A sustainability approach to standards for

rammed earth construction in Bhutan by Zareen Sethna (CL) Fourth-year undergraduate project
Group D, 2007/2008

“I hereby declare that, except where specifically indicated, the work submitted herein is my own original work”

A sustainability approach to standards for rammed earth construction in Bhutan

Contents
Technical Abstract ................................................................ ................................................................................................ ................................................................................. ................................................. ii 1 1.1 1.2 2 3 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 4 4.1 4.2 4.3 Introduction ................................................................ ................................................................................................ .......................................................................................... .......................................................... 1 Context ....................................................................................................................................... 1 Project Objectives ...................................................................................................................... 4 Methodology ................................................................ ................................................................................................ ......................................................................................... ......................................................... 6 Data collection................................................................ ................................................................................................ .................................................................................... .................................................... 10 Initial literature review ........................................................................................................... 10 Semi-structured Interviews .................................................................................................... 10 Site visits and informal interviews ........................................................................................ 12 Soil testing .............................................................................................................................. 15 Detailed literature review....................................................................................................... 16 Findings ................................................................ ................................................................................................ .............................................................................................. .............................................................. 18 Is there a need?...................................................................................................................... 19 What is needed?..................................................................................................................... 23 What is known? ...................................................................................................................... 26

4.3.1 Materials ................................................................................................................................. 27 4.3.2 Design ..................................................................................................................................... 33 4.3.3 Construction ........................................................................................................................... 39 5 6 7 Conclusions and Recommendations Recommendations ................................................................ ................................................................................. ................................................. 40 References ................................................................ ................................................................................................ ......................................................................................... ......................................................... 46 Appendix A ................................................................ ................................................................................................ .......................................................................................... .......................................................... 48

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Technical Abstract
Background and motivation for work work Rammed earth has traditionally been used extensively in Bhutan and can be seen as a highly sustainable building material. The exceptionally low material costs of rammed earth construction give it a significant economic advantage over alternative materials, such as brick, stone and cement, despite the additional costs incurred in using a more labour intensive method. The high thermal mass of rammed earth reduces the energy demand of buildings and the energy input required in production and transportation of the material is inherently low: hence rammed earth is environmentally sustainable. Two of the thirteen traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan, dozo (masonry) and shingzo (woodwork), are inherent in the construction of rammed earth buildings and hence in promoting the continuation of rammed earth these crafts will also be preserved. Despite its many advantages, rammed earth construction in Bhutan has seen a steep decline in recent years. Although there are many reasons behind this trend, the lack of a code of practice in particular appeared to be acting as a barrier to rammed earth construction in urban areas. The project therefore aspired to facilitate the continued use of this highly sustainable material by conducting the research necessary to the development of an appropriate code of practice for rammed earth construction in Bhutan. Research Three key research questions were identified and corresponding research objectives developed: 1. Is there a need? 2. What is needed? 3. What is known? Verify whether there is a need in Bhutan for standards on rammed earth Determine what is required of a code of practice in Bhutan Establish the state of knowledge on rammed earth in Bhutan and internationally

The research strategy was designed around the specific nature of each objective. Certain research methods were suited to multiple objectives and hence research questions were pursued in parallel through a combination of primary and secondary research methods. These included semi-structured and informal interviews, site visits, soil testing and a detailed literature review of Bhutanese codes, Eurocodes and rammed earth guidelines.
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Findings 1. Is there a need? A code of practice on rammed earth construction does not currently exist in Bhutan and such a code would facilitate the continued use of rammed earth in urban areas. Despite there being a wealth of literature on rammed earth internationally, there is no existing code of practice which is appropriate for use in Bhutan. 2. What is needed? The research shows that the code should cover the same material, design and construction considerations as are dealt with in national codes on rammed earth construction from other countries, but at an appropriate level of detail; this should be sufficient to enable the construction of safe, simple buildings but should not extend to the level of detailed structural calculations. 3. What is known? The materials used for rammed earth construction in Bhutan conform approximately to the specifications of previous research literature. Traditional Bhutanese design and construction methods were found to be conservative with respect to the design criteria of various national standards. The exception to this finding is in relation to seismic design features which are recommended for rammed earth buildings yet are not seen in traditional rammed earth buildings in Bhutan. 4. Overall findings A code of practice can be written on the basis of traditional Bhutanese design and construction practices without contravening recommendations made by the various national codes on rammed earth construction reviewed. This is with the exception of considerations relating to seismic design, where further expert advice should be sought in order to find a safe balance between traditional practice and conventional earthquake resistant features. By incorporating the flexibility to enable mechanical ramming and reduce wall thicknesses, the code could address some of the disincentives to constructing rammed earth buildings; however in doing so it will stray from traditional practices. International norms must be more strictly adhered to if this approach is taken, since the wealth of traditional knowledge that currently provides the crucial safety factor in Bhutanese rammed earth buildings will become redundant.

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1

Introduction
Any work of research must first justify its conception and objectives by showing there to be a gap in the academic literature and, particularly in engineering, demonstrating a distinct social or environmental need. This section therefore positions the project within a scientific context and discusses the real need to which it responds.

1.1

Context

1.1.1 Rammed earth construction in Bhutan Rammed earth has traditionally been used extensively in Bhutan for the construction of domestic, religious and administrative buildings. In recent years there has been a dramatic reduction in the use of rammed earth. Whilst there are a number of explanations for this trend there are also strong economic, environmental and social incentives for the continued use of this highly sustainable technology. Despite the increased labour costs associated with rammed earth it is invariably the more economic option since the material costs of alternative construction materials are substantial. Stone has been used widely in recent years, however given Bhutan’s fragile landscape and unstable topography this trend was unsustainable and the National Environment Commission (NEC) has now placed stringent limits on quarrying in Bhutan and hence stone is becoming scarce and more expensive. Cement, bricks and other construction materials often have to be transported long distances hence incurring high environmental costs in addition to their embodied energy which is invariably higher than that of rammed earth. They are also less appropriate to the climate where hot sunny days and cold nights enable the high thermal mass of the rammed earth to act to its utmost advantage. Whilst most Bhutanese are keen to see their country develop they are also proud of their traditions and in particular the 13 traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan, two of which, dozo (masonry) and shingzo (woodwork), are inherent in the construction of rammed earth buildings. There have been many attempts to document and encourage the revival of traditional architecture and arts, however traditional construction appears to be in decline.

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1.1.2 The need for appropriate standards

“The need for standards is not disputed” Constructing Excellence (2006:2) Standards are widely seen to “make life simpler and to increase the reliability and the effectiveness” (http://www.bsi-global.com) of projects and hence improve the safety of those pertaining to the built environment. In Bhutan there is an additional need; the lack of standardisation appears to be acting as a barrier to rammed earth construction in urban areas. In these areas where regulatory authorities exist rammed earth projects have faced difficulties in obtaining insurance and planning permission. Although a number of flagship buildings have been constructed, the lack of standardisation is perceived to be preventing the construction of larger or multiple projects; many engineers feel that without a code, rammed earth can only be used for one off buildings where quality can be assured through close supervision. Despite the interest in rammed earth construction in recent years there are relatively few comprehensive standards on the method. However it is not so much the absence of standards which is the justification behind this project, but rather the desire to provide the engineering sector in Bhutan with an appropriate standard. The concept of appropriacy can be traced back to the 1970s and the work of the economist E.F Schumacher. In his last lecture in Caux he stated: “If you want to be a good shoemaker, it is not good enough to make good shoes...you also have to know a lot about feet” New World News, 17 September 1977 This captures the essence of appropriacy; one size doesn’t fit all. In the same way as Schumacher argues that modern western technologies are unsuitable for developing countries, so this project is based on the premise that standards are also context specific, and in assuming that they are universal we can do considerable harm. An intermediate standard is hence required; one which improves on the baseline of no standard at all, conforms to certain international norms, and yet focuses on delivering a

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solution which meets the technical, social, economic and environmental requirements of the situation (Francis & Mansell, 1988:44). Based on these concepts, an appropriate code of practice can be regarded as one which fulfils the following specifications: • • • • •

codify traditional practices rather than overrule them, and hence allow architects and engineers to design buildings that can be constructed using traditional methods address the needs of the target audience in terms of style and content be sensitive to the social, environmental and economic issues relating to the construction industry in Bhutan maintain the same breadth of coverage and technical rigour as codes used elsewhere in the world. not only replicate but also develop current practices to incorporate relevant new techniques and improvements

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1.2

Project Objectives
In response to the apparent need for a code of practice the initial concept of the project was “to produce an appropriate code of practice for rammed earth construction in Bhutan”. However it is the research necessary to the development of such a standard and not the production of the code itself which is the aim of this project. During the early stages of the research it was perceived that there was a need to break this aim down further:

2. What is needed? 1. Is there a need?
no yes

Produce a code 3. What is known?

