Thierry Perrocheau from Meco’concept and his small team have designed a hydraulic press that transforms ordinary mud into structural building blocks (http://inhabitat.com/mecopress-machine-makes-lego-building-bricks-from-mud/). Since 2008 the team has distributed the Meco’press in France and Belgium, and they have recently seen an overwhelming interest from organizations looking to build in developing nations.
As an alternative building method in Europe this has some merit but marketing it on the back of disaster-stricken communities seems to be a bit off the mark. What could be better than working with local people to teach or re-teach the age-old technique of adobe building which uses only local materials? Where does ‘capacity-building’ come into play when supplying yet one more foreign device that would be next to impossible to service in Haiti for instance and thus become quickly obsolete, have a place in rebuilding communities or promoting cultural sensitivity?
And what sense is there in transporting a press manufactured in Europe to one of these ‘disaster affected’ developing countries when, though small, the quantity that would need to be transported to match the productivity of many hands and feet would entail huge embodied energy. Also apparently 80% of soil is usable with this press having the correct clay content – but adobe bricks win out again in being able to utilise 95% of soil.
Why do we keep looking to technology as a way of marketing to and supplying solutions to people in developing countries when in fact these people have the knowhow and materials to educate us instead?