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Against all odds: Earthen buildings in Ireland

Authors: Jimenez, Alejandro and ODwyer, Dermot.

Abstract: Even though meteorological conditions are adverse for the development of earthen
constructions, in Ireland earth has been used as a construction material for more than 4000 years.
Remaining earthen buildings are of vernacular nature, are mainly represented by the construction
technique known as Cob and correspond to the domestic category type.
The main objective of this paper is to present a summarized and concise picture of the present
situation of the remaining earthen buildings in the country, identify their main characteristics, the
values that make such buildings important, evaluate their vulnerability as vernacular architectural
style and therefore, understand and better approach any future intervention on such kind of
structures.
The contribution of the paper is based on the identification of the gap of knowledge existent
in the Irish context for the conservation of vernacular earthen buildings. In particular, it highlights the
lack of a detailed description of traditional Cob mechanical properties, and the still unexplored field
of numerical techniques and application of specific constitutive models to this type of material in a
national context, as well as a general disinterest from both the general population and the research
community.
Hopefully the importance and the necessity of conservation of such rich Irish heritage, as well
as the basic concepts related to it, for the present and future generations would be highlighted in this
paper.

Keywords: Ireland, Vernacular architecture, Cob, Mechanical behaviour, Conservation.

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Introduction, scope, definitions and objectives
Introduction

Despite the non-favourable climatic conditions of the Island, up to 225 days of rain in some
parts of the country and an annual average rainfall of 1200 mm according to (MET-Eireann, 2017) (see
Figure 1), earthen constructions have been used in Ireland since remote times and still today some
remaining examples can be found mainly in the east and south-eastern counties and even in other
central and western parts of the Island according to (Danaher, 1957b) and (O'Reilly, 2011).

(a)

(b)
Figure 1: Rainfall in Ireland (MET-Eireann, 2017).

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Even though stone buildings have historically been considered to be stronger and more
durable than earthen buildings, the later have occupied a very important position providing housing
for the Irish population despite of the unfavourable climatic conditions mentioned before and of its
intrinsic inferior mechanical properties. This is due to several economic and social factors such as the
fact that appropriate soil for earthen construction can be found in most of the Irish territory and
therefore can be obtained locally avoiding material transportation expenses. Another important
aspect of its wide spread use is the easiness of construction, whereas that stone work requires
specialized tools and skills, often dominated only by the so-called stone masters, earth is easier to
work with since it is a softer material, the construction skills were passed from generation to
generation and shared among most members of the rural communities and the necessary tools were
very similar or the same tools as those used to work in the fields, thus being available for most of the
countryside population of the Island.

Scope

Earthen buildings in Ireland are of vernacular nature. From the three categories defined by
(Danaher & Irish Tourist Board., 1975):

Domestic.
Agricultural.
Industrial.

this paper would focus only in the first one since dwellings, together with farm buildings, are
the most numerous examples of remaining vernacular architecture and the most vulnerable ones and
most prone to disappear without the adequate care and conservation practice.
From the two types of vernacular buildings identified by (Pfeiffer, 1990):

Linear.
Classical

this paper would focus only on the linear style, which is considered as the true vernacular
style. Furthermore, from the several earth construction techniques existent, this papers scope would
be limited to the so-called Cob technique since the remaining buildings in Ireland were built using such
construction system.

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Definitions

In October 1999 members of ICOMOS gathered in Mexico City to discuss about the general
issues, principles of conservation and practice guidelines specific for the built vernacular heritage. In
such Charter (ICOMOS, 1999) vernacular architecture is defined as:
the fundamental expression of the culture of a community, of its relationship with its territory
and, at the same time, the expression of the world's cultural diversity
It was recognized that vernacular architecture is threatened worldwide by a global socio-
economic transformation and risk of disappearing if they are considered as out of fashion, if they are
associated with poverty conditions and if they are regarded as of inferior quality, factors that,
according to several authors (Macdonald & Doyle, 1997), (Danaher, 1970), (Pfeiffer, 1990), (Shaffrey,
1985), together with others such as the introduction of governmental social schemes of replacement
of housing and the economic boom of the 60s-70s that bring with it the modernization of a great
number of dwellings (replacing traditional and vernacular materials for modern ones), have been the
cause of the almost total disappearance of such buildings in Ireland during the last half of the 20th
century.
The principles and guidance stablished in the Mexico Charter are a complement to those
agreed in the Venice Charter (ICOMOS, 1964) and therefore both documents should be addressed
when studying or working with conservation of vernacular buildings.
As said before, most of the remaining earthen buildings in Ireland were built using the Cob
technique which can be classified as a wet technique used to build monolithic walls and after (Keefe,
1993):
is the building method in which sub-soil is mixed with straw and water, brought to suitable
consistency and then placed in horizontal layers to form a mass wall.

Objectives

The main objective of this paper is to present a summarized and concise picture of the present
situation of the remaining earthen buildings in Ireland nowadays, identify their main characteristics,
the values that make such buildings important, evaluate their vulnerability as vernacular architectural
style and therefore, understand and better approach any future intervention on such kind of
structures.

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History, social and economic considerations
History

Human beings have lived in Ireland for more than 7000 years (Danaher, 1970) and evidence
can be found of earth employed as a building material in the astonishing UNESCO site of Br Na Binne
(see Figure 2) where earth and stones were used in a combination of layers in order to give the
pyramidal shape to the structures built in the Neolithic period around 4000 years ago.

(a)

(b)
Figure 2: Br Na Binne UNESCO Site. (a) Newgrange tumulus exterior, (b) Internal structure of Neolithic tumulus
constructions showing a combination of earth and stone layers (Ireland, 2017).

Such megalithic structures had in origin a religious and ritual purpose, were aligned with the
sun and used as tombs to bury the rests of the most important members of the society. On the other
hand, few evidence have been found about the material used to build the day a day buildings and
dwellings of the population in that period but it is possible that earth was used as well to fulfil such
necessity.