No project 4Th Year Research Project
Figure 1: Project framework

The framework demonstrates the key research questions in the development of a code of practice. This project includes the research activities and leaves the production of the code for later work as it is not the remit of a 4th year project. Each research question leads to a clearly specified project objective, these are described in greater detail below.

Research Questions 1. Is there a need? 2. What is needed? 3. What is known?

Research Objectives Objectives Verify whether there is a need in Bhutan for standards on rammed earth Determine what is required of a code of practice in Bhutan Establish the state of knowledge on rammed earth in Bhutan and internationally

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Verify whether there is a need in Bhutan for standards on rammed earth The project was conceived following a work placement with the Royal Government of Bhutan’s Department for Urban Development and Engineering Services in the summer of 2007. This experience, combined with discussions with a development practitioner, led to the initial perception of the need for a code of practice; however it was important to verify that a code would be relevant in facilitating the continued use of rammed earth in Bhutan. Determine what is required of a code of practice in Bhutan Once the need has been established it is necessary to develop an understanding of the requirements of a code of practice in the context in which it will be used. This involved determining who the target audience is, what their needs are and hence what form a code should take. Establish the state of knowledge on rammed earth in Bhutan and internationally In order to produce an appropriate code of practice it was essential to capture the wealth of knowledge on rammed earth construction that exists in Bhutan and gain an in depth understanding of the issues surrounding it. A working knowledge of the existing literature on rammed earth and codes of practice from other countries was also required for comparative purposes and to improve on aspects of current practice such as those relating to seismic design.

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2

Methodology
This section lays out the principles behind the methods chosen in this study. Whilst in concept a code of practice is seen as a highly objective tool by most engineers, the process of its creation and the associated research involve a complex combination of primary and secondary methods taken from both scientific and social science disciplines. Research Questions Research methods Primary methods
1. Is there a need? Semi-structured Interviews 2. What is needed? Informal Interviews Detailed literature review Comparative analysis

Analysis

Secondary methods
Initial literature review Convergent validation

3. What is
known?

Site visits

Soil testing

Figure 2: Methodological Framework

2.1

Appropriate methods to achieve research objectives
The research strategy was designed around the specific nature of each objective. Certain research methods were suited to multiple objectives and hence research questions were pursued in parallel as can be seen from the colour coded lines in the diagram above. The first objective required two lines of enquiry: firstly does an appropriate standard exist and secondly would a standard be useful? These were pursued through an initial literature review and semi-structured interviews respectively. The interviews were also used to ascertain what stakeholders require of a code of practice and what shortcomings they find in the codes they use. This was then backed up by a detailed review of the current codes in use in Bhutan and elsewhere in order to develop a detailed picture of what is required of a code of practice (objective 2). A combination of informal interviews,
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site visits and soil testing were used to generate an in depth understanding of Bhutanese traditions and practices; these were then analysed with reference to the international standards established from the detailed literature review.

2.2

Choice of methods appropriate to the context
In-depth interviews and detailed literature reviews formed key components of the research as it was essential that the choice of methods be consistent with the ethos of the project; namely in giving primacy to the needs and knowledge of people in Bhutan and yet not neglecting the body of technical literature on the subject. Detailed data on rammed earth construction was generated through site visits whilst soil testing enabled comparison with other national standards; as well as giving the research credence within the engineering community.

2.3

An inductive approach approach
The first objective would tend to indicate the use of deductive reasoning in that “the hypothesis come[s] first” (Bryman 2001:8), however the study overall follows an inductive approach in that it starts with “an area of study and allows the theory to emerge from the data” (Strauss and Corbin cited in Bartlett, 2005:43). Inductive approaches are useful when all the relevant concepts are not known, and where there is not a formal body of theory from which to deduce hypotheses for empirical scrutiny (Bryman, 2001:5); this is certainly the case in this area, both the preliminary literature review and subsequent interviews confirmed that there has been very little work done on appropriate standards for Bhutan.

2.4

A combination of methods
Qualitative and quantitative research are differentiated on the basis of data types employed: quantitative data is expressed numerically whereas qualitative data cannot be expressed numerically (Strauss and Corbin cited in Bartlett, 2005:42). The study uses both qualitative and quantitative methods, an approach which is often seen as advantageous: “Theory-building researchers typically combine multiple data collection methods......of special note is the combining of qualitative with quantitative evidence.....[which] can be highly synergistic” 1989:537) (Eisenhardt,

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The use of a range of methods also enables a process of triangulation, in this technique multiple methods are used “in the validation process to ensure that the variance reflected that of the trait and not of the method...In short ‘within-method’ triangulation essentially involves cross-checking for internal consistency or reliability while ‘betweenmethod’ triangulation tests the degree of external validity” (Todd, 1979:604). In this study for example, within-method triangulation is used to confirm that methods of construction are consistent across site visits whilst between-method triangulation is used to validate the description of construction processes given in interviews by comparing them to those observed on site.

2.5

The use of interviews interviews
Interviews constitute a key element of the study since qualitative methods are deemed to “facilitate study of issues in depth and detail” (Patton cited in Bartlett, 2005:43); clearly necessary qualities in research leading to the creation of a code of practice. Interviews were also used to supplement direct test results and site visits since “much of what we cannot observe for ourselves has been or is being observed by others” (Stake as cited in Bartlett, 2005:53). Interviews can be classified as structured, semi-structured and unstructured (Robson, 2002:269). In structured interviews the researcher asks a pre-determined set of questions whilst in unstructured interviews interviewees are not directed, but are free to talk about anything (Bartlett, 2005:53); both styles were deemed inappropriate for researching the first two objectives since though the researcher was looking to address certain key questions, it was also essential to allow the interviewees to introduce issues previously unknown to her. by a list of themes, Semi-structured interviews were therefore conducted with may also seek clarification, engineers, urban planners and architects, as this enables the conversation to be guided and yet ensures the interviewer elaboration and enter into a dialogue with the interviewee (May, 2001:121). Unstructured interviews in the form of informal interviews were considered appropriate to the third objective; Robson designates informal interviews as times when the researcher “takes an opportunity that arises to have a (usually short) chat with someone in the research setting about anything which seems relevant” (Robson, 2002:282). The third objective, to establish the state of knowledge on rammed earth, was therefore pursued through site visits combined with informal interviews allowing the researcher to discuss detailed aspects of the construction process with the traditional craftsmen in context.
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For research to be considered valid and the results generalisable it is essential that the interview sample be representative of the study population; after all “no amount of analytic sophistication can compensate if the right people were not asked the right questions in the right way” (Fisher cited in Bartlett, 2005:53). Many researchers therefore use methods such as random sampling, stratified random sampling or cluster sampling (Haralambos and Holborn, 2000:994) to ensure the sample reflects the wider population. However “standard sampling...techniques require the researcher to...have a sampling frame, a list of all members in the population” (Salganik and Heckathorn, 2004:194). Clearly the key stakeholders in the creation of a code of practice for Bhutan are difficult to identify let alone produce a sampling frame from, and hence snowball (or chain-referral) sampling is used. In this method “respondents are selected not from a sampling frame but from the...network of existing members of the sample. The sampling process begins when the researchers select a small number of seeds who are the first people to participate in the study” (Salganik and Heckathorn, 2004:194). Snowball sampling is also quicker and allows a larger sample size within the tight timescale of the field visit; hence this method was used to find appropriate interviewees.

2.6

Comparison with literature
“Overall, tying the emergent theory to existing literature enhances the internal validity [and] generalizability...it is particularly crucial in theorybuilding research because the findings often rest on a very limited number of cases. In this situation, any further corroboration of internal validity or generalizability is an important improvement.” (Eisenhardt, 1989:545)

The comparison of field work results with the findings from the detailed literature review hence plays a key role in enhancing the validity of the research. The process of comparison involved “asking what is this similar to, what does it contradict, and why” (Eisenhardt, 1989:544) and in doing so furthers the depth of understanding of the subject and hence improves the quality of the eventual code.

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3

Data collection
Data were collected through a combination of literature reviews, interviews, site visits and soil testing. This section looks at each method in turn reviewing the work that was undertaken, the issues that emerged and how they were overcome.

3.1

Initial literature review
Between October and December 2007 an initial literature review was undertaken in order to discover if there were any existing codes on rammed earth construction and whether any of them would be appropriate to the needs of the Bhutanese engineering sector. The review also provided a framework for the fieldwork in clarifying aspects of construction which would need investigating and highlighting gaps in the literature which should be addressed. The review looked at UK building regulations and Eurocodes, as well as published literature on rammed earth. The key texts examined included: • • • • • BS EN 1996 Eurocode 6 Design of masonry structures BS EN 1997 Eurocode 7 Geotechnical design Approved Document A, The Building Regulations 2000. 2004 Edition. Gernot Minke (2000) “Earth Construction Handbook” Julian Keable (1996) “Rammed Earth Structures: a code of practice”

The main difficulty faced was in obtaining standards and literature from Bhutan since these are not available on the internet and are too large to be sent via email. It was therefore decided to use the interviews and site visits to obtain further Bhutanese documentation.

