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Improving Durability of Compressed Earth Blocks in Low-Cost Housing Construction Using Sap from Cactus Plant

Ivan Agaba, Lawrence Muhwezi and Sam Bulolo

Department of Civil and Building Engineering, Kyambogo University, Kampala, Uganda


Abstract: Adequate shelter is a basic human need and yet about 80% of the urban population in developing countries Uganda inclusive still lives in spontaneous settlements as they cannot afford the high cost of building materials. CSBs (compressed stabilized blocks) have been identified as a low-cost material with the potential to address the problem and reverse the shelter backlog in Uganda. While their other properties are well understood, their durability remains unknown. This research, therefore, investigated the viability in the use of cactus sap to improve the durability of CSB’s, as alternative building materials in Uganda. The sap sample was extracted from prickly pear cactus plant and applied on CSB surfaces obtained from a local producer. Laboratory abrasion test, water absorption and mechanical strength of the earth blocks were conducted. Comparison of the properties of traditional earth blocks (control samples) and other blocks improved by either cactus sap only or a combination of cactus sap with lime was carried out. It was established that the latter exhibited abrasion coefficient and wet compressive strength of 147 mm2/g and 1.53 N/mm2 while the former, 219 mm2/g and 1.90 N/mm2 respectively which were higher than 118 mm2/g and 1.27 N/mm2 for the traditional blocks. It was concluded that cactus could be used as a protective cover material on earth block surfaces hence improving their durability when used as external walling units. The findings of this study will contribute to the widespread use of CSB’s in low cost housing construction since prospective users can now be confident about their durability under wet conditions. Further research is recommended to explore the performance of CBSs when a combination of cactus mucilage with lime when the percentages of lime are varied to obtain the optimum amount of lime needed.

Key words: Durability, strength, cement-soil stabilized blocks and cactus.
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