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EARtH BuIldIng: History, science and conservation

EARtH BuIldIng
History, science and conservation
This book covers various types of earth construction
including adobe, cob and rammed earth. It presents a
wide-ranging review of the history of earth building,
tracing the development of earthen construction
techniques from antiquity to the present day, and showing
the development of the techniques over time and in
different locations around the world. The behaviour of
earth building materials is explained using, for the first
time, principles from soil mechanics. There is a detailed
discussion of strategies for the analysis and conservation
of earth buildings to enable engineers, conservation
professionals and architects to understand and preserve
earth buildings better in the future. Richly illustrated
with photographs and diagrams, this book provides an
invaluable tool for the conservation of earth buildings.

ABout tHE AutHoRS
Jaquin and Augarde

Paul Jaquin is a civil and structural engineer. After completing an engineering
degree at Durham University, he undertook a PhD supervised by Charles
Augarde entitled ‘Analysis of historic rammed earth’. This research established
the link between earth buildings and unsaturated soils and much of the
research is included in this book. He has acted as a consultant on sustainable
construction projects in the UK and on conservation and development projects
in the US, Canada, Australia, UAE, China and Bhutan.
Charles Augarde is Reader in Civil Engineering at the School of Engineering
and Computing Sciences, Durham University, and a Chartered Civil Engineer.
His research interests are in two principal areas: sustainable earthen
construction materials and computational geomechanics. He has published
over 70 articles in peer-reviewed journals and conferences since 1998, is
currently on the Editorial Board for the international journal Computers and
Geotechnics and is a former member of the Géotechnique Advisory Panel.

ISBN 978­1­84806­192­7

9 781848 061927


IHS BRE Press, Willoughby Road
Bracknell, Berkshire RG12 8FB
EP 101

EARtH BuIldIng

History, science and conservation

Paul Jaquin and Charles Augarde

Earth Building
history, science and conservation

China. Hakka Tolou.Zhenchen Lou. Fuijan Province. Constructed 1912 .

Earth Building history. science and conservation Paul Jaquin and Charles augarde .

in any manner whatsoever for any error or omission. Readers are advised to seek specific professional advice relating to their particular construction project and circumstances before embarking on any building work. accurate or appropriate. Watford WD25 9XX Tel: 01923 664761 Email: brepress@ihs.brebookshop. nor liability. Kasbah Caid Ali. Drawings and technical details are indicative and typical only and final detailing for any project remains the responsibility of the designer. Rammed earth barn. Abey Smallcombe cob builders Bottom right. Rammed earth. Spain Back cover image: Lime-rendered cob house. Morocco Middle right. UK. Cob toilet block. Eden or IHS BRE Press Willoughby Road Bracknell RG12 8FB Tel: 01344 328038 Fax: 01344 328005 Email: brepress@ihs. Reasonable care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information in the book at the time of printing. UK Index compiled by Paul Nash . Devon. or adverse outcome of any kind incurred as a result of the use of the information contained in this book or reliance upon it. Courtesy of Jackie Abey and Jill Smallcombe. or will remain. Cornwall. Melon car park. and does not guarantee that any content on such websites The authors and publisher accept no Printed on paper sourced from responsibly managed forests Requests to copy any part of this publication should be made to the publisher: IHS BRE Press Garston. damage. injury. Villafeliche. Adobe bricks drying. Aït Ben Haddou. EP 101 © Copyright Paul Jaquin and Charles Augarde 2012 First published 2012 ISBN 978-1-84806-192-7 Front cover images: Left. nor any loss. Asslim.iv Earth Building – history. Morocco Top right. The publisher accepts no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of URLs referred to in this publication. science and conservation Published by IHS BRE Press IHS BRE Press publications are available from www.

it is possible to understand the changes in behaviour of earth buildings and the causes of damage. from investigation of the interparticle contacts to the development of codes of practice and standards. conservation professionals. and subsequent work at historic earthen sites around the world. By appreciating the unsaturated nature of earth buildings. by doing this. the book does not generally provide specific values (for example for strength or stiffness). This book is written for engineers. many aspects of the behaviour of earth buildings can be explained better.PrEfaCE v PrEfaCE This book is the result of research carried out at Durham University. and we show that. and those interested in earth buildings. Paul Jaquin undertook a PhD supervised by Dr Charles Augarde. and the research shed light on the important mechanisms behind the mechanical behaviour of earthen construction. As earth is such a varied material. or rules of thumb for earthen construction and restoration. and many aspects of earth building are based on experience. and therefore to develop successful restoration strategies. the underlying principles are common to all types of earth building. Earth is becoming increasingly popular as a sustainable construction material. and it is hoped that this book will lead to improved scientific and engineering understanding of earth as a construction material. There is still a great deal of work to be undertaken before understanding of earth building reaches the levels of more conventional building materials such as steel and concrete. We believe this research is the first to view earth buildings in the framework of unsaturated soil mechanics. Of particular interest are the behaviour of earth buildings in earthquakes (which is not covered in this book). We have focused specifically on the conservation of historic earth buildings. Further research is required into earth buildings at all scales. but the principles outlined are equally applicable to modern earthen construction. many of the damage and repair strategies are independent of the type of earthen construction. Paul Jaquin Charles Augarde November 2011 . We have included a section on the history of earth building to allow readers to place buildings within a historical and geographical context. Although much of the research focused on the conservation of historic rammed earth. the exposition of archaeological sites. and the thermal behaviour of earthen buildings. and while the damage and conservation techniques are also inclined towards rammed earth.

and for being dragged on earth-building-related ‘holidays’ for many years. thanks go to Paul’s girlfriend. and thanks go to Professor Peter Walker. and who really set this line of research Earth Building – history. We also thank Nick Clarke. for their support and interest in this non-conventional building material. Tom Horncastle. who first wondered whether the large cracks in a building he was studying in Spain were a problem. Steven Perkins. for help. Thanks go to members of the ICOMOS International Committee on the Conservation of Earthen Architecture for their expertise and support. Parts of the research overseas have been undertaken with the aid of travel grants from the Institution of Structural Engineers and Engineers without Borders for visits to India and Bhutan. who taught Paul to clay plaster. namely Dr Sergio Lourenço (now at Cardiff University) in the field of unsaturated soil mechanics and Dr Cathy Clarke (now at Stellenbosch University) for help with the chemistry. noted that it ‘looks like suction’. and to Paul’s colleagues both in the UK and in Sweden. Many students at Durham University have been involved in earth-building research. Thanks to those with whom we worked on developing this field at Durham. Dr Andrew Heath and Dr Enrico Fodde at University of Bath for their discussions and support during this period of research. science and conservation aCknowlEdgEmEnts � Thanks must go first to Professor Chris Gerrard of the Department of Archaeology at Durham University. specifically Chris Beckett. who on viewing an early experimental rammed earth wall in the civil engineering laboratory. Thanks also go to those who have supplied photographs which has enabled us to show a much wider range of earth building. Jenny Durie. Thanks also go to Manfred Fahnert. Finally. support and enthusiasm. Publisher at IHS BRE Press. organiser of the Lehm Express in Morocco. and have helped us understand these materials through their work. Lucie Le Grand and Jacinto Canivell. Eleanor Trueman. Paul was privileged to undertake a Research Associate role at the University of Bath during the summer of 2008. whose vision for the publication of this material has finally come to fruition. Thanks also to Professor David Toll of the School of Engineering and Computing Sciences at Durham University. Tom Howard. . Cynthia Hendy.

2 2.4 3.8 5.1 4.8 2.7 Introduction Structural Water Render Organic matter Abrasion Concluding remarks 37 37 43 48 50 51 52 5 ConsErvation stratEgiEs 53 � Introduction Conservation principles Earth-building analysis and repair strategy Foundation issues Cracks Wall lean Water Face repair Repair to the wall using fallen or similar material 5.1 2.1 3.2 1.3 4.4 2.5 4.9 2.5 5.5 2.11 3.6 4.7 3.10 Whole building reconstruction 53 53 54 56 57 60 64 69 71 6 � ConCluding rEmarks 77 � rEfErEnCEs � 78 � BiBliograPhy � 81 � indEX � 83 � 5.10 3.14 Conclusions 35 36 4 damagE to Earth Buildings 37 � 4.7 2.2 5.12 3.3 3.1 5.ContEnts vii ContEnts PrEfaCE � v � aCknowlEdgEmEnts � vi � nomEnClaturE � viii � introduCtion � 1 � 1 � tyPEs of EarthEn ConstruCtion 3 � 1.1 1.6 2.4 5.5 Introduction Earthen construction principles Monolithic earth walls Unit construction Conclusions 2 � history of Earth Building 2.10 Introduction Eastern Asia Central Asia and the Indus valley Asia Africa Europe North America South America Australasia Conclusions 3 3 5 9 12 13 � 13 14 15 16 17 20 21 23 25 26 3 � fundamEntal BEhaviour of EarthEn ConstruCtion matErials � 27 Introduction Soil mechanics Soil strength Effective stress Unsaturated soil mechanics Fundamentals Relative humidity The soil water retention curve Compaction The role of clay The role of stabilisers The effect of water content on the mechanical behaviour of earth structures 27 27 28 28 29 29 30 31 32 33 34 34 3.13 Current research 3.3 2.9 75 .4 4.7 5.6 3.3 5.9 3.8 3.6 5.5 3.4 1.2 4.2 3.3 1.

height Normal force Pressure of saturated water vapour Pressure of water vapour Universal gas constant Radius Radius of the neck of a liquid bridge Radius of curvature of meniscus Degree of saturation s T Ts u ua uw vw θ μ ρd σ σ′ τ φ φ′ Suction Temperature Surface tension Pressure. ry Sr Compressed earth blocks Calcium silicon hydrate Optimum water content Relative humidity Soil water retention curve Apparent cohesion Force Attractive force due to surface tension Attractive force due to pressure difference Acceleration due to gravity Relative humidity. total stress Effective stress Shear strength Macroscopic friction angle Effective macroscopic friction angle .viii Earth Building – history. science and conservation nomEnClaturE � CEB CSH OWC RH SWRC c F Ftension Fpressure g h N p0 pv R r rneck rx. pore water pressure Air pressure Water pressure Molar volume of water Contact angle Coefficient of friction Dry density Stress.

This behaviour is complex. and the history of specific earthen sites is not explored. and to provide strategies that may be useful in the conservation of historic earth structures. Relatively recent research findings allow for an improved understanding of the mechanical behaviour of earth buildings. nor is it an engineering textbook. Finally. changes to the local environment. and thus the damage that earth buildings may suffer. or with the retrofitting or reconstruction of earth buildings after seismic events. through lack of maintenance to protect against the weather. although many are not included for brevity. and many of the oldest structures in the world are constructed from this material.introduCtion 1 introduCtion � Earth buildings are perceived by many as simple ‘mud huts’. We do this by providing a scientific rationale for the behaviour of earth buildings. we do not deal with these. Finally. there are definite common themes that apply to every type of construction material. In common with buildings made from all other types of construction materials. more conventional construction techniques. the behaviour of earthen buildings in earthquakes is not specifically discussed. In Chapter 2 we briefly describe the history of earth building. Around 30% of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites are constructed from earth. The principles of general and unsaturated soil mechanics are outlined in Chapter 3. This serves to allow the reader to place any structure under investigation into an international and chronological context. As earthen construction is so varied. Engineering analysis methods for structures are not explained. earth is one of the simplest and most sustainable construction materials. We do not provide information on field or laboratory techniques for the testing of earthen materials. and reference should be made to our journal papers and to other engineering textbooks. . The principles of unsaturated soil mechanics are explained. and we argue that although the construction techniques are markedly different. Techniques for different types of earthen construction can be learned from numerous sources. both through practical courses and through guides. While earth buildings are more liable to damage by water than those constructed from other construction materials. using some of the main archaeological and architectural sites worldwide. specific values for soil testing and mechanical properties are not given. but there are many logical steps that are not included. and as there is a much smaller pool of test data than for other. The book begins with an introduction into the different types of earth building. This book is not a practical guide on earthen construction. and the advice of a competent engineer should always be sought when considering the conservation of historic earth buildings. historic earth buildings are liable to damage. and in Chapter 4 we show how this relates to observed damage mechanisms in earth buildings. By viewing earth buildings in the framework of unsaturated soil mechanics. we are able to better understand their behaviour. in Chapter 5 we present mitigation and repair solutions that may prove useful in the conservation of historic earthen sites. and although the damage mechanisms are similar to those described in this book. This book aims to present the reasons for the occurrence of such damage. or damage caused by external factors. A history of earth building is provided that focuses on some main sites. and earth as at the bottom of the list of desirable construction materials. liable to damage.

1 tyPEs of EarthEn ConstruCtion


ChaPtEr 1
tyPEs of EarthEn ConstruCtion

1.1 introduCtion
Earth is one of the simplest construction materials,
and all earth buildings have the same basic
constituent parts: soil from the ground, and water.
These are mixed together and formed into shapes,
and then water evaporates to leave an earthen
structure. Other materials can be added to the
mixture, either to help with production, or to
improve the mechanical properties of the finished
product. Soil types, construction techniques and
building traditions vary greatly across the world, and
many techniques are variations and combinations
of those described below. There are many ways to
form earth into structures, but this book deals with
techniques where earth is the major constituent
material. The techniques are split into two classes:
those in which independent units are constructed,
dried, then transported and laid to form a structure
– namely adobe and compressed earth blocks;
and those where homogeneous monolithic
constructions are produced in situ, such as cob and
rammed earth. This book does not discuss building
techniques where earth is only a secondary material,
and therefore wattle and daub, rammed tyres and
earth bag construction, or stone and turf buildings
are not discussed.

of the additional strength compared with completely
saturated or completely dry soil.
In many forms of earthen construction, other
materials (called stabilisers) are included in the earth
mixture. These combine physically or chemically
with the soil, and are included to improve the
mechanical properties of the structure (for example,
straw or hair to improve tensile capacity and reduce
shrinkage cracking, or cement to improve the shear
strength), or to improve the workability of the earth
mixture (for example urine), or to provide water
repellency (for example bitumen or silicone).
All forms of earthen construction follow similar
initial steps:
1. Soil is first dug from the ground. This soil should
be taken from below the topsoil, and ideally
from above the water table. Where earthen
construction is common, there may be wellknown deposits of suitable soil that can be
utilised (Figure 1.1).

1.2 EarthEn ConstruCtion PrinCiPlEs
All earth construction follows the same basic
principles. Soil is taken from the ground and
mixed with sufficient water to allow moulding and
placement. Most of this water then evaporates,
leaving the soil in a new state. In wholly unstabilised
earthen structures (from sandcastles to the Great
Wall of China) this water forms into bridges between
particles in equilibrium with the surrounding air, and
it is these bridges that provide a major component

Figure 1.1: Taking suitable soil from next to the site of a
wall. Jomsom, Nepal


Earth Building – history, science and conservation

2. The correct proportion of water to be added to
the soil depends on the construction method,
particle size distribution, and compactive effort
to be applied. If the soil dug is too wet, it may
be spread on the ground to allow pore water
to evaporate. If the particle size distribution
is not correct for the construction type, then
the soil may be sieved to remove particles
that are considered too large. This sieving
can be done by manually removing larger
stones, or by passing the soil through a mesh
of fixed aperture. This is best achieved using
a frame, as shown in Figure 1.2. In order to
manufacture the correct soil mix, different soils
are combined.
3. Water and any additives are then mixed into
the soil in defined proportions. Traditionally,
the soil is piled into a cone, with water poured
into the centre. The soil is then mixed in with
the water by people or animals walking around
on it (Figure 1.3), or by shovelling the earth
into the water until all the water is mixed in.
Alternatively a rotary mixer (Figure 1.4) can be
used. When conserving earth buildings, the
type and function of additives placed in the
original structure should be well understood
before further additives are used.

Figure 1.3: Mixing earth with straw and water by
walking. Asslim, Morocco

When the soil, water and additives have been
combined to a homogeneous mixture, it should
immediately be formed using the techniques
described below.

Figure 1.2: Sieving soil using a mesh frame. Asslim,

Figure 1.4: A rotating drum mixer that can be used
to mix earth and water. Civil Engineering Laboratory,
Durham University. Courtesy of Chris Beckett

taub’ box is filled with which is then compacted by physical or mechanical means.aspx?CTT=5&origin=HP003089535 Figure 1.3 monolithiC Earth walls 1. This arabic for ‘alsoil.1 rammed earth The term ‘monolithic’ refers to an earth wall that is constructed in situ. and tapia in Portuguese. a corruption of This is the the Latin verb pinsere (to ram or pound).5. a formwork box is constructed to the width of the required wall. The forms are then moved to another location so that another section of wall can be constructed. Asslim. and if the mixture is to be stabilised. with • hāngtŭ ( ) in Master mason Malem with rammed earth formwork.7) can be moved along the length need to when have of thewindows.5 1 2 Particle size (mm) (logarithmic scale) Rammed earth  Cob 10 Adobe Figure 1.001 0.1 tyPEs of EarthEn ConstruCtion 5 1. see http://office.8) is similar to that used silt[1]. There are two basic types: walls formed using formwork (rammed earth) and walls formed without formwork (cob). Modern formwork (Figure 1. Rammed earth uses a mixture of clay and sandy soil mixed with water and then compacted within formwork to form a monolithic earth wall.3. wall and vertically.01 0. Traditional formwork (Figures 1. so that one formwork Soil suitable for rammed earth is shown MS in word. Earth is compacted between the formwork in layers until the formwork is filled. which are corruptions of the Arabic al taub ( ).6 and 1. • pisé (or pisé du terre) in French. Morocco . Rammed earth is known as: • tapial in Spanish. If the rammed earth is not stabilised. and box is filledenabled. it or can they be dismantled and Figure 1. a silty. Percentage passing 100 Clay Silt Sand Gravel 80 60 40 20 0. and which functions as a homogeneous wall. sandy soil should be used[2]. then the soil mixture should contain more clay and the individual letters right to left.5: Particle size distribution for different types of earthen construction To make a rammed earth wall. Arabic translation just put moved to allow further compaction to take place.

6 Earth Building – history. Nepal for concrete. Modern rammed earth tends to use pneumatic or electric hammers fitted with flat feet to provide compaction. Jomsom.7: Rammed earth wall under construction. with a size and shape dependent on the culture. The rammer may take a number of forms. Margaret River. it is removed Figure 1. and may be modular. whereas traditional rammers tend to be timber poles with shaped ends. Australia .8: Modern rammed earth formwork. When the formwork box is filled. and usually compacted using a rammer in layers of around 100 mm. Soil is poured into the formwork. allowing for large sections to be built in one go. or sometimes incorporating stones at the end of the rammer. science and conservation Figure 1.

Decoration of rammed earth can take the form of additional materials such as fired bricks between lifts (Figure 1. Australia Figure 1. Villafeliche. giving rise to characteristic ‘lifts’ in rammed earth construction.9: Density banding. and holes through the wall. allowing feature openings to be created. In some rammed earth traditions the formwork is supported on timbers placed on the wall.11: Rammed earth with decorative fired brick between the lifts.10). Perth. St Thomas More Church. Spain Figure 1. Villena. Traditionally. Spain . lifts between formwork boxes.11). lintels were made from timber or stone. or the insertion of coloured layers of soil or relief patterns into a rammed earth wall. Lintels may be curved (Figure 1.10: Precast concrete lintel in modern rammed earth. but modern rammed earth construction often features precast concrete or steel lintels.9) Openings in rammed earth are formed using blanks.1 tyPEs of EarthEn ConstruCtion 7 and moved to another location. Figure 1. and these leave characteristic holes denoting the position of each lift (Figure 1. or by the placement of lintels between two rammed earth wall sections.

Cumbria. A cob wall is constructed in layers 400–600 mm high. one working on the wall. Figure 1. Cob almost always contains short straw or grass added to the earth mixture to provide resistance to shrinkage cracking. The particle size distribution of soil used for cob is shown in Figure 1. Cob is usually constructed by a team of two people. Decorative adobes between each lift. The soil tends to be more sandy than that used for adobe construction. shovelling the cob mix to the head of the wall.The word cob is derived from the Old English word for loaf.13)[4]. wet cob is forked into position and compacted at the head of the wall. A similar layered technique has been described in Oman and Iran (Figure 1.2 Cob Cob construction technique involves the direct placement of a mix of moist soil and straw to form a wall (Figure 1. such as chineh (in Farsi) and pakhsa (in Uzbek).12: Cob barn. Isfahan.5. Iran.13: The layered technique (see wall.8 Earth Building – history. Courtesy of Armin Yavari . left).3. UK Figure 1. and similar techniques are known by different names in different cultures. science and conservation 1.12)[3]. and the other at the base. and improved strength.