3.2

SemiSemi-structured Interviews
The researcher met with the director of the Department of Urban Development and Engineering Services (DUDES) on the first day of the field visit to establish key points of contact. Within the first three working days of the visit meetings were conducted with representatives from SNV (Netherlands Development Organisation), SPBD (Schools Planning and Building Division), SQCA (Standards & Quality Control Authority) and Tashi Dawa Associates (a Thimphu based architectural practice). On return to the capital further interviews were arranged with the Urban Planning and Structural Engineering

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section within DUDES. The interviews hence covered a range of stakeholders from the private, voluntary and government sector as well as a variety of engineers, architects and urban planners. Interview Interview questions The semi-structured interviews focussed on the first two research objectives: is there a need for a code and what is required of a code if there is. Before each interview an interview plan was prepared depending on the nature of the organisation to be visited; for instance interviews with SPBD and Tashi Dawa Associates focussed more on the current codes they use and any problems experience in using them whilst the interview with SQCA discussed how Indian Codes have been adapted for use in Bhutan and the production of Bhutanese codes. All interviews were also used to find new contacts, sources of literature and suggestions of relevant sites to visit. Conducting the interviews The researcher made certain to explain the research and its objectives at the start of each interview. During the interviews brief notes were made in a field notebook and interviews were recorded with the prior permission of interviewees. It was the intention that all interviews be reviewed within 48 hours however this was rarely achievable for a number of reasons: firstly the researcher was staying as a guest in the houses of contacts made on a previous visit and hence it would have been considered as impolite to work all evening, secondly there was not always an area with sufficient lighting and heating to work at night. Although all houses had electricity none had more than single electric light bulbs and sometimes one electric bar heater. The researcher therefore made certain to record key sites, contacts and titles of necessary literature in the field notebook to ensure all leads were followed up whilst in Bhutan. Style of interviewing Gummesson (cited Bartlett, 2005:56) suggests that pre-understanding is essential in a study taking an inductive approach and quotes Andersson as stating “personal experience of the area of study is considered to be a scientific merit” (Gummesson cited Bartlett, 2005:56). As a young, female, foreign engineer it was of considerable advantage to the researcher to have prior understanding of Bhutanese culture and knowledge of the engineering sector in Bhutan. The researcher was therefore able to dress appropriately in traditional dress (a habit requiring considerable practice) and use

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the correct terms of address in speaking with senior officials. These measures, combined with a few words of introduction in Dzongkha (although the interviews were all conducted in English) are considered to have been crucial to the quality of the interviews and the level of understanding achieved. The interviews followed the ethical approach advocated by Scheyvens and Storey (2003) which requires “building mutually beneficial relationships with the people you meet in the field and...acting in a sensitive and respectful manner”. The Bhutanese are exceptionally polite and it therefore required concentration and discipline to both ensure the researcher was not told what it was presumed she wanted to hear, and to push questions without seeming rude in a culture which is by nature non-confrontational. In addition to deliberately conforming to Bhutanese etiquette the researcher therefore discussed the potential of the work and suggested collaboration with key interviewees in the production of the code.

3.3

Site visits and informal interviews
A total of 11 sites were visited in the areas surrounding Thimphu and Wangdue Phodrang, these included 5 sites under construction, 3 recently completed and 3 structures of over 100 years old. At the ongoing sites measurements, photos, video footage and a visual inspection were taken. Drawings were obtained for the buildings wherever possible and a detailed informal interview with the skilled craftsmen conducted

Figure 3: Map of Bhutan showing location of Thimphu and Wangdue (http://maps.google.co.uk/maps)

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by means of a translator. During site visits to recently completed and older structures photos and measurements were taken and where possible interviews conducted with the occupants to obtain information on the age of the building, maintenance procedures and its predicted future lifespan and mode of failure. Data gathered Through a combination of observation and interviews data was gathered on the materials used, water content and soil testing procedure as well as current material storage practices. Earth samples were taken and wherever possible the mud was collected just before being rammed. Dimensions of foundations and stonework up to plinth level were obtained as were wall thicknesses and heights. Measurements of the wooden shuttering were taken and the ramming process was observed in detail to ascertain the quantity of earth used the level of compaction and time taken. Particular attention was given to how wall connections were made and how the walls were reinforced, however this relied heavily on interviews and the descriptions were sometimes conflicting. The sites visited were at various stages of completion enabling a better understanding of how the buildings work and in particular the flooring systems which were viewed at various stages of progression. Both completed buildings and those still under construction were examined closely for signs of movement and any evidence of cracking was photographed in detail. The dimensions and details given in interviews were checked against the actual site measurements and then crosschecked on further site visits. Issues of translation Translation was not required for the semi-structured interviews since all were professionals fluent in English; informal interviews were conducted with the craftsmen who rarely had any knowledge of English and hence it was essential to be accompanied by someone with a reasonable level of Dzongkha and English. In most cases this translation support could be provided by the site engineer or otherwise contacts made on the previous visit; it was therefore not considered necessary to find an interpreter. In some cases this approach did not work; the engineers were not used to acting as translators and would hence attempt to answer my question themselves or their first

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language was not Dzongkha and hence there were communication difficulties between them and the craftsmen. In other instances however it worked well; particularly where the site engineer was from a rural background and spoke the local dialect, since in these cases there was a real rapport between the craftspeople and the site engineer and they would often volunteer information and elaborate without further questioning. Investigation approach There were several public holidays during the field visit and sites were often deserted preventing both interviews and the collection of ‘ready to be rammed’ mud samples; some sites were visited three times before the head craftsman could be located and explain the method in detail. “Flexibility is controlled opportunism in which researchers take advantage of the uniqueness of a specific case...to improve resultant theory.” (Eisenhardt, 1989:539) Potential opportunities for site visits and interviews often arose at short notice and it was essential to be flexible both in timing and questioning. Often new construction details or explanations would emerge that were then included and cross checked on subsequent sites. Data collection was facilitated by the relationships formed previously between the researcher and the engineers in Wangdue Phodrang. The engineers went out of their way to accompany the researcher on site visits at weekends in appreciation of the tight time constraints of the field visit as well as discussing the research and suggesting potential sites and sources of further information. These engineers also made excellent translators; although their grasp of English was not always good, their understanding of the motivations of the project and the needs of the research meant they would often follow up questions themselves and engage in conversation with the craftsmen, only then relaying the information to the researcher once they themselves were convinced by the thorough nature of the response. As with the formal interviews the nature of the research and intended use of the data were explained at the outset of the interview and consent obtained before using the dictaphone. Permission was also sought before taking photographs and video footage
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and the researcher made a conscious effort to photograph the buildings and not the people, and also to be seen to be doing so.

3.4

Soil testing
The soil samples were tested to determine their basis characteristics: the natural (as used) moisture content, the particle size distribution, the liquid and plastic limits and hence the plasticity index and undrained shear strength (at the liquid limit and natural moisture content). The tests were performed following procedures given in BS 1377:1975 Methods for Test of Soils for Civil Engineering Purposes. Only three of six samples were collected at the point of being rammed, however the moisture content (BS 1377-2.1.1, 1975) of all samples was taken. This was done by weighing can and the can plus the soil and leaving it in an oven at 105ºC for at least 24 hours, after which the dry soil sample is again weighed. The water content can then be deduced. Once all the soil had been oven dried it was then prepared for testing using a rubber pestle and mortar and subsequently sieving the sample through a 425µm filter before determining the plastic limit (BS 1377-2.3, 1975). Water was added and the sample formed into a small ball. This was then broken into sixths and each one rolled over a glass sheet until it crumbled as it reached a diameter of approximately 3mm. The moisture content of the samples was then taken. The liquid limit test (BS 1377-2.2.1, 1975) used a cone penetrometer with an 80g standard cone. A cup is filled with the sample and the cone poised with its tip just touching the surface. This is released for 5 seconds and the penetration recorded. Five different moisture contents were tested with each sample; at each moisture content tests were repeated until three readings were achieved where the penetration was the same to within 1mm. This test proved to be by far the most variable with tests having to be repeated up to 15 times to achieve the level of accuracy desired. The particle size distribution test (BS 1377-2.7.2, 1975) was performed by placing a sample of soil on a stack of sieves and placing these on a mechanical shaker for a minimum of 30 minutes. Each sieve was then weighed with and without the soil accumulated on it. A wet sieving and sedimentation analysis would have yielded more
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accurate results given there was a small but significant proportion of fines; however, given the time constraints of the research, a dry sieving method was used. The plasticity index (IP) was deduced from the liquid (wL) and plastic limits (wP): IP = wL - wP (BS 1377-2.4, 1975) The undrained shear strength (su) of the soil was calculated from the weight of the cone (W), the cone angle constant (F) and the depth of penetration (d) using the expression: W = F su d2 (Soga and White, 2007:3)

