The Building Blocks of Home

Contrary to popular belief, the Great Pyramids of Egypt were likely not constructed of solid stone but made with a type of rammed earth block. Comprised using local limestone, these blocks have stood majestically for thousands of years.

Cornelio Romero Mendoza now is bringing this age-old technology to home building in Baja. And he promises it will be more efficient, stronger and less wasteful than currently-used concrete-cube methods.

“About 40 percent of traditional construction ends up as pollution, whereas rammed earth only creates 10 percent waste,” he explains.

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Mendoza recently completed a week-long course in Texas on the use of rammed earth blocks and was so impressed with the technology that he invested over $100,000 USD to purchase and import the machine to make them.

The machine uses high pressure to mold blocks from a mixture of local earth and small gravel along with sand, clay and cement. With four to six workers helping the process, it can churn out 1200 bricks per day, enough to create a 1000 square-foot home in two days.

The blocks are bigger and wider than the grey concrete bricks commonly seen in local construction and include holes bored through in order to hide wiring and plumbing. Both exterior and interior walls can be formed with the blocks.

“Because the rammed earth is a natural terra cotta color you don’t need to worry about plastering or painting over it, again saving time, money and pollution,” Mendoza says.

A key benefit, especially for southern Baja, is how efficient the blocks are for temperature regulation. During a heat wave, structures made of rammed earth at the test facility in Texas kept an even interior temperature of 26 Celsius whereas the concrete brick building was 32 degrees inside. The blocks are also virtually waterproof even without a sealant and twice as strong as concrete.

“And we are fortunate to have great soil for making solid blocks right here in Pescardero.”

Mendoza was introduced to rammed earth for three years. As a long-time union contract builder and principal of Dylcor Design and Construction company, he had the opportunity to create rammed earth walls for high-end clients.

“I really liked it, but creating a large custom rammed earth wall is very expensive and time-consuming,” he says. “This machine allows us to enjoy all the benefits of rammed earth and use it in any type of construction at about the same price as concrete.”

He notes that almost all new construction in Africa and much of Central America now uses this method, yet as far as he knows, his is the first rammed earth machine in Baja.

“The problem for local Mexicans is the rising price of concrete and the lower peso has made home construction unaffordable for many. I want to help with this to build better homes for people.”

Mendoza has lived in Pescadero all his life and is passionate about supporting the local economy. He has joined with Pescadero Surf Camp’s founder and realtor Jaime Dobies to form a full-service real estate office to open in Cerritos early 2020.

“We’ll have everything you need to buy and build a home in Baja, with personal assistants to help clients and coordinate things such as soil testing, environmental reports, and legal issues,” Dobies explains.

Mendoza agrees the partnership will make the process less stressful for potential buyers.

“It’s intimidating, wondering ‘who do I hire’ and ‘what if there are legal problems?’”.

The rammed earth blocks will be a big selling feature for the real estate venture. Mendoza and Dobies say they’ll be able to help clients pick a property and give them the keys to their new house within two months instead of the typical six-plus months.

“I’m really happy to bring this technology here,” Mendoza adds. “It’s not my idea, it’s been around for thousands of years. But the technology is so good now and I want lots of people to benefit.”