Because of the free-form nature of cob.1 adobe In contrast to in situ monolithic construction methods. and compressed earth blocks. or by using long-handled. many forms of earthen construction are based on units. constructed using a machine to provide increased compactive effort. 9 1. Walls are typically between 0. or by adding lintels at the correct height during construction and then cutting the openings out after the cob wall is finished.4. around which cob is placed.14: Modern cob building. it may be shaved from the face to provide a vertical face. Construction progresses with each layer of cob allowed to dry slightly before the wall can be stood on and the next layer placed.4 unit ConstruCtion 1. cob is often used as an artistic material for sculpture or temporary structures. For this reason.1 tyPEs of EarthEn ConstruCtion Compaction takes place either by treading the mixture. but which is not compacted. Where the compacted cob falls outside the line of the wall. and is very simply decorated either by inserting objects into the wall or by creating relief patterns. and are quite different products. used to describe units that are constructed without recourse to mechanical advantage. UK. it is very simple to construct structures that curve both on plan and on elevation (Figure 1. (Fired bricks are manufactured using specific types of clay. and cinder. flat-footed tampers[5]. Here the term unit is defined as a block constructed from earth and allowed to air-dry before being used in the construction of a structure. and may taper as the wall rises. Abey Smallcombe cob builders . Openings are formed either by adding ‘blank formers’ to the wall. Eden Project.5 m and 1 m thick. Courtesy of Jackie Abey and Jill Smallcombe. The term adobe has a range of meanings in different cultures. which are heated to high temperatures so that the clay is vitrified.) Two types of unit construction are discussed here: adobe. breeze or besser blocks are manufactured using cement. Melon car park. Here it is used to describe a unit that may be formed by hand or in a frame. Units are made of similar Figure 1.14).

or they just put for rammed earth or cob construction 1. need to have be richer in clay and silt than the soil mixtures used Arabic (Figure translation enabled. Morocco . Hand-formed units are see made by roughly http://office. UK productivity. These soil types may be more susceptible to the individual letters right to left. The soil used for adobe construction tends to MS word. al taub ( ). where it has been corrupted into the Spanish adobe. To assist drying.17).5). and so additives such as straw or grass are often included to prevent cracking. then the mould is removed and the unit is allowed to dry in the air (Figure the wet soil to the required dimensions. shrinkage. to allow a larger surface area to be exposed. the bricks can be rotated onto their header face after a time. Drâa Valley. science and conservation size to each other to allow them to be laid together in a mortar to form a wall. to increase course.10 Earth Building – history. moulds can be made to produce more than one brick at a time (Figures Adobes in moulds.aspx?CTT=5&origin=HP003089535 This method allows any shape to be formed (for example into spheres or cuboids). Aït Ben Haddou. Figure 1.15 and 1. Morocco Figure 1. The term ‘adobe. To make blocks.17: Adobes drying. and windows. Earth-building is the use of a standardised mould. is also likely to be taken from the Arabic for brick. languages-HP005258876. The bricks are usually left to dry for a period of weeks before being laid to form a structure.15: Adobe mould.16). More common Figure 1. wet soil is placed into the mould and allowed to dry slightly. In Turkic This is the arabic for ‘al taub’ languages this type of construction is known as kerpiç.

19: Decorative adobes. Decorative patterns may be formed in adobe walls by using a different bond pattern. and as a result do not appear any different from other construction types.18: Adobe arches.20). and frogs and raised sections can be added to improve interlocking (Figure 1. and then laid into the mortar bed. Courtesy of Armin Yavari Figure 1. and barrel vaults and domes are popular in many parts of the world.2 Compressed earth blocks Compressed earth blocks (CEB) are made in a press. because a great compactive effort is applied. which allows a large compressive force to be imparted to the brick. Moulds can be inserted to allow the brick to be faceted around the edges. by laying the adobes on end. A mortar similar to that of the brick is used for their construction. including the BREPAK machine[6. and thus a higher dry density brick is obtained.Many adobe walls are rendered after construction. Cement-stabilised earth blocks must be allowed to cure for around 28 days before they are used in a structure.18). India . Buildings are usually painted or rendered using a cement-based render. A large amount of research has been undertaken by non-governmental organisations into the improvement of earth brick presses for use in developing countries.9). The mortar should be composed of a similar material to that of the brick. and many agencies have contributed to the subsequent development of the presses. cement or other binders are added to the earth block mixture to improve the mechanical properties. To lay bricks. Isfahan. Bangalore.21). In some cultures. 1.4.20: Cement-stabilised compressed earth blocks. 7] and the Auram 3000 press developed and manufactured by the Auroville Earth Institute[8]. This both protects the face and allows a clean face to be presented. Iran. Compressed earth blocks offer a viable alternative to fired brick or cement block construction (Figure 1. with similar bond patterns and mortar bed joints. Aït Ben Haddou. each brick is first dipped or coated in water. 11 Figure 1. and in these cases it is important to ensure that sufficient water is added to allow the full cementing reaction to take place. Morocco Figure 1. This means that a lower water content can be used than for adobe (see Section 3. Adobe can be formed into arches (Figure 1.19). or by manufacturing insets or protrusions from the wall (Figure 1.1 tyPEs of EarthEn ConstruCtion Adobe walls are constructed in the same manner as fired masonry. The CINVA ram was developed in the 1950s. reducing the chance of water penetration into the mortar joints.

compaction using pneumatic or electric rammers is used rather than manual compaction.5 ConClusions This chapter has outlined earthen construction techniques where earth is the main constituent. Historically. grading and mixing of soils are requirements for all types of earthen construction. science and conservation Figure 1. and compressed earth blocks use levers and mechanical advantage to impart compaction energy. Independent of the construction type. grasses or plastic fibres. or to improve its mechanical properties. The development. these chemicals have been bitumen or lime. for example. Portland cement or steel. followed by some drying to form a ‘solid’ structure. India 1. The type of construction is usually defined by the availability of suitable soils. Mixing can take place using people or animals. The dimensions and details of rammed earth formwork and rammers. and the low energy input compared with more common construction techniques such as fired brick. Physical stabilisation generally uses materials that are placed to act in tension within the earth.21: Cement-stabilised compressed earth block house. or more mechanised means such as rotary mixers. but more recently cement has been added both to compressed earth blocks and to rammed earth. rammed earth and cob construction are more common. The selection. Distinct types of monolithic and unit construction have been identified. . then adobe construction tends to dominate. earth structures are formed by shaping wet soil into the required shape.12 Earth Building – history. the techniques for cob construction. Where clay and silty soils are found close to the surface. and the shapes and sizes of adobe and compressed earth block differ greatly around the world. of cement-stabilised rammed earth and extruded unfired clay bricks means that earthen building may in the future take its place among more conventional building materials. either to improve the workability of the mixture. because of the low transport costs if materials are excavated close to the construction site. Where more silty and sandy soils are found. In modern rammed earth construction. Increased mechanisation has also led to improvements in compacted earthen construction. and the initial steps common to all types of earth building have been described. Bangalore. Earth building has recently been promoted as a sustainable construction technique. Chemical stabilisation has been practised for a very long time. There is a wide variety within the techniques described. such as rammed earth and compressed earth block. examples are materials such as straw. to produce what is perceived to be a more modern construction material.

and later more cuboid blocks Figure 2. sometimes mixed with other traditional construction materials such as timber or stone.2 history of Earth Building 13 ChaPtEr 2 history of Earth Building 2. It is probable that earth-building techniques developed independently in different parts of the world. it provides simple shelter using a freely available material. and in different forms. As described in Chapter 1. The first earthen building technique to develop is likely to have been wattle and daub: construction of a façade or roof using timber or grasses. with earth placed against or between walls made from timber and compacted into place. and sometimes with more modern inventions such as cement and steel. Buildings made from earth are found in many parts of the world. or into independent units. forming a thicker wall. such as bricks or blocks. The development of settled agriculture allowed the first permanent shelters. such as mounds of earth at cave entrances or pits dug into the ground. which is then covered in earth. and here the silt and clays provided excellent building materials for earth construction. because more time and effort could be expended in their construction. moist soil is formed either as a monolithic wall that is then allowed to dry. following hunting and gathering patterns dictated by the surroundings. Agriculture first developed in fertile river valleys. The development of unit construction could have developed later.1 introduCtion Building using earth is one of the oldest construction techniques. The earliest shelters utilised natural features such as caves. which are allowed to dry before being placed as a wall. initially units were formed by hand. Later a rammed earth type of technique may have developed. Early people were constantly moving. and spread with the movement of peoples. and the first earth buildings may have been extensions to natural features.1: Spread of earth-building techniques around the world .

wattle and daub houses combine earth construction with timber. earth is used as a plaster or a mortar. home to the Al-Muhdhar Mosque. These civilisations used hand-moulded oval bricks to form circular structures. and excavations at these sites show that both sites had earthen city walls and adobe palaces[11]. From around 1700. found at sites of Djade al- Mughara in Syria and Tappeh Ozbaki in Iran. these could be transported. . the Assyrian cities of Ebla and Mari vied for influence. but may have been the largest in the world at the time.In Yemen. and currently around 500 adobe ‘skyscrapers’ reach up to 30 m high. 2. as in Malton in the north of England. Indus.2 EastErn asia The Euphrates and Tigris river valleys were home to previously nomadic civilisations that first developed settled agriculture and buildings around 9000BC. yet appear to have developed very similar earth-building techniques. techniques were refined and improved.2). at sites such as Jericho and Netiv Hagdud. the cities of Yazd and Isfahan contain many historic adobe buildings (Figure 2. it was built with an adobe brick core and faced with fired brick set into bitumen[12]. but some patterns do emerge. the residents began to build upwards. and at Jericho the buildings change from being circular on plan to rectangular. Such ziggurats may have earlier been constructed in adobe. Close by is the town of Tarim. or remain unidentified to the present day. such as the stone cathedrals of England contrasting with the surrounding wattle and daub vernacular houses. is probably the tallest earthen structure in the world.14 Earth Building – history. so that. This is difficult to chart. In Iran. and there is evidence for the development of earth building independently in the valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates. science and conservation were made using formwork. with rammed earth buildings and adobe temples. around 2100BC. These cultures remained independent from each other. It would appear that the transition from hand-moulded to cuboid bricks occurred in Mesopotamia around 5000BC. As civilisation and trade developed. Settlements along the Euphrates and Tigris rivers gradually grew in size and complexity. Where stone is readily available. the city of Shibam is renowned for its particularly tall adobe buildings. The development of agriculture beside major rivers led to people gathering together in towns for the first time. When dry. From around 6000BC onwards. completed in 1914. and have not withstood the ravages of time. The city of Tous is surrounded by rammed earth walls. or turf is used for roof or wall construction. Nile. Many settlements in this region feature a core of earthen buildings that have been renewed and rebuilt over the centuries. was probably the largest adobe building in the world before its collapse in an earthquake in 2003[14]. Jordan. because earthbuilding techniques can vary from settlement to settlement and from year to year. Agriculture[9] and earth construction developed independently in the main cradles of civilisation. with irregular plan buildings packed so tightly that access was via the roofs. Murghab and Yellow Rivers. allowing the production of the materials to be separated from the location of the building. The adobe minaret of this mosque. for example. square bricks are found at the Tell Hassuna[10] site in Iraq. There are also instances of monumental architecture in one construction type and vernacular construction in another. as in the Western Isles of Scotland. These oval bricks appear to have been used until around 6000BC. These fertile river valley civilisations had access to the right types of soil for earth construction. at 53 m. The city was built from adobe. Technology developed such that when the Ziggurat of Ur was constructed. This settlement is still being excavated. The settlement of Çatalhöyük developed independently on the alluvial plains of the Çarşamba river in central Turkey. Closer to the Arabian Gulf. and that rammed earth was not found in South America prior to its introduction by Europeans. Earth is generally used in combination with other building materials when these are available: for instance. and are found in Japan and northern Europe. and the citadel of Bam. suitable earth could be taken from a river valley liable to flooding and used for the construction of buildings at a higher level. which dates from around the seventh century AD. with 5000 inhabitants at its peak between 7300BC and 6800BC[13]. By 3500BC the city of Uruk was the largest in the region.

Iran. The armies of Alexander the Great around 330BC.3 � CEntral asia and thE indus vallEy Settled civilisation developed in the Indus valley around 7000BC. Both settlements were laid out in a grid pattern. Although the city dates from 2000BC. Balkh became a pre-eminent city in the region. The city was established in AD 745. When Muslim traveller Ibn Hawqal visited the city around AD 950 he described it as ‘built of clay with ramparts and six gates’. and as a result many of the sites in central Asia are mere shadows of their former selves. Further east.2 history of Earth Building Figure 2.and Gonur-Depe that have been dated to between 2200BC and 1700BC. The adobe city of Panjakent in western Tajikistan is first mentioned around 500BC. allowing archaeologists to uncover earlier structures without destruction of those built later. Balkh (Bactria) in modern Afghanistan is called Umm Al-Belaad (Mother of Cities) because of its antiquity. Settlements that did survive grew to become major trading centres such as Balkh and Merv. Altyn. and a centre of trade and commerce[15]. the oldest standing structures are the rammed earth Takht-e Rostamand Top-Rustam dated AD 300–500 and attributed to the Buddhist or Zoroastrian religions. The city of Merv in Turkmenistan is relatively unique among archaeological sites.The site has been extensively excavated since the 1940s. the Muslims around AD 720. a castle outside Isfahan. but was abandoned in AD 840. comprising around 300 discrete fortified adobe brick enclosures at sites such as Namazga-. and Genghis Khan in 1220 each ransacked or destroyed many earthen settlements. . and meandering rivers. with the two large settlements of Harappa and Mohenjo-daro emerging around 2600BC. Both Merv and Balkh lay on important trade routes that crossed central Asia. Settled agriculture and the first buildings in central Asia are related to the Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex.2: Cob and adobe walls at Ghaleh Yavar. Almost all of the structures in Merv are built in earth. with the earliest settlements dated to around 2000BC. the Uyghur empire capital and Silk Road city of Ordu-Baliq (Khar Balgas) in modern Mongolia featured rammed earth defensive walls and buildings. and many other earthen settlements grew up on what has become known as the Silk Road. The city was almost continually inhabited until its abandonment and destruction in 1787. conflict. The civilisation spread along the Indus river. and these are thought to date from around 300BC. with adobe houses and individual streets. and was probably the highlight of the Silk Road before its decline in the eighth century[17]. in western Uzbekistan 15 there are several forts or qalas built in adobe. Few of these settlements have remained to the present day because of shifting trading patterns. and is now a tourist attraction. and is now a major archaeological site[16]. Courtesy of Armin Yavari 2. The small adobe settlement of Mehrgarh in modern Pakistan was a forerunner of the much larger Indus valley civilisation that developed around 3000BC. Although the peoples of central Asia were largely nomadic. with several different settlements constructed adjacent to rather than on top of each other.

such as Jiaohe. Jiangsu.4).3) and Hexibao.16 Earth Building – history. and the city of Kashgar in western China is built from adobe. surrounds . The oldest of these buildings was built in 1308. In the Nepali kingdom of Mustang. These large rammed earth buildings. Earth ( ) is also a character in the words for city walls. During the Warring States Period (475–221BC) rammed earth was used for the construction of more elaborate walls at larger settlements such as Langya. at the western end of the Great Wall.3: Part of the early Ming dynasty Great Wall. These walls were repaired and extended by the Han (206BC–AD 202) and Jin (AD 265–420) dynasties. Gaochang and Xi’an. This allowed the development of defensive settlements such as those found at Lianyungang. is constructed wholly in rammed earth[20]. meaning ‘strength’. originally of rammed earth. meaning ‘earth’. Anyang. Taosi. Linzi and Xiadu. and as a result built fortified settlements in north-western China along the eastern part of the Silk Road. called Tulou (literally ‘earth structures’) are defensive homes to many families. which led to a period of major upheaval in China. much of the capital city of Lo Manthang is constructed from rammed earth. and along the Silk Road and to the northern borders the Great Wall was repaired and upgraded. Courtesy of Kate Clarke There are interesting parallels between the Chinese characters and the ideas they represent. were faced in stone. are all encircled with large rammed earth walls. Jiayuguan Fort. At the west end of the Himalayas rammed earth is found in the north Indian state of Ladakh. chéng ( ). dating from 1380. The Qin dynasty (221–206BC) was the first to construct rammed earth defensive walls along their northern frontiers in western China. and lì ( ). These settlements. The Tang dynasty (AD 618–907) expanded Chinese borders and trade. the round houses of the Hakka people have recently been given World Heritage site status. and in a fort at Basgo. The soft soils here could be cut to form pit houses and heaped to form rammed earth mound walls. in palaces such as those at Shey and Leh (Figure 2. China. Rammed earth and adobe are found on the Tibetan plateau and in parts of the Himalayas as both monumental and vernacular building techniques. qiăng ( ). and a defensive wall. beginning with the Lungshan civilisation. The walls of the Ming capital Xi’an. and internal walls. meaning ‘to ram’. science and conservation 2. Figure 2. and their construction continued well into the 20th century. whereas the fortress of Baishui. which pursued a policy of aggressive expansion. meaning ‘big’. indicating that earth was used for wall construction. The character for rammed earth hāngtŭ ( ) is composed of the word shăng ( ). The word shăng is itself made up of the radicals dà ( ). Erlitou and Longwan[18]. The next dynasty to produce major monumental earth architecture was the Ming dynasty (1368– 1644). The Tang dynasty collapsed around AD 907. and tŭ ( ). and can be up to 60 m across and four storeys tall. In the Fuijan province of central China. thus imparting the idea that rammed earth walls are big and strong. Evidence of formwork boards and ramming implements have also been found at Pingliantai[19].4 asia Settled civilisation in China first developed around 2300BC when nomadic peoples settled on the alluvial plains of the Yellow River. but was harassed by tribes to the north. and new forts were constructed in adobe at Jiayuguan (Figure 2.

archaeology has not yet revealed a great history of earth building in Africa. and excavation reveals rammed earth walls used in homes there[18]. The large independent adobe structures at ShunetelZebib and Nekhen. which was home to the masons of the Valley of the Kings. continues to promote traditional building materials. The country of Bhutan. Rameses II (1279–1213BC) embarked on many building projects. remained relatively isolated from the rest of Africa. and the clay river silt mixed with desert sand and straw from cultivated grains allowed hand-made adobe brick manufacture. and the Roman author Pliny the Elder describes the rammed earth towers in Africa attributed to Hannibal[24].5). comprises square. .4: Leh Palace. however. The Egyptian dynasties appeared in the Nile valley around 2900BC. Rekhmire. The settlement of Deir el Medina (1550–1080BC). single-room adobe houses laid out in a grid pattern. 1458BC) and an official during her reign.5: Rammed earth section of private house near Kyichu Lhakhang monastery. A relief and frescoes at the tombs of Queen Hatshepsut (d. Bhutan Although Africa is known as the cradle of mankind. constructed from woven reeds or timber with an earth plaster. The earliest woven reed and branch earth-covered sites have been dated to 5000BC at sites in the Nile Delta. Egypt. and as a result had little influence on the building techniques found throughout the rest of the continent. founding settlements along the north coast. In north Africa.2 history of Earth Building 17 2. with many homes and monumental architecture built in rammed earth (Figure 2. at the east end of the Himalayas. Figure 2. The city of Tel el-Amarna was a new capital city built by the pharaoh Akhenaten around 1353BC but abandoned soon afterwards. The African mud hut. and adobe pyramids found at Tanis[22] show that adobe was used as a monumental construction technique before the better-known stone edifices were built. The famous Carthaginian general Hannibal crossed into Europe in 218BC. Their capital at Carthage (in modern Tunisia) was founded in 814BC. may have remained unchanged for millennia[21]. both describe the process for making rectangular adobe bricks in formwork. and adobe bricks from his major construction projects were stamped with his seal[23]. dating to 2750BC. Adobe continued to be used as a vernacular construction material in Egypt.5 afriCa Figure 2. India the city[20]. Ladakh. the Phoenician civilisation spread from the eastern Mediterranean. such as Mermide and Fayum. This city features single-storey rectangular adobe buildings with external stairs leading to a flat roof.