3.5

Detailed literature review
The field visit to Bhutan produced a wealth of information in the form of current codes of practice, architectural literature on historic practices and technical drawings of rammed earth buildings: • Codes of practice: - IS 456: 2000 Plain and reinforced concrete COP - BTS-009-2003 Bhutan Building Code –Section 8 Masonry Structures - IS 13826:1993 Improving earthquake resistance of low strength masonry buildings – guidelines - IS 13827:1993 Improving earthquake resistance of earthen buildings – guidelines - Standards for timber doors and windows, Standard & Quality Control Division (N.B. IS = Indian Standards) • Drawings: - SPBD community school and staff quarter drawing in rammed earth - Gup office structural and architectural design drawings in masonry/rammed earth • Literature: - Clear Exposition of Bhutanese Architecture. Chang Dorji (2004) - Improved traditional housing. Department of Works and Housing - Survey on Historical Monuments in Wangdue Phodrang Dzongkhag. Junko Mukai (2006) - Architectural Heritage Journal, July 2006. Division for Conservation of Architectural Heritage - An Introduction to Traditional Architecture of Bhutan. Department of Works and Housing

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The codes were used to establish whether rammed earth was covered at all in existing literature and examine differences in format, coverage and presentation of Bhutanese and UK codes of practice. The literature and technical drawings were reviewed against the primary data gathered to check for consistency of method and technique in Bhutanese practices. Contemporary academic research and handbooks on rammed earth construction were also reviewed and compared against Bhutanese practices and the results of soil sample testing. The key literature reviewed included:
• • • • • •

Jaquin (2008) Analysis of historic rammed earth construction Arya (2007) Earthquake disaster reduction: masonry building, design and construction Walker et al. (2005) Rammed earth: design and construction guidelines Walker & Maniatidis (2003) A review of rammed earth construction Gernot Minke (2001) Construction manual for earthquake-resistant houses built of earth Lilley & Robinson (1995) Ultimate strength of rammed earth walls with openings

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4

Findings
The results of the various data collection methods and analysis are drawn together in this section. Each research question is reviewed in turn and the associated research presented in order to give a complete and detailed picture of the findings.

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4.1

Is there a need? need?
The first objective was to verify the need for standards on rammed earth construction for Bhutan. This necessitated two lines of enquiry: firstly, does an appropriate standard exist, and secondly, would a code facilitate the continued use of rammed earth in Bhutan. The results of the initial literature review and semi-structured interviews pertaining to these two questions are summarised below.

4.1.1 Existing standards The initial literature review demonstrated that, despite there being a wealth of literature on rammed earth, there are few codes of practice and none of them appropriate to the needs of the engineering sector in Bhutan. Codes range from the simply presented descriptions of traditional methods as per Keable’s “Rammed Earth Structures: a code of practice” (1996) to the descriptions of more modern techniques involving cement stabilization and mechanical ramming, as laid out in codes from New Zealand and the United States. These findings were corroborated by the interviews in Bhutan and a more detailed literature review. The Standards and Quality Control Authority (SQCA) of Bhutan confirmed that they do not currently have a code for rammed earth construction, although they were able to provide the researcher with Indian standards on the earthquake resistance of earthen and low strength masonry buildings (IS 13827:1993 and IS 13828:1993) which appear to be the closest the available literature in Bhutan or India comes to a standard for rammed earth buildings. The detailed literature review confirmed that there is no national standard for rammed earth construction in the UK although guidelines were published by Walker, Keable et al. in 2005. Although there have been several landmark buildings constructed in rammed earth in the UK “no standard specifically for rammed earth construction was used during the design of any of the examined projects [11 UK projects including the Eden project, Dragons Retreat (Devon) and the Stables (Northamptonshire)]. [However] some guidance was sought from current literature” (Walker and Maniatidis, 2003:81). The design procedures used in these projects have generally been based on those used for unreinforced masonry or the rammed earth has been treated as a low strength mass concrete (Walker and Maniatidis, 2003:82).
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A sustainability approach to standards for rammed earth construction in Bhutan

Standards are available for Australia, New Zealand, USA (New Mexico), Zimbabwe, Germany and Spain and “provisions set out in the Australian, New Zealand and New Mexican codes often reflect the common use of cement stabilisation in these countries” (Walker and Maniatidis, 2003:2). Although other countries have produced codes on earthen construction they either do not cover rammed earth, have been withdrawn, or copies are unavailable (Walker and Maniatidis, 2003:5). As well as clearly being inappropriate for direct application in Bhutan owing to cultural, economic and environmental differences, there has also been criticism that existing guidelines are highly conservative, thereby preventing economically viable construction especially in seismically active areas. “Guidelines for modern construction are simplistic with structural design guidelines being based on those for unreinforced masonry, and materials specifications being compliance rather than method based. Because of this lack of understanding, large material safety factors must be used in structural design, Walker, Keable et al. (2005) recommend that material safety factors of between 3 and 6 should be used...These factors are obviously unacceptable for efficient building design....As the use of rammed earth becomes more widespread there is an increasing need for rational structural design guidelines.” 4.1.2 Existing needs All interviews confirmed that a code for rammed earth structures does not exist and that the lack of a code is acting as a barrier to rammed earth construction. “We can’t offer mud rammed structures to clients since there is no code” A design engineer Jaquin (2008)

“They [Thimphu City Corporation] wanted us to make this two-storey rammed earth building "earthquake safe" by following standards and codes applied for masonry construction. For instance, they insisted that we use G.I pipe or steel rods as vertical reinforcement, which I am sure you aware, is not compatible for carrying out proper ramming” An architect

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A sustainability approach to standards for rammed earth construction in Bhutan

Whilst uncertain of the direct impact of a code for rammed earth construction in the immediate future, most interviewees expressed a desire for more sustainable construction in Bhutan and hence felt that the code would contribute to this agenda in the long term. “We would want our structures to be very efficient, I mean efficient from every point of view, but I think that might take a little time.” An architect

“I am sure with time, having codes of practice would be very essential to promote and protect the traditional methods of construction especially the rammed earth construction.” An architect

Interviewees also highlighted the complexity and uncertainty surrounding the future of rammed earth in Bhutan. For instance it became clear that whilst the need for a code exists mostly in urban areas (since there are no regulatory authorities in rural areas) it is also in these areas that rammed earth construction faces the greatest obstacles. Most towns in Bhutan are now planned and the plot sizes are often incompatible with traditional rammed earth buildings. A key determinant will be the economic viability of rammed earth buildings, however opinion was divided as to whether it is cheaper or more expensive than other construction methods. “Is there a future for rammed earth in Bhutan? In the city I have my reservations...because the people they may not be able to afford. Firstly you have to have land, second thing is the space, consumption of big space, third thing is it is possible but at what cost?” An urban planner

“It’s actually far cheaper using mud and its also much warmer you know, especially in a place like Thimphu.” An engineer

“In fact what I’m interested in is, I would like to compare how cost effective it is to do it in the mechanised form and to do it the manual, the customary practice one. That would be very useful to us.” An urban planner

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A sustainability approach to standards for rammed earth construction in Bhutan

The slow pace of construction and a diminishing pool of skilled labour were also seen as disincentives and hence strong interest was expressed in the possible use of mechanical ramming. “This technique has lost its popularity because we don’t have the required man power. If you go by the customary practice it takes a lot of time, just trying to do it manually. But maybe the mechanical equipment could An architect facilitate trying to do it in a shorter period of time.”

“Because it’s so rarely used it’s difficult, I think, to find even the workers to actually build using mud anymore” An engineer

4.1.3 Conclusion Conclusion – is there a need? It was verified that the existing Bhutan Building Code (BTS-009-2003) does not include earth structures. Whilst various national codes exist for other countries, they are invariably inappropriate for direct application in Bhutan owing to cultural, economic and environmental differences. Many codes have been developed in areas where stabilized earth is most commonly used and hence not proven to be appropriate to natural (unstabilized) rammed earth. Owing to a poor understanding of rammed earth behaviour many national codes are based on standards for masonry construction and are so cautious, particularly with regards to design in seismic areas, that their adoption would render rammed earth construction in Bhutan almost unviable. The interviews demonstrated that there is a need for a code of practice for rammed earth construction in Bhutan and that such a code would facilitate the continued use of this method of construction. However many other issues surrounding the viability of rammed earth buildings arose. Some of these issues could be addressed by a code; for example the speed of construction could be increased if the code could incorporate the flexibility to enable both manual and mechanical ramming. Other factors such as the perceived economic viability certainly need addressing, however this is outside the remit of a code of practice and hence does not fall within the scope of this research.