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Earth has been used in Ireland as a building material for dwellings and other facilities since
more than 1000 years ago, registers date it back until the period when Vikings arrived to Ireland,
between the 9th and the 12th centuries. For such constructions, earth was used as an infill material and
structures were built using another construction system known as wattle and daub (Macdonald &
Doyle, 1997). Gailey on the other hand, makes reference to archaeological evidence of circular
dwellings built with wood or wattle from the 5th until the 8th century which would trace the use of
earth for housing purposes even a couple of centuries back in the timeline (Gailey, 1984).
Focusing now in the main scope of this paper, Gailey, Macdonald and Doyle agree in the fact
that Cob buildings appeared in Ireland during the 12th century with the arrival of the Anglo-Normans
under the rule of King Henry and by the 17th century this construction system had replaced precedent
practices such as wattle and daub and sod as the main technique used to build earthen dwellings. Cob
buildings were widely used among the rural population, but also in towns and villages (Danaher,
1957a), since their introduction to the Island and up until the middle of the 19th century, when a census
revealed that half of the countryside population was living in a Cob building (Macdonald & Doyle,
1997).
The history of Ireland and all its economic, social and cultural aspects cannot be understood
without mentioning a catastrophic event that happened between the years of 1845 and 1852, known
as the great famine, in which the population of the Island decreased by a quarter and that according
to some authors (Shaffrey, 1985) and (Danaher, 1970) also cause the disappearance of most of the
Cob houses so popular until then, due to the fact that their owners emigrated or died.
After the first half of the 19th century the situation for the remaining cob buildings was not
very optimistic since they continued disappearing and falling into dereliction as they were regarded
as of inferior quality and had attached to themselves the horrible souvenir of the years of scarcity.
During this period housing schemes were stablished by the different County Councils aimed at
providing labourers, both in towns and in the countryside, with new cottages usually built using
different materials such as stone and even bricks or concrete for those constructed at the beginning
of the 20th century (Danaher, 1970). The use of new materials was boosted thanks to the use of the
new transportation facilities developed all around the country, starting by the first railway line
between Dublin and Dun Laoghaire built in 1834 and followed by thousands of kilometres of new
railways and navigable canals all along the Island (Pfeiffer, 1990).
After the 1920s new purpose-built estate villages replaced lots of groups of primitive cabins
around the country (most of them following the Classical style and pattern books). Ireland went
through an economic boom during the years 1960 s and 1970 s that brought with it a modernization

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period in which modern materials and features replaced traditional ones and sometimes the whole
house was rebuilt as a consequence of considering them as ancient looking, reeked of poverty, not
impressive for the visits and without taking into account factors such as cosiness, easiness to heat and
the distinctive and pleasant aesthetic character of the traditional cob buildings (Shaffrey, 1985).
Traditional earthen vernacular dwellings were no longer built after the end of the 19th century.

Social aspects

The design and construction of vernacular cob buildings in Ireland were not only influenced
by topographic and geographic factors but also for social and economic aspects. There have always
existed two different conceptions of cob buildings as a regard of the society; a positive one and a
negative one. On the one hand the positive aspect is related to a romantic picture of the Irish
countryside populated with cosy welcoming cob walled and thatched cottages of white walls and
colourful roofs. Just to quote a few, in his book about his visit to Ireland, Young said (Hutton, 1892):
And if the Irish cabins continue like what I have hitherto seen, I shall not hesitate to pronounce
their inhabitants as well off as most English cottagers. They are built of mud walls 18 inches or two
feet thick, and well thatched, which are far warmer than the thin clay walls in England.
Shaffrey confer cob buildings with positive aesthetic qualities such as an intimate scale of the
buildings with the landscape that surrounds them, a variety of shapes and an informality of the layout.
She described such buildings in the following way (Shaffrey, 1985):
farm buildings and country houses fitting snugly and comfortably into the landscape as if
they were also natural rather than artificial structures.
Danaher considers that vernacular dwellings had well balanced forms and pleasant
proportions between walls and roof and that the lesser features such as chimneys, porches, doors and
windows were well placed. Moreover he said that the texture of local materials gave them a high
degree of environmental harmony (Danaher & Irish Tourist Board., 1975). Although simple and
modest, vernacular houses melted perfectly with their surroundings by being built with local and
ecological materials and their aesthetic characteristics are of great value and harmony with the Irish
countryside landscape.
On the other hand, there is the negative conception of earth buildings in which according to
Shaffrey they are associated with the 19th century poverty, squalor and starvation, harsh evictions and
a sub-standard way of life (Shaffrey, 1985). They were sometimes also associated with cottiers and
landless labourers. Danaher reported (Danaher, 1957a):
In the heart of the best walled towns, cities and boroughs, there stand many poor cottages
of straw, chaff and clay to the eyesore of the whole town.

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It is worth noting that such negative ideas about earth buildings were more related to the
poorer and older cottages built using either sods or wattle and daub technique and not necessarily to
cob buildings since the use of cob system was used for both labourers and landlords to build their
dwellings (Gailey, 1984).
Some interesting social and folklore aspects of the Irish vernacular buildings are described by
Gailey and are in agreement with other as well. They point out that buildings were built by a
gathering, men, women and children participated while alternating working with singing and
dancing to the rhythm of one or two fiddlers, construction techniques were inherited from generation
to generation, the choice of the construction site was influenced by a folklore superstition related to
fairy paths, horse skulls were placed under the hearth to improve acoustics in the building and provide
good luck (Gailey, 1984).
As Ireland was always a farming country, even during the Industrial Revolution period, the
lifestyle and live quality as well as the characteristics and size of the buildings, were always influenced
by the quality and features of the land. Furthermore, since traditional vernacular cottages were most
of the time owner-built and owner occupied, they present a smooth variation in shape and size as the
traditional countryside occupant, farmer, artisan, carpenter, blacksmith, weaver, fisher, etc., aimed to
adapt his home to his own necessities and to the requirements of his profession. Nowadays, most of
the remaining cob cottages are inhabited by refugees from the town, people with urban rather than
rural occupations migrating to the countryside to avoid the stress and the high real estate prices that
entails living in a city.

Economic factors

Economic factors had a great influence in the development and characteristics of vernacular
buildings in Ireland. Even though good construction materials were available almost everywhere
around the Island, only the wealthier and members of higher classes could afford paying for the
professional skills of a master or the required tools needed to use more durable and stronger materials
such as stone. Transportation of materials was an issue as well up until the second half of the 19th
century, therefore must rural population was constrained to the use of local materials to build their
dwellings.
Despite that, cob was used in some regions for both upper and lower classes as reported by
(Danaher, 1970). In fact, most of the remaining cob buildings still inhabited today appertained to
middle or upper class families and if they have survived up to our days is because their owners had
the means to afford constant maintenance and repairs. Unfortunately, most of the earth cabins owned
by the lower classes are nowadays in ruins or have completely disappeared since they were built using

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a lower material quality such as sods or wattle and even if they were built with cob as those of the
landlords, the lack of maintenance caused their disappearance.
Just to have an idea of the difference in price of the construction of a house made from earth
or stone Table 1 is presented. These values were reported for Arthur Young in his book of tour of
Ireland (Hutton, 1892). Gailey also reports several figures compiled from different sources (Gailey,
1984), some of them official reports or archives and some of them mere speculations, but one thing
is clear based on what is presented from both authors, the price of a stone house was about 3 to 4
times higher than one constructed using an earthen technique.

