'As green as it gets'

Compressed Earth Blocks offer building alternative
Dec. 17, 2013 @ 05:00 AM

DIG southeast owner Jeff Gannon is looking for a greener and cleaner way to build homes in Central Carolina — and he intends to do it with dirt.

Working in Chatham and Lee counties, Gannon recently opened DIG southeast as a sustainable building materials manufacturer that specializes in manufacturing Compressed Earth Blocks (CEB) from North Carolina clay.

"We wanted to find a better way to [build] things," he said, "a better way to build using green technology."

The clay is compacted mechanically with a hydraulic press into 7-by-14 inch or 10-by-14 inch blocks, he said, adding that the material meets all of the building codes in North Carolina.

"This is a super local product," Gannon said. "It doesn't get much more local than this. As a green building material, this is as green as it gets."

Gannon is working on three homes now, all in various stages of completion "to ensure quality control," he said.

The blocks contain no volatile organic compounds, naturally repel insects, are fire and water resistant and absorb heat and release it evenly while remaining comparable in cost to other building materials, Gannon said.

Eventually, Gannon said he wants to offer classes and workshops to teach others how to use these blocks.

"The end game is to make these [blocks] available to those who want to build this way," he said. "We want to sell the blocks and share expertise and provide any additional materials as a subcontractor."

DIG has two locations, including one in Lee County at Lee Builder Mart. The other is at Piedmont Biofuels, Gannon said.

"All of our machinery is run on biofuels," he said. "Down to the fuel we are using, we are keeping it local and keeping it green."

It is extremely important to the company, he said, to keep as many dollars within Central Carolina. DIG, he added, is only company of this kind in the state.

"The word is getting out," Gannon said. "There is going to be a market and demand for this."