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A sustainability approach to standards for rammed earth construction in Bhutan

4.2

What is needed?
The second objective was to determine what is required of a code of practice in Bhutan. A detailed literature review compared the current Bhutan Building Code (BTS-009-2003) with the equivalent Eurocode, as well as examining the coverage of guidelines on rammed earth, whilst interviews attempted to establish the shortcomings of current codes and obtain recommendations for improvements.

4.2.1 Existing codes Level Level of detail A comparison of the masonry structures section of the Bhutan Building Code (BTS-0092003) with the equivalent Eurocode (BS EN 1996 Eurocode 6 Design of masonry structures) revealed significant differences in the level of detail between the two documents. codes. Whilst Eurocode 6 covers 152 pages (including annexes), section 8 of the Bhutanese code is just 23 pages long, although it does have a narrower scope (excluding reinforced masonry) and makes reference to other documents in certain areas. The Bhutanese code is also characterised by concise descriptive text and data tables in contrast to the Eurocode which makes greater use of equations. This is strongly indicative of the level of detail and style of guidelines required by the Bhutanese engineering sector and demonstrates the need for a standard which enables the construction of safe, simple buildings and does not need to extend to the detailed calculations which would permit more experimental structural design. Format The format of the Bhutanese codes (BTS BTS-009-2003 and the Standards for timber doors and windows, Standard & Quality Control Division) is clearer and uses a larger font size than the Indian or European codes. Whilst the codes are increasingly available on CD there is still much use of photocopying and hence this clearer format is more appropriate. This was surprising given that, according to several interviewees, the Bhutanese codes are based on the Indian codes which were in turn taken from British

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A sustainability approach to standards for rammed earth construction in Bhutan

The Standards for timber doors and windows (Standard & Quality Control Division) is one of the few Bhutanese codes based on traditional practices rather than drawn from external codes. The standards present several “typical illustrations” where window and door designs are shown which comply with the code; this approach would appear to suit the needs of the sector. As one of the interviewees stated: “What the challenge is...people would like to build, but what we make them do is come with building plans and...they would not have the capacity to do a building plan. If we had something on our shelves...like something standard, we could give it to them and they could actually follow those.” An architect

Content The various national guidelines and reviews on rammed earth construction, although they should not be used as a basis for the code, provide an excellent point of reference by which to verify that the code developed covers the necessary aspects of design and construction and enters into a safe but appropriate level of detail. One of the key concepts in developing a sustainable code is to “codify traditional practices rather than overrule them” and the research so far has indicated that content should not extend to detailed structural calculations. Walker and Maniatidis (2003:24) also give further credence to this proposal: “Load bearing earth buildings have developed over millennia completely in the absence of structural design standards or codes. Rules of thumb for geometric wall proportions developed through the experience of trial and error have proven sufficient to enable earth building to achieve at least 10 stories high...In many low rise situations rigorous structural design of walls is not necessary and wall proportions will follow ‘rule of thumb’ guidelines for maximum slenderness.” Walker and Maniatidis (2003:24)

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A sustainability approach to standards for rammed earth construction in Bhutan

4.2.2 Perceived problems with current codes The key problem highlighted with the Indian standards used in Bhutan is that they are based on the properties of Indian materials and these often do not match the properties of Bhutanese materials. This will clearly be addressed in the proposed code for rammed earth construction since it will be based on Bhutanese materials and practices. Despite the clearer presentation of the existing Bhutanese codes, interviewees highlighted that Indian codes are sometimes used in preference to the equivalent Bhutanese code, since the majority of engineers studied in India and hence are more familiar with the Indian codes. Since the Bhutan Building Code (BTS-009-2003) was only published in 2003 and the first batch of engineering students from the Royal University of Bhutan only graduated in 2006, this situation is therefore hardly surprising, and is likely to change in the near future. However it is worth bearing in mind how the proposed code of practice would be introduced and the necessary training that would be needed to ensure its successful adoption 4.2.3 Conclusion – what what is needed? The level of detail required of a code of practice for rammed earth construction, which is appropriate to the needs of Bhutanese engineers and is acceptable with regards to safety considerations, was established as being that which is demonstrated in the Bhutan Building Code (BTS-009-2003). This gives sufficient guidance to design all but the more structurally experimental buildings and is hence considered adequate. The existing codes were also found to be an excellent guide as to the format of the proposed code, especially in their inclusion of ‘typical illustrations’, which are perceived to meet an existing need for simple, pre-prepared design drawings. The various national codes and reviews on rammed earth construction, and in particular Walker and Maniatidis (2003), are taken to be a suitable guide as to the necessary content of a code of practice on rammed earth construction. The literature review also gives further support to the argument that it is safe to follow traditional practices (without detailed structural calculations) by stating that ‘rule of thumb’ guidelines are acceptable for most low rise buildings.

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A sustainability approach to standards for rammed earth construction in Bhutan

4.3

What is known?
The final objective was to establish the state of knowledge on rammed earth in Bhutan and internationally. The following section therefore presents the knowledge of Bhutanese practices, drawn from informal interviews, site visits, soil testing and Bhutanese literature, with reference to existing national standards from around the world. This section cannot be seen as a summary of the existing knowledge on rammed earth internationally, but that information which is pertinent and comparable to the data collected in Bhutan. It is also important to note that this section deals only with material properties, basic design considerations (layout, number of storeys etc.) and briefly construction practices. Detailed design is simply not undertaken for rammed earth buildings in Bhutan, traditional design is replicated with no calculations involved; therefore to discuss the design of rammed earth construction in detail would simply repeat existing literature with no new data from Bhutan for comparison. Seismic design principles are considered throughout the section with respect to the different elements of design, as these principles must be integral to the proposed code and not an additional check list at the end. The format follows the themes and structure of Walker and Maniatidis’ “A review of rammed earth construction” (2003) rather than following the format of a guideline which would necessitate a different approach.

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A sustainability approach to standards for rammed earth construction in Bhutan

4.3.1 Materials Soil colour

Figure 4: Photos of soil taken at different sites in Bhutan Bhutan

There was a wide variation in the soil colour between sites, reflecting contrasting mineralogies and states of weathering; colours ranged from sandy yellow, to grey brown and deep red; although red was clearly perceived to be the ideal colour. Soil was always used directly from the site; even when red soil was available in the local area it was never transported to site, despite the yellow site soil being of apparently poorer quality. This may reflect the cost of transportation and the inaccessibility of the sites as much as a lack of preference. This preference for red coloured soils was echoed in the literature review (Walker and Maniatidis, 2003:6). Lilley and Robinson (1995:278) comment that the soil used for rammed earth tends to be “rich in compounds of iron. This accounts for the general reddish appearance of lateritic soil”. Moisture Content The moisture content of the 3 samples collected immediately before ramming was found to be between 18% and 21%. This seems relatively high compared to Lilley and Robinson (1995:281) who found the optimum moisture content to be approximately 12%. This disparity prompts two questions: firstly is the result correct and secondly are the figures comparable. There is a significant probability, given that the soil samples were transported from site back to England in containers which are not entirely airtight, that the results are not true to the original moisture content. However if anything the moisture content is likely to have decreased not increased and therefore this would not explain the discrepancy. So it is likely that the optimum moisture content is higher for these soils at around 20%.
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A sustainability approach to standards for rammed earth construction in Bhutan

“Values of dry density and optimum moisture content for a given soil are dependent on compactive effort” (Walker and Maniatidis, 2003:12) and it is therefore likely that the compactive effort achieved by the soil compaction tests (BS 1377-4, 1990) on which Lilley and Robinson’s figure is based is not equal to the compactive effort achieved on site in Bhutan, nor is the particle size distribution the same. Lilley and Robinson (1995:281) also note that “using soils at their optimum moisture contents indicated by BS 1377 proved difficult, as the soils tended to adhere to the rammers and the shuttering”, yet this was certainly not the case in the samples which even at 20% moisture content were not even “sticking to the hand” (Lilley and Robinson’s (1995:280) description of checking the optimum water content for pisé,). This criterion of ‘damp but not sticky’ also matches the description given by Bhutanese craftsmen that the soil should have the consistency of rice. It is also possible to gauge a rough estimate of the optimum moisture content using field tests such as the ‘drop test’ advocated by Walker and Maniatidis (2003:12). test described by craftsmen in Bhutan: “You have to make to make a ball of this mud, and you slam it onto the wall and if the whole of the thing falls down it’s not considered good and if half of the mud falls and half of the mud stays that is considered best.” A craftsman A ball of moist soil...is dropped onto a hard flat surface from a height of approximately 1.5m. When the soil is too dry the ball breaks into many pieces. When enough water has been added so that the ball breaks into only a few pieces, the soil is very close to its optimum moisture content. If the ball remains in one piece then the soil is too wet. Walker and Maniatidis (2003) Hence although the calculated moisture content appears higher, the qualitative tests would indicate a similar moisture content in both cases. It is interesting to note the remarkable similarity between their description of the test and the

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Particle size distribution distribution The particle size distribution of each of the soil samples taken is shown in Figure 5 overlaid on the results of Lilley and Robinson (1995:279).