Table 1: Cottage prices based on the location and material reported by (Hutton, 1892).

County Cob Stone


Fermanagh 2 15
Donegal 3 40
Roscommon 5 5s 15
Cavan 4 17

Gailey identifies two main social classes and two different building sizes related to each one
of them:

Ocaire, lowest grade of freeman. His dwellings were single roomed, wattled walls
buildings with opposed entrances measuring about 5.8 m long x 3.9 m wide. No
evidence about the shape of their roof.
Aire Tuise, farmer of noble grade. His dwellings were of similar characteristics.
Probably bigger, 8.8 m long x 5.9 m wide, partitioned to define sleeping spaces.

Sometimes sod which is an inferior technique was selected over cob because even though
both materials were widely available, cob required very heavy labour to be tempered. A common
tenants house average dimension where perhaps 12.2 m long by 6.1 m wide according to (Gailey,
1984), single storey and thatched, whereas that the landlords houses were bigger, sometimes multi-
storeys and incorporated elements of other materials such as stone or brick.
Another factor that influenced the construction of new houses or the modification of existing
ones was the implementation of window and hearth taxes in Ireland. Thus houses were limited to a
single hearth and some windows were closed in order to reduce the economic burden that taxation
would impose in poorer families (Gailey, 1984).

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Typology
Dwelling typology

Several parameters have been used to classify the earth vernacular buildings in Ireland.
Macdonald and Doyle proposed a classification based in the size of the house as can be seen in Figure
3. They based this proposal on the proprietors circumstances and assumed that the two lower
categories were always own-er self-constructed.

Gentleman's residence
Mud-house types

Larger farmhouses

Smaller farmhouses

One-room houses (Sod-built


houses included)

Figure 3: Macdonald and Doyle classification of vernacular houses in Ireland (Macdonald & Doyle, 1997) .

Shaffrey proposes several classifications for vernacular buildings. The first one divides de
dwellings by their size and quality based on the actual size of the farm where the house was built
(Shaffrey, 1985).

Small farm (up to 20 acres).


Medium farm (20 to 40 acres).
Classic substantial farm (40 to 60 acres).
Large farm (100 acres or more).

A second classification is based on the nature of the provider of the housing. Thus, three
different categories can be identified:

Traditional cottage:
o Owner-built and owner-occupied.
o 18th and early 19th origin.
o Traditional countryside occupants; farmers, artisans, carpenters, blacksmiths,
weavers, fishers.

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o Stone, mud or a combination of both materials.
Estate cottage:
o Built by the landlord for his workers.
o Individual or small groups throughout the estate.
o 19th century.
o Higher quality of building materials and construction standards.
o Stone buildings mostly.
Public body cottage:
o Late 19th century.
o Buildings provided to the poorer classes by the government.
o Stone buildings.
o Different typology.

Finally Shaffrey as well as Pfeiffer described another division according to the style of the
building, they basically distinguish between two main vernacular categories; linear and classical
(Shaffrey, 1985) and (Pfeiffer, 1990):

Linear dwellings:
o True vernacular style.
o Goes back to at least 1600 but its true origins are lost in the distant past.
o Rectangular plan houses.
o Three, two and one-room configurations.
o One room deep.
o Rooms interconnected.
o Kitchen was the most important room in the house.
o One to two-stories high.
o Fireplace centrally located or in one of the gables.
o Houses extended along at the sides or upwards but never widened.
o Gabled or hipped roofs, usually thatched and later replaced by slates or corrugated
iron roofs.
o Stone and mud walls, lime-rendered or lime-washed both inside and out.
o Sometimes, builder, designer and owner of traditional vernacular houses was the
same person.
Classical dwellings:
o Introduced in Ireland during the 18th century.
o Style disseminated through pattern books.
o Main entrance lead to a hall, kitchen was given a secondary role.
o Usually a two-story house.
o Central doorway leading to the main hall.

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o Stone walls externally lime-plastered later replaced by cement plasters.

The Cob buildings to which this paper is focused on appertained to the first category. Similar
descriptions of linear dwellings are provided by (Gailey, 1984) and (Danaher & Irish Tourist Board.,
1975).
Finally a regional classification is proposed by Danaher who divides the Island in two main
geographical regions (Danaher & Irish Tourist Board., 1975):

South East, more open to change and adopt new features since was more in contact with the
rest of Europe.
North West, more resistant to change and therefore more prone to conserve older attributes
and characteristics.

Classification of vernacular houses in Ireland it is a complicated task since dwellings were


usually owner-built and configured in order to satisfy the necessities of their inhabitants. Therefore,
small variations of size and layout exist all along the Island. Nevertheless, an overall picture of what
could be defined as a traditional Irish vernacular dwelling can be stablished taking into account the
definition for the typical Irish house given by Danaher (Danaher, 1970), since it mostly agrees with
descriptions provided by other authors referenced earlier, and their most important regional
variations, identified and summarized in Table 2 based on replies to questionnaires circulated
between 1945 and 1946 (Danaher, 1957b):
We can therefore conclude that this type of house, the long, rectangular, one-storey, solid
building, with its steep thatched roof and white or colour-washed walls, is the typical Irish farmhouse.

Figure 4: Traditional Irish vernacular dwelling (Danaher & Irish Tourist Board., 1975).

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Table 2: Main typology variations of vernacular dwellings in Ireland (Danaher, 1957b).

Recess or alcove in one of the side-walls Short wall which projects from the
of the house, made of the same hearth-wall and supports the mantel-
materials, substance and construction beam.
as the walls of the house. South East.
North West.

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Thatch is held in position by a network Two types of roofs; hip roof with four
of ropes which lies on the thatch and is surfaces as the roof slopes at the sides
fastened to pegs or weights along the and ends, and gable roof with only two
edges of the roof. surfaces at the front and back.
West and North coasts. South East.

Housing of humans and their livestock. Good building material, on the other
North West. hand, the labor involved in digging and
tempering the clay is very heavy.
All around but the West.

Farmyard typology

The typical Irish farmstead lay-out correspond to a group of buildings around a rectangular
farmyard in which the dwelling is placed in one of the sides with just a fence wall and gate in the
opposite side while outside buildings occupy the lateral sides. Other typologies have also been
identified such as the long houses layout, where outside buildings align longitudinally with the
dwelling, and the street layout, in which the outside buildings were built in front of the dwelling thus
creating like a street space between them. For more details see (Danaher, 1970).

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Materials
Classification

Earthen remaining buildings in Ireland are mainly located on the east of the country but also
in the midlands and in some western areas, see Figure 5, and are predominantly represented by Cob.
Cob walls are considered as monolithic (Lorenzo Miccoli, Mller, & Fontana, 2014) and its cohesion is
provided mainly by the clay cementing properties and the added organic fibres such as straw or
heather. Monolithic techniques have the advantage of not presenting weakness planes such as it is in
the case of modular constructions.

