Tim, one of our readers, left a comment about the materials in southern Mexico (60 miles east of Mexico City in the state of Tlaxcala, just outside the state capital) where he’s planning to build an earthbag home. It turns out there’s a wealth of natural building materials nearby that are dirt cheap. In addition to having caliche, which could be used in earthbags straight out of the ground, he also has the primary materials to make geopolymer – piedra caliza (limestone), kaolin clay and sodium carbonate. He will also have to buy lime or make it from scratch.
Geopolymer uses a natural process to convert these loose materials into solid limestone. However, making geopolymer from scratch will likely take a fair amount of time, research and testing. Each material needs to be analyzed so you can determine the appropriate formula. I suggest getting assistance from a local university with a soils testing lab. Win them over by explaining how the abundant local resources (often viewed as undesirable or wastes) can be converted into high value products such as stone houses.
Let’s hope Tim keeps us posted about his project. A little effort could go a long way. It would be great to have a geopolymer earthbag house for evaluation and reference.
Caliza at Wiki
4 thoughts on “Piedra Caliza”
Owen, I just realized that in your post you said New Mexico. It’s in southern Mexico, 60 miles east of Mexico City in the state of Tlaxcala, just outside the state capital.
Sorry about that. Fixed it, thanks.
I will be doing a lot of soil testing and geopolymer experimenting when I get down there. I plan to start a blog to keep friends and family here apprised of our happenings. I’m happy to keep you guys in the loop, too. I’m sure I will need and seek the advice of many of you at several points along the way.
The material is not free for the taking, at least, not that I’m aware – I’ll pay to have it brought in in 7 cubic meter truckloads – but it won’t be terribly expensive, maybe USD30-40. I’m hoping to be able to use some of the dirt on my own property for at least some of our projects.
Owen, I really like your suggestion of seeking out the local institutions of higher learning for guidance. There are a few technical institutions as well as local contractors that are investigating alternative methods and materials. I have seen many local projects in our town that use materials besides concrete block and Portland cement and they really set the neighbors to buzzing. People are excited to see materials and methods that their pre-columbian ancestors used. But it seems that 98% of all construction in Mexico is concrete block and people are hesitant to live outside “the box.” Maybe they can’t get loans for anything besides the traditional.
I will keep you posted. Thanks for the encouragement!
Okay, thanks for the info. I updated the blog with your corrections.
Please keep us posted. This is really exciting.