Figure 5: Particle size distribution of samples from Bhutan overlayed onto the findings of Lilley and Robinson (1995:279 (1995:279)

The discrepancy between the results from the Bhutanese soil samples and those of Lilley and Robinson are due to a combination of factors. Firstly the particle size distribution was found using dry sieving, since the soil contained significant quantities of fines the wet sieving method should have been used. The findings are therefore likely to underestimate the quantity of clay and silt since they will have been trapped on the layers of soil above. Also owing to the small size of sample (150g approx.) large stones were effectively excluded from the sample and hence the largest sieve used was 2.36mm, thereby potentially under representing the largest particle sizes. There is however wide variation in the recommendations for the grading of soils used for rammed earth and hence researchers usually publish upper and lower limits for each of the main soil elements (Walker and Maniatidis, 2003:8). Despite the potential inaccuracy of the results found (due to the method used), they are presented in figure 6 alongside the findings of Maniatidis and Walker’s review of particle size distributions for comparison.
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10

Lower percentage range

65 50

65 70 45 50 70

Sand & Gravel Silt Clay

45

0 15 10 McHenry, 1984 Norton, 1997 Radonovic, 1996 Shrader, 1981 0 30 20 15 5 7 0

25 10 0 Alley, 1948 Houben & Guillaud,

30

SAZS TEST DATA 724:2001

20

Upper percentage range

75 80 70

75 70 70 80 93

Sand & Gravel Silt Clay

30 30

0 35

30

0 35

0 30

30 30 15 0

20 McHenry, 1984

25

Alley, 1948 Houben & Guillaud, 1994

Norton, 1997

Radonovic, 1996

Shrader, 1981

SAZS TEST DATA 724:2001

Figure 6: Test results from Bhutan presented against suggested upper and lower particle size distributions from Manitidis and Walker (2003:8)

These graphs demonstrate that the findings lie within the bounds of previous research, although the levels of sand and gravel are higher (and hence levels of silt and clay are lower) than usual. This is likely to be, at lease in part, the result of the method used, however further testing would be required to corroborate this interpretation. In summary therefore the particle size distribution found in testing does not correlate exactly with previous research, however results of previous studies would also indicate that a wide variety of soils can be used. Despite the use of dry sieving, which leads to an apparently coarser grading than actual, the results also follow the generally accepted rule that “the soil should have a high sand/gravel content, with some silt and just enough clay to act as a binder and assist soil compaction” (Keable (1996) cited in Maniatidis and Walker, 2003:8).
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A sustainability approach to standards for rammed earth construction in Bhutan

Plastic limit The plastic limit for all samples fell between 14% and 28% with all but one sample lying between 20% and 28% (see figure 7). Several results are therefore slightly higher than recommended by Houben and Guillaud (cited Walker and Maniatidis, 2003:12) who propose the plastic limit lie between 10% and 25% (12%-22% preferred).

Figure 7: Plastic limit of soil samples from Bhutan with Houben & Guillaud’s recommended and preferred ranges indicated.

Liquid limit The liquid limits of samples lay within Houben & Guillaud’s (cited Walker and Maniatidis, 2003:12) recommended range of 25-50%. All but one sample had a liquid limit of between 34% and 37%, almost within Houben & Guillaud’s preferred range of 30%-35%.

Figure 8: Liquid limit of soil samples from Bhutan with Houben & Guillaud’s recommended and preferred ranges indicated. Zareen Sethna, Clare College 31

A sustainability approach to standards for rammed earth construction in Bhutan

Plasticity Plasticity index The plasticity index ranged from 8% to 23%. Alley (cited Walker and Maniatidis, 2003:12) proposed a plasticity index of 6%, however clearly Houben & Guillaud’s recommended plastic and liquid limits would lead to a significantly higher value. Conclusion of materials The results of the soil testing indicate that the soil selection of Bhutanese craftsmen corresponds quite closely to the recommendations of the literature reviewed with regards to the liquid and plastic limits, although the plastic limit is often slightly higher than advised. The moisture content is significantly higher than recommended. The proportion of sand and gravel also appears high; however this may largely be due to the method of dry sieving and hence needs verifying through further testing. Judging by qualitative measures and the high quality of rammed earth buildings in Bhutan, it would appear that despite the afore mentioned discrepancies, the soil selection of Bhutanese craftsmen appears to be effective. It is also noted that given the different methods of compaction used in Bhutan and those prescribed in the various national codes, different gradings and moisture contents may be required. It is also important to note that, according to Walker and Maniatidis (2003:23), “standard soil characterisation tests...are not reliable to establish the suitability of a soil for rammed earth. Further testing for mechanical strength and weathering resistance should be conducted prior to any soil selection...Test performance criteria should be agreed and specified at the design stage.” This would clearly be difficult in Bhutan and therefore the implications of choosing a soil purely based on characterisation tests (or the traditional Bhutanese variation) must be carefully considered in the development of a code.

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4.3.2 Design Architectural design and orientation The traditional architecture of Bhutan is well documented and hence it may seem unnecessary to discuss it here. However the code must not just aim to facilitate the construction of rammed earth buildings, but sustainable buildings also, and hence it is important bring the sustainable traditions of Bhutanese architecture into the code; especially given the absence of sustainability criteria in Bhutanese regulations currently. Bhutanese buildings demonstrate contemporary sustainability principles in their use of orientation to reduce heat losses and maximise passive solar gain. For instance in Bhutanese villages “houses and trees are arranged in such a way as to provide each other with maximum wind shelter” (DoWHR, 1993:188). It is also interesting to note the use of thermal mass and wind sheltering to create ‘outdoor hot-zones’ both between buildings in a cluster (DoWHR, 1993:227), and also around the building by means of a 2m high boundary-type wall (DoWHR, 1993:205). Individual buildings generally follow a typical layout: “Firstly there is a wall of rammed mud which runs along the back. This wall generally faces north. Here one finds few, if any, openings...[On the front] one finds the largest openings. To allow maximum light to enter, the most prominent rooms are located [here]” (DoWHR, 1993:195)

Figure 9: Typical Bhutanese house with timber frame ecra walls comprising half of each side wall and the front wall at first floor level. Very few openings in earth walls.

Figure 10: Ruins of rammed earth houses showing how the walls only extend to roof level at the back and half of each side. 33

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A sustainability approach to standards for rammed earth construction in Bhutan

Rammed earth is used on all four sides of all but the top floor; here the front wall and half of each side wall consist of a timber frame structure with a fill in of plastered bamboo weaving (known in Bhutan as an ‘ekra wall’), somewhat similar to the English wattle and daub walls. This type of walling allows greater structural freedom and hence enables large south facing windows, a key element of passive solar design in climates where demand for winter heating exceeds that for summer cooling (Walker and Maniatidis, 2003:34). Bhutanese houses often incorporate outdoor landings which “serve as an outdoor space used during the cold winter months when sunshine hours are plenty and the outdoor temperature of the sun is considerably higher than that of indoors” (DoWHR, 1993:203). “A long experience with earthquakes and tremors has made the Bhutanese people careful” (DoWHR, 1993:201) and hence traditional architecture incorporates many features characteristic of good seismic design. Houses in Bhutan are invariably symmetric in plan with symmetric openings, an important precautionary measure in seismic design (Arya, 2007:101). House plans are also generally square or rectangular, as advocated by Minke (2001:9). The major discrepancy between Bhutanese practice and the recommendations with regards to seismic design for rammed earth buildings is the number of storeys. Arya (2007:101) recommends that the height of earth buildings should be restricted to one storey only whilst the Indian Standards (IS 13827- 10.1.1, 1993) advise that in zone 5 (which Bhutan is in) buildings should be restricted to one storey and important buildings should not be constructed at all. Despite these warnings the majority of earth buildings in Bhutan are two or three storeys high with a substantial number of taller buildings. Many of these having survived a sizeable earthquake in the early 1980s.
Figure 11: A four storey house near Thimphu. Occupants said the building had so far lasted 6 generations. 34

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A sustainability approach to standards for rammed earth construction in Bhutan

Foundations Traditionally the foundations in Bhutan were always strip footings made from rubble masonry and mud mortar, although cement mortar is now often used. Some craftsmen insisted that if cement mortar was used, a layer of plastic sheeting (to act as a damp proof course) should be placed in between the top of the stonework and the mud, however this was not a universal practice. According to Walker et al. (2005:61) the key function of footings at the base of the wall is to protect the earth wall from moisture ingress, hence although any simple mass footing can be used (concrete, masonry, cementstabilised rammed earth), a continuous dampproofing barrier must be provided. However Minke
Figure 12: Photograph showing masonry footing with mud mortar and stone plinth protection

(2001:34) argues that horizontal damp-proof courses interrupt the necessary bond between the plinth and the walls, hence preventing the transfer of shear forces (with regards to seismic design). In addition to a rough plinth surface he argues that there should be joints between the plinth and wall every 30-50cm. This is not a traditional practice in Bhutan nor is it mentioned in any other literature. The design of foundations for lightly loaded low rise rammed earth buildings can follow rule of thumb guidelines (Walker and Maniatidis, 2003:65). The dimensions of foundations measured on site visits and obtained through interviews with the skilled craftsmen were remarkably consistent and are summarized in Table 1. They have also been checked against, and found to be consistent with, the dimensions found in traditional architecture (DoWHR, 1993:191). No. of storeys 1-2 3 4 Depth of foundation 1.2m (4ft) 1.8m (6ft) Width of foundation 0.9m (3ft) 1.05m (3.5ft) 1.2m (4ft) 0.6m - 0.9m (2 - 3ft) Height of plinth upstand

Table 1: General guidelines for foundation foundation dimensions in Bhutan – Imperial units are given since in practice the craftsmen invariably gave the measurements in feet and inches.