Earth Building – history, science and conservation

“Moreover, are there not in Africa and Spain
walls made of earth that are called framed walls,
because they are made by packing a frame
enclosed between two boards, one on each side,
and so are stuffed rather than built, and do they
not last for ages, undamaged by rain, wind and
fire, and stronger than quarry stone? Spain still
sees the watchtowers of Hannibal and turrets of
earth placed on mountain ridges.”
Around AD 700 Islam spread through north
Africa, and the valleys of the Drâa and Dadès rivers
in modern Morocco are filled with hundreds of
rammed earth kasbahs (Figure 2.6), such as Aït
Ben Haddou and Tamnougalt, the earliest dated to
around AD 1000. The city walls of both Marrakech
and Fes are built in rammed earth, and it appears
extensively in monumental Muslim architecture,
such as at the El Badi Palace in Marrakech, built in
1578. Muslim rule in Egypt promoted the use of
adobe brick, with the 10th-century Fatimid tombs
built in adobe[25].

Figure 2.6: Kasbah in Asslim, Drâa Valley, Morocco

Moses Maimonides, a Jewish writer and
philosopher, born in Cordoba in 1135, but residing
in Morocco, Egypt and Israel, wrote of rammed
“The builders take two boards, about six
cubits long and two cubits high, and place them
parallel to each other on their edges, as far apart
as the thickness of the wall they wish to build;
they steady these boards with pieces of wood
fastened with cords. The space between the
boards is then filled with earth, which is beaten
down firmly with hammers or stampers; this is
continued until the wall reaches the requisite
height and the boards are withdrawn.”
Although complex societies have been present
in west Africa since around 1500BC, the first
documented is the Ghanaian empire, ruling a large
part of west Africa from around AD 830. While
much of the monumental architecture is stone, it
is assumed that current earth-building practices
found in Ghana (Figure 2.7), such as adobe and cob

2 history of Earth Building


Figure 2.7: Vernacular mud brick at Yikpabongo village,
Ghana. Courtesy of Claire Jaquin

Figure 2.8: Great Mosque of Djenné, Mali. Courtesy of
Carolina Castellanos

construction, were used in vernacular architecture
in antiquity. The demise of the Ghanaian empire
around 1235 precipitated the development of
the Mali Empire, with its famous earthen cities of
Djenné and Timbuktu.
The original great mosque of Djenné was
probably first built around 1200, but fell into
disrepair before being reconstructed in 1907[26].
The characteristic style is similar to other sites in
west Africa, such as the Sankore and Dijinguere
Ber mosques in Timbuktu in Mali, built around
1320, and the Grand Mosque of Agadez in Niger,
built around 1515. These buildings are unique,
being decorated with bundles of palm stalks that
project from the wall and serve as a scaffold for
annual replastering of the buildings (Figures 2.8
and 2.9)[27].
Earth buildings are found as far east as
Cameroon, where the homes of the Musgum
people are inverted catenary dome structures
built in earth[28]. Monumental earth buildings
are not found in the forested and more humid
regions of central and southern Africa, but earth
construction in various forms continues to be
used across Africa.

Figure 2.9: Dijinguere Ber Mosque, Timbuktu, Mali.
Courtesy of Carolina Castellanos


Earth Building – history, science and conservation

2.6 EuroPE
Earth building takes many forms in Europe, with
adobe and rammed earth found in southern
Europe, whereas in northern Europe earth is used
in conjunction with timber in wattle and daub
and half-timbered techniques. The earliest use of
adobe in Europe can be dated to around 5300BC
at the settlement of Sesklo in Greece, with small
homes built on stone foundations[29]. The use of
earth with timber in northern Europe means that
many archaeological sites have decayed, and only
foundations remain, making it difficult to assess the
building materials. Further east, in Hattuša, central
Turkey, remains of adobe buildings dated to around
1600BC have been found.
Rammed earth may have been brought to
Europe by the Phoenicians, who spread from the
eastern Mediterranean and founded settlements in
Spain, such as Morro de Mesquita[18]. The Roman
architect Vitruvius describes rammed earth used
in the French city of Marseille, and adobe being
used to construct the Greek city of Athens[30].
The Latin verb pinsere, meaning ‘to pound’, has
passed into French as pisé, meaning rammed earth.
Although much Greek and Roman monumental
architecture was built in stone, earthen construction

continued to be used in vernacular construction
throughout Europe. St Isidore, the Catholic bishop
of Seville, described the rammed earth technique,
paraphrasing Pliny in his work Etymologiae, written
before AD 636[31].
Islam came to southern Europe in AD 711,
bringing with it building technologies from north
Africa. Conflict at this time led to the construction
of many rammed earth and adobe fortifications.
Excavations of the fortifications of Calatayud in
Spain have been dated to AD 884, and the Muslim
defensive walls of historic cities of Cordoba, Seville
and Granada are built in rammed earth. The World
Heritage site of the Alhambra Palace in Granada
(Figure 2.10) was constructed from rammed earth
around 1238.
Though earth continued to be used as a
building material, its use declined with the
increasing penetration of fired brick from the
16th century onwards. In northern Europe, wattle
and daub techniques developed as vernacular
structures. Cob structures dated to around 1400
have been found in parts of the UK[32], and this
building technique continued to be used as a
vernacular technique until well into the 19th

Figure 2.10: The rammed earth Alcazaba at the Alhambra of Granada, Spain

led by specialist earth-building practitioners such as Martin Rauch and Gernot Minke. such as the adobe Tamacacori. 2. Remains of the adobe Fort Union (1851) and Fort Selden (1865) are testament to the US army using the available materials to construct defences. German[36] and Italian[37]. Lured by gold mining. forts were established to protect the settlers from Native American raids. Earth building again declined with the advent of the Industrial Revolution in Europe. leading to the development of the first German building standard for the material. Weilburg. Traditional earth building conservation has been studied. The Hohokam culture of southern Arizona constructed adobe homes with slightly sunken floors cut into the alluvial soils. such as San Jose and Los Angeles. The most famous is the Taos Pueblo. Casa de Estudillo in the Old Town of San Diego was built using adobe in 1829. A single adobe wall remains in Santa Clara University in San Jose. but continual expansion and rebuilding mean that little remains of these original structures. After the First World War. Germany. and at several institutions in the UK. As European settlement moved westwards. Cointeraux published a series of leaflets on rammed earth in Lyon in 1791[33]. built in 1822 and part of the original lodges around which the university was founded. because fired brick became more easily available. but was again rediscovered following the world wars.7 north amEriCa Earth was used as a construction material by Native Americans in modern Mexico and the southern United States. and best practice guides have Figure 2. and has recently been restored as a historic monument. 42].2 history of Earth Building At the end of the 18th century the political climate in Europe was turning towards freedom for the common man and revolution against the ruling classes. the governor’s house was built in adobe in 1706. Chinese immigration to .11: Haus Rath.11) and to the United States[38]. rammed earth was ‘rediscovered’ and championed by Frenchman François Cointeraux. The number of modern earth buildings is increasing. with national associations in many European countries. These were translated into English[34. Constructed 1828 21 been produced[41. In Albuquerque. The Pueblo peoples of modern New Mexico built adobe structures several storeys high that were home to numerous families. may have originally been constructed in adobe. Many cities on the west coast. 35]. Earth building in Europe is now seeing a revival. including the universities of Durham and Bath. Europeans coming to North America continued to use adobe for the construction of many missions and frontier forts. trials of rammed earth and rammed chalk buildings were undertaken in the UK[39]. The Aztec civilisation in Mexico constructed major monumental architecture in cut stone. championed by architect Clough Williams-Ellis[40]. Guevavi and Calabazas Jesuit missions in Arizona built in 1691. allowing the technique to spread across Europe (Figure 2. Research and development into earth building is being undertaken by research groups at CRA Terre in France. which is dated to around AD 1000[44]. and following the Second World War rammed earth was used in East Germany. but vernacular buildings are thought to have been adobe. In this climate. and remains of adobe Hohokam structures at the Casa Grande National Monument have been dated to around AD 600[43].

The use of rammed earth extended . built around 1896[46]. California. South Carolina academic William Anderson was a key proponent of rammed earth. Virginia. a businesswoman named Juana Briones built a rammed earth and cob house in 1845. Experimentation with new building techniques in New Orleans led to the construction of the new Marine hospital in 1867[47]. German immigrants to the east coast of the United States brought the rammed earth technique from Europe. designed by Jefferson.12). Future US president and architect Thomas Jefferson was aware of the technique[38]. Construction began. and eventually demolished. who published many articles on rammed earth in the early 19th century. Others began to experiment in rammed earth. New Jersey.22 Earth Building – history. and there are many articles in periodicals from the time referring to rammed earth. Johnson hoped to provide a model to newly arrived Europeans to settle farm land. and in 1850 built the Church of the Holy Cross near Stateburg. This new construction technique was championed by John Stuart Skinner. drawing on the work of François Cointeraux in Europe. was built in 1773 in rammed earth. by S W Johnson. DC. although slave quarters at the Bremo Plantation in Virginia. were built in this material by his friend General John Hartwell Cocke around 1819. South Carolina. but the building was vastly over budget. A rammed earth house was built in Trenton. in 1812. This building was to be iron framed. In Palo Alto. with rammed earth infill panels. and published a pamphlet in 1806 detailing rammed earth construction[35]. never completed. but it is unlikely that he personally constructed any buildings in rammed earth. South Carolina (Figure 2. USA. Bushrod Washington (nephew of George Washington) built rammed earth lodges on his estate at Mount Vernon in Alexandria. Stateburg.12: Church of the Holy Cross. and Chinese immigrants built a rammed earth herb shop in 1855 (the Chew Kee Store in Fiddletown. editor of The American Farmer magazine. California[45]). Later European immigrants are probably responsible for roughly 150 rammed earth buildings clustered in the San Antonio Valley in Monterey County. Courtesy of David Grey the west coast of the United States brought with it construction techniques such as rammed earth. science and conservation Figure 2. Hilltop House in Washington. which was previously unknown in the region.

and the use of locally sourced building materials such as rammed earth and adobe declined.13: Huaca Pucllana. The depression and New Deal programme in the early 1930s saw several deliberately labour-intensive construction techniques tested. and in 1926 an official from the United States Department of Agriculture published Bulletin No 1500 detailing rammed earth construction. A recently discovered temple at the Ventarrón site in northern Peru appears to be constructed from blocks cut directly from river sediment. adobe pyramid in Lima. where St Thomas Church in Shanty Bay was built in 1838. with Dr Ralph Patty and others publishing the results of erosion testing at South Dakota Community College through the 1930s. Although there is little archaeological evidence of vernacular architecture. set up the Rammed Earth Institute International. Modern adobe construction is continuing apace in North America. Canada. with experts such as David Easton and Meror Krayenhoff continuing to produce a large number of structures. Paul Graham McHenry and Bruce King. with the richest area being the coastal regions of northern Peru. it is likely that both monumental and vernacular constructions used adobe bricks. 23 2. in 1935. such as the Huaca Pucllana (Figure 2. Contemporary to the Moche culture was the Lima culture (AD 100–650) of central coastal Peru. Courtesy of Louise Davies . Peru. Rammed earth in North America saw another revival in the 1920s. This period also saw the first academic research.8 south amEriCa Archaeological evidence of earth building in South America is scant. and a wide range of training courses offered. which is still being excavated today. Cob building is developing in Oregon. Stabilised rammed earth construction has become an established construction technique on the west coast of North America. Huaca del Sol and Huaca de la Luna are adobe core pyramids around 50 m tall. In the south of Peru the Nazca civilisation. Figure 2.The earliest recorded earth bricks relate to the Moche culture. and inspired a new generation of modern earth builders such as David Easton.2 history of Earth Building into Ontario. and has been dated to around 2000BC[50]. Alabama. following the interest generated in Europe by the well-known English architect Clough Williams-Ellis. the latter being 25 m tall and formed using adobes stacked vertically. with established abode manufacturers in New Mexico.13) and the Huaca Juliana. led by the Cob Cottage Company with a small number of buildings complete. with Thomas Hibben building seven rammed earth houses at Gardendale. dedicated to the sun and the moon. with two pyramids. The centre of this civilisation was the city of Cerro Blanco. most famous for the Nazca Lines. leading to the publication by the Federal Government of technical documentation for rammed earth construction[49]. A book was published in 1924 by Karl Ellington[48]. around 1940. This culture also built adobe pyramids. built its capital at Cahuachi in adobe. and homes in Greensville in 1868. which flourished in northern Peru between AD 100 and AD 800. Rammed earth advocate David Miller built his rammed earth home in Greely. The expansion of the railroads at the end of the 19th century meant that it became much easier to transport heavy construction materials around the country. Distinctive marks on each adobe brick suggest that many different communities were involved in the construction of these structures. Colorado.

who emerged around AD 900 and built their capital of Chan Chan close to the modern city of Trujillo in northern Peru. Trujillo. whose monumental architecture utilised cut stone. although it is likely that the vernacular building continued in adobe. Building with adobe continues to be popular in many Andean parts of South America[20]. Figure 2.14). which led to the demolition of much of the historic earthen architecture. São Paulo became a focus of rammed earth building. with many monumental and vernacular buildings. The Chimu civilisation was conquered by the Incas. The arrival of European settlers brought new building techniques from Europe. Chan Chan was probably the largest city on the continent at that time. and the rammed earth House of the Chamber was built in 1776 in a style similar to that found in Portugal around the same time. Túcume and Apurlec. Architectural styles followed those in southern Europe. In 1549 a Jesuit missionary sent a request to Europe to send ‘artisans able to handle soil. In 1850 major flooding in São Paulo made many buildings unsafe. Courtesy of Louise Davies . to develop missions and settlements. who continued to build adobe pyramids at sites such as Batán Grande. home to up to 26 000 people and surrounded by adobe walls around 15 m high.14: Chan Chan reliefs. precipitating a public campaign against earth buildings.24 Earth Building – history. The largest civilisation to develop following the decline of the Moche was the Chimu. for the construction of a rammed earth wall’ for the construction of the Colégio da Campanhia in São Paulo. The rammed earth cathedral of Taubaté was built in 1645. and the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary in 1720. and carpenters. Peru. Ten ‘royal’ enclosures are surrounded by 9 m tall adobe walls covered in relief patterns (Figure 2. science and conservation The collapse of the Moche culture around AD 750 led to the development of the Lambayeque culture.

who was employed by the Commonwealth Experimental Building Station.2 history of Earth Building 2. Figure 2. Middleton conducted numerous tests that were written into the famous Bulletin No. 25 but earthquakes in 1846 and 1855 meant that all forms of masonry fell out of favour. Architects such as Graeme North in New Zealand and rammed earth contractors Stephen Dobson and Rick Lindsay in Australia have allowed earth building to flourish.9 australasia Earth building is not used by the nomadic aboriginal people native to Australia. built in 1841 (Figure 2.15)[20]. Russell. In 1839 the South Australian newspaper reported on 30 rammed earth houses being constructed. Earth building has recently developed in both Australia and New Zealand. 5 in 1953. but European settlers experimented with a wide range of building techniques from their home countries. New Zealand. The best known historic earth monument in New Zealand is Pompallier House in Russell. An early reference to rammed earth in Tasmania is given in the Hobart town gazette of May 1823: “Resolved that the mode of building in Pise. Rammed earth building in Australia was rediscovered by an English-trained architect. the Society earnestly recommend its adoption in Van Diemen’s Land”. which until recently was the accepted standard reference in Australia and New Zealand.15: Pompallier House. or rammed earth. appearing to this Society to be both economical and expeditious. including rammed earth and adobe. Courtesy of Robert McClean . European settlers of New Zealand tried many forms of construction. and rammed earth was often used as a quick construction technique in gold rush and frontier towns such as Penrith in New South Wales and Rushworth in Victoria. G F Middleton. with active national bodies for the promotion of earth building.

where suitable soils were ubiquitous (such as softer loess soils). and around the Tigris and Euphrates rivers were able to grow because of the ubiquity of the construction material. such as along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. In western Asia the Lungshan culture and in North America the Hokokam peoples developed piled and earth shelter building techniques. and those of Harappa and Mohenjdaro along the Indus river. the walls surrounding Lo Manthang in Mustang are built in rammed earth. they can easily be excavated to produce piled and then rammed earth type structures. As civilisation developed. we identified two aspects of earthen construction: monolithic and unit construction. particularly city walls. Earth has served as the construction material for many types of construction. Rammed earth became decorated by the inclusion of decorative brick lines between each lift. Conversely. the earliest large settlements using earthen construction materials. In the Himalayas. and thus we find angled adobe bricks. or patterns cut into earth renders such as at Chan Chan in Peru. and are usually combined with a binder material such as straw to produce small units. Similarly. mean that earth began to fall out of use in some parts of the world. coupled with the improved mechanical properties that other materials exhibit. The walls of Seville and Cordoba in Spain and Marrakech in Morocco are all constructed in rammed earth. Although earth continued to be used as both a vernacular and a monumental construction material. seem to have developed with settled agriculture. By the 18th century. and the earliest settlements. the coming of the railways allowed more efficient construction techniques to develop. The virtues that made it so viable to early builders. both through improved production processes (first for timber and stone. and those in ancient Egypt before the stone construction. These. Its primary use is usually vernacular construction. Earth was used for the construction of large religious and memorial monuments such as the ziggurats in western Asia and the pyramids of the Sun and Moon in modern Peru. . Although earth building proved popular in the mid-west United States. the building material became of secondary importance to the architecture. These units can be dried and carried short distances away from the production site. In China these walls are perhaps the largest. using the river valley soils combined with the cultivated crops now available. namely low transport distances. the industrial revolutions sweeping Europe and North America meant that other construction techniques could provide a viable alternative to earth building. the development of Portland cement in 1824 and the use of iron and steel in construction pushed earth building away from mainstream construction. science and conservation 2. make earth a potential ultimate sustainable construction material. Earth is particularly notable for its use in defensive constructions. simple construction processes and easy availability. such as those in the Indus valley. the settlement of Catalhöyük. Earth building in the developed world has recently seen a resurgence as a sustainable construction material.26 Earth Building – history. and in north Africa and southern Europe rammed earth was used for the city walls of many Islamic cites. with the city walls of Xi’an and Beijing being around 20 m thick at the base. such as at Huaca Pucllana in Lima or in the Drâa valleys of Morocco.10 ConClusions In Chapter 1. As a result. and later for steel and concrete) and through improved transportation methods. Unit construction requires soils that are particularly rich in clay and silt: these are generally found in river valleys. its use declined over time as other construction materials become available.

and to the study of its behaviour as soil mechanics. This encompasses methods of determining the strengths and stiffness of soils: strength for determining the stability and safety of structures built in or on soil. and on the processes it has undergone since weathering. But the mechanisms by which strength develops and changes over time in these materials have rarely been rigorously examined.3 fundamEntal BEhaviour of EarthEn ConstruCtion matErials 27 ChaPtEr 3 fundamEntal BEhaviour of EarthEn ConstruCtion matErials 3. and in clay bridges between larger particles. and begins with some basic soil mechanics.1: Particle sizes to BS 1377[51] Name Maximum dimension (mm) Clay 0. The striking example is that of a sandcastle. and stiffness for determining movements during use (of tunnels. The type of soil depends on the rock from which it originates. where too much water makes the castle flow away and too little makes it blow away.1 introduCtion 3. A soil is often described by the distribution of particle sizes it contains. this feature of clays has little effect on their strength. the zone in which plants grow) or earth used for building as soil. Soil is an accumulation of mineral particles formed by the weathering of rocks. lime. from which evaporation occurs and the wall gains strength: it is therefore clear that the water in the mix has an important role.). the table shows the classifications used in the UK. This chapter covers the physical basis for the development of strength in earthen construction materials. Wall construction takes place using a mixture with an optimum water content to allow good compaction.002 Silt 0. water and.1. followed by an examination of the behaviour of earthen construction materials at the particle level.) Particles smaller than 0. foundations. (Different conventions are used in different parts of the world. bitumen or straw. Topsoil is not used for earth building. and are often considered to be different from larger particles because of the relative importance of the electrostatic charges held on the surfaces of clay particles.2 soil mEChaniCs All earth buildings have the same ingredients: a graded mixture of subsoil. in some cases – stabilisers such as Portland cement. Civil engineers refer to the subsoil (below the topsoil. and names given to ranges of particle sizes are shown in Table 3. Improved understanding of the role of water in earthen construction materials at the particle level is used in later chapters to inform conservation strategies for heritage structures. The fundamental and most important source of strength in unstabilised earthen construction materials is shown to be due to the small amounts of water held in the earth mixture at particle contacts. and will not be considered further here. Table 3.002 mm are termed clay. retaining walls etc.06 Sand Gravel 2 60 Cobbles 200 Boulders > 200 . In fact. and effective conservation would seem to be handicapped without this understanding.

