I recently came across this video uploaded to Youtube from a user called David Mcfall, that shows him making large bricks from whole beer bottles and stabilized earth.
Now, I've got to say that I fell in love with the whole idea and I reaally like the fact that the beer bottles are whole and evenly spaced apart (satisfying, right?). I can imagine that fact saves time and energy since you don't need to cut the bottles like in other methods I've seen, plus the bricks probably lose a lot of weight due to the fact that the bottles are empty. I like the addition of the pine straw halfway through filling them with stabilized earth that I'm sure definitely helps with tensile strength. Lastly, I like the thickness and the length of the bricks which make me feel like the house will have good thermal mass. I hope these bricks aren't THAT heavy to move around.
After watching the video a few times I looked to see if there were any more detailed instructions but I wasn't able to find anything on the description or channel to my dismay. I was able to find a few things in the comment section though, he uses a 6:1 ratio of cob to cement and he mentions it took him about an hour of time per brick. As to the dimensions of the bricks, I just used some mathematical reasoning and Sketchup to make this image of what I think is the approximate size considering the spacing between bottles:
I wanted to document as much as I could on this video since I haven't seen it anywere else, but that leads me to my big question: what is your opinion on this technique? what do you think are the advantages / disadvantages of it? Also, what can you use as a mortar between these type of bricks to have good structural integrity? cement, mortar mix, adobe? Do you think one hour per brick is too high on the time scale? (I'm sure this can be optimized though) I've seen other bottle building projects and I'm just not very keen on using a mix with only sand plus cement since we live in an earthquake zone and that much cement in proportion would be quite expensive. I appreciate all of your input, thanks!
I just came up with an estimate for how much one of these would weigh. A traditional 10x4x14 inch (560 cubic inches) adobe brick weighs 30 lbs. The total volume of this type of brick is around 24x9x9 inches (1,944 cubic inches), so using the weight of a cob normal brick applied to this minus 300 cubic inches from the space occupied by the bottles plus considering lightweight straw taking up some more space we get to around **85 pounds** per completed brick, yikes! I think that we will need to fill it with as much straw as possible and to get help from as many friends as possible.
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The smaller the brick, the more cement/sand mixture you need compared to the bottles, because you always need the edges to be "bottle-free". I could see doing this for specific highlights, but I suspect that the way they make traditional adobe bricks would give you more brick/time. An hour per brick seems very long, so figure out about how many bricks you need to do something useful, and consider the time required for alternatives like straight adobe bricks, or cob, or earth bags. Both cob and earth bags can be made seriously earthquake-proof. Unless you left a tubular void in the bottle bricks to slide rebar down, I'm not sure they could truly be made as earthquake proof. I know they are concerned about block school buildings that were built before more modern codes ensured that they wouldn't just shake apart in the area where I live.
I'm all for natural building and the Japanese have some proven traditional techniques for making buildings shake-proof, so I would look at what they've done that has a good track record. There are people who've made whole buildings out of cemented together glass jars, but I don't know if they were in earth-quake zones, or if the people were just willing to take the risk. There are definitely ways that people of creatively incorporated some bottles into cob walls.