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The dimensions of Bhutanese foundations were all found to be larger than recommended in various codes (Walker and Maniatidis, 2003:65) where foundation depth and width never exceed 400mm, however these values assume reinforced concrete footings. Good drainage is essential in protecting rammed earth walls and Bhutanese practice on this aspect matched the guidance given by various national codes. Walls The minimum wall thickness found in Bhutan was 50cm, apparently in this case the craftsmen had been given a design where the walls were only 30cm thick and had feared collapse and hence increased the thickness. Generally the minimum found was 60cm (2ft) and greater if the building was more than two storeys. This is greater than even the Zimbabwean Code (generally the more conservative of the various national codes) which recommends a minimum wall thickness of 300mm (cited in Walker and Maniatidis, 2003:27). The room dimensions are generally prescribed by the length of available timber and hence, given their considerable thickness, the wall slenderness is always considerably less than the maximum dictated by the New Zealand Standard for engineering design of earth buildings (cited in Walker and Maniatidis, 2003:28). It is standard practice in Bhutan to taper walls of buildings greater than 2 storeys and hence wall thickness at the bottom of large buildings can reach over 1m. Although the craftsmen explain the need for tapering as being to prevent bulging and enhance the aesthetic, Arya (2007:101) notes that tapering walls provide better stability against lateral forces and hence are highly advantageous in seismic areas.
Figure 14 14: The classic tapered frontage of a 3 storey Bhutanese house Zareen Sethna, Clare College 36 Figure 13: Plinth protection provided by sloping paving leading to drainage channel

A sustainability approach to standards for rammed earth construction in Bhutan

It is also common practice to place bundles of bamboo, or 3’’x4’’ planks, horizontally in the middle of each ‘block’ of earth (one block is 2’-3’ height of earth rammed in a day and is dictated by the height of the shuttering). This is done at corners and towards the middle of a wall if there are no windows or doors, where the lintels would otherwise fulfil a similar function. These would appear to fulfil the role of ‘bond beams’ as described by Arya (2007:102) and hence improve the seismic performance of the building. Although Bhutanese buildings do not incorporate ring beams or vertical reinforcement, both of which are generally considered critical in seismic design, they achieve effective seismic performance be means of ‘stabilization through mass’. Minke states that: “Rammed earth walls 60 to 100cm thick...can withstand horizontal seismic shocks...old age [buildings] withstood all earthquakes, whereas newly constructed houses next to them collapsed, even when they were built with bricks and a concrete ring beam.” The buildings conform to Minke’s first principle for designing an earthquake-resistant structure, which is that “walls and roof are well interconnected and so rigid that no deformation occurs in the earthquake” (Minke, 2001:12) and hence is not of the type which requires a ring beam. Walls are well connected by interlocking ‘blocks’ (the 2’-3’ layers of earth which can be rammed in a day) at the corners producing a ‘finger joint’. The relatively small floor plan of Bhutanese houses means that internal walls are rarely load bearing; they are therefore usually made of ekra (wattle and daub) or mud brick if higher levels of sound insulation are required, such as in a school.
Figure 15: Walls are well connected at corners by overlapping alternate ‘blocks’ ‘blocks’

Minke (2001:15)

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A sustainability approach to standards for rammed earth construction in Bhutan

Openings Windows and doors in rammed earth walls are traditionally kept to a minimum in Bhutanese buildings with the timber and ekra frontage on the upper floors providing the light and ventilation required. They therefore invariably comply with both load bearing and seismic design guidance which describes the maximum total length of openings, distance to corners etc. They do not however comply with Minke’s recommendations regarding emergency exits; doors open inwards and there is no form of emergency exit at ground floor level (i.e. there is only one entrance and no windows large enough to serve as an exit). Roof and floors All floors of Bhutanese rammed earth buildings are multilayered. Primary wooden beams support secondary wooden beams onto which planks are laid, these are then covered in three inches of lightly rammed earth and covered with a layer of floor boards which are then left exposed. The same method is used for the roof, though without the uppermost layer of floor boards. Above this flat mud roof is an additional sloping roof on a timber frame, traditionally clad with shinglip (or wooden shingles) and more recently corrugated metal sheeting. This method of construction runs contrary to the primary seismic design principle of using a light weight roof, however the roof is without gables which is advised (Minke, 2001:37). Conclusion of design Overall, Bhutanese building designs are heavily conservative with regards to basic structural design principles as found in various national standards. However although they generally exhibit good seismic performance and integrate many principles of seismic design, they do not conform to several key recommendations on earth-quake resistant design: in particular the number of storeys, heavy roofs, lack of vertical reinforcement or ring beam.
Zareen Sethna, Clare College 38 Figure 16: Recently completed rammed earth building showing roof truss with CGI sheeting above rammed earth flat roof

A sustainability approach to standards for rammed earth construction in Bhutan

4.3.3 Construction Construction Whilst the construction of Bhutanese rammed earth buildings has been closely observed and recorded by the researcher, it is unnecessary to document it in any detail here. Although clearly manual and mechanical ramming require different strengths of formwork etc, the construction processes observed in Bhutan do not pose any contradictions to the existing literature and are generally more conservative with regards to compaction. Therefore the proposed code of practice on rammed earth construction could certainly follow traditional Bhutanese construction techniques without contravening any of the various national codes reviewed.

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Conclusions and Recommendations
The aim of the project was to carry out the research necessary to the development of an appropriate standard for rammed earth construction in Bhutan. This aim was broken down into 3 key research questions and associated objectives which have formed the basis and the structure of this report. The findings of each research strand have been summarised within each section; it is hence the role of this section not to repeat the conclusions already drawn, but to link these back to the overall aim, by explaining how the conclusions translate into recommendations for a code of practice, as well as highlighting areas where further research is required. along with the overall findings. Is there a need? Verify whether there is a need in Bhutan for standards on rammed earth This project was based on the premise that there was a need for standards in order to facilitate and encourage the continued use of rammed earth in Bhutan, particularly in urban areas. This need was verified through a literature review and interviews, these demonstrated that: • • • • A lack of standards is acting as a barrier to rammed earth construction in urban areas of Bhutan A code of practice on rammed earth construction would therefore facilitate and encourage the continued use of this construction method The Bhutan Building Code (BTS-009-2003) does not cover rammed earth construction Whilst other countries have developed various national codes of practice and guidelines, none of these are appropriate to the needs of the Bhutanese engineering sector in terms of format, content and level of detail It is therefore recommended that a Bhutanese code of practice on rammed earth construction be developed. It is recognised however, that this recommendation assumes that rammed earth construction is economically sustainable and will continued to be used in Bhutan in the future. It would be unwise to invest in the development of a code if the many other barriers to its continuation are not addressed; it is therefore recommended that research be conducted into the sustainability of rammed earth construction in Bhutan.
Zareen Sethna, Clare College 40

Several issues emerged that

straddle multiple research questions and are hence discussed at the end of the section,

A sustainability approach to standards for rammed earth construction in Bhutan

What is needed? Determine what is required of a code of practice in Bhutan Since the need for a code of practice on rammed earth construction has been established it is therefore essential to consider what the requirements of such a code are, and how it can be made appropriate to the needs of the Bhutanese engineering sector. A review of existing Bhutanese codes, Eurocodes, various national standards on rammed earth construction and interviews showed that a code of practice for Bhutan should: • • • •

Provide sufficient level of detail to enable the construction of safe, simple buildings but should not extend to detailed structural calculations Have a clear format (even when photocopied) and should include template design drawings Cover all aspects of materials, design and construction Be based on the properties of Bhutanese materials

On the basis of these findings it is recommended that in the development of a code of practice for rammed earth construction in Bhutan: • • •