It is now widely accepted that the source of a soil’s strength (clays included) lies in the friction between particles[52]. as shown in Figure 3. science and conservation In its natural state soil consists of interlocked solid particles with voids (or pores) between. a force F is resisted by friction between the block and the plane beneath. showing friction angle φ Saturated soils contain water in the interparticle voids (the pore water). Engineers determining the possibility of soil failure use the following equation for points in the soil mass: τ = σ′ tan φ ′ + c 3. as soils have little or no tensile strength. which is associated with the angle of repose (slope) of a pile of soil. they usually fail in shear.4 EffECtivE strEss F φ R Figure 3. where μ = tan φ. The dashed superscripts indicate that these are ‘effective’ values (see below).28 Earth Building – history. The angle φ provides a (3. So if σ rises or u falls. the soil is described as saturated. or rocks such as sandstone) tensile failure is possible. which is defined as: σ′ = σ – u When the block is just about to slide. However for most conventional construction projects civil engineers usually assume soils to be saturated. Friction is a concept familiar from school physics. These voids are filled with fluid: this is usually air or water. and the established theories of soil strength have been based on this assumption. cement-stabilised block. The effective stress is the normal stress that controls frictional behaviour.1.e.2) where τ is the shear strength. then the effective stress rises. a rise in pore water pressure (i. the soil is described as unsaturated. (3.e. For sands and gravels φ can rise to 40°. and one of their most important features is that failure can occur both from changes in the applied load and from changes in the pressure in the pore water. Where all the pores in the soil are filled with water. and so in either of these cases the shear strength increases. N 3. The magnitude of the resisting force is determined by the value of the normal force N and the coefficient of friction μ between the block and the plane. but for most soils it lies between 15° and 30°. the shear stress on a plane just at the point of failure. but other fluids (such as oil) can be present. Alternatively.3) where σ is the total stress (the stress due to the applied loads) and u is the pore water pressure. usually demonstrated by a simple block on a plane. but for cemented soils (stabilised rammed earth. Most earthen construction materials (which can be regarded as manufactured soils) are unsaturated. This deals with the frictional strength of soils. and φ ’ is the effective angle of friction.1: Simple model of friction. i.3 soil strEngth Soil strength usually refers to soil shear strength. If there is cementation between the soil particles (for instance in stabilised rammed earth) then in addition to the frictional strength there will be a component of apparent cohesive strength (c) which does not vary with the applied normal stresses unless the cementitious bonds are broken. This is the natural starting point for an explanation of soil mechanics. The resultant force R is oriented at an angle φ to the vertical. a reduction in effective . measure of the shear strength of the assembly through the following equation: F = μR = R tan φ For soils we measure shear strength via a macroscopic angle of friction φ (rather than looking at individual contacts).1) (3. The theory of effective stress states that the behaviour of soils is governed by a single stress (the effective stress). where air is present in some of the pores. We refer in this chapter mainly to uncemented soils.

2. the presence of water in soils makes their behaviour more complex. However. and only at the extreme edges will the surface curve to follow the contact angle. cob and adobe are effectively manufactured unsaturated soils. whereas at the surface the absence of equal attraction in all directions leads to a net attractive force in the plane of the surface.3 fundamEntal BEhaviour of EarthEn ConstruCtion matErials stress) can cause a failure with no change in applied loads. Therefore. and allows us to undertake much simpler modelling. This is the angle that a water/air interface makes at a solid surface. In what follows we examine some of the theories that attempt to explain observed macroscopic unsaturated behaviour by looking at the particle level.2: Simple model of an unsaturated soil Water droplet Figure 3. For a large body of water the water surface will be flat.2. Surface tension arises from the different forces on water molecules close to the interface compared with those in the body of the water. many conditions in the field are unsaturated.3). Courtesy of Richard Iles The second fundamental property of the water held at bridges is surface tension. 3. unlike many other construction materials. Examples of such behaviour are subsidence due to a rising water table. 29 Air Soil particles Water Figure 3.6 fundamEntals A highly simplified model of an unsaturated soil comprises spherical particles linked by water held in ‘bridges’ between particles. one could not add more water to them). known as the surface tension.5 unsaturatEd soil mEChaniCs The soil mechanics routinely used by engineers assumes full saturation and effective stress parameters.3: Contact angle of a droplet of water. For hydrophobic materials the contact angle is between 90° and 180°. forming the menisci seen in Figure 3. Earthen construction materials are never completely dry. but nor are they saturated (if they were. or landslides induced by rainfall. For hydrophilic materials the contact angle is between zero and 90°. The most fundamental one is the contact angle. That is. as described above. 3. air is present too. A molecule located within the body of the water is subject to equal attraction in all directions. If we imagine a drop of water on a smooth solid surface. For a narrow pore containing water the two solid surfaces are close together. This allows us to make assumptions about the distances and interactions between particles. we can clearly see the contact angle θ (Figure 3. The shape and size of the water bridges are determined by various physical properties and effects. which exists at any water/air interface. the voids between soil particles are not entirely filled with water. as shown in Figure 3. . and the water surface will then be curved. Materials such as rammed earth. This seemingly innocuous change has a major influence on the mechanical and hydraulic behaviour of the soils. We can then apply the properties of this simplified model to real soils.

When the number of molecules leaving the water equals the number of molecules arriving. so that both sides of the equation yield positive values.30 Earth Building – history. By combining Equations (3. ua – uw). Relative humidity is a measure of the amount of water vapour in the air. Considering the case of the idealised unsaturated soil. These cannot exist in equilibrium without there being a pressure difference across the air/water interface. water vapour.4) and. Equation 3.4: The role of suction between two particles Do not confuse this use of ‘saturated’ with the earlier use to refer to soil with water and no air in the interparticle pores. equilibrium can occur only if there is a net pressure difference between the water and the air. and rx and ry are the radii of curvature of the meniscus. when more molecules are arriving than leaving. an equilibrium state is reached. A body of water contains water molecules in constant random motion. . and because of surface tension. science and conservation In this situation. It is defined as the ratio of the water vapour pressure pv to the vapour pressure when the air is saturated. Molecules as water vapour are also in random thermal motion. the liquid water is evaporating.5) There is a relationship between the suction in the menisci between particles and the relative humidity known as the Kelvin equation: Additional normal  force between particles Suction in water (3. oxygen and carbon dioxide) exert different partial pressures on their surroundings as a result of their different molecular kinetic energies. an additional normal force between the soil particles that increases the macroscopic shear strength of a sample. This suction then provides an additional force pulling particles together (see Figure 3. uw is the water pressure. so the air held in pores will itself contain water vapour.4) to (3. crucially. Ts is the surface tension. sometimes losing energy and returning to liquid water. The partial pressure associated with the water vapour is referred to as the water vapour pressure. At the surface of the water body some molecules have sufficient momentum to escape from it. the magnitude of this motion is determined by temperature.g. p0: (3. The presence of suction then can be seen to strengthen an unsaturated soil as compared with its saturated state.7 rElativE humidity All air contains water in vapour form.4 implies that the water pressure is negative. to give: (3. T is temperature (in degrees K). and defined as the difference between the air and water pressures.6) Where R is the universal gas constant. equilibrium can be reached only if there is a negative pressure in the water.4) Where ua is the air pressure. the water vapour is condensing into liquid water. The different gases in air (e. 3. When more molecules are leaving than arriving. and vw is the molar volume of water.6) we can remove the suction term. This negative pressure is often referred to as a positive ‘suction’ (denoted by s. Therefore the presence of air in the pores means that water is held between the particles in menisci with curvature. Relative humidity (RH) is a measurement of how much water vapour is present in the air as a proportion of the maximum amount there could be (which is determined by temperature. if the air pressure in the pores is atmospheric. The curvature of a meniscus is linked to this pressure difference by the Young–Laplace equation: 1 1 ^u a ±u w h = Ts c rx + ry m  (3. With the air pressure at atmospheric. and is termed ‘saturated’1). and this is indeed the case. and these ‘liquid bridges’ contribute to the strength of earthen materials.7) 1 Figure 3. and join the water molecules present as vapour in the air surrounding the water.

31 It is also possible to link the radius of curvatures of the menisci to RH. but if we use the simple idealisation of spherical particles (Figure 3. and Equation 3. We can write these as follows: Ftension = 2π rneck Ts (3. If we assume that the volume of the pores remains unchanged.6) then shows the equilibrium size of pore for a given relative humidity. Fpressure.1 Pore radius at air entry value (mm) 1 Figure 3. 80 60 40 20 0 10 100 1000 10 000 Suction (kPa) 100 000 1 000 000 Figure 3.001 0.5: Plot of the Kelvin equation linking relative humidity to suction If the relative humidity rises in an unsaturated soil.8 thE soil watEr rEtEntion CurvE For each unsaturated soil at a given state (i. but when the relative humidity reduces to 50% the suction increases to over 100 000 kPa. Therefore climatic rises of humidity are likely to reduce the strength of earthen materials. We can see from Equation 3. where. because all the pores are filled with water). Ftension and (b) the force arising because the pressure in the water is lower than the air pressure. If RH is gradually lowered. A typical SWRC is shown in Figure 3.7.7 can be written: (3. This relative humidity (or more commonly suction) value is known as the air entry value. and it also differs if the soil is wetting or drying – so-called hysteretic behaviour.3 fundamEntal BEhaviour of EarthEn ConstruCtion matErials Equation 3. in line with usual practice in geotechnics. Sr = 1 for a saturated soil.8) Fpressure = π rneck2 (ua – uw) (3. For the case of a pore idealised as a cylindrical tube. Relative humidity (%) 100 80 60 40 20 0 0. the radii of curvature are equal.6: The relation between relative humidity and pore radius 3.4 that this means the suction reduces.e. The SWRC is a function of the void size distribution. suctions in equilibrium lie between 1 and 3000 kPa.e. .4). the degree of saturation (rather than the water content) is plotted against suction.6 is plotted in Figure 3. The attractive force provided across a liquid bridge is small.01 0. then water condenses from vapour in the pores to liquid water in the menisci. rx = r y = r. a given compaction) there is a relationship between the water content and the suction. This shows that when the relative humidity is around 100%. called the soil water retention curve (SWRC). pores will empty (and fill with air) according to this plot.0001 0.10) Relative humidity % 100 Plotting this equation (Figure 3. The degree of saturation Sr is the ratio of the volume of water in a sample to the total volume of voids (i.9) where rneck is the radius of the neck of the liquid bridge. then the radii of the menisci must increase.5. we can identify two components of this force: (a) the surface tension of the meniscus acting around the perimeter.

g. which are not usually found in nature. This is air that is trapped within pores. the pores are mostly filled with water. For modern rammed earth construction the Standard Proctor test is used to determine the OWC. the suction can be significantly different depending on the path travelled to reach that state. There are several standard laboratory tests to determine the OWC for compaction of a sample. for a given water content. this does not tell us the suction unless we know the path (and without the suction we do not have a clear idea of the strength). and each is appropriate for specific soils. Compaction test results are invariably plotted in the form shown in Figure 3. • The residual saturation: this is the water content that can be achieved by normal drying processes. Each test uses a standard (but different) compactive effort. The degree of compaction of a soil is measured by the dry density (the mass of solids per unit volume of soil) and depends on the initial water content and the amount of energy supplied – the compactive effort. or the vibrating-hammer test. science and conservation 1 Dry ing g ttin We Degree of saturation (Sr ) Residual air content Residual saturation 0 0 Air entry value Suction (s) (log scale) Figure 3. the value of suction reduces. such as the standard or heavy Proctor tests.8. If the soil is too wet.9 ComPaCtion Earthen construction materials are created with a degree of compaction (i.7: A typical soil water retention curve The SWRC has some important features: • The air entry value: this is the value of suction that must be exceeded for liquid water to begin to leave and air to enter. To reach lower water contents requires artificial drying processes (such as heating above 100 °C). Equipment for the laboratory study of these processes has recently been developed[55]. As the water content of a soil increases. and therefore in the strength of the material. which creates a higher density material. Compaction of earth-building materials is further complicated by the fact that often the compaction procedure occurs in layers (e. the particles are unable to rearrange into a denser formation. This has implications for earthen structures. . because although we may be able to measure water content relatively easily. If the soil is too dry. Various reasons suggested for this hysteretic behaviour are suggested in the literature[53. an increase in density cannot be achieved. for rammed earth). whereas a Standard Proctor test would be used for a clayey material. The peak in the compaction curve indicates the OWC for that soil using that compactive procedure. 54]. Soils with larger particles are compacted in larger moulds: thus the OWC for a gravel would be determined using a vibratinghammer test. • The residual air content: this is the volume of air that remains in a soil when it is wetted from dry.32 Earth Building – history. For a given soil and compactive effort there is an optimum water content (OWC) at which maximum compaction. and as the water content decreases. a different drying curve is followed. volume reduction). Compaction plays a major role in the formation of the pore size distribution. but as this can be considered to be incompressible. The significance of hysteresis here is that. and is unable to escape. Rammed earth and compressed earth blocks use mechanical force applied to the soil mixture to achieve this. which as described earlier is a function of the particle size distribution and the compactive energy. and the compactive effort will simply attempt to compress the water. following a wetting curve. and thus dry density ( ρd) will occur (which is the desired state).e. leading to an increase in the density and degree of saturation of the soil. This leaves water at the particle contact points and adsorbed to the surface of some particles. causing air to be removed from the pore spaces. 3. The size and shape of the SWRC depend on the void size distribution of the soil. Compaction is the process whereby the volume of a soil is reduced.

10 thE rolE of Clay Networks of bridges of smaller (clay) particles can form between larger (silt and sand) particles. as was often considered the case in the past. The presence of bridges has promoted the development of complex material models for unsaturated soils that are termed ‘double-structure’. However.9. and thus provide an apparent source of cohesive strength to the soil. as shown in Figure 3. Where clays appear to show cohesive strength. as indicated above.3 fundamEntal BEhaviour of EarthEn ConstruCtion matErials Zero air voids line 33 High relative humidity Capillary force  between sand particles  Dry density Rammed earth Increasing compactive effort CEB Low suction Clay bridge High suction Adobe Cob Sand particle Clay particle Low relative humidity Decreasing optimum moisture content Water content Figure 3. additional bonds between particles occur through the presence of clay bridges.8: Relationship between dry density and optimum moisture content.9: Clay bridges at high and low relative humidities 3. The smallest particles in a mix for earthen construction are defined as clay (Table 3. In addition to the shear strength that results from suction in the menisci between particles in an unsaturated soil. the source of this is suction[56]. while the soil as a whole is unsaturated. and one for the larger pores between aggregates of clay and other larger particles. with the clay bridge itself being saturated. Ranges of moisture content and dry density for different earth-building techniques Figure 3.1). They are unique among soil particles because they hold an electrostatic charge on their surface. . this electrostatic clay bonding is just not strong enough to provide a significant source of strength. to reflect the fact that there are two peaks in the pore size distribution: one for the pore spaces in the clay bridges. This charged surface means that clay particles can to adhere to each other. These bridges can exist at a range of humidities.

but the interaction between bonds of this nature. science and conservation 3. However. whereas cement is widely used in modern rammed earth construction. Using a tensiometer[59] (Figure 3.11 thE rolE of staBilisErs To this point in this chapter we have been concerned with unstabilised earthen construction materials. and to measure the strength and stiffness of samples in uniaxial compression (Figure 3. Non-hydraulic limes harden by reacting with carbon dioxide in a process known as carbonation to form calcium carbonate (CaCO3) to become limestone once again. In stabilised earth construction menisci and clay bridges may be present.34 Earth Building – history. Although the work was carried out on rammed earth samples. if no clay is present in the limestone. discussed in Chapter 4. and too little stabiliser and the strength is the same as that of unstabilised earth construction.10). and thus the strength of earthen structures is lower than that of concrete. This matrix takes the form of limestone if a non-hydraulic lime is used. If clay is present in the original limestone. 57]. surrounding the aggregates. In concrete this CSH matrix is continuous. and demonstrates the link between strength. and of a CSH matrix if hydraulic lime or Portland cement is used. stiffness and water content. 3. We found that as the water content of a sample increases (and thus the suction reduces).12 thE EffECt of watEr ContEnt on thE mEChaniCal BEhaviour of Earth struCturEs Research undertaken by the authors investigated the mechanical behaviour of rammed earth samples at varying water contents[58]. and therefore there is conflict between the water required for the strength-forming processes of carbonation and menisci growth. CSH). Lime is produced by burning limestone to form quicklime (calcium oxide. We were able to measure only relatively low suctions (up to around 1000 kPa) whereas suctions in earth building at equilibrium are expected to be much higher (see Figure 3. This observation may explain a phenomenon observed by many authors of an optimum ratio of stabiliser to clay in earth buildings: too much stabiliser and there is no water for suction. Ca(OH)2). This CSH matrix is identical to that found in concrete. they will contribute a true cohesive strength to the material. CaO). many heritage and modern earthen structures contain stabilisers – additional ingredients that form cementitious bonds between soil particles. Hydraulicity is defined as the ability to set underwater. In earthen structures the CSH matrix is not continuous. we were able to measure the suction in the samples. the strength and stiffness of the sample also reduce. it should be equally applicable to other types of earth building.11).10: Tensiometer. slaked lime is formed (calcium hydroxide. Figure 3. If these bonds are present. the resulting lime is known as hydraulic.5). The formation of this matrix is governed by the availability of water. Historic rammed earth structures are often found to have been stabilised with lime[18. clay bridges and water is complex. Hydraulic limes react with water to form a solid hydrated calcium and silica matrix (termed calcium silicon hydrate. with 5 pence coin for scale . but some of the strength may be derived from a solid cementing matrix that gradually forms. the resulting lime is said to be non-hydraulic. If water is then added.

Figure 3. X-ray computed tomography methods are now available that can scan samples of materials to reveal the inner structure down to less than 1 μm (= one thousandth of a millimetre). Figure 3. with a liquid bridge between two sand particles.13 shows a real unsaturated soil. and Figure 3. and recently developed experimental techniques are proving the models to be valid.13 CurrEnt rEsEarCh Evidence is now growing for these particlelevel models for unsaturated soils.3 fundamEntal BEhaviour of EarthEn ConstruCtion matErials 35 Load ring Displacement transducer Loading frame Tensiometer Loading plate Sample Protective impermeable sheath Triaxial cell (not shown) is placed over the  top of the sample Figure 3. recent work on artificial unsaturated materials is key. joined by CSH bridges with liquid bridges formed over them. Courtesy of Sergio Lourenço[61] Figure 3. Figure 3.12: Liquid bridges visible in artificial unsaturated material.2.12 shows an electron microscope photo of an assemblage of wet silica particles where menisci are clearly visible. which is similar to Figure 3.14 shows cement-stabilised rammed earth. Evidence of liquid bridges in earthen materials has recently been obtained[60]. and to explore this field more thoroughly.11: Triaxial rig used for uniaxial testing of rammed earth samples 3. These can locate pores. Courtesy of Sergio Lourenço[62] . and then show water and air in those pores.13: Liquid bridges between two sand grains.

Unsaturated soil mechanics is a vibrant area of research in geotechnical engineering. This can be gained by considering what is happening at the particle level. Sand grains cemented with CSH bridges.2 nm. and much more research is required before a complete understanding of unsaturated soils. which are surrounded by very narrow pores that require very low relative humidity to empty. In manufactured soil.14: Liquid bridges in stabilised rammed earth sample. or to the soil being under water. Figure 3. This remains an open question. capillary action) but also from the energy associated with adsorbed water[64]. In addition.36 Earth Building – history. thus effectively trapping the water. Courtesy of Matthew Hall[63] Figure 3. since particles and voids are irregularly shaped. which we can classify as unsaturated soils. to 10 molecules at a relative humidity of 100%. the size of the pores is a function of the amount of compactive effort applied to the soil. A final consideration is adsorbed water. Recent discussions in the unsaturated soils research community have hypothesised that high suctions arise not just from menisci (i.15: How water may be held in real unsaturated materials Having made the link between relative humidity and a measure of pore size (the radii). . which is water tightly bound to the soil particle surfaces a few molecules thick: the thickness is thought to increase from one molecule at relative humidity close to zero. A water molecule has an effective diameter of 3. as shown. but may be defined by maximum or minimum values. water can be held in large pores. it is important to link this to actual pore sizes in real materials. The size and distribution of the pores are related to size of the particles in the soil and the extent to which it has previously been loaded. but a clearer understanding of the role that water has to play in these materials is vital. and being clear about the effects of changes in relative humidity and void size distribution.2 Å (1 Å (angstrom) = 1 × 10−10 m). and so the adsorbed water layer ranges in thickness from 0. such as compressed earth blocks or rammed earth.e. science and conservation Connected pores Maximum radius Isolated pore Minimum radius Figure 3. and many of the mechanisms we have discussed above are the subject of active investigation by engineers. It is not intended that the concepts outlined above should be applied directly to earthen construction materials found in heritage structures. and therefore of earth buildings. In real unsaturated materials the picture is undoubtedly more complex.15 presents a slightly more complex model where water can be held at menisci (termed pendular water) or in connected pore regions (termed funicular water).14 ConClusions In this chapter we have introduced some of the scientific basis for understanding the source of strength in earthen construction materials. Pore radii are not constant.32 nm to 3. 3. In natural soil this loading may be due to glaciation. is achieved.

Surface movement may result from a change in water conditions. although aspects of the discussion may be relevant to those construction types.4 damagE to Earth Buildings 37 ChaPtEr 4 damagE to Earth Buildings � 4. a competent engineer should be appointed.1. cracking. such as movement of the ground causing distortion of the building. whereas the second is an ultimate limit state. Any non-uniform movement of the ground on which a building is constructed will be transferred through the foundations and cause distortion. and their failure. particularly earth buildings. caused for example by raising or lowering the groundwater. or by the diversion of a watercourse. This section describes issues with ground movement.1 ground movement Ground movement can cause structural damage to buildings. for example by increasing the number of storeys on a building. This distortion of the structure may lead to cracking of brittle earthen materials. and damage caused by earthquakes is not specifically discussed. This book deals mainly with buildings that are predominantly constructed in earth. Some reasons for this are given in Figure 4. Finally we discuss the presence of organic matter in earth walls. The behaviour of earth buildings in earthquakes is complex and not fully understood. The volume may also change through variations in loading of the ground. Where this occurs beneath a structure. and at issues with structural elements of the building being damaged. Differential settlement is of most concern to any building. and therefore the failures are due to issues with the earth as a construction material.2.2 struCtural Many people perceive earth buildings as being very delicate. cracking may be visually disturbing but structurally safe. In the terminology of modern civil engineering construction. are usually the result of changes that have occurred since construction. This chapter looks at structural issues. and looks in particular at aspects that are specific to these materials. and at the other extreme may cause collapse of the building. Ground surface movement is caused by a change in the volume of the supporting soil. For a full assessment of a structure. This section deals with those structural issues that cause particular problems for earth buildings. it is likely to cause damage unless it is uniform across the plan areas of the structure (for example from large-scale mining subsidence). . At one extreme. 4. and requiring a sympathetic climate and frequent maintenance to preserve their appearance and structural integrity.1 introduCtion 4. This chapter outlines the actions by which earth buildings fail. or by construction or demolition of adjacent structures. and structural element problems that present structural problems for earth buildings. It then focuses on the effects of water on earth buildings. Damage to buildings. the first can be regarded as reaching a serviceability limit state. Half-timbered construction and other buildings where earth is not the main structural material are not covered here. and shows how water in earth buildings can cause damage and failure of the building elements. and damage caused by abrasion.

science and conservation 4. bending and extension cracking patterns are given in Figure 4. considering parts of the building. If we consider three points along the base of a building (usually each end and a point in-between). There are different types of cracking.2. then if the central point moves below the ends.2. a building will attempt to change shape. If the centre is raised in relation to the ends. the movement is known as sagging. then the building is said to be in hogging. such as facades. and thus cracks Hogging Sagging Differential settlement Shear Bending Extension Figure 4. Visual inspection of crack patterns allows the nature of a building’s movement to be determined. and simple descriptions of shear.1: Issues causing ground movement problems Example structure  Cracking pattern Where ground movement occurs.2: Building-scale crack patterns expected for different patterns of differential settlement and movement . and cracking is likely because of the soils’ inability to sustain tensile stresses. to act as simple beams. Bending cracking occurs when the extension side of a wall (the bottom in sagging and the top in hogging) is unable to sustain tension.38 Earth Building – history.2 Cracking Wall lean Joint opening Differential settlement Undermining of foundations Settlement or subsidence  of foundations  Consolidation of fill material Change in groundwater conditions Figure 4.

4: Shear cracking caused by insufficient lintel and columns at opening. Nepal Figure 4. Nepal .3[65]. Shear cracking is distinguished by diagonal cracks (Figures 4. but would lead to the cracking pattern shown in Figure 4. Bending crack patterns can be distinguished by cracks that are open at the top or bottom and closed at the centre height of the wall.3: Bending cracking caused by loss of stiffness of base of wall due to increased water content (darker region).4 and Figure 4. with equal-width cracks perpendicular to the direction of extension.2. Jharkot. as shown in Figure 4. El Badi Palace. and are longest over the point of maximum curvature (usually the centre of the façade. Bending cracking patterns are more likely when there is no tie between perpendicular walls. Figure 4. and shear cracks are more likely with a more rigid connection to perpendicular walls.5: Shear cracking between gable and side walls.6). Morocco 39 Figure 4. Direct extension is unusual in practice.4 damagE to Earth Buildings (Figure 4.3). which prevents rotation of the ends of the wall. Marrakech.5). Jharkot. best thought of as a result of lengthening the diagonal when transforming a square to a parallelogram (see Figure 4.

3 structural element problems Shortened Cracks open Problems occur in an earth building when its structural elements do not act as designed. This can occur when the joint between the angled and horizontal members of a roof truss is not sufficiently rigid.7: Structural crack enlarged by water Earth buildings present an additional complication when identifying cracks and their linkage to movement. science and conservation 4. openings. and wall-to-foundation connections (Figure 4. and also to differentiate between structural cracks that have been extended by the action of water.40 Earth Building – history. Where the wall moves. This can cause the head of the wall to move outwards.8). or lean or rotation of the wall. the vertical component of the roof load is then placed on a smaller section of wall. leading to increased stress on that section.8: Failure of structural elements roof elements Figure 4. This type of problem affects roof elements. or if a horizontal tie member is ineffective or missing.6: Shear crack patterns Flexible joint  Failure of horizontal  member  Horizontal  thrust from  roof  Beam loading without wall plate  Beam  bowing Surface  spalling 2 2 1 1 1 1 1 Lintel Lift joint Ground movement  leading to wall lean  Vertical joint Tie between foundations  and wall  Tie at perpendicular walls  1 – Opening/movement of joint 2 ­ Cracking Figure 4. such as tension crack opening on the inside of the building. and such deformation may cause subsequent problems. An ineffective roof structure may impose excessive horizontal thrust on the top of a supporting wall. perpendicular wall connections. because structure cracks may be increased in size by the flow of water (Figure 4. Lengthened Figure 4. It is therefore important to differentiate between structural and water-based cracks. This causes the angled members to exert a horizontal thrust on the top of the wall. beam and wall connections.2. .7).

This is particularly the case where a different construction material is used at the corner (for example brick to rammed earth) with no tie between the two materials. and thus the opportunity for transfer of shear stress is reduced. it may be moved vertically to produce another rammed earth lift. Villafeliche. with a gradient of decreasing density through to the base of the layer. Figure 4. These areas of lower density present a potentially weaker region of the wall. which spreads out as it passes down through the soil. Rammed earth is traditionally constructed in discrete formwork boxes. and the vertical joint between these blocks generally lacks structural continuity. Brick corners and rammed earth walls. Rammed earth is formed by compacting earth in layers within formwork. any structural movement is not restrained by the perpendicular walls. Villafeliche chapel. and allows the joint between the two materials to open (Figure 4. Insufficient compaction of each layer may lead to density banding. and thus the energy imparted per unit area decreases. If structural movement occurs. When the next lift is placed. The banding is caused by the passage of the . There is therefore a period of time between each vertical lift for the lower rammed earth to dry. leading to a weaker plane between lifts (Figure 4. In earthen buildings this is a particular problem. because it allows water ingress. Spain Figure 4.10).4 damagE to Earth Buildings 41 Perpendicular walls In some earth structures there is a lack of connection between perpendicular walls.9: Opening of joint between dissimilar materials. Rammed earth is usually constructed by moving the formwork horizontally before moving up to ram the next lift. the butt joint between two rammed earth blocks may open (Figure 4. the compaction effort is spread over a larger area.9).10: Separation of two rammed earth blocks. Where there is no tie. When a formwork box is filled. This appears at the face of the wall as a concentration of highly compacted soil at the top of a compaction layer. As the wave spreads out. the different moisture contents and densities of the two adjacent lifts mean that there is little mechanical key between them. Spain rammed earth joints impact wave through the body of the soil.11).

and tension is induced in the bottom face. or the timber from which a lintel is made may decay. The lintel acts in bending to distribute the load from above the opening to the structure on each side of the opening.42 Earth Building – history. the earth above is forced to act as a beam element. thus reducing the bearing stress on a section.12: Lintels removed and earth acting as an arch. and in historic structures may decay or be removed following abandonment of the building. for doors for example. Such wall plates are usually stone or timber. and usually falls. Where a lintel is insufficient or absent. Ambel. or ineffective. Where the earth is unable to sustain this bending it fails.12).13). Where repairs have taken place. and no wall plate has been added (Figure 4. usually make use of a lintel. Spain . science and conservation above the opening. When a building falls into disrepair.14). which may lead to cracking directly Figure 4. Morocco Wall plates are used to spread roof or floor loads to a larger area of wall. Figure 4. India openings Openings in walls. Basgo. This causes the earth remaining to form a catenary-type arch acting in compression only (Figure 4. lack of. wall plate Figure 4. cracking or spalling of the face beneath the loading point can occur (Figure 4. Zaragoza. Convento de San Juan. more valuable material such as stone lintels may be removed.13: Joist loading with lack of wall plate causing in-plane cracking. El Badi Palace.11: Failure along the compaction plane between lifts.

2. Infiltration of water into an earth wall can be determined by considering capillary flow and vapour pressure gradients. but God help us if they use water pistols’[66]. then the moisture content of the wall will increase. leading to spalling of the wall face. Friction  between particles. and thus the suction. Spain 4. If the rate of flow of water into an earth wall is greater than the rate of evaporation. Zaragoza. If the relative humidity of the surrounding air is greater than that of the pore air in the wall. Friction and  attractive suction force between  particles. and that the unsaturated nature of air-dry earth causes an increase in strength above that provided through pure interlock. Particles rest at  angle of friction. Vertical face can be formed. Completely dry. which is a function of the relative humidity.3 watEr The poor resistance of earth buildings to water penetration is highlighted by comments made by a French officer defending rammed earth castles in Morocco in 1956:‘It’s not their guns I’m frightened of. the wall loses strength and eventually approaches saturation.  and condensation of water vapour. losing the ability to form a vertical face and forming a slope at its angle of repose (Figure 4. water vapour will condense in the wall.14: Lack of wall plate. Convento de San Juan. An increase in the water content of earth buildings has been shown to reduce strength and stiffness. Unsaturated.   Figure 4. in an earth wall is controlled by the evaporation 1. As the water content of a wall increases.  . Ambel. unsaturated and fully saturated angle of repose 3.15). In Chapter 3 it was argued that the strength of unstabilised earth buildings is due to the phenomenon of suction. but to increase ductility.15: Dry. the soil ceases to be unsaturated and behaves purely as a granular material.4 damagE to Earth Buildings 43 Figure 4. Completely saturated. When saturation of the wall is reached. Particles rest  at angle of friction. Friction  between particles. The water content.

or to a change in the environment in the vicinity of the building.17: Larger particles protruding from the face of an earth wall. and these will lose strength and stiffness by the mechanisms described above.or lime-stabilised wall. Cob barn. and the processes described above.44 Earth Building – history. UK If the surface of a wall is not fully saturated. and will cause increasing saturation if the water is not allowed to escape. 4. These problems are related to a lack of upkeep of the building. and some water is absorbed through capillary action. If larger volumes of water impact the wall. Thus water vapour transfers to the centre of the wall. It can be shown that for materials such as earth with a low pore radius (of around 0. and thus increasing the strength of the stabilised earth.3. causing an increase in the pore air relative humidity. increasing the water content through growth in the size of the liquid bridges.16: Reasons for water ingress into earth walls Figure 4. then infiltration through capillarity will be relatively low. and thus pick up small particles and transport them downwards. the water content of the wall will continue to rise. science and conservation Rainfall onto  roof Water flow  down face Capillary rise Water flow  through retaining wall  Rainfall onto  surface Water ponding causing  incised vertical runnels  Figure 4. Where such erosion occurs over a long period. more particles can be picked up. The remaining water flows down the face of the wall. Water that flows onto the face of a stabilised earth wall will also be drawn into the body of the wall. to removal of roof. Devon. the presence of water may cause a reaction providing further cementing material. When water (such as a raindrop) hits an earth wall. it forms a bead on the surface of the wall. or where the groundwater conditions have changed. rainwater can impact the wall. Figure 4. But if the cementing matrix is incomplete.1 rainfall onto the surface of a wall Earth buildings generally employ broad eaves to prevent rainwater from impacting on the wall. the large particles become unsupported. These mechanisms lead to an increase in the water content. If this process continues. This results in a phenomenon of larger particles protruding from the face of the wall (Figure 4. water will take 1 hour to penetrate 13 mm into a wall and 2 weeks to penetrate 23 cm[49].17). and are then removed either by abrasion or fall under their own self-weight.0016 mm). and this can cause erosion. If these eaves are not present. and water can flow down the wall. leading to reduced strength and stiffness of the wall. regions of unstabilised earth between the cementing matrix can become saturated. This means that the water vapour pressure in the pores in the centre is lower than at the wet face of the wall. If water is drawn into the body of the wall through capillary action. it produces a region of increased relative humidity ahead of the wetting front. and the rate of erosion increases. In a cement. for example the absence of a render coat. for example where the wall is used to retain soil.16 shows water-based problems in earth structures. if there is additional cementing powder that is unreacted. These beads can locally saturate the soil of the wall. but the cementing matrix of the stabilised earth wall will be unaffected by this increase in humidity. .

18: Small cast structures. The low volumes and relatively high speed of this water mean that only the smallest particles of soil can be removed from the face. Convento de San Juan. Spain Figure 4. then water may pond at the head of the wall.20: Large incised runnel. Zaragoza. cast-type structures are found (Figures 4. Where this water reaches the edge of a wall.22. Kagbeni. 45 Where the roof of a building is insufficient or absent. caused by (recently repaired) defective roof drain.20 and 4. or the wall is retaining soil. Figure 4. Asslim. and the water in the puddle will seek a low point from which to flow away under gravity. such as the top section of the wall in Figure 4. In this situation. The wall directly beneath the puddle will become saturated.19: Larger cast structures. These structures are formed by the slow movement of water down the face of a wall.2 � water at the head of a wall and flowing down the face If damage to a roof is only minor. then a puddle will form on top of the wall.21). and then dried to leave mounds of fine material on the face of the wall. This is material that has first flowed into a slurry. Ambel. then the flow of water down a wall may be minimal. If the rate of water arriving at the wall is greater than of that being absorbed. Where this occurs. water is absorbed into the body of the wall by capillary action and gravity. In this situation. incised vertical runnels form (Figures 4. and thus indicates past water flow. until the bead evaporates and the material is returned to the wall. for example a bead that is able to pick up material and transport it in solution down the wall. Complete erosion of a wall occurs when adjacent runnels join to remove even more material.4 damagE to Earth Buildings 4. the face of the wall is reduced to the angle of repose of the partially saturated material. Morocco Figure 4.3.18 and 4. Nepal .19). Agdz Kasbah. The presence of these structures reveals the downward movement of material.

Largerscale flooding causes water flow at the base of a wall. Basgo. Daroca. Spain Figure 4. Daroca.24: Water flow down a slope eroding the base of a rammed earth wall.23: Damaged water pipe completely eroding the base of a wall.21: Incised vertical runnels. This means that saturated material is removed from the foot of the wall.23) or inadequate drainage. meaning the wall becomes saturated and material is quickly removed. This reduces the effective width of the wall. India If a constant supply of water is provided at the base of the wall.15). such as at the edge of a paved road. leading inevitably to collapse. India Figure 4.24). Water flow at the base of a wall is caused by damaged (Figure 4. science and conservation 4. Figure 4.22: Heavily eroded face. Bangalore. where water is directed downhill (Figure 4. which can lead to overturning or to failure in unconfined compression.3. or on a slope.3 water flow at the base of a wall Figure 4. it may become saturated and behave as a frictional material. where water drains towards the edge of the street and against the building. the top section of the wall is the angle of repose of the partially saturated soil. which then forms a slope at the angle of repose of the saturated material (Figure 4.46 Earth Building – history. Spain .

26). or when a building has been partly buried. If this occurs. Therefore water will build up behind the wall and cause an increase in the water content of the rear section of the wall. If water is present in the ground. and this may be visible as a colour change in the wall (Figures 4. water can rise into the wall.4 damagE to Earth Buildings 4. When an environmental change causes a seasonal or permanent rise of groundwater level. this can cause water to rise by capillary action into the walls. with 47 no water barrier between the wall and the ground. then the moisture content of the wall will increase. Marrakech. If the rate of evaporation is lower than the rate of water uptake. Figure 4.3.25 and 4. and thus less permeable. the strength and stiffness of the wetter section of wall will reduce.27). Morocco . Where such an increase occurs. Stabilised earth walls are able to withstand water flow through and over them (Figure 4. it will rise vertically in a wall through capillary action. leading to the problems described above. and although such situations are rare they should be avoided. water may move through the wall. If an earth wall is built directly onto the ground. The earth wall is likely to be denser than the backfill material.4 water within walls Occasionally earth walls act as retaining structures with soil and water behind.25: Water rising through capillary action and not allowed to escape through render. leading to the issues described previously. This may occur when part of an earth building has collapsed so that soil has built up behind the wall.

4 rEndEr Figure 4. 4. These salts can then pass in solution through the wall. but cementitious and water-repelling agents such as lime.27: Lime-stabilised rammed earth retaining wall during a severe storm. The reasons for failure of render are shown in Figure 4.26: Water rising through capillary action. Spain Render is placed on the external face of an earth wall to protect it from water flow and other erosional effects. are also used. The render is usually composed of a similar material to that of the wall construction. Damage to earth walls through salt precipitation is unlikely except where the presence of the salts either acts to strengthen or weaken any cementing mechanism that may be present. Spalling of the base of the wall   Figure 4. or lignin-based products such as fermented corn starch[67]. and the salts precipitate at the surface of the wall. Alcalá de Guadaira. Spain Figure 4.28: Issues that cause problems with render .28.5 salt precipitation If liquid water can travel through the wall. Palma del Rio.48 Earth Building – history. science and conservation 4. When this solution reaches the surface of the wall the water evaporates. it will dissolve salts present within the earth mix. Structural  element  problems  Render unable  to support  own weight  Insufficient evaporation leading to increased  water content and possible build­up of pore  water pressure. The render is usually placed to provide an impermeable barrier to liquid water.3. but should remain vapour permeable to allow for evaporation and condensation. cement or bitumen.

