.

“Harvey Lacey is the inventor of the open source Ubuntu-Blox building technology. We caught up with him in Port-au-Prince, Haiti in November, 2012, when he shared his latest discovery: using agricultural waste from vetiver to build Ubuntu-Blox in rural areas for a fraction of a penny.” For more details, check out Ubuntu-Blox Community on Facebook

The Ubuntublox Institute
This discovery of vetiver root building blocks shows the importance of getting involved, and how eventually new opportunities come along. He’s done a good job of modifying his machine and building process over the last few years to create superior building materials.

4 thoughts on “Building Blocks at a Fraction of a Penny Each”

  1. Yes, quite amazing how his expense per block dropped as he let his heart and the discovery process lead him. Here’s to all entrepreneurs and inventors who want to help make the world a better place to live!

    • A big lesson here is to get involved and continue to innovate. Harvey’s work has skyrocketed in just 2-3 years.

      One thing that bugs me though is the lack of interest by NGOs. Maybe it just needs to be promoted harder. You’d think they’d be falling all over themselves at such an excellent building system (super low cost, simple, earthquake resistant, fire and insect resistant…). Also note how all sorts of waste agricultural materials could be used. And the plans are FREE!!!!

      • You may call me a cynic, but most non-profits and “charitable” organizations that I know of (especially if they’re big enough that they put together big “campaigns”) spend the vast majority of their funds supporting their own administration, as opposed to the charitable activities they tout when raising funds. Wounded Warriors of America is a perfect example. They spend approximately 97 cents of every USD donated to their cause on their executive-level administrators’ salaries and bonuses.

        I don’t think that any big NGOs are apt to talk up such a low-cost building system/material, when they get lots of money from companies, some of whom manufacture (and often donate) the high-energy, “conventional” building materials that the majority of the western world uses.

        • Yes, that often seems to be the case. And your explanation of why they don’t use or talk up these sort of low tech solutions also makes sense. It almost always goes back to “follow the money”. Like the agriculture journals who won’t talk about certain sustainable farming methods because it would hurt their advertising revenue. Look through any ag journal and you’ll see all the ads for farm equipment. Much of this equipment isn’t needed if people switch to low tech sustainable methods. In particular, tilling/plowing/discing is particularly bad for soils. I just read the article in Mother Earth News about soil fungi that drives home this point. The mycelium is 2,500 times greater than what the plant could reach alone.


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