The Bhutan Building Code (BTS-009-2003) be used as a benchmark with regards to the level of detail required The Standards for Timber Doors & Windows (SQCD 2002) be used as a guideline on the format, since it is considered highly appropriate in this respect National standards on rammed earth construction from other countries inform the code with regards to the various aspects of material selection, design and construction which should be covered

Bhutanese materials and traditional practices be the basis of the content of the code

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A sustainability approach to standards for rammed earth construction in Bhutan

What is known? Establish the state of knowledge on rammed earth in Bhutan and internationally An appropriate standard was defined as being one which codifies traditional practices rather than overruling them and yet maintains the breadth and technical rigour as codes used elsewhere in the world. In order to develop such a code it was therefore essential to gain an in depth understanding of Bhutanese practices and how these compare to various national standards on rammed earth from different countries. Large quantities of data on rammed earth construction and the design of traditional housing in Bhutan were collected through a combination of site visits, informal interviews, soil testing and literature reviews. Whilst all of this data will feed into the development of a code of practice, only those aspects where there was significant correlation or discrepancy between Bhutanese practices (and areas where data was directly comparable – such as the soil tests) have been described within the findings section. These are summarised below as they indicate areas where traditional practices may have to be questioned, further research undertaken or where elements of traditional design that would not normally be included in a code of practice are considered to be relevant and hence should be incorporated. Materials • Despite some differences between the soil used in Bhutan and that recommended in the various national standards, it would appear that the soil selection of Bhutanese craftsmen generates high quality buildings. • Further research should be conducted into the properties of the finished rammed earth walls in Bhutan as these would be helpful, although not essential, in the basic structural design. • According to the literature reviewed standard soil characterisation tests are not seen as reliable in establishing the suitability of a soil for rammed earth construction, further testing of mechanical strength and weathering resistance are advised prior to soil selection. However given the apparently consistent high quality of Bhutanese buildings and the difficulties of performing such tests in Bhutan, serious consideration must be given to how soil specifications will be stipulated in the code.

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A sustainability approach to standards for rammed earth construction in Bhutan

Design • Bhutanese buildings satisfy all the basic structural design rules as found in various national standards on rammed earth construction. Hence traditional Bhutanese rules of thumb for building design may be safely followed with regards to basic structural stability. • • Traditional rammed earth buildings in Bhutan exhibit many principles of good seismic and sustainable building design and these should be incorporated into the code Most Bhutanese rammed earth buildings do not follow certain key recommendations on earth-quake resistant design. Bhutanese traditional design should therefore not followed blindly, however to insist on the incorporation of all conventional earth-quake resistant design features would also be ill-advised since it would interfere with construction practices and hence could potentially reduce the building’s capability to withstand earthquakes. Further expert advice should therefore be sought on the issue of seismic design. Construction • Construction processes observed in Bhutan do not pose any contradictions to the existing literature and are generally more conservative with regards to compaction. Therefore the proposed code of practice on rammed earth construction could follow traditional Bhutanese construction techniques without contravening any of the various national codes reviewed.

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A sustainability approach to standards for rammed earth construction in Bhutan

Overall findings There is a clear need for a code of practice on rammed earth construction in Bhutan and the requirements of such a code have been clearly identified. A code of practice can be written on the basis of traditional Bhutanese design and construction practices without contravening recommendations made by the various national codes on rammed earth construction reviewed. This is with the exception of considerations relating to seismic design; further expert advice should be sought in order to find a safe balance between traditional practice and conventional earthquake resistant features. By incorporating the flexibility to enable mechanical ramming and reduce wall thicknesses, the code could address some of the disincentives to constructing rammed earth buildings, such as the slow pace of construction, a diminishing pool of skilled labour and the large area required; however in doing so it will stray from traditional practices. International norms must be more strictly adhered to if this approach is taken, since the wealth of traditional knowledge that currently provides the crucial safety factor in Bhutanese rammed earth buildings will become redundant.

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Acknowledgements
I would like to thank the Minister of MoWHS, the Director of DUDES and David Stiedl for supporting my visit to Bhutan for a second time. I am grateful to all those I interviewed and the various friends who stepped in as chauffeurs and translators for making my first taste of research such a fascinating and rewarding one. I am indebted to Tsering Choden, Yasoda, Khima and Bhima Luital for their incredible hospitality over the three weeks I stayed with them and for teaching me to cook ema datze, kir and dahl. I would also like to thank the whole of the Wangdue Phodrang Engineering Section; in particular Yeshi Tenzin for his patience in driving me endlessly around the district in search of mud houses and Sangay Pemo, Choki Wangmo and Karma Choden for dressing me in a kira until I eventually learnt to do it for myself. I really appreciate having had the opportunity to work in the Centre for Sustainable Development this year, it is wonderful to work surrounded by such an inspiring crowd. Lastly I would like to thank Professor Peter Guthrie whose pertinent questions forced me to rediscover the fun of thinking.

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References
Approved Document A, The Building Regulations 2000. 2004 Edition. Office of the Deputy Prime Minister Arya (2007) Earthquake disaster reduction: masonry building, design and construction, Knowledge World Publishers. Bartlett (2005) Understanding the Implementation of Sustainability Principles in UK Educational Building Projects Bhutan Building Code BTS-009-2003– Structural Design: Section 8 Masonry Structures Bryman, A. (2001) Social Research Methods, Oxford University Press, Oxford BS EN 1996 Eurocode 6 Design of masonry structures BS EN 1997 Eurocode 7 Geotechnical design BS EN 1998 Eurocode 8 Design of structures for earthquake resistance BS 1377:1975 Methods for Test of Soils for Civil Engineering Purposes BSI British Standards (2007) www.bsi-global.com/en/Standards-and-Publications/Aboutstandards/What-is-a-standard/, accessed November 2007 Chang Dorji (2004) Clear Exposition of Bhutanese Architecture. Constructing Excellence in the Built Environment (May 2006) Rethinking standards in construction: can standards support industry performance improvement Department of Works, Housing and Roads, Bhutan (DoWHR) (1993) An Introduction to Traditional Architecture of Bhutan. Department of Works, Housing and Roads, Bhutan (DoWHR) Improved traditional housing (illustrated hand book). Division for Conservation of Architectural Heritage (July 2006) Architectural Heritage Journal Eisenhardt, K. M. (1989) Building Theories from Case Study Research Academy of Management Review, 14 (4), , pp.532-550. 3.Francis, A.J. and Mansell, D.S. (1988) Appropriate engineering technology for developing countries, Research Publications Pty. Ltd. Haralambos and Holborn (2000) Sociology themes and perspectives 5th edition, Collins. Indian Standard 456: 2000 Plain and reinforced concrete code of practice

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Indian Standard 13826:1993 Improving earthquake resistance of low strength masonry buildings – guidelines Indian Standard IS 13827:1993 Improving earthquake resistance of earthen buildings – guidelines Jaquin, P. (2008) Analysis of historic rammed earth construction Junko Mukai (2006) Survey on Historical Monuments in Wangdue Phodrang Dzongkhag Lilley, D. M. and Robinson, J. (1995) Ultimate Strength of Rammed Earth Walls with Openings. Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers-Structures and Buildings, 110 (3), pp. 278-287. Keable, J. (1996) Rammed Earth Structures: a code of practice, Intermediate Technology Publications May, T. (2001) Social Research: Issues, Methods and Process, Open University Press. Minke, G. (2001) Construction manual for earthquake-resistant houses built of earth, GATE – Building Advisory Service and Information Network Minke, G. (2000) Earth Construction Handbook: The building material earth in modern architecture. WIT Press. Robson, C. (2002) Real World Research, Blackwell, Oxford. Salganik, M.J. and Heckathorn, D.D. (2004) Sampling and Estimation in Hidden Populations Using Respondent-Driven Sampling, Sociological Methodology, 34, 34 pp. 193239. Schumacher, E.F. (1977) Caring for real, New World News, 17 September 1977. Standard & Quality Control Division, Bhutan (2002) Standards for timber doors and windows Soga, K. and White, D. (2007) Soil Classification Tests: The Atterberg Limits, Engineering Tripos Part 2A: Paper 3D1, Laboratory Exercise Todd, D. J. (1979) Mixing Qualitative and Quantitative Methods: Triangulation in Action Administrative Science Quarterly, 24 (4), pp. 602-611. Walker, P., Keable, R., Martin, J. and Maniatidis, V. (2005) Rammed Earth: Design and Construction Guidelines. BRE Bookshop. Walker, P. and Maniatidis, V. (2003) A Review of Rammed Earth Construction – Dti Partners in Innovation Project ‘Developing Rammed Earth for UK Housing’. Natural Building Technology Group, Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering, University of Bath.

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Appendix A – Risk assessment retrospective
The initial risk assessment submitted in October was followed up by a subsequent risk assessment in April before conducting soil testing in the Geotechnical Laboratory. In retrospect the risk assessment should have included the risk of dust in the air and the need to wear a dust mask when performing some of the tests. However the testing was completed safely.

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