Damage to earth walls occurs when a render is less permeable than the body of the wall. it is constrained on every face except that of the face of the wall.30). Thus this cube will attempt to expand outwards from the face of the wall. Bhutan Figure 4. Where water is allowed to run over the face of the wall. This can leave an unprotected earth wall. and water can enter the body of the wall. and so render is periodically reapplied to ensure the structure’s survival. Ouarzazate. render is not reapplied. This will tend to happen when groundwater is able to rise.29: Failure of render at the base of a repaired earth wall due to capillary rise. the render is removed by water in the processes described above. such as those shown in Figure 4. water can enter the structure.31: Cracked cement rendering. and so should not be applied to unstabilised earth walls. which is resisted by the stiffer render. pushing the render away. and therefore the body of the wall becomes eroded. For example. 49 Figure 4.If the render is stiffer than the body of the wall (for example if it contains cement or lime as a chemical binder). Paro. it will crack into solid sheets.29). the water content of the wall will increase. This increase in water content causes the wetter sections of the wall to increase in volume.30: Cement render and paint decaying from the base upwards. Ambel village.31. and gradually spreading upwards if sufficient water is not able to escape (Figure 4. If the render is less permeable than the wall. which can lead to the problems described above. When historic structures become abandoned. bursting the render at the base of the wall (Figure 4.4 damagE to Earth Buildings Once render has failed. cement-based renders are considered less permeable than earth-based renders. Spain . and spalling of the face occurs because of the volumetric expansion of the soil as it moves from being unsaturated to saturated. Morocco Figure 4. The most common cause of this is water rising through capillary action. The material of the render is often used as a sacrificial layer in addition to the wall surface. Render can also be damaged by structural problems as outlined above. If we consider a cube of earth with a face on the face of a wall.

lichen (Figure 4.32).5 organiC mattEr Figure 4.36). but over time grasses (Figure 4. to large embedded timbers to provide tying of perpendicular walls (Figure 4. lichen and mosses growing. such as highly unsaturated earth walls. Australia While the soil from which earth buildings are constructed is subsoil and not topsoil.50 Earth Building – history. or providing a spiky barrier to prevent intruders on boundary walls. Where water is able to remain on a structure (for example at the head of a wall). allowing water to penetrate. If left unchecked.32: Straw embedded in adobes. given the right conditions. and the problems described above. though. lichen and larger plants is able to survive in the most extreme of places. . This leads to an increase in the water content of the body of the wall. Initially. Zaragoza. this organic matter may allow a local microclimate to develop. which can range from fine straw. If organic matter is exposed to wetting and drying cycles it is liable to decay. Where these plants develop a root system this causes internal cavities in the earth walls. There are some cases of plants being deliberately placed onto earth walls. This decay leaves voids. Although earth buildings are generally constructed using nutrient-poor subsoil. Nepal Figure 4. and thus provides a preferential path for the distribution of water within an earth wall.33: Embedded timbers in perpendicular rammed earth walls. The main problem with organic matter (living or dried) is that it is ‘designed’ to transport water around a plant.34: Lichen growth at the head of a rammed earth wall. Convento de San Juan. In the construction of earth buildings it is often useful to include dried organic matter.35) and larger plants can survive. Perth.34) and mosses arrive on an earth wall. Kagbeni. making it much easier for water to penetrate the structure (Figure 4. science and conservation 4. it is likely that organic matter will be present. Ambel. it is still a natural place to find plants.33). Spain Figure 4. These walls are not usually structural. If dead organic matter is present at the surface of an earth wall it can allow transport to the heart of the wall. vegetation such as mosses. to provide tensile strength and reduce cracking (Figure 4. and thus any damage the plants cause on these is limited to the collapse of a boundary wall. with increased relative humidity compared with the ambient. with their large leaves directing rainwater away from the head of the wall.

Cordoba. creating tunnels in the structure (Figure 4. Burrowing animals are known to make their homes in earth buildings. Boundary walls often have damage at foot. particularly in buildings where food is stored. and larger rodents may be found. Abandoned earth buildings are often occupied by nesting birds such Figure 4. In some countries termites are a problem for unstabilised earth buildings. Tabernas. providing preferential path for water flow[68]. Carmona. Earth walls at the corners of structures are liable to damage through abrasion where passing traffic can break off corners.37). Spain .36: Decaying timber embedded within a wall.35: Grass growth on rammed earth wall.4 damagE to Earth Buildings 51 4. Spain Figure 4. vehicles or animals.6 aBrasion Damage to earth structures through abrasion is usually the result of movement of people (Figure 4.38). Spain Figure 4. and earth structures used to hold animals are eroded when animals are able to rub against the wall.37: Human-caused erosion at city wall section. hand and shoulder level. now children’s play area. Palma del Rio.38: Pigeon infestation in rammed earth wall. Spain Figure 4.

and extreme care must be exercised to ensure that remediation measures attenuate rather than accelerate the processes of damage.52 Earth Building – history. there is a loss of strength and stiffness and an increase in volume and ductility. and these should be addressed prior to any intervention work. This can lead to structural problems. Where earth walls pass from unsaturated to saturated. The reasons for damage caused to earth walls by abrasion and inclusion or decay of organic matter have also been explained. Many aspects of the damage to earth buildings can be explained by considering their unsaturated nature. the cause of damage to earth buildings must be accurately determined prior to any intervention or repair works. and the inherently low tensile strengths of earthen materials when compared with other types of construction material. Structural problems with many buildings can be serious. The advice of a competent engineer should be sought before any remediation measures are undertaken. to provide visual clues that will allow structural issues to be identified. and in earth building this is particularly so because of the low mechanical strength of earth when compared with other structural materials. Such abrasion is often found at desert sites.7 ConCluding rEmarks This chapter has outlined the processes that cause damage specifically to earth buildings. Methods for assessing cracking patterns have been given. Courtesy of Kate Clarke 4. These creatures can physically remove material from both the face and the inside of the wall. Abrasion by wind-blown particles is a problem at exposed sites. Figure 4.39: Wind-blown particles causing erosion at the base of walls. Aside from damage by earthquakes. and increase the likelihood of water penetration. The process of abrasion is the physical impacting of the windborne soil particles against those of the surface of the walls. . the major problem for unstabilised earth buildings will continue to be water. Most importantly. because soil particles of the wall that are removed will simply add to the volume of wind-borne particles abrading the wall. which is not covered in this book. China. Jiaohe. science and conservation as pigeons. a topic covered in Chapter 3. These phenomena have been used to explain many aspects of damage to earth buildings.39). where strong winds are funnelled between structures (Figure 4. Structural behaviour can be extremely complex and the behaviour of historic structures particularly so.

The chapter first discusses the principles of conservation.1 introduCtion Chapter 4 introduced the damage that might occur to historic earth buildings. A high value is attributed to the cultural significance of the structure. and which should be applied to earth buildings. Strategies for the repair of earth buildings only are suggested here. and a maintenance and monitoring regime should be implemented. or are a consequence of problems with other building materials.5 ConsErvation stratEgiEs 53 ChaPtEr 5 ConsErvation stratEgiEs � 5. the construction materials. rather than restoring a structure to return it to its original condition and function. The process of conservation should be clearly documented. set standards for practices and strategies to be followed in conserving historic monuments. When a site is being conserved. such that the cultural significance is retained. they offer principles that should be adhered to in the conservation of historic buildings. Many repair issues are independent of building type. to care for and to maintain a site. where change reduces the cultural significance of a site. and conservation strategies need to reflect this attitude. whereas buildings of the same age in Europe barely receive a second glance. Here a philosophy of replacing old with new is considered perfectly acceptable.2 ConsErvation PrinCiPlEs The desire to repair and conserve structures is very different in different cultures. This chapter presents methods that can be adopted to prevent further damage from occurring. and outlines the approaches that should be adopted when considering the preservation of an earth building. the charters call for a detailed assessment of the reasons for deterioration and the production of a well-defined conservation policy. Any intervention should be clearly visible and reversible. and further specialist advice should be sought where other building materials are defective. aiming at rehabilitation to conserve cultural integrity. European and other ‘Western’ views of the conservation of historic sites are perhaps the most stringent. In this philosophy it may be considered better to turn a historic site into a museum than to return it to a functioning property. followed by approaches for the repair of cracks and strategies for mitigating wall lean. and the fixtures of a building. Buildings constructed by the first European settlers in the United States. this book deals only with issues relating to earth buildings. Australia and New Zealand are now national historic monuments. 5. By contrast. such as the ICOMOS Venice and Burra charters. The conservation process is viewed as one of change. so that if improved methods become available in the future. The charters advocate a cautious approach to repair. Although such charters are very broad. it is possible to implement them without causing damage to the structure. to ensure that the site does not deteriorate further. Structural repair methods are described first. meaning that religious buildings constructed in the previous year are of equal importance to those constructed in previous centuries. Methods for preventing and repairing damage by water are presented next. . and to repair areas where damage has occurred. and finally techniques for preserving and restoring the faces of walls are discussed. and a practice of minimum intervention: ‘to do as much as is necessary but as little as possible’. As stated earlier. International documents. beginning with strategies for the prevention of water ingress at the head and the base of walls. Eastern philosophies tend to champion renewal. beginning with methods for dealing with foundation problems.

Ambel. the phases of construction. access at ground   floor level. Brick structure on the site of the current building. Large rammed earth formwork used.    Stream running north of this building. and the structure made safe through temporary works such as propping.  Building extends to current stairs to south. Zaragoza. Tower constructed at south of site.1 should be undertaken. Brick arch filled. Previous stone/rammed earth building collapses/removed. Spain .  Remains of further arch at the north of site at base of  current gable end. Stone possibly used as base  for rammed earth structure. Evidence of previous damage and repairs should be noted. Date unknown Date unknown Rammed earth building to south of site. Convento de San Juan. Different damage types occurring to an earth building are likely to be linked. Only remaining  rammed earth block 13th century Date unknown Stone building constructed above foundations of  previous stone building. This survey should note construction materials. science and conservation 5.54 Earth Building – history. Build new rammed earth and brick building. When a building is deemed safe to enter. and repair strategies should not be carried out in isolation. The structure’s stability should first be assessed by an engineer. The primary concern during implementation is for the safety of the workers involved. a full survey such as that shown in Figure 5. Possible roofline still visible within formwork.1: Example building phase and cracking plan.3 � Earth-Building analysis and rEPair stratEgy A suggested strategy for assessment of earth structures is given below. and any demolition or reconstruction that may have taken place. Arch acts as entrance to current courtyard. Figure 5. to provide clues to causes of current damage.

  1st floor columns not placed above basement columns. additional timbers placed at arch crowns at  ground floor. placed at the face of the rammed  earth. reconstruction of 1st floor level  floor.1: Continued 2000 Continued movement of gable end.  North section may have been higher. Figure 5.  Date inscribed on column at ground floor. Similar to the rest of the  north west. Placement of timber beams tying the gable end to the  perpendicular walls at the roof and 1st floor level. ground and  basement levels.   May exacerbate central cracking. causes 1st floor to fail. Construction of windows in central section. Reuse of timbers at the basement and  1st floor.  Removal of north section of tower.  Before 1796 1796 1st floor collapse.  Removal of 13th century tower.5 ConsErvation stratEgiEs Before 1536 After 1536 Construction of major face.  Cracking in centre of wall. Diversion of watercourse may have led to change in  groundwater distribution.  Reconstruction of the ceiling arches at the 1st.  Possibly reconstruction of the roof. Possible construction of of basement columns.  Gable end constructed vertically above outward leaning base. and bolted to the ceiling beams. Removal of north section of tower (change in roofline).        Cracking of floor at 1st and ground level. suggesting  differential settlement of gable end. installation of octagonal  columns on ground floor.  Continual rebuilding of north section of this wall indicates  settlement problems. Placement of H bars. likely due to overloading of floor  when used as a granary.  Repair of 1st floor collapse. After 1796 Continued lean of gable end causes alarm. likely caused by differential  settlement of north section of wall. 55 .

56 Earth Building – history. and if not performed correctly may cause further damage to the structure. These are failure of the foundations. This will determine the nature of the movement.2: Earth mixing and preparation area. Such repairs must be well-designed. Areas should be set aside for mixing and preparing soil (Figure 5. Morocco Once a building has been made structurally safe. Many of the issues relating to earth buildings involve water. Asslim. which can be remedied by foundation improvement. If building movement is not halted. Repairs to foundations and ground improvement can be resource intensive and costly. Finally.4 foundation issuEs Two distinct issues that may cause a building to deform because of problems with the foundations were outlined in Chapter 4. science and conservation Figure 5. the movement should be thoroughly assessed. and samples from these sites may need to be compared with the historic material. If a building appears to be deformed or cracked. Suitable earthen materials should be identified for the repair. with the potential to cause further damage. so drainage.2). then further repairs to the structure (such as crack filling) are likely to be ineffective. evaporation and water retention issues should be addressed first. and undertaken by professional engineers. and changes in soil behaviour. necessitating ground improvement. Local knowledge should be tapped to understand sources of material. 5. the heads of the walls and the wall faces should be repaired to ensure that rainfall does not damage the structure further. and ascertain whether the foundation or the ground is still moving. Significant repairs such as crack stitching and face filling should then be attempted. . a conservation strategy and plan should be developed and implemented for the lifetime of the structure. Once the primary conservation works have been completed. attention should be focused on arresting the reasons for the damage. and for producing and drying earth bricks if needed. It is essential to take steps to mitigate ground movement prior to any further interventions.

Foundation improvement is achieved either by increasing the depth of the foundations. or by diverting or containing a watercourse.2: they include issues with the ground. this settlement may be arrested by altering the groundwater profile. as described above in Section 5. perhaps by installing drainage. or stress transfer across the crack is possible.2.4. In earth buildings. or is merely a result of the thermal expansion and contraction of the structure through the year.5 CraCks Cracks form when an earthen material’s tensile or shear strength is exceeded.5.3).5. The groundwater flow may be complex. .1. problems with structural elements. Some were outlined in Section 4. The properties of the soil beneath a structure can therefore also change if the water content and pore pressure change. 5. This expands in the soil. so that a stronger soil stratum is reached. and to determine whether the cracking is continuing. or by providing pumps to remove water. increasing its volume and raising the profile of the ground surface. Periodic monitoring (for example weekly) should be undertaken at the same time of day. Patterns of crack movement should be assessed to determine structural movement and appropriate repair strategies. because it is usually a symptom of other problems with the structure that need to be addressed. Measures that may be considered include repairing eroded or undermined foundations. The reasons for cracking should be determined before undertaking any remediation work. Many suitable proprietary devices are available for this purpose.5 ConsErvation stratEgiEs There are many reasons for damage to foundations that necessitate remediation. Patterns of crack movement should be assessed to determine structural movement and appropriate repair strategies implemented. The reasons for crack formation in earth buildings were given in Section 4. As described in Chapter 2. If there is a risk of structural movement.2) may be attempted. water can collect in cracks: this may cause saturation and further loss of soil. or when the properties of the soil change. and no further structural movement will occur. Where the cause of cracking has been addressed completely. Specialist advice should be sought when considering foundation improvement. or by increasing the width of the foundation. so that the building load is spread over a larger area and thus the bearing stress reduced. Foundation improvement may be required when the foundation is not strong or stiff enough. or the repair of structural elements that are not constructed with earth. or is historical (Figure 5. Cracks should be monitored over a period of time to assess the relative movement of cracked sections of wall. then the cracked area needs to be reinforced and repair techniques such as stitching (Section 5. when the use of the building changes. to establish whether the structural movement is permanent. the rubble should be rebuilt as originally constructed to ensure that water is not able to move through capillary action into the base of the earth wall. but they are usually independent of the type of building construction. There are two types of foundation improvement: replacement and repair. in which an expansive gel or cement–water mixture is injected into the ground. This can happen when the groundwater distribution in the vicinity of a structure changes. and is likely to be justified economically only for a significant structure. This can be an expensive solution. before setting and leaving a strong foundation. Many historic earth buildings are built on rubble foundations. and damage by water. and thus increase the size of the crack. with resultant effects on the strength and stiffness of the soil underneath it. and so foundation improvements are only briefly discussed in this book. If a building – or part of a building – has settled because the strength or stiffness of the soil has 57 reduced. or inserting new piles or extra minipiles. then a crack can confidently be filled (Section 5.1). and if these have been eroded or undermined. The ground beneath a structure may be improved by compensation or jet grouting. and must be well understood before any intervention measures are implemented. the mechanical properties of a soil are a function of the water content and the pore water pressure. These may include foundation and ground issues.

and these cracks should be filled with further mortar. Other materials such as stone (Figure 5.1). Ambel. or a ‘belt and braces’ approach is required. it should be properly protected (as described in Section 5.1 Crack filling When the reason for crack formation has been addressed. then the stronger crack stitching (Section 5. and then place them firmly into the earth mortar. Measure this column. Fill the column with the blocks. in which no attempt is made to join the two sides of the crack together. then filling of cracks is appropriate.5. 5. cob blocks or adobe). Two methods are described here. Position of monitoring points and cracks on the inside of the structure: yellow and blue indicate opposite walls.6) have been used.0 0. and monitoring suggests that no further movement is taking place. Wet the blocks using a brush.1 0. and well compacted. Fill the crack from the base upwards. When the top of the crack is reached.8) so it can be forced into the crack using a plasterer’s trowel.58 Earth Building – history. first douse the inside faces of the column with water. so if further movement occurs. current gap refers to clear distance between gable wall and adjacent floor. This soft crack filling.10.8.5. These blocks should be made of the same material as the wall (for example as small rammed earth blocks. Spain. Structural continuity is not restored. and lay an earth mortar into the column. .5) and cement (Figure 5. the fill material is likely to become dislodged. allows movement of the structure to be monitored. To lay the blocks. and use a paintbrush to douse the inside faces of the crack with water. and to improve the appearance of the building.2) should be employed. Earth mortar shrinks as it dries so larger cracks require the placement of dried earth bricks in an earth mortar (the column method).25 4 2 45 mm 10 9 44 mm 35 mm Brick Rammed earth Stone Figure 5.4). Brush loose material from the crack. The earth mortar should be made wet of optimum (see Figure 3. Fill larger cracks using the column method (Figure 5. The mortar will shrink and produce smaller cracks as it dries.3: Example crack monitoring. otherwise the filling will shrink away from the crack faces. Make a mortar using earthen material similar to that of the wall being repaired. but earth is recommended. Cracks narrower than 50 mm should be filled with an earth-based mortar. from the ground upwards. Small cracks in earth walls should be filled as follows.7). Crack-filling repairs are designed both to prevent further water ingress. and if necessary the face of the wall should be rendered (Section 5. Photograph shows external face of the building with some cracks visible. Where other methods to prevent building movement have not been employed. Brush the crack clean. science and conservation 1 8 7 6 53 Current gap 0. to ensure that the filling material is of the same density and has the same mechanical properties as the original wall The blocks should be fully dried before they are inserted in the wall. and widen it if necessary so that a column is cut into the wall around the area of the crack. and then construct blocks of the correct size to fit into the column.

 Original crack 2.4: The column method A crack should be stitched either when there is a possibility for the requirement of stress transfer across the crack. filled with a cement mortar. or where measures have been taken to prevent further damage from occurring. Figure 5. across the crack (Figure 5.7). Nepal Crack Bricks Cut chase Prop  Vertical  wire mesh  Figure 5. and take care to ensure that the stability of the wall is not affected in cutting the chase or the hooks. which means that the material properties such as stiffness and thermal expansion are matched.6: The Cracked Tower at the Alcazaba. These sections may need to be propped if they are cut too deeply.5: Crack filling using stones. An engineering assessment of the stability of the structure locally should be undertaken to assess the potential forces across the crack to allow the number.7: Crack-stitching repair technique . but a ‘belt and braces’ approach is being adopted. To create a stitch. Muktinath. Spain Figure 5. Place blocks in chase Figure 5.2 Crack stitching 1. and sections of wall cannot act independently of each other. Manufacture blocks 4. cut a horizontal chase into the face of the wall.5. Stitching can be viewed as a crude stapling operation of material across a crack. It will provide some structural continuity using material similar to that of the wall. size and position of stitches to be determined.5 ConsErvation stratEgiEs 59 5. Cut back to form chase 3. Granada. Cut a deeper section at each end of the chase to provide hooks into the wall.

9: Crack stitch diagram. the strength of the wall in bending should also be checked. and douse it with water.9)[69].e. This technique has been successfully employed at the castle of Basgo in northern India (Figures 5. Basgo. The mitigation methods should be designed so that their size. Brush the interior of the chase clean to remove loose material. by checking the faces of a wall for tension cracks.6 wall lEan Figure 5.7. Place earth mortar at the bottom of the chase. or by looking for gaps between floors and walls at the upper levels of a building (Figure 5. as shown in Figure 5. failure of the foundations. and lay the first layer of blocks onto this. Basgo. India Water­  enlarged  crack  Secondary  crack  system  13 m Brick  stitches  Masonry  buttressing  Section removed for additional building  construction  Cracking along compaction planes  Figure 5. and the placing of buttressing or propping against leaning walls.2 described mechanisms that may cause earth walls to start leaning. or a ‘belt and braces’ approach is adopted. Where such interventions are implemented. When the top of the chase is reached. They include insufficient structural continuity between different materials.11. These include building length ties. as with the crack-filling techniques. it has not fallen over). pack a final layer of mortar into the gap.10). or other inadequate structural members. then the following may be useful. number and position are appropriate. ground movement. and manufacture blocks that can be inserted. where tension members are fixed between opposite walls. additional forces.8 and 5. science and conservation Measure the chase. accidental impact or further building works. such as wind or snow loading. Where it is impossible to enact some required mitigation strategies. 5.8: Crack-stitching repair. battens placed into perpendicular walls.60 Earth Building – history. Although a wall may currently be stable (i. The cause of the initial wall lean must be determined and addressed before considering mitigation strategies. India Section 4. should be estimated to ensure the structure’s continuing stability. and if necessary insert vertical mesh reinforcement into the stitch. . An engineering assessment should be undertaken to gain an appreciation of the potential actions on the structure. Wall lean may be assessed by dropping a plumb line from the head of the wall. Then add further layers. Methods for the mitigation of wall lean are shown in Figure 5.

The plates must be stiff enough to transfer the load between the tie bar and the wall. Zaragoza. to provide a positive connection to the wall. either running through holes in the walls and below ceiling level internal to the structure. If opposite walls are leaning outwards.10: Gap between floor and wall. Convento de San Juan. These tension members usually take the form of steel wires or rods. Courtesy of Cynthia Hendy Internal tie rod Internal tie beam Spreader pad Spreader  plate C section  and wire Internal  batten Buttressing Propping Figure 5. This is a popular strategy for conserving historic masonry structures. Convento de San Juan. The forces on the walls must be estimated. Spain.13).1 tying of opposite walls external plates that transfer the horizontal force of the leaning wall into the tie (Figures 5.12 and 5.5 ConsErvation stratEgiEs 61 Figure 5.6. indicating wall lean. These members protrude from the walls and are fixed to .12: Spreader plates on the face of gable end. a tension member can be inserted between to tie them against each other and prevent further movement. Ambel. Zaragoza. and the tie members and spreader plates correctly sized and positioned to prevent either failure of the ties or punching of the plates through the wall. or fixed externally. Spain 5.11: Wall lean mitigation techniques Figure 5. They should be fixed into place with an earth mortar. Ambel.

3 Buttressing and propping Buttresses provide horizontal restraint against the lateral forces of a leaning wall. Zaragoza. Ambel.62 Earth Building – history. Zaragoza. These battens transfer the horizontal component of the load from the leaning wall to the perpendicular walls. Earthbuilding buttresses usually take the form of mass (rather than flying) buttresses. Although battens are potentially less effective than other methods. The expected lateral force should be estimated. Convento de San Juan. This is perhaps the most visually intrusive method of wall lean mitigation.14: Timber batten embedded at inside corner of a wall.16 and 5.14). Ambel. because it is difficult to achieve a positive connection between the batten and the internal walls. 5.6.17).2 Corner battens A popular historic method for mitigating wall lean is to fix a leaning wall to a perpendicular wall using battens at the corners.13: Spreader plates fixed to steel tension members inside the building. but may be the most effective.15. where the additional weight of the buttress acts by friction with the ground to resist the lateral forces of the wall (Figures 5. 5. Spain 5. Figure 5. and the buttresses sized and positioned accordingly. science and conservation Figure 5. Timber battens are often seen in historic repairs (Figure 5. .6. The effectiveness of such repairs is questionable. Spain they provide a crude yet quick way to prevent wall lean becoming wall collapse. Convento de San Juan. The timber is embedded inside the wall of a building and fixed to the leaning wall.

the cause of the wall lean must be determined before making the decision to place a buttress. The anchoring member should be made sufficiently stiff to ensure that load is adequately transferred into the ground.15: Buttress to support leaning wall.5 ConsErvation stratEgiEs Figure 5. Syria. Mari. Propping involves transferring the horizontal thrust of the wall into the ground through angled members or frame structures. As with other repairs. Aït Ben Haddou. because this could lead to bearing failure and further wall lean. Care must be taken to ensure that the ground is not further loaded by the addition of a heavy buttress.18) if a satisfactory anchor point is present. Australia .17: Adobe buttresses. Morocco 63 Figure 5. Margaret River. Figure 5.16: Rammed earth buttress on new-build rammed earth. Courtesy of Emma Cunlife It may also be possible to prop the wall (Figure 5.

64 Earth Building – history. Kasbah Asslim.1 water at the head of a wall Water ponding at the head of wall was identified in Section 4. and shaped to prevent water collecting and potentially overflowing onto the earth wall.19: Methods for preventing water from entering the structure at the head of a wall 5. a permanent solution. to removal of material in a slurry. Under no circumstances should caps accelerate the erosion of the face of the wall. caps should not concentrate the flow. The capping should therefore be angled. to allow water to drain under gravity to its edge. This section describes repairs that reduce the problems of water at a site. and the repair of earth walls where damage has occurred. so that ongoing repairs are possible.7 watEr Methods for preventing water forming puddles at the head of the wall are shown in Figure 5. .7. Erosion of earth structures is therefore greatly reduced if such puddles can be prevented. Where no drainage channels are provided.18: Concrete prop added to mitigate wall lean. This damage ranges from loss of strength and stiffness. which locally saturate the soil. when the wall behaves as a purely frictional material.2 as a major problem for earth structures. A cap to the wall must be impermeable to prevent water flow.19. There are three alternative capping strategies: with a sacrificial material. This water can rest in puddles. and should overhang the wall to allow a drip to fall vertically to the ground. science and conservation Concrete ring  beam Large roof  structure Small roof  structure Render the head of the wall Brick capping Figure 5. This prop has now been incorporated into a lean-to building at the face of the wall. 5. If a site is under conservation management.3. Vertical channels are then eroded in the face of the wall where these puddles overflow. and should allow drips to form freely at their edge. or by covering the whole structure with an independent roof structure. then sacrificial The damage caused to earth walls when they move from being unsaturated to being saturated was discussed in Chapter 4. through full saturation of the wall. Morocco Figure 5.

Here bamboo is fixed to the head of the wall. An innovative solution has been used at the World Heritage site of Aït Ben Haddou in Morocco (Figure 5. Nepal 65 material should be used to cap the wall. A more permanent solution to protecting the head of a wall involves using materials that are not damaged by water.21). Traditional approaches in Mediterranean countries include interlocked semicircular baked clay tiles on roofs and at the head Figure 5. and can take the form of render (Figure 5. Aït Ben Haddou. it can be periodically replaced to protect the body of the wall. This material is usually earthen. and earth is then piled on top. allowing water to drip from the end of the culm to the ground.21: Bamboo and earth matting at the head of a wall. Muktinath.20) or preconstructed adobe tiles.20: Rendering the head of a rammed earth wall. Although this material will erode over time. Morocco .5 ConsErvation stratEgiEs Figure 5. The bamboo extends beyond the head of the wall. its periodic replacement means that the body of the wall will not be damaged. Although continued wetting and drying of the bamboo means that it may eventually decay.

22: Protecting the head of the wall using fired clay tiles. A more modern approach used in Spain is to cap the head of historic rammed earth buildings with a concrete ring beam (Figure 5. either because a roof was never present. Spain . Reinforcing bars should be embedded into the head of the earth wall before the concrete is poured.23). and constructed with a drip groove to the outside of the structure to ensure that drips fall vertically to the ground.66 Earth Building – history. or because the current structure is too damaged to support a roof without significant alteration.23: Concrete ring beam at the head of a rammed earth wall. Morocco of walls to direct water away from the face of the wall (Figure 5. science and conservation Figure 5. Although erecting a structure over the whole site is visually intrusive. The concrete forms should include drainage to ensure that no water reaches the body of the earth wall. it may be a viable solution if the site is of significant cultural value. and a membrane laid on the head of the earth wall. In some cases it is not possible to erect a roof on an existing earth structure.22). Asslim. or the use of flat stone such as slates. Tower of Biar Castle. The most famous example of this is the steel roof Figure 5. The head of the wall should be brushed clean. and drainage duct.

2 Preventing water damage at the base of walls Water damage at the base of earth walls was discussed in Section 4. Strategies to prevent water damage are shown in Figure 5.24: A roof structure over archaeological remains. USA. Remove talus  slopes Remove cement  render Splash base Drain  installation Diversion of  watercourse Figure 5.24). This water may come directly from rainfall. from flow at the base of a wall. from inadequate roof drainage. Reduce internal ground surface  Protruding  roof drains  Increase size  of eaves 5. Damage is caused by an increase in the water content of the earth wall. To prevent water impact from above. Syria. or by rising through capillary action. Eaves are used to protect the face of the wall from rainfall.3. Mari. Roof structures can also be temporary.3. Courtesy of Emma Cunlife constructed over the adobe Casa Grande National Monument in New Mexico. and by extending their overhang it is possible to prevent rainfall impact at the base of the wall. These shelters must be designed to ensure that an adverse local microclimate is not developed.25: Methods for preventing water at the base of an earth wall . erected over archaeological digs between seasons (Figure 5.25.7. the size or effectiveness of the eaves should be increased. erected in 1932.5 ConsErvation stratEgiEs 67 Figure 5.

Any barriers to evaporation at the base of the slope should be immediately removed. which are a consequence of erosion of the wall.27) to prevent further damage. This may cause water to drain directly from the roof down the face.26) or parts of the wall protected (Figure 5. As a priority these drains should be repaired (Figure 5. such as those carried out in concrete. Less permeable repairs to the base of a wall. Insertion of shaped timber drains protruding from the head of the wall. Nepal . and drainage installed. PVC pipe inserted and cement protection to the earth wall. or falls into disrepair. leading to saturation and removal of material. Figure 5.27: Improved drainage. thus ensuring that rainwater can flow through the roof drain and drop to the ground away from the wall. and damage to the walls should be repaired using the techniques described. because these trap water that has risen through capillary action. science and conservation Figure 5. These are usually highly effective.26: Improved drainage from the roof. Many types of earth building feature flat roofs. and lead to an increase in the water content of the wall. Morocco Where water flow against the wall is causing damage. These include talus slopes at the base of the wall. Aït Ben Haddou. When a building is abandoned. and are generally fixed with roof drains that protrude from the wall. the roof drains may become ineffective.68 Earth Building – history. then the water should be diverted. should be removed. Muktinath.

29).8 faCE rEPair Section 4.5 ConsErvation stratEgiEs 69 5. A 1:3 lime: sand render should be applied to a dampened wall surface. The render should be applied by first brushing away loose material. The first coat is expected to combine with the wall to form a .4). for example through a change in culture. Therefore we do not prescribe render mixes or their application here. This section describes types of render and their application.3 showed that earth walls may be damaged if they are not sufficiently protected against water. and modern strategies using concrete have also been attempted. scaffolding is fixed into the body of the wall to support planks. These earth mixtures may contain additives such as corn starch to provide further bonding. It should be trowelled smooth and left to dry. These are both discussed below. Conservation and repair principles dictate that repair strategies should be as similar as possible to the original material and method of construction. and major damage to the face of a wall can occur where elements are inadequate or missing. The render is then applied wet and using trowels in a slurry. Specialist local advice should be sought to determine the actual manufacture and placement of site-specific renders. Any cracking that occurs should be patched and smoothed over (Figure 5. and then dousing the wall liberally with water. or to replace areas where erosion and physical loss have occurred. Where buildings are annually rendered. Ongoing repair and renovation are part of the natural upkeep of most earth buildings. Renders to earth buildings can be wholly earth-based. Repair of the face of a wall falls into two categories: to reinstate or re-establish a protective surface. and reconstruction techniques where larger amounts of physical loss have occurred. but the wide range of earthen materials used around the world makes it impossible to describe all those that might be used.30). Many historic repairs to earth walls have used masonry. Additives to earth renders include lime (Figure 5. bitumen and silicone. and so periodic re-rendering of a building is part of the regular maintenance plan. starch. The methods described below are re-rendering of the face to provide a thin protective layer and remove minor erosion.8.28). but problems can arise when this maintenance is not undertaken. it is often rendered. damage may occur to the wall (outlined in Section 4. in three layers. or contain chemicals to improve the water repellency or workability.8. Devon. Renders can decay or become damaged over time. and earth walls should be repaired using earthen techniques wherever possible.28: Lime-rendered cob building. allowing masons to easily plaster the whole wall (Figure 5. Limewashing of earth structures historically provided a way to prevent water from entering the wall. Earth renders use soil similar to the constructed wall as their main constituent.1 render 5. or when a building falls out of use. If this render is not applied. UK 5. These techniques are still valid for modern repair.2 Earth render To prevent damage to the face of a building. Minor damage may occur through inadequate protection of the wall from the weather (rain and wind causing erosion). Figure 5.

and so repair strategies for cementrendered earth buildings must focus on the drainage and groundwater distribution (Section 5.28). 5. no viable chemical consolidants have been found that do not cause further damage to unstabilised earth walls. the chemistry of the earth wall and the consolidant must be thoroughly understood before undertaking chemical stabilisation. and to provide a solid colour (Figure 5. Repair products used in the concrete and masonry industry have been trialled.3 Chemical consolidation2 of the face Much research has been undertaken to find chemical consolidants that can be applied to earthen walls to prevent their damage or erosion. Cement render is problematic where it is possible for water to enter the structure. Asslim. depending on the amount of cement used. Manfred Fahnert. This section should be at the base of the wall.or limebased renders. Cement render is less permeable to water vapour than earth.8. but above any drainage barriers. They may benefit from the application of a chemical consolidant. Where cement render has been applied to an earth wall. Because of the different mechanical properties of earth walls and cement renders. a conservation strategy should review the possibility of removing it. However. 2 Consolidation in this context meaning making good. and allows water to build up within a wall. . and it is recommended that chemical consolidants not be used for these materials. such as PVA and epoxy-based products and natural products such as plant oils. Mali. where it is intended to work with the earth wall stabilising medium.30: Earth plaster application. For example. Morocco. Two more coats of this limewash should then be applied to hide the shrinkage cracks. Djenné. To date. Such techniques are required at archaeological and important historical sites where the physical appearance should not be significantly altered. and is well adhered to the wall. and those that attempt to increase the mechanical strength by acting as a flexible adhesive.4) to ensure that water cannot enter the earthen part of the wall. science and conservation Figure 5. those that aim to present a water-repellent surface. then the cement render falls off.70 Earth Building – history. Consolidants fall into three groups: those that attempt to encapsulate the substrate in a new material. rather than the geotechnical meaning of the gradual reduction in volume of a saturated soil. If water build-up is potentially causing damage to a structure. it may be possible to repair a cement-stabilised rammed earth wall using products intended for concrete repair. which cracks as it dries out. If the cement render is intact. usually never to be replaced. The increasing availability of cement has meant that it has been used instead of more traditional renders to render earth buildings. Stabilised earth walls present a slightly more complex picture. where there is no mechanical key between the cement render and the earth wall. it may be best to leave it in place until it can be more easily removed.29: External scaffold support poles embedded in the wall. then a section of the cement render should be removed to allow water vapour to escape. Courtesy of Wil van de Vorstenbosch slurry. Photograph courtesy of Carolina Castellanos Figure 5.

Use a soil mix that is slightly wetter and thus more workable than would be used for rammed earth.9. and allow the whole section to air-dry. Where an unstabilised earth wall has been damaged.3). Ideally. and thus align their mechanical characteristics. the stability of the wall assessed. and temporary propping or support erected if necessary.31. and that the particles produced (for instance as part of a cementing matrix) will act only as inert particles. compacted in thin horizontal layers. Set up temporary formwork parallel to the face of the wall. Fill with rammed earth in layers 2 3 4 3. Local knowledge should be also be sought to find quarry sites.1 � repairs to the base of a wall: creating a wider base Where the base of a wall has been eroded (Section 4. it is important to note that a chemical reaction has taken place. repair using fallen material will help to ensure that the mineralogy and particle size distributions are similar to those of the wall. even though the relative humidity is the same for both[49]. If necessary. Hack back to original wall line 4. to ensure that their particle size distribution and mineralogy are similar. The cause of the damage should be removed. Re­render Figure 5.31: Base repair using formwork[41] removing some of the repair to leave a final inclusion that is of similar density and mechanical properties to the rest of the wall. and wet its inside face to ensure that the wall does not immediately suck water from the new mixture. This method is suitable for rammed earth. then it should be repaired as shown in Figure 5. . then the mechanical properties will also differ because of the different pore size distributions (see Section 3. Cut away eroded section 2. Both involve cutting back and removing loose material from an eroded section to allow a good interface with the new material.3.7 to prevent water ingress. and to allow for uniform drying. in order to attempt a match between pore size distributions. Two methods are given below for the repair of earth faces. If shrinkage occurs. This work should be undertaken slowly. as this will allow it to be well compacted in the cavity. this may be built in sections to allow compaction in small vertical increments. cob and adobe walls.9 � rEPair to thE wall using fallEn or similar matErial For engineering and cultural reasons it is important to repair using material with a particle size distribution similar to that of the parent material. Brush the cavity clean to remove loose material. If using fallen materials from a stabilised earth wall. and the second method introduces preshrunk bricks into the cavity. add further material and allow it to dry. In this way one can match the water retention properties of the repair and the original material. often local road or field names can give clues to the sources of building materials. and sieving or mixing should be undertaken in order to ensure this. The first method replaces the eroded material by compacting excess material between formwork.5 ConsErvation stratEgiEs 5. This method creates a repair by compacting soil between temporary formwork and then (if necessary) 71 Temporary formwork 1 1. the new material and the wall material should be sampled. 5. First cut the eroded section back to produce a cavity with a uniform surface against which to compact new soil.12). If necessary. If the soil type differs between the repair and the wall. Thus a reapplied mix made from fallen material will have a different particle size distribution and offer fewer cementing agents. to ensure that the repair is of the same density as the original wall. or protect it using the methods outlined in Section 5. Fill the damaged section soil. to allow time for each layer to dry and shrink. The formwork is thus filled with compacted earth to above the level of the erosion. Remove the formwork. carefully remove the extra material created by the outstanding formwork to present a surface flush with the rest of the wall.

use a brush to wet their surfaces. although it can be used in any section of a wall. and that of the cavity. and construct bricks to the correct size and shape to fill it: use custom formwork. To avoid the problems of shrinkage it is possible to use earthen bricks. if necessary. fill the top of the cavity with mortar from the face. Insert  clay tiles 2b. place ‘shelves’ of clay tiles or wire mesh in slots cut in the back of the cavity. for example making adobe bricks for an adobe wall. If necessary. and build earth up in layers of around 100 mm.32: Face-filling technique Figure 5. Wet cavity and bricks 5. Insert final  layer from face 1. the wall should then be rendered. Allow these bricks to dry out completely and shrink before using them in the repair. and make the bricks of the same density as the material of the wall. If necessary. and render the face.33. Measure the resulting cavity. and to facilitate compaction.35).3 � repairs to the wall: using earth bricks The methods above are both subject to shrinkage. Once all the bricks have been placed. and to provide flat faces against which to place the bricks. Fill any shrinkage cracks that occur. science and conservation 5. Formwork can be placed against the face of the wall to allow a flush finish to be produced. Use a stretcher bond to lay the bricks in a thin earth mortar. When the repair is complete. This method uses formwork placed directly against the face of the wall.34 and 5. Measure cavity 3. remove the formwork and allow the repair to dry.32. manufactured prior to installation in the wall (Figure 5. Insert pre shrunk sized bricks  6. Compact each layer vertically. except for the final layer. or rammed earth bricks for rammed earth walls. If the damaged area is sufficiently large. Wet the sides of the cavity using a paintbrush or similar. To place the bricks in the wall. 5. First cut the damaged area back to remove any loose material. and moved vertically to ensure that full compaction of the repair material can occur. Insert  wire mesh Temporary formwork 3. Construct bricks to fill using similar material to wall  4. Fill any cracking that occurs. Cut the damaged area back and brush the resulting cavity clean. Fill with  rammed earth  in layers  4. which must be compacted from the face. Cut to  create a clean  backed cavity 2a. use the clay tiles or wire mesh to support the material while it dries. provided the formwork can be supported using external scaffolding. 5.9. and present issues of bonding between the repair and the original wall.2 � repairs to wall: formwork flush with the face An alternative method for the repair of a section of wall is shown in Figure 5. made using material similar to that of the wall construction. The technique is best suited to repairs at the base of a wall. with no loose material present. Fill final layer from face Figure 5. Cut to create a clean backed cavity 2. 1.33: Earth brick repair .9.72 Earth Building – history.

