Earth as a construction material

Build with earth

 

….YESTERDAY?

Yes, for thousands of years our ancestors  built with earth as well as stone and wood in a rich diversity of construction methods. There is also an equally rich heritage of social cooperation and community building that is inherent in these technologies.

 

… TODAY?

Yes, builders make walls and floors and roofs, using earth as a construction material with wood and stone, bamboo and many kinds of plant and animal fibres. Earth is used with fired bricks and lime too Millions of these buildings are still occupied in all corners of the world and … RIGHT NOW, HERE, IN EUROPE !

Yes, even into the 21st century the thread of earth building remains unbroken in some places, or has been revived in others so that we have a new generation of earth builders . But what does that mean in terms of professional competence ? Whose job is it? Who holds the knowledge and the skill, when it comes to using earth in public construction sites, with contractors, architects, surveyors, engineers and lab technicians, etc.? How do people get these skills?

 

The advantages of earth

Earth meets the requirements for modern, i.e. contemporary, sustainable and futuristic construction. As a binder, clay uses low levels of primary energy, is in almost unlimited supply, releases no harmful substances into the environment, is non-allergenic and re-usable. Since construction waste forms a large part of overall waste generated, the importance of building materials being recyclable is clear.

A promise to young people or adults to change the business model, where job creation in earthen materials is also an indicator of success and self-realization. This is something to maintain and question throughout life with knowledge and practice.

 

Modern earth Building

Following the widespread loss of knowledge of  techniques and methods since 1950, building with earth is once again on the rise. Contemporary earth building is characterised by rational working methods and innovative preparation and processing methods.
There is a wide range of pre-fabricated earth building materials available (bagged materials and ready to use mix, earth panels boards, earth bricks). Earth has become competitive
and innovative, if not the most innovative market in the construction industry, offering a wide range of possibilities.
Clay surfaces and clay plaster work not only because they provide healthy living spaces but also because of their design qualities, interacting with light, colour and other materials to create unique spaces with living surfaces.

 

Vernacular earth building

With the spread and density of earth buildings in many European regions, earth building skills were once very common.

The longevity and diverse functions of these buildings illustrates how past builders mastered both the design and technology of this construction material.

With the beauty of the buildings, the process was deeply grounded in local culture and environment.

Given the weight of the raw material and the volume it takes to make an entire house, the process was based on participative site work.

These are all characteristics of vernacular architecture, sustainable in essence.

In the past few decades much of this has been forgotten in many parts of the world.

 

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A guide to earth building training in Europe and beyond