Better Living Challenge


Catching up with USE-IT

Mar 12, 2015

We caught up with USE-IT’s Chris Whyte and Didier d’Hotman to find out what their Compressed Earth Blocks (CEBs) have been building since the Better Living Challenge 2014…

BLC - CEB Use It Blocks Showcase big

Since becoming a winner of the Better Living Challenge in 2014, USE-IT’s CEBs have been engaged in some major projects that include a partnership with the Stellenbosch Municipality on waste management, and an Earthship project partnership with National Geographic and Discovery Channel. Based in Durban, USE-IT’s CEBs are also involved in local community-based projects in the KwaZulu-Natal area.

CEBs were developed by USE-IT to promote low technology in manufacturing building blocks from waste material and soil destined for landfill. The CEBs are composed of 25% mixed inert builders’ waste, 5% cement stabilising agent, and 70% soil. Building sustainable homes with the lowest carbon footprint, CEBs are 3-5 times stronger than concrete blocks, cheaper, ten times more thermally efficient and they’re environmentally friendly too.

CEBS were used at 2014’s Better Living Challenge Showcase, allowing the public to interact with this innovative building material.

Project Manager for CEBs, Didier d’Hotman said: “We had quite an amazing interaction with the public during the Showcase of the Better Living Challenge last year. We had the opportunity to talk to people from all over the country as well as international delegates that visited the Showcase. It was an amazing opportunity for USE-IT to be able to interact with various people. What we did encounter with the Better Living Challenge being an outdoor exhibition was the extreme hot weather that worked to our advantage as it allowed us to showcase the thermal efficiency quality of our product.”

Use-IT’s CEBs was one of the three Better Living Challenge winners. They won an award in the Structural Home Category. They took home a grand prize of half a million rand’s worth of support services to help upscale CEBs and fast-track its market access – facilitating further the concept-to-market value chain for innovative and affordable home improvement solutions.

Recently, USE-IT’s CEBs have been awarded a tender by the Stellenbosch Local Municipality to implement a waste management solution to extend the lifespan of the Devon Valley Landfill Site, in Stellenbosch. With the landfill site nearing capacity and insufficient municipal resources to establish an alternate facility, the Stellenbosch Local Municipality issued a bid for an innovative, environmentally friendly solution to divert waste from the site.

In addition, USE-IT’s CEBs have been approached to collaborate on an Earthship Project with National Geographic and Discovery Channel to build a sustainable home made from natural materials. According to USE-IT’s Managing Director, Chris Whyte, “USE-IT will supply the technical support in constructing CEBs to create a 6-bedroom, double-story home on the north coast of Durban in KwaZulu-Natal. This eco- type development will be used as a community home for teaching and learning.”

USE-IT’s CEBs are also being used to build a range of single-story dwellings in KwaZulu-Natal. These include an orphanage in Shongweni for New Horizons Trust; a recycling centre in Howick for Wildlands Conservation Trust; demonstration houses in Pietermaritzburg and Durban; and site offices and workshops. CEBs will be used in a R30 million waste beneficiation centre planned for Hammarsdal funded by the Green Fund.

As 2015 progresses, we hope to share more news of the progress of USE-IT’s CEBs, as well as images and updates on all the projects they’re currently involved in…

The BLC is a project managed by the Cape Craft and Design Institute.