Figure 5: Earthen buildings distribution (O'Reilly, 2011).

The classification of the existent earthen construction techniques is presented in Figure 6.

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Types of earthen
constructions

Monolithic Modular Infill

Compressed
Rammed earth Cob Adobe earth blocks Mud and stud
(CEB)

Excavated Direct forming Sods Clay lumps Wattle and daub

Figure 6: Earthen construction techniques.

After Keefe, earth materials have the following positive characteristics (Keefe, 2005):

High thermal capacity.


Low embodied energy.
Natural materials that can be considered as zero emissions materials.
Universally available.
After demolition of existing structures, earth can be remixed and recycle to build new
buildings.

More positive properties are attributed to earth materials by Minke such as their capacity to
balance humidity, absorb pollutants and preserve timber and other organic materials. On the other
hand some of their disadvantages include their relatively high shrinking when drying out, they are not
water-resistant and they are not standardized building materials (Minke, 2000).

Components characteristics

Unfortunately, no detailed historical record of description of soil properties used in traditional


vernacular constructions exist. Moreover, since the technique has never been standardized and has
always been subjected to variations from builder to builder and obviously from region to region,
attempts to determine the exact mix composition to reproduce original materials are way far from
reality. Nevertheless, most authors agree in the use of three main components in the production of
cob which are shown in Figure 7. In the last years though, some authors (Minke, 2000), (Jaquin, 2012),
(Keefe, 2005) among others, have carried out extensive laboratory experimental campaigns in order

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to understand the importance of each one of the components and its final contribution to the
characteristics of cob as well as their correlation and even the effect of adding any other component
to the mixture.

Soil

Straw
Cob

Water

Figure 7: Traditional cob components.

Some of them even report the use of other natural materials to modify or improve the
properties of the loam such as blood, urine, hair, dug, casein, milk, ashes, among others. Some tests
have been carried out to evaluate the stabilizing effect on cob of modern materials such as gypsum,
lime and cement but those results are out of the scope of this paper since they do not form part of
the vernacular tradition.
Several soil classifications are used nowadays being the simplest one that that groups
individual particles of soil by their sizes and that distinguishes between gravels; particles with a
diameter greater than 2.0 mm, sands; particles whose diameter is between 2.0 and 0.063 mm, and
finally fines; silt and clay, particles smaller than 0.063 mm (Keefe, 2005). Keefe proposes to consider
several soil properties, see Figure 8, to assess the quality of soils and classify them.

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Soil type

Particle size
Soil density
distribution

Soils
assessment
Compressive Percentage
strength clay fraction

Soil Soil
expansiveness consistency

Figure 8: Factors to take into account for soil assessment according to (Keefe, 2005).

Keefe stated that the optimum particle size distribution to produce cob corresponds to a 30
to 40 % of stones and gravel, 25 to 30 % of fine and coarse sands, between 10 to 20 % of silts and
finally a percentage of about 10 to 25 of clay (Keefe, 1993). Clay is especially important in cob because
the intermolecular forces created between clay particles are almost the only source of cohesion of the
mixture.
Straw is added in elements of length between 10 and 20 cm, or in longer elements according
to (Keefe, 2005) and in proportions of 25 to 30 kg per meter cube of mixture (Jaquin, 2012). The
addition of straw is important because it facilitate the handling and mixing during the preparation of
the loam and its placement during the wall construction, accelerate the drying time and helps to
contain the opening of shrinkage cracks (Hamard, Cazacliu, Razakamanantsoa, & Morel, 2016) and
ultimately enhances the ductility and shear resistance of the wall, carrying with it unfortunately a
reduction in its compression strength (Lorenzo Miccoli et al., 2014). Straw is traditionally added within
the mixture and in some cases, it was also applied between lifts to provide a bond between layers.
Finally, the quantity of water advised to work with cob ranges between 10 to 12 % by weight.
Depending in the amount of water present in the mixture, loam can adopt several states of
consistency: liquid, plastic, semisolid and solid associated to the so called Atterberg limits (Minke,
2000). The amount of water influences mainly during the loam preparation process, the more water
is added the easier it would be to work with the material but the longer it would be necessary to wait
until cob dries out and attaints sufficient strength to support its self-weight and be placed to form the
walls (Keefe, 1993).

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For a more detailed description of cob, components, properties, construction process and
variations see (Watson & McCabe, 2011) and (Hamard et al., 2016).

Mechanical behaviour

Efforts to understand and study earthen structures have been mainly done focusing on the
traditional techniques defined as Adobe and Rammed earth. A long list of papers, conference
proceedings and research publications can be found thanks to the work of institutions and projects
such as the Getty Institute, Terra, SAHC, NIKER, among others. Even though some of the concepts
presented in this literature could be extrapolated to Cob structures the reality is that since almost no
specific research has been carried out in this field the path to understand the mechanical behaviour
of Cob is still not fully explored.
As said before, unfortunately no historical record exist where to find a technical description
of the properties of Irish Cob, neither in situ tests have been performed to obtain such parameters.
The values presented in Table 3 are taken from the literature and represent values of materials
reproduced in laboratories in Germany by different authors and regrettably represent the closest
approach that is available nowadays to understand the structural properties of Cob.

Table 3: Mechanical properties of Cob.

Tensile Bending Modulus of


Compressive Poissons Density
Author strength strength elasticity
strength (MPa) ratio (-) (kg/m3)
(MPa) (MPa) (MPa)
(Minke, - 1700
0.5 5.0 0 0 600 - 700
2000) 2200
(Ziegert, 1400
0.45 1.40 0.09 0.34 - 170 - 335 -
2003) 1700
(Lorenzo
Miccoli et 1.59 - - 651 0.15 1475
al., 2014)

Miccoli, who has performed the most complete studies available correspondent to Cob and
also comparing this technique with the other two most studied ones, Adobe and Rammed earth,
presents also values for the shear strength, 0.50 MPa and shear modulus, 420 MPa, of cob (Lorenzo
Miccoli et al., 2014).
From this study, two papers were presented later in which the structural behaviour of both
Adobe (Lorenzo Miccoli, Garofano, Fontana, & Mller, 2015) and Rammed earth (L. Miccoli, Oliveira,
Silva, Muller, & Schueremans, 2014) was studied using both experimental and numerical techniques
but unfortunately no numerical modelling has been presented yet for Cob. In his job, Miccoli
determined experimentally the stress-strain curves of Cob, as well as Adobe and Rammed earth, both

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under uniaxial compression and under diagonal compression, see Figure 9. He also reported the failure
mechanism and the crack patterns of the tested wallets, see Figure 10.

