ADDITIVES TO CLAY
ORGANIC ADDITIVESDERIVED FROM NATURAL SOURCESIntroduction
Figure 1 Surface stabilisation of soil with palm oil,Nigeria.
Photo credit: CRATerre/EAG
Earth has been used for buildingfor thousands of years throughoutthe world spanning a diverse rangeof climates and cultures. Earthitself is a multi-component systemusually consisting of stones, sand,silt, clay, water and, near theground surface, organic humus.Structural stability of earthbuildings is maintained by thestructural integrity of the sand andstone framework, by the porefilling capacity of the silt and,most importantly, by the bindingqualities of the clay, which are inturn influenced by the moisturecontent of the soil.Compared with some building materials earth can be considered to have some disadvantages– it has relatively low compressive strength, tensile strength and abrasion resistance. It mayalso lose a lot of its rigidity in the presence of water. Nevertheless it is very cheap, verywidely available, environmentally friendly, strongly linked to local cultures and traditions and,with skilful construction, can contribute significantly to the aesthetic appeal and user comfortof buildings.Good and durable earth buildings can be built provided certain precautions are taken. Theseprecautions will depend on local conditions and structural requirements, but can broadly beclassified into four categories:
Different soils can have very different characteristics. The quality of a soil for building isstrongly dependant on grain size distribution and excluding humus.
Soil preparation and construction methods
Builders should be familiar with soil pulverising, proportioning, mixing, maturing and curingas well as masonry techniques.
The design should take account of the properties of the raw material by appropriate loaddistribution and structural dimensions, and by incorporating protective elements againstdamp, rain, impact and abrasion. Protection can be achieved by adding more durable butcomplimentary materials at places such as the wall base, roof overhang and the copings, andby using plasters and renders.
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