facing with masonry does mean that the earth part of the wall is protected from further damage.34: Face repair using preshrunk bricks. Spain . Such repairs hide the earth wall.4 facing with masonry Although this technique is not recommended as a conservation strategy. Jaén. Figure 5. for example at Jaen in Spain (Figure 5. Courtesy of Emma Cunlife Figure 5. or in the case of military structures in answer to improved artillery. Carlisle.36) and Xi’an in China (Figure 5.. but often an attempt to smarten up a neglected structure. historic earth buildings may be faced with masonry.37).5 ConsErvation stratEgiEs 73 Figure 5. but providing water is not allowed to build up within the wall. This is not usually a response to damage.36: Ashlar masonry placed to front of rammed earth wall.9. Syria. Mari.35: Face repair using bricks. UK 5.

and its presence may lead to further damage. Figure 5.74 Earth Building – history. and it is possible for water to enter the body of the wall.2. Concrete is of different mechanical properties and is less permeable to water vapour than the earth wall for which it acts as a repair. and will drain down the face of the concrete. so that water will not pond at its head. and pour a light mix concrete into the gap between the formwork and the wall. and where gaps are left in the repair it is possible to view the original wall material beneath.39).7. Granada.39: Concrete repair to rammed earth wall.38). it is important to allow a path for water vapour to escape. Timber inserts (Figure 5. To face an earth wall with concrete. This method maintains the ruined nature of the site. Palma del Rio. It has been included in this section because the practice has been undertaken to repair historic rammed earth walls in some parts of the world.9. In some cases concrete is used to protect only part of the structure (Figure 5. place formwork against the face of the wall. Courtesy of Isobel McLeod Facing with masonry appears to have been used as a preservation technique in Spain in the first part of the 20th century (Figure 5.5 facing with concrete Figure 5. science and conservation 5. in order to match the characteristic density banding exhibited in some rammed earth walls (Figure 5. Spain The use of concrete to repair earth buildings is not generally recommended by most authorities.38: Brick repair to Nasrid wall. Therefore when earth walls are repaired using concrete. while still aiming to preserve sections. and is placed only at the base of a wall. which can cause increased water content and the problems described in Section 5.These decorative repairs protect the wall.41). Figure 5. Where rammed earth is being repaired timber formwork can be used and the concrete may be poured in layers. The concrete repair creates an impermeable barrier at the base of the wall.37: Xi’an city wall. Rammed earth faced with masonry. leaving the higher parts exposed. At the top of the repair the concrete must be laid to a slight fall away from the wall.40) may also be placed into the concrete to give the impression of characteristic formwork support holes found in historic rammed earth. Spain .

but in extreme circumstances may be considered a potential strategy. Spain .40: Timber insert used to form characteristic holes in rammed earth.41: Partial protection of a structure using concrete.42). This type of reconstruction certainly goes against the spirits of the international conservation charters (see Section 5.5 ConsErvation stratEgiEs 75 5. Figure 5. and forming artificial features such as crenellations (Figure 5. This may entail covering the whole decayed structure in concrete. Spain Figure 5.10 wholE Building rEConstruCtion In very extreme cases it may be necessary to reconstruct a whole earth building as it is likely to originally have stood. Elche. in more mainstream construction materials.2). Elche.

There are many issues with this type of repair. Figure 5. As concrete is much less permeable than the earth. Spain Examples are the reconstruction of damaged earth buildings and insertion of a reinforced concrete beam at Aït Ben Haddou in Morocco for a film set (Figure 5. and the strength and stiffness of the earth inside the concrete will be reduced.76 Earth Building – history. Where a structure is completely encapsulated in concrete. the concrete structure should be designed to act independently. science and conservation Figure 5. Aït Ben Haddou. then it is possible that the earth inside the structure may become inert. Tabernas. any water that does enter the structure cannot escape. Morocco .42: Large-scale concrete reconstruction of rammed earth castle. Where the structure is situated such that no water is able to rise to the earth through capillary action.43). symbol of the town and its olive oil. then the whole structure is at risk if water cannot escape. care must be taken to ensure that no water is able to enter it. without relying on the earth for support.43: Large-scale concrete reconstruction for film set. and it is fully encapsulated in concrete. If this approach is to be adopted. Where the integrity of the structure is partially dependent on the strength of the earth. and the reconstruction of Tabernas castle in Spain.

Earth buildings are still a long way behind those constructed of more conventional building materials. published case histories and experimentation will allow earth to be treated as an engineering material. it is possible to distinguish and target them. The repair of such structures is subject to much debate and consideration before any work begins. Often the most prudent decision may be not to intervene. more fragile than those built of other construction materials. to describe them. but it is hoped that a body of knowledge. where erosion is minimised and evaporation is allowed. Recommendations for repair have been given. and to place them in their historical context. The nature of historic earthen building materials is such that. The huge number of very old structures around the world is testament to this. We hope that this book will help earthen architecture professionals to recognise historic earth structures. Where individual failures can be identified. because such decisions determine the nature of any repair strategy proposed. a historic earth structure can last for centuries. for example). by their nature. but are now considered to be of great cultural value. Their comparatively low strength and relatively poor resistance to water damage mean that it is often difficult to perform satisfactory and lasting repairs. It must first be decided whether the structure is to become a working building or a cultural monument. it is hoped that repair strategies will now be much improved. Understanding of the conservation and repair of earth buildings has long been the preserve of master masons and expert practitioners.6 ConCluding rEmarks 77 ChaPtEr 6 ConCluding rEmarks � Earth buildings are. The treatment of the building material as a highly unsaturated soil represents a step change in understanding for earthen architecture. As shown in Chapter 2. and it is hoped that a much greater understanding will be gained from this approach. This book has outlined the fundamental science and engineering behind the behaviour of earthen construction materials present in earth buildings. a structure can stand for a long period of time. but a scientific understanding of their fundamental behaviour is now developing. Many earth buildings were constructed as vernacular. and because the unsaturated nature of rammed earth is now acknowledged. provided external dangers are removed (flowing water. .

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62 angle of repose 43. 50 adsorbed water 36 Africa 17–19 agriculture. 15. 74 churches 7. 39 besser blocks 9 Bhutan 17. 73. 65. Afghanistan 15 bamboo-and-earth matting [on head of wall] 65 Bangalore. USA 21. 67 cast-type structures 45 Catalhöyük. 64. 7. 27 particle sizes 5. 48. 56. Zaragoza. Spain 48 Alhambra Palace. 44. 49. India 11. 50. 12 Chan Chan. 70 cement-stabilised compressed earth blocks 11. 76 Alcalá de Guadaira. 26 air dried earth blocks 9–12 air entry value 31. 59 Ambel. 9. 63 B � Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex 15 Balkh (Bactria). 47. 54–55. 52. 43. 10 straw in 10. 69 construction technique 8–9 particle size distribution 5. 18. 15 Asslim. Spain 42. Spain 20 Alcazaba 20. 45. 46 arches 11 Arizona. François 21 . 58. adobe construction 21 Asia 14–17 central 15 eastern 14. 60 bending cracking 38. Peru 24 chemical consolidation of earthen walls 70 China 16. New Mexico. Trujillo. 68. 49 Basgo castle. Spain 51 Casa Grande National Monument. 61. 49. Granada. Morocco building materials 4. 22 cinder blocks 9 city walls 16–17. 49 Carmona. Turkey 14 cement-based renders 11. 27 clay bridges 33 cob buildings 8. 10. 12. Peru 23 calcium silicon hydrate (CSH) 34 bridges 35. 45. 32 Aït Ben Haddaou. 25. 5. India 42. 70 kasbahs 18. 63. 63 C � Cahuachi. 50. 4 adobe 9–11 construction technique 10–11 moulds used 10 particle size distribution 5. 49 Biar Castle. 36 Cameroon 19 capillary action 44. and earth building 13. Morocco 10. 46 barrel vaults 11 base of walls prevention of water damage at 67–68 water damage at 46. 14. 45. 66 Australasia 25 Australia 6. 26 clay 5. 11.indEX 83 indEX � Page numbers in italics refer to illustrations and tables a abrasion-caused damage 51–52 additives 3. 46. 8 Cointeraux. Spain 66 breeze blocks 9 buttresses 62.

73 d damage to earth buildings 37–52 abrasion-caused 51–52 organic matter and 50–51 render-associated 48–49 structural 37–42 water and 43–48 Daroca. 13 unit construction 9–11. city walls 20. 13 earthquakes 25. damage caused by 37. UK. in unsaturated soils 29 Cordoba. 12 concrete facing 74. Spain 75 erosion 46. 77 mixing with water and additives 4. 37 Eden Project. 39 f film set. 69 differential settlement. reconstruction for 76 fired bricks 9 formwork [for rammed earth walls] 5–7. 59 column method 58. 58 crack stitching 59–60 cracking causes 38–40. 51. 13 monolithic walls 5–9. Spain 46 decorative patterns 11. 13 replacement by alternative techniques 23. 72. 21 foundation failure damage caused by 37 remediation of 57 friction between particles 43 frictional strength of soils 28 funicular water 36 g Ghana 18–19 grass on earth walls 50. science and conservation C (cont’d) compaction 32–33 compactive effort 32 compressed earth blocks 11 cement-stabilised 11. 26 Europe 20–21 extension cracking 38. 16. 18 E earth as alternative construction material 3. 41 in wall repair 71. 52 Euphrates and Tigris river valleys 14. Spain. 59 with earth mortar 58 with stone(s) 58. 70 earthen construction principles 3–4 types 3. 75 concrete reconstruction 75–76 concrete ring beam at head of wall 66 conservation principles 53 conservation strategies 53–76 analysis and repair strategy 54–56 crack repair 57–60 face repair 69–70 foundation improvement 56–57 wall-lean mitigation 60–64 wall repair 71–75 water-damage repair 64–68 whole building reconstruction 75–76 contact angle. 70 dome structures 11. 38 . 56 earth bricks laying in construction 11 manufacture of 10. 38 Djenné. 19 Drâa Valley. 24. UK 8. 26 Devon. Mali 19. 57 remediation of 57–60 Cumbria. damage caused by 37. 57 ground movement. Morocco 10. 26. 74 forts 15. 26 spread across world 13 earth renders 69.84 Earth Building – history. 59 crack monitoring 57. 11 used in wall repairs 72 earth-building techniques 3. cob buildings 44. 51 corner battens [to mitigate wall lean] 62 crack filling 58–59 with cement mortar 58. UK 9 effective stress 28–29 Egypt 17 Elche. 51 Great Wall of China 16 ground improvement 56.

Turkmenistan 15 Mexico 21 mixing techniques 4 monolithic earth walls 5–9 cob 8–9 rammed earth 5–7 Morocco 4. 46. Nepal 45. 10. 76 mosques 14. 74 Panjakent. 35 m Mali 19. India 16. 70. 42. 52 Pompallier House. 65. Weilburg. 18. 27 Isfahan. 45.indEX h Hannibal 17–18 Haus Rath. Spain 74 Nepal 3. 16. Granada. Morocco 49 P � Palma del Rio. New Zealand 25 pore radius. 68 New Zealand 25 Nile Delta 17 North America 21–23 o openings in walls 7. relationship to relative humidity 31 Proctor compaction test 32 propping of walls 63. China 52 Jiayuguan Fort. 39. 6. Syria 63. 42. 65. Ladakh. 19 Muktinath. 70 Margaret River. Russell. 24. Spain 48. 11. 15 Australasia 25 Europe 20–21 Indus valley 15 North America 21–23 South America 23–24 hogging 38 hydraulic limes 34 i � ICOMOS charters 53 India 11. 5. Spain 73 Jharkot. Australia 6. 42 liquid bridges between particles 29. 68 n Nasrid wall. 51. 17 lichen on earth walls 50 lime render 69 lime-stabilised earth structures 34 limewashing of earthen structures 69–70 lintels 7. 47. 64. 47 El Badi Palace 18. 14. Nepal 3. 11. 23. Nepal 39 Jiaohe. 50. 63 Mari. 49. 16. 39. 65. 39. 50 Peru. Bhutan 49 particle size distribution 5 pendular water 36 perpendicular walls. adobe construction 23–24 Phoenician settlements 17. 20 pigeon infestation 51. 63. 50 kasbahs 18 Kelvin equation 30–31 l Leh Palace. Nepal 59. Mongolia 15 organic matter 50–51 Ouarzazate. 26 . 12. 17. Australia 7. 26. earth building 3. 15 J � Jaén. 45. 42 optimum water content (OWC) 32 laboratory determination of 32 relationship to dry density 33 Ordu-Baliq (Khar Balgas). 64 pyramids 17. Iran 8. Morocco city walls 18. China 16 Jomsom. 67. Tajikistan 15 Paro. 66. 59. movement between 41 Perth. Germany 21 history of earth building 13–26 Africa 17–19 Asia 14–17 central Asia 15 eastern Asia 14. 6 k Kagbeni. 68. 42 masonry-facing to walls 73–74 Merv. 73 85 Marrakech. 60 Indus valley 15 ingredients. 11.

86 Earth Building – history. 49. 70 shear cracking 38. 12. 51. 66. 43. sandy soil. Brazil 24 saturated soils effective stress 28–29 soil mechanics 28 scaffolding [for replastering work] 19. 41 particle size distribution 5 relative humidity 30–31 relationship to pore radius 31 suction affected by 31. 75. 26 Syria 63. 69. failure of 40–43 suction between particles 30 measurement of 34 relative humidity and 31. USA 22 sandy soil 5. 73. 39. 26 United States adobe construction 21. 61. earth walls as 47 river valley civilisations 14 roof drains [for flat roofs] 68 roof elements. 46 s sagging 38 salt precipitation 48 San Antonio Valley. 40 sieving of earth 4 silty soil 5. Spain 51. 48. 62. Chinese characters for 16 rammed earth walls construction technique 5–7. 35. 18 development over time 13 ‘lifts’ [of formwork] 7. Monterey County. 34. 58. 34. 36 recent research 35–36 . 10 particle sizes 5. 27 slacked lime 34 soil 27 soil mechanics 27–28 unsaturated soil 29 soil strength 28 soil water retention curve (SWRC) 31–32 soils particle size distributions 5. 12 development over time 13–14 soils used 5. 73 t Tabernas. 20 uniaxial testing 34. failure of 40 roofing on/over earth structures 66–67 rotating drum mixer 4 runnels 45. 20. 20. 46. 76 tallest earthen structure 14 Taos Pueblo. 43 surface tension 29–30 sustainable construction material. cob structures 8. 59. 48 damage to earth walls caused by 49 head of wall 65 reasons for failure 48 wall face repair 69–70 residual air content 32 residual saturation 32 retaining structures. earth as 1. 10. 67. 10 particle sizes 5. 50. 8. 62 u UK. 45. 27 São Paulo. New Mexico 21 tensiometer 34 Timbuktu. 9. mosque 19 tying of opposite walls [to mitigate wall lean] 61. 42. Mali. science and conservation Q quicklime 34 r rainfall. impact on wall surface 44 rammed earth. 36 models 29. 74. 76 stabilised earth walls 11. 35 unit construction 9–11 adobe 9–11 compressed earth blocks 11. 54–55. 23 cob building 23 rammed-earth construction 22–23 unsaturated soils contact angle at solid/water/air interface 29 earthen construction materials as 29. South Carolina 22 structural cracking 38–40 effect of water 40 structural damage 37–42 structural elements. 34 chemical consolidation of 70 rainfall onto surface 44 stabilisers 3 role of 34 Stateburg. silt South America 23–24 Spain 7. 27 see also clay. 43 render 11.

41 Villena. 26 87 . 16. 20 whole building reconstruction 75–76 Williams-Ellis. 41.indEX soil mechanics 29 suction between particles in 30 surface tension in 29–30 v Villafeliche chapel. 14. China 73. Clough 21. 23 wind-borne particles. 75 facing with masonry 73–74 fallen material used 71–72 with wider base 71 water bridges between particles 29. 60 mitigation methods 60–64 wall plates 42. Spain 7. 73 facing with concrete 74. abrasion by 52 World Heritage Sites 1. Spain 7 w wall capping strategies 64–66 wall lean causes 39. 20. 65 X � Xi’an. 64 reasons for 44 at wall surface 44 water vapour pressure 30 wattle and daub 13. 67 down wall face 45 through walls 47 water ingress damage affected by 43–48 at head of wall 45. 43 wall repairs earth bricks used 72. 35 water content effect on mechanical behaviour 34 see also optimum water content (OWC) water damage causes 43–48 prevention/repairs 64–68 water flow at base of wall 46. 74 y Young–Laplace equation 30 Z � ziggurats 14.

which includes case studies and post-construction monitoring. Order now @ www. state-of-the-art. this fully illustrated book gives you numerous examples and design details to enable practical construction with this novel. This extensively illustrated guide to earth masonry provides guidance on using earth brick to produce durable buildings that fit their climate and are suited to a wide range of uses. and construction methods. USA.brebookshop. practical guidance on rammed earth wall construction. Containing construction details and numerous photos of rammed earth buildings in the UK. Ref: EP 62 All titles are available in print and pdf format. sustainable material. 2nd edition Earth masonry design and construction guidelines Improve your understanding of one of the oldest and most widespread building materials. Africa and Australia. building with waste.othEr titlEs from ihs BrE PrEss � EarthshiPs in EuroPE Evaluate the building of the first earthships in Europe by investigating energy and water conservation. Ref: EP 85 rammEd Earth design and construction guidelines Get authoritative. gives design recommendations to make earthships more effective in different climatic conditions. Europe. Ref: EP 80 hEmP limE ConstruCtion a guide to building with hemp lime composites The first complete guide to building with hemp lime. . this book gives advice on all aspects of rammed earth for housing and other lowand medium-rise or phone the IHS Sales Team on +44 (0) 1344 328038. Ref: EP 102. The new edition of this successful book.


Richly illustrated with photographs and diagrams. His research interests are in two principal areas: sustainable earthen construction materials and computational geomechanics. science and conservation EARtH BuIldIng EP 101 EARtH BuIldIng History. Willoughby Road Bracknell. Canada. ABout tHE AutHoRS Jaquin and Augarde Paul Jaquin is a civil and structural engineer. UAE. is currently on the Editorial Board for the international journal Computers and Geotechnics and is a former member of the Géotechnique Advisory Panel. and a Chartered Civil Engineer. It presents a wide-ranging review of the history of earth building. principles from soil mechanics. Berkshire RG12 8FB www. He has published over 70 articles in peer-reviewed journals and conferences since 1998. Charles Augarde is Reader in Civil Engineering at the School of Engineering and Computing Sciences. The behaviour of earth building materials is explained using. tracing the development of earthen construction techniques from antiquity to the present day. ISBN 978­1­84806­192­7 9 781848 061927 IHS BRE Press IHS BRE Press. he undertook a PhD supervised by Charles Augarde entitled ‘Analysis of historic rammed earth’. for the first time. science and conservation Paul Jaquin and Charles Augarde . Australia. Durham University. cob and rammed earth. After completing an engineering degree at Durham University. There is a detailed discussion of strategies for the analysis and conservation of earth buildings to enable engineers.brebookshop. He has acted as a consultant on sustainable construction projects in the UK and on conservation and development projects in the US. this book provides an invaluable tool for the conservation of earth buildings. science and conservation This book covers various types of earth construction including adobe. China and Bhutan.EARtH BuIldIng: History. This research established the link between earth buildings and unsaturated soils and much of the research is included in this book. conservation professionals and architects to understand and preserve earth buildings better in the future. and showing the development of the techniques over time and in different locations around the world.