(a) (b)
Figure 9: Stress-strain curves of earthen materials, (a) uniaxial compression, (b) diagonal compression (Lorenzo
Miccoli et al., 2014).

(a) (b)
Figure 10: Failure mode and crack patterns of cob wallets, (a) uniaxial compression, (b) diagonal compression
(Lorenzo Miccoli et al., 2014).

From his work, he concluded that despite the low compressive strength of Cob, this material
presents a relatively good performance regarding the shear strength. Moreover, Cob appears to be
more flexible in comparison with the other two construction techniques, since it presents a relatively
ductile post-peak behaviour due to the fibres added to the mixture. He also identified that a scientific
study comparing mechanical and mineralogical properties of these earthen building techniques is still
missing (Lorenzo Miccoli et al., 2014).

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As described by Minke, binding forces are the cause of the development of strength in earthen
materials. These forces appear between the particles of clay in the soil and are function of the specific
surface of the clay particles, the greater it is the bigger the binding forces and therefore the
compressive/tensile strengths of the material would be. Such forces can be enhanced during the
mixing process; therefore, an optimum mixing time must be determined, and by the addition of animal
products or other additives. Other factors influencing strength are the particle size distribution, water
content, compaction and the addition of fibres (Minke, 2000).
Jaquin proposes the simple formula presented in EQ. 1 to obtain the shear strength of earthen
materials (Jaquin, 2012):
= + EQ. 1

Where:

o = Shear strength.
o c = Cohesive strength.
o ' = Effective angle of friction.
o ' = = Effective stress.
o = Total stress.
o u = Pore water pressure.

In fact, a more complex triphasic medium model is required to properly describe the
mechanical and hydraulic behaviour of soils. Since binding forces develop between clay particles and
the water around them, water bridge forces must be determined by the contact angle between
particles. To develop such models, unsaturated soil mechanic concepts need to be implemented.
To describe the structural behaviour of cob with the use of numerical methods Finite Element
Method models can be developed using both macro and micro-modelling approaches analogy to those
developed for Adobe and Rammed earth by Miccoli (Lorenzo Miccoli et al., 2015) and (L. Miccoli et al.,
2014). Alternative numerical techniques are also available nowadays and could provide interesting
results if implemented to describe the structural response of cob walls. Examples of such techniques
include DEM (Cundall & Strack, 1979), DLO (Gilbert & Smith, 2007) and SPH (Lucy, 1977).
The lack of a detailed description of Cob properties in the Irish context, and the still
unexplored field of numerical techniques and application of specific constitutive models to cob is what
has motivated a current research at Trinity College Dublin to explore such areas in a more insightful
way and present a more comprehensive picture of vernacular cob buildings in Ireland, trying to
replicate its structural behaviour with in-situ as well as laboratory tests and with the use of numerical
simulations.

20
Construction
Loam preparation

As said previously, three main components were traditionally used in Ireland to prepare the
loam: soil, straw and water. It was a slow and laborious process that sometimes was carried out by
human or animal forces. According to (Danaher, 1957a) the production of loam consisted in the
steps presented in Figure 11:

Loam preparation process

Top soil is cleared.

Clay is dug up with spades, all lumps broken and stones


picked out.

Water is added and the mixture is kneaded by stirring with


pitchforks and shovels, trampling with the bare feet or by
driving cattle through the clay.
Straw is added during the kneaded.
Clay mixture is left to temper for several days and turned
over or re-kneaded ocasionlly.

Figure 11: Loam preparation process.

According to (Macdonald & Doyle, 1997) it was considered that the material was ready to
be used when a sample of 18 in by 1 foot wont bulge and the construction of the walls could start.

Wall construction

The most completed description of the construction of earthen vernacular dwellings in


Ireland is provided by (Macdonald & Doyle, 1997) and (Danaher, 1957a). In fact the description of
both authors are complementary and provide a quite precise explanation that helps to better
understand the construction process. It is presented in Figure 12, the steps with a superscript (a)
correspond to the description of the former and the ones with the superscript (b) relate to the latter
author.Figure 12: Cob vernacular dwelling construction process.

21
Cob vernacular dwelling construction process

Site marked by flat stones at the corners (fairy folklore). (a)

A foundation of clay mortared stone is laid. (a) & (b)


9 in deep x 9 in above ground. (a)
Unevenly at the top to provide "interlocking" with the clay. (a)

Tempered clay is piled with pitchforks or shovels in layers of about 1 foot high over the stone
foundation and well beaten down (18 to 27 in thick). (a) & (b)
Each layer of clay is covered with straw, rushes or twigs and left to set. (b)
When it has set hard enough, usually after one day, a new layer is added and so on until walls reache
requisite height. (b)

Clay is pared with sharp spades, hay-knifes or other suitable implements. (b)

Creation of window and door opennings. (a) & (b)


Use of turf sods filling.
Use of wooden frames.

Chimney construction (4 ft wide x 3 ft deep, 1 sq ft opening). (a)


Stone (in better houses).
Timber covered with daub and cow manure.

Construction of hearth canopies with a mixture of clay, wattle or straw rope. (a)

Walls are whitewashed on both sides or plastered with a mixture of clay, chopped straw, animal
hair, lime or cowdung. (b)

Flat stones are placed between any timber, rafter or mantel beam and the supporting wall. (b)

Timber roofs (usually hipped or half-hipped) thathced with straw, reeds or rushes or heather (for
the poorer dwellings). (a)

Figure 12: Cob vernacular dwelling construction process.

22
Danaher places special importance to the overhang of the roof at the eaves as well as to the
coats of limewash in order to increase the durability of the cob walls (Danaher, 1957a) and (Danaher,
1970). He also reported the presence of stone on the corners, door and window surrounds, as well
as the existence of strong twigs or pieces of wood laid horizontally at the corners as an attempt to
strengthen those susceptible areas. According to him the main purposes of the stone foundation
are to protect the wall from ground moisture and discourage the activities of rats and mice.
Shaffrey reported similar ideas concerning the function of the stone foundation and the
lime-washed protection (Shaffrey, 1985). Besides from the typical use of white limewash, Pfeiffer
also reported the use of lime plasters as a popular tradition finish and the use of pigments to obtain
colours, especially in the towns of the south of Ireland and West Cork (Pfeiffer, 1990).
Gailey is another author that reports the folklore tradition of placing stones in the
construction site in order to obtain permission from the fairies to use the place to build the
dwelling (Gailey, 1984). He also reported the custom of bury horse skulls on the floors of the houses
in order to improve the acoustics of the rooms. This researcher also places significant importance in
construction features such as the overhanging of the eaves, the lime coats and the stone foundation
in order to improve the durability of the dwellings. He reported a lift height of two feet and a waiting
time of 10 days between lifts, figures different to those presented in Figure 12. On the other hand
he reported similar wall thickness values, between 0.45 to 0.61 m.
Keefe presented a thorough study of Cob buildings in the region of Devon, England, which
show several similarities with the Cob dwellings of Ireland. He described similar loam preparation
process, wall thicknesses of 0.6 m, lift heights of between 1 to 3 feet and similar construction
features such as the stone foundation, overhanging of the eaves and the use of lime-wash coats, all
of them aiming at increasing the durability of the constructions. He reported the construction of the
last major Cob building in Devon to date from the year of 1912, which implies a break in the
continuity of the earth building tradition in Devon of about sixty years, thus, old skills and techniques
were lost and have to be relearned again which implies that all new building projects on Cob tend
to be of experimental nature (Keefe, 1993). Similar phenomenon has happened in Ireland, the know-
how that used to be passed from generation to generation has gotten lost due to a decrease of
interest in cob buildings which has led to an almost complete fading of this vernacular technique
and nowadays efforts have to be done in order to relearn the lost knowledge in the country.

23
Modern practice

Current practice differs a with respect to traditional techniques basically in the fact that
preparation of loam nowadays can be carried out using mechanical devices, soil stabilization is more
common and it is no longer used as found in-situ and finally standardisation of the method is being
pursued in order to improve its properties and reduce its variability.
Minke reports the steps shown in fig xxx in order to produce the loam and also propose the
use of special treatments or additives to improve its characteristics (Minke, 2000).

Soaking, crushing and mixing


Water and aditives are aded to the mixture.
Manual or mechanical crushing and mixing are posible.

Sieving

Mechanical slurrying

Curing
Loam is allowed to stand for a period of 12 to 48 hours.

Thinning
Extra elements are added to the mixture in order to reduce the clay content.

Figure 13: Loam preparation process according to (Minke, 2000).

Keefe proposes two different construction process related with the height of the lifts which
are characterised as:

Slow: 300 to 600 mm lifts, waiting time of 7 days between lifts.


Quick: 50 to 150 mm lifts, continuous process, no need to wait for loam to dry
before proceeding with the construction of following lifts.

He suggests the use of straw between lifts to help drying out and provide cohesion between
lifts and a wall thickness of between 450 to 600 mm (Keefe, 2005). Keefe also advice to use a particle

24
size distribution for Cob as that represented by curve A in Figure 14, an optimum clay content
between 7 to 15 % and to avoid excessive amounts of silts.

Figure 14: Suggested optimum particle size distribution curves for (A) Cob and clay lump and (B) Rammed earth
and compressed soil blocks. From (Keefe, 2005).

In order to stabilise the soil and improve its characteristics he identified the most common
problems and recommended different solutions for every one of them, see Table 4.

Table 4: Typical soil characteristic problems and recommended solutions provided by Keefe (Keefe, 2005).

Typical soils characteristics problems Recommended solution


Mix sand and gravel from a builders merchant
Excessive amounts of clay.
or quarry.
Excessive amounts of coarse particles. Passing soil through a mesh.
Find a local source of clay-rich soil and mix it
Deficiency of clay.
with the in-situ material.
Excessive amounts of fines. Bring suitable material from elsewhere.

As to what concerns the loam preparation process, the same author proposes similar
actions to those recommended by (Minke, 2000), but he also treats other aspects of the process
such as the storage of the soil and its stabilisation into more detail, see Figure 15.

25
Local soil
Find the soil Imported soil
Modified soil

Needed under extreme conditions


(earthquakes, floods,etc.).
Soil
Portland cement and bitumen (non
stabilisation reversible) and lime (reversible)
aditions.
Must be ontained and remain
uncontaminated by other building
Storage of materials.
soils on site Must be kept in an air-dry conditon.
Storage area should be accesible by
machinery.
Physically demanding and time
Soil separation consuming process.
and mixing Process can be mechanised.
Crushing, sieving and mixing.

Use of organic
fibre
reinforcement
Acts as a binder.
Distributes shrinkage cracking.
Increase tensile strenght.
Long straw for cob, short (10 cm)
for bricks

Figure 15: Loam preparation process according to (Keefe, 2005).

He identifies three steps for the preparation of loam, compression, scrape up and turning,
and advices to repeat each step thrice either by using manual or mechanized methods. Straw has to
be added in quantities of 25 to 30 kg per meter cube of loam and the product has to be stored and
left overnight before being placed to build the walls to obtain better homogeneity, workability and
durability results (Keefe, 2005).
Keefe attribute two main functions to the stone foundation:

Provide firm level base to support the wall and the imposed loads.
Prevent moisture from adversely affecting the base of the earth wall.

They can be built either of reinforced concrete or with stone masonry, have to rise at least
500 mm from ground level, need to incorporate a damp proof course in order to comply with
modern construction codes, have to provide key for the cob walls, should never be rendered and
have to be allowed to breathe (Keefe, 2005).

26
Keefe propose as well some guidance for the construction process as well among them are
the following points (Keefe, 2005):

Lift highs should be equal to the width of the wall.


Use of timber formwork to form door and windows and constant monitoring to
ensure correct alignment.
Install spreader and support plates for lintels, floor and ceiling structural elements.
Build curved walls or provide reinforcement at corners to prevent shrinkage
cracking.
Use of earth-hair plaster for interiors and earth-lime plaster for exteriors, both
covered with coats of limewash applied in a yearly basis.
Use of alternative products such as Keim Granital in order to allow walls to breathe.

27
Decay and conservation
Decay

Decay and deterioration mechanisms that undermine the structural behaviour of buildings
can be of different nature. According to (Historic England, 2015) they can be classified as:

a) Inherent problems (material composition, building design, faulty construction).


b) Structural problems (soil settlements, dynamics).
c) Environmental problems (moisture and temperature, salts, pollution).
d) Biological deterioration (plants, bacteria and fungi, animals, birds and insects).
e) Other causes (building use, inappropriate interventions, unforeseen events).

Specific decay mechanisms affecting earthen traditional vernacular buildings in Ireland are
reported by (Danaher, 1957a). Due to their similarities, analogous mechanisms are reported by Keefe
in his study of earthen constructions in Devon, UK and shown in Figure 16 (Keefe, 1993).

Spreading of
the roof
structure

Abrasion and
Racking
erosion

Causes of
decay and Movement of
Rodent
the stone
damage structural plinth
failure

Dampness in
Neglect of
the stone
thatch
plinth
Raising of
external
ground level

Figure 16: Causes of decay and structural failure in traditional earthen buildings after (Keefe, 1993).

