Category Archives: Usage

We can use polypropylene pulling twine instead of wire for making the blocks

There are two reasons to consider using the polypropylene high strength pulling twine instead of 14 gauge wire for making the blocks.  First is because the twine is so much easier to work with than the wire.  No special tools are required and it is less physically demanding.  The second reason is the cost.  The 14 gauge wire can be purchased in Haiti for $80.00 for 5,800 feet (100 lb coil).  6,500 feet of the twine can be purchased at Home Depot for $39.95.  We can buy it in bulk, 1,000 lb minimum, for $.0001per foot or less.  The polypropylene isn’t strong enough to replace the wire in the construction of the house but it is more than adequate to replace the wire in building the blocks.














The twine is cut into lengths 66 inches long.  A loop knot is tied in one end.  The knot is used to locate the twine in the end plate of the Ubuntublox block making machine.  The twine is placed inside the spaces in the bottom of the machine just like the wire.  Sometimes the twine is difficult to place in the space.  I have found using a stick or piece of wire to place the string in the opening helps.

After the block is compacted and the covers are opened up the twine is used to secure the block.  No special tools are required.  I have found that a wire bent with an hook on one end makes pulling the end of the twine through the end of the machine very handy.  My wife watched me fight it and then told me I needed to make a tool that was like a hook out of wire.  I did as I was told and once again am glad I have such a smart wife.

The end of the twine is placed through the loop and pulled tight by hand.  The twine is too strong to be pulled apart by hand.  But pulling the end too tight can cut the loop.  It needs to be pulled tight but not too tight.  The block is already compressed into shape and the twine is supposed to hold that shape.  The twine isn’t supposed to compress the block further.

What I have found that works well is to pull the end through the loop and then place a finger over the connection of the end of the twine and the loop.  This will secure the twine in place while a half hitch knot is made.  Once the first half hitch knot is made then the finger can be removed and a couple of more half hitch knots can be added.

I secure the middle twine first and then the ends.

“Social Innovation Rockstar”!!!!

Just because it isn’t happening here doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.

On the surface it appears nothing much is happening with Ubuntublox these days.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Just yesterday we were named a  Social Innovation Rockstar.

Here’s some of the things we are working on.  We are working on using polypropylene line instead of wire to bind the bales of film and foam plastic into blocks.  This cuts the price of the individual block from approximately fifteen cents for the wire to less than a penny for the polypropylene twine.  We still want to use the wire in the wall construction of course.

One of the other things we are working on is the woman centered rebar bender.  This is important.  Women use lower body strength for work; men use upper body; male showing off maybe?  Rebar benders as we know them now are designed for male workers so they depend upon pulling and pushing with arms, upper body stuff.

Let me inject a little personal philosophy here.  Common wisdom says that since rebar benders have always been designed to use upper body strength, then we need to teach women to use upper body strength too.  I disagree.  The objective is to bend rebar, not make women into men.  So the smart thing to do in my book is to modify the rebar benders so that women can use them naturally.  That means we modify the bender so that they’re operated using lower body muscles.  We make them where they are stepped on instead of pulled or pushed.  The added benefit of this is we enable children, male and female, to contribute earlier to work if needed.

We are also working on the woman centered concrete mixing tub.  One of the things that irritated me beyond measure was our forcing the Haitian ladies to mix concrete the way men do when we were working on the Ubuntublox house.  It was unfair; it was unkind; and, it was altogether wrong on our part to put them through that.  One of the good things about the experience is it forced me to get serious about modifying the tools instead of the workers to get the same job done.  I believe this thing will do as much to empower women wanting to have control of the construction of their home as Ubuntublox itself.

We are also working on a design of a good foundation and floor for an Ubuntublox house that is not made with concrete.  I’m very excited about this because the potential benefits are beyond huge.

We are also looking at the recycling process a lot closer.  What we are trying to do is look at everything in the stream of recyclables as a positive instead of a negative.  For instance any food stuffs found on the dinner trays could be used for food for hogs.

So a lot is happening; the excitement is growing; we had our biggest visitor day ever, Wednesday the 27th.

Ubuntu-blox block’s latest version is now ready

The original Ubuntu-blox was made with all kinds of plastic trash into a block with a two wire restraining feature.  We realized that a third wire was needed in the middle between the two outside wires and modified the machine and process to accommodate that concept.

We made the blocks then with all kinds of plastics and the three wire retaining system.  It was about that time we were asked by Stephanie Hunt of the Hunt Institute at Southern Methodist University to build a house using Ubuntu-blox for the their Engineering and Humanity Week of April 2011.

As we thought about the house to build for the Hunt Institute we realized that using all kinds of plastics meant we were creating a diversion from successful existing plastic recycling programs in North Texas.  Curbside recycling was already picking up bottles and all plastics except for foam and film plastics.  Foam and film plastics were not being recycled in what we felt were honest recycling programs.  We decided to use foam and film plastics in our blocks for building the Ubuntu-blox house for the Hunt Institute’s Engineering and Humanity Week.

That combination of the single purpose shopping bags, the ones that are so popular now in the banning industry, and foam plastics readily available have shown to be the most cost effective method of building the blocks.  Each block contains approximately twenty to thirty film plastic shopping bags and three cubic feet of foam plastics.  The only cost for materials for the block is the wire retaining the block shape and providing the attachment system for making the walls.  The cost of the wire was less than twenty cents per block.

When I got to Haiti August of 2011 I found out that the single purpose film plastic bags were not available in the quantity needed for making  the blocks.  There was an unbelievable amount of foam plastics available in the form of dinnerware, trays and cups, but a very limited amount of film plastics.  We had access to some rice bag material also known as sand bag material.  It was in bulk because it is what is used in Super Adobe construction.  We could cut the rice bag material in five foot lengths, fill it with shredded foam plastics, and make a great Ubuntu-blox.

I went back to Haiti March of 2012 and we used the rice bag material and the wire to make the blocks.  One of the heart breaks for me during that visit was watching the Haitian ladies straighten twisted wire we were getting for free from a recycling center.  They spent as much time straightening out the wire as they did making the blocks, maybe more.

There was also another reality, cost. Purchased new the wire cost about twenty cents per block.  The rice bag material cost another fifty to sixty cents per block.  We had an awesome block but it was out of line cost wise.

When I came home to Texas I purchased some electrician pulling line to see if it would work as well as the wire for retaining the block shape.  It does.  The cost is considerably less and it is a lot easier to work with.  The cost of the block was still way too high, fifty to sixty cents per block for the rice bag material, and the cost of the string was almost ten cents per block.

One of the experts and a good friend in the pursuit of making the world a better place is Patti Stouter.  Google her and be impressed.  She has been after me to look at other materials for making the blocks besides the rice bag material.  The biggest obstacle in finding a suitable substitute that was available in the amount required was it seemed all to come out of the far east.

Sheer happenstance provided me with a local manufacturer here that could not only provide me with the line I needed but they also manufactured film plastic tubing in weights and diameters I could use.  Using their materials I can now make a block with a cost of less than fifteen cents.  That’s for the line for retaining the block shape and a tubing for containing the foam and film plastics.

If you take best case scenarios using rice bag and wire in Haiti to make the blocks you are looking at $195.00 to make a 150sf house using 300 blocks.  Using the new materials that cost is $43.50.  That is $150.00 per house savings.