Concrete is undoubtedly the most used material today. But the cost and ecological damage that come with it are plenty. To build sustainably with locally available materials, we need to go down to earth.
Earth-building techniques are traditional methods that have been prevalent worldwide. By experimenting, earth has been used as a construction material in various different forms.
Here are a few of the most common earth construction techniques:
This type of construction primarily makes use of a mixture of clay, sand, straw and water. These materials are kneaded together using hands, feet or simple tools.
Dingle dell cob house is a beautiful homestay in the countryside of Ottery Saint Mary with the highest possible level of sustainability. It is a zero-carbon space that blends a luxurious family space with nature. It makes use of 2,000 tonnes of cob and has a meadow roof which is made of a wildflower green cover.
Adobe blocks are mud bricks that are naturally dried. They are usually made of mud containing high clay content and straw.
This residence in Thailand is built out of wood and adobe with a scenic view of the adjacent rice fields. The residence has 4 rooms, living room, dining room and kitchen, complete with a home office and a swimming pool for entertainment. Natural ventilation techniques have been employed throughout the building.
Use of wood: Wood has been used extensively throughout the building as a structural, decorative and a roofing material. The wood has been sealed and treated with oil to bring out its beauty and imperfections.
Walls: The walls are made of self made adobe consisting of local clay, sand and bamboo shavings. A water resistant outer coating made of lime and fine earth powder renders the wall smooth.
Flooring: The flooring is made of stone tiles.
It is an on site construction method using compressed layers of clay and aggregates like gravel, sand or silt. Often, cement is added to stabilize the mixture.
A formwork is made of two flat panels connected together through screws. Layers of the clay mixture are placed between them. A wooden or metal pole is used to ram these layers. The color of the soil used influences the final outcome of the building. Often, different colors of soils are used to add striations to the facade.
This residence seamlessly fuses traditional construction techniques and modern design. This building is situated in the middle of a vineyard and was designed to blend with its surroundings. It consists of three volumes, with different materials and public and private spaces.
Here, the walls are built out of blocks made of soil and a stabilizer. A good soil for CSEB has 15% gravel, 50% sand, 15% silt and 20% clay. The most common stabilizers used are cement. Lime, chemicals and resins are also used. The mix is slightly moistened and poured into a steel press. It is then either manually or mechanically compressed.
The Auroville Earth Institute is making an effort to revive the traditional and sustainable earth building methods to build modern and progressive structures. Most of the buildings have rammed earth foundations and walls made of CSEB.
The local Auroville red soil, rich in iron oxide, is used in building. As local lime quality is not up to the standards, cement is used as a stabilizer. The scrapped away topsoil is reused in gardens. The quarries are repurposed as percolation pits, pools, ponds, basement areas or play areas. Many types of CSEB have been invented here. Some of them are the square hollow interlocking block 245, the rectangular hollow interlocking block 295 and the dry interlocking 300.
Super adobe is an eco-friendly construction material invented by Nader Khalil. It consists of short or long degradable sandbags (polypropylene or burlap) filled with moistened earth.
It is an Airbnb nestled in the hills, made out of SuperAdobe bags. The locally abundant clay mixed with earth, and earthbags from cattle ranchers and tortilla makers were used.
To cut down on costs, car tire rims were used as window frames. The thick walls have high thermal mass and keep the interiors comfortable. The house runs solely on solar power and is extremely sustainable. Locally sourced wood has also been used in this earthy bungalow.
This type of construction involves a woven mesh called wattle coated with a natural plaster called daub. Wattle is usually made of wooden strips, reeds, vines or bamboo. Sometimes loose panels are placed in between timber framing.
The mud home is a sustainable home made out of various mud building techniques. The bathroom extension is made of wattle and daub. The wattle is made of a timber frame. Fresh cut hazelwood was woven to create a fence.
Two layers of earth plaster daub are applied. The first layer is used to cover the frame and the second layer is used to beautify the facade. Flat stones are placed to give the walls some textures. The wattle acts as a reinforcement for the wall even when it gets wet.
Depending on the context, the earth can be used in various different forms to make cheap and sustainable buildings.
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