From all the possible factors that may affect the earthen structures in Ireland, those related
to water are the most critical ones. Such factors are very common on the Island and are a result of the
particular meteorological conditions exposed in a previous chapter. The negative effects of water in
the structure are commonly foster by either neglect, inappropriate maintenance and repair or to

28
misguided alterations. Earthen walls have to be allowed to breathe. Dampness in cob walls can
manifest in several ways:

Excess moisture.
Rising damp.
Penetrating damp.

According to Keefe (Keefe, 1993), rising damp is not of concern in Cob walls since it is coarsely
textured and contains many pore spaces, therefore capillary movement is very restricted. But this is
not a shared opinion among other authors who recognize rising damp as an issue and even provide
some advice or guidance in order to limit its negative effects on the stability of the structure, see
(Minke, 2000).
The most relevant inherent defects associated with Cob original construction methods and
material properties can be identified as (Keefe, 2005):

Bad graded soils wont provide enough compressive strength and resistance against
moisture.
Excessive clay content can cause swelling and shrinkage (cracks formation).
Insufficient organic fibers wont be able to avoid the presence of cracks in key points
of the structure (corners and openings). On the other hand, excess of organic fibers
can cause weak points in the structure.
Early foundations and plinths were not well constructed due to the lack of appropriate
construction materials.

Another major issue concerning earthen structures is the one arising from inappropriate later
interventions and the materials and repair methods applied to carry out the works. Opening
enlargement would weaken the structure, original thatch roof replacement for another material often
entails a reduction in the length of overhang at the eaves thus eliminating a paramount protection
feature for the earth walls against rain, the use of modern incompatible materials would undermine
the local behaviour of the structure, the application of damp proof courses or impervious coats aiming
to prevent water from getting into the wall can actually have a negative consequence preventing
water from getting out of the wall thus weakening it (Keefe, 2005).
Earth walled buildings require more frequent maintenance than those of another material
such as concrete or steel, being the roof the element that deserves more attention. Thatch, and in the
case gutters, hopper heads and downpipes are also part of the drainage system, should be constantly
monitored and maintained (Keefe, 2005).

29
In his research Miccoli concluded that increased water content would not only weakens the
soil but also can initiate the disintegration of the fibres thus undermining the structural response of
the walls. The present of fibres in Cob is also an stimulus for insects and rodents to attack the wall and
cause damage (Lorenzo Miccoli et al., 2014).
Finally, it is important to underline once again the paramount importance of construction
features such as the stone foundation, roof overhang at the eaves and the lime coats in order to avoid
or reduce the negative effect of water in the structure.

Conservation

Why?
The value of vernacular architecture has been recognized by the international community
since the end of the 20th century as well as the main factors that threatens its preservation worldwide
(ICOMOS, 1999). In Ireland unfortunately little or no value is placed on vernacular architecture,
moreover, there is very little academic or technical research to provide assistance to owners on how
to maintain this irreplaceable link with the past (Macdonald & Doyle, 1997).
Traditional earthen vernacular buildings in Ireland serve as historical evidence of its past and
should be maintained in a permanent basis making use of them as advised in the Venice Charter
(ICOMOS, 1964). Such structures should also be preserved taking into account its socio-economic
importance since they provide the same service of a modern house, have a monetary value and
contribute with the total housing stock of the country. Furthermore, they also may have nostalgic or
sentimental value for their owners and have a hand-made character that plays an important role in
defining a unique local identity and sense of place for the nation (Keefe, 2005).
Nowadays the few restoration and conservation efforts made to preserve such a valuable
asset in Ireland are mainly carried out by nostalgic returning emigrants of by people that tries to
escape from the stress of the cities. Pfeiffer states that ideally, cabins and cottages should be restored
and occupied by people, serving their original aim of providing shelter and not just used as nice
features to embellish the landscape (Pfeiffer, 1990). Furthermore, Gailey proposes the use of tourism
in Ireland as a mean to boost conservation of vernacular dwellings, together with other measurements
that may help to this purpose such as the reinforcement of the current preservation legislation, the
creation of museums, like the Ulster Folk Museum in Belfast and the reconstruction of houses
belonging to historical characters (Gailey, 1984).
Irish vernacular architecture construction techniques should also be taught and researched in
a modern context in the Universities of the country, otherwise they would be doomed to disappear in
the near future and with it important knowledge and skills to maintain and preserve the existent
heritage (Danaher & Irish Tourist Board., 1975).

30
How?
By applying the conservation principles agreed upon the Venice Charter, see Figure 17:

Repair

Maintenance and Minimum


monitoring intervention

Conservation
Documentation Structure
principles

Visibility and
Materials
reversability

Fixtures

Figure 17: Monuments and historical construction conservation principles (ICOMOS, 1964).

And furthermore, by following the specialized practice guidelines for the conservation of
vernacular buildings published on the Mexico Charter which places special importance to the respect
of the cultural and intangible values as well as to the traditional character of vernacular heritage, by
implementing an approach that focuses on its conservation as a group or settlement of an specific
region or community rather than to isolated cases, and aims to its integration with the landscape
(ICOMOS, 1999).
Generalized technical advice to select materials, inspect and assess the condition of the
building, and design interventions for conservation, maintenance, repairing and/or strengthening of
earthen structures is provided by several authors, see (Gailey, 1984), (Minke, 2000), (Keefe, 2005),
(Jaquin, 2012) and (Historic England, 2015). Interventions on traditional vernacular earthen buildings
should be conservative and follow a sympathetic approach.

Others

Seismicity
After a review of the seismic hazard zonation in the context of the Eurocode 8 it was concluded
that Ireland lies overall in the regions classified as very low seismicity and low seismicity.
Unfortunately no onshore seismic zonation map with peak ground accelerations is currently available,
but an offshore seismic zonation map has been created in coordination with Norwegian authorities,

31
see Figure 18. In general seismic forces are neglected in Ireland for structural design purposes. For
more information about seismic hazard in Ireland see (Solomos, Pinto, & Dimova, 2008).

(a) (b)
Figure 18: Seismicity in Ireland and the UK, (a) Seismic Intensity Onshore Map, (b) Seismic Hazard Offshore Map.

Environmental considerations
Macdonald reported a project presented by Frank Gibney to the Irish Government to build
dwellings made out of earth which according to him would be superior to many modern, thin walled
cottages in terms of design, construction and insulation:
Granted attainment of hygienic standards, thick and white-walled clay-built cottage, long
and low, hugging the soil from whence it sprang and capped with its rolling roof of thatch, could remain
a characteristic feature of the Irish landscape.
Macdonald also attributed the following environmental advantages to earthen buildings
(Macdonald & Doyle, 1997):

Do not contribute with deforestation.


Do not consume any non-renewable energy.
Do not require transportation.
Do not contribute with the degradation of the landscape.
Use very little water.
Do not produce any industrial or chemical waste.

32
And finally, some of the conclusions made after the National Conference on Earth Buildings of
the UK in 1995 stated that (Watson & Harries, 1995):
Building with earth emerges as one of the efficient, short-term means of production of
housing and public facilities.
The material is widely available locally, it is economical to use and has the additional
advantage of being both culturally and climatically suitable it represents the essence of sustainable
development.

33
Conclusions
Even though meteorological conditions are adverse for the development of earthen
constructions, in Ireland earth has been used as a construction material for more than 4000 years.
Remaining earthen buildings are of vernacular nature, are mainly represented by the construction
technique known as Cob and correspond to the domestic category type. Typical dwellings are
characteristically long, rectangular in plan, one storey, solid buildings with steep thatched roofs and
lime washed walls with very specific regional variations in design.
Traditional earthen vernacular buildings in Ireland serve as historical evidence of its past, and
have important socio-economic as well as intangible values attached to them. Unfortunately little or
no value is placed on vernacular architecture and there is little academic or technical research to
provide assistance on this field. Of special importance is the lack of a detailed description of traditional
Cob mechanical properties, and the still unexplored field of numerical techniques and application of
specific constitutive models to this type of material.
Nowadays the few restoration and conservation efforts made to preserve such a valuable
asset in Ireland are mainly carried out by nostalgic returning emigrants of by people that tries to
escape from the stress of the cities. Conservation proposals encompass the use of tourism, the
reinforcement of the current preservation legislation, the creation of museums and the reconstruction
of houses belonging to historical characters.
Technical training is also of paramount importance and should be taught and researched in a
modern context in the Universities of the country, to avoid the disappearance of the Irish vernacular
tradition and with it, irreplaceable knowledge and skills.
Interventions on vernacular buildings should follow a conservative and sympathetic approach
in agreement with the principles and guidance stablished on international conservation charters and
research results published by several authors.

34
References
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of Ireland, 87(1), 61-74.
Danaher, K. (1957b). Some distribution patterns in Irish folk life. Bealoideas, 25, 108-123.
Danaher, K. (1970). The pleasant land of Ireland. Cork, Ire.: Mercier Press.
Danaher, K., & Irish Tourist Board. (1975). Ireland's traditional houses. Dublin: Bord Filte.
Gailey, A. (1984). Rural houses of the north of Ireland. Edinburgh: Donald.
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Keefe, L. (2005). Earth building : methods and materials, repair and conservation. London: Taylor &
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Journal, 32(12), 1013-1024.
Macdonald, F., & Doyle, P. (1997). Ireland's earthen houses. Ireland: A. & A. Farmar.
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ireland/rainfall.asp
Miccoli, L., Garofano, A., Fontana, P., & Mller, U. (2015). Experimental testing and finite element
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Miccoli, L., Mller, U., & Fontana, P. (2014). Mechanical behaviour of earthen materials: a comparison
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327 - 339.
Miccoli, L., Oliveira, D. V., Silva, R. A., Muller, U., & Schueremans, L. (2014). Static behaviour of rammed
earth: experimental testing and finite element modelling. Materials and structures.
Minke, G. (2000). Earth construction handbook : the building material earth in modern architecture.
Southampton: Wit.
O'Reilly, B. (2011). Terra Europae
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Shaffrey, P. (1985). Irish countryside buildings : everyday architecture in the rural landscape. Dublin:
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Solomos, G., Pinto, A., & Dimova, S. (2008). A review of the seismic hazard zonation in national building
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35
List of figures
FIGURE 1: RAINFALL IN IRELAND (MET-EIREANN, 2017). ................................................................................................... 1
FIGURE 2: BR NA BINNE UNESCO SITE. (A) NEWGRANGE TUMULUS EXTERIOR, (B) INTERNAL STRUCTURE OF NEOLITHIC TUMULUS
CONSTRUCTIONS SHOWING A COMBINATION OF EARTH AND STONE LAYERS (IRELAND, 2017). ........................................... 4

FIGURE 3: MACDONALD AND DOYLE CLASSIFICATION OF VERNACULAR HOUSES IN IRELAND (MACDONALD & DOYLE, 1997) . .......... 9
FIGURE 4: TRADITIONAL IRISH VERNACULAR DWELLING (DANAHER & IRISH TOURIST BOARD., 1975). ....................................... 11
FIGURE 5: EARTHEN BUILDINGS DISTRIBUTION (O'REILLY, 2011). ....................................................................................... 14
FIGURE 6: EARTHEN CONSTRUCTION TECHNIQUES. ........................................................................................................... 15
FIGURE 7: TRADITIONAL COB COMPONENTS. ................................................................................................................... 16
FIGURE 8: FACTORS TO TAKE INTO ACCOUNT FOR SOIL ASSESSMENT ACCORDING TO (KEEFE, 2005)........................................... 17
FIGURE 9: STRESS-STRAIN CURVES OF EARTHEN MATERIALS, (A) UNIAXIAL COMPRESSION, (B) DIAGONAL COMPRESSION (LORENZO
MICCOLI ET AL., 2014). ..................................................................................................................................... 19
FIGURE 10: FAILURE MODE AND CRACK PATTERNS OF COB WALLETS, (A) UNIAXIAL COMPRESSION, (B) DIAGONAL COMPRESSION
(LORENZO MICCOLI ET AL., 2014). ...................................................................................................................... 19
FIGURE 11: LOAM PREPARATION PROCESS...................................................................................................................... 21
FIGURE 12: COB VERNACULAR DWELLING CONSTRUCTION PROCESS. .................................................................................... 22
FIGURE 13: LOAM PREPARATION PROCESS ACCORDING TO (MINKE, 2000). ......................................................................... 24
FIGURE 14: SUGGESTED OPTIMUM PARTICLE SIZE DISTRIBUTION CURVES FOR (A) COB AND CLAY LUMP AND (B) RAMMED EARTH AND
COMPRESSED SOIL BLOCKS. FROM (KEEFE, 2005). .................................................................................................. 25

FIGURE 15: LOAM PREPARATION PROCESS ACCORDING TO (KEEFE, 2005). ........................................................................... 26


FIGURE 16: CAUSES OF DECAY AND STRUCTURAL FAILURE IN TRADITIONAL EARTHEN BUILDINGS AFTER (KEEFE, 1993). ................. 28
FIGURE 17: SEISMICITY IN IRELAND AND THE UK, (A) SEISMIC INTENSITY ONSHORE MAP, (B) SEISMIC HAZARