Working Up A Sweat

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Compressed Brick Sauna Building

Working Up a Sweat
Appears in People, Sustainability, The New West
By Sally Western, OUTSIDE BOZEMAN

Near Livingston, artist Parks Reece has made a new addition to the ever-evolving work of art that is his backyard. Built entirely out of salvaged and sustainable materials, a sauna now sits near his granite fire pit and barbeque. The handsome structure, composed of compressed-earth bricks made with soil from the property, fits well within the ethos of Reece’s land art.

The basic compressed-earth brick is composed of ground-up dirt and clay soil, with 4-8% cement thrown in for extra strength. According to Reece, the earth bricks are stronger and more insulating than classic bricks, plus they’re nontoxic and resistant to sound, fire, insects, and mold. Thanks to their low production cost, compressed-earth bricks are particularly useful for building homes in develop

ing countries; here in the U.S., they get attention for their small carbon footprint. And given the right composition, the soil can be gathered on-site, thus eliminating transportation costs.

The project was inspired by Reece’s friend who needed to test a brick-making machine he had made. At its conception, the sauna venture was supposed to take a few weeks. But this being the machine’s (and Reece’s) inaugural brick-producing project, it required a little extra time to work out the kinks. Not to
mention that stacking 40-pound bricks was a task better suited for a crew larger than Reece’s four-person team. The whole undertaking lasted about four months.

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The effort yielded great results: a luxurious sauna attached to a small, Eastern-influenced sitting room with the understated elegance of an eco-tourism guest house, proving that not all civilized comforts must come at a high cost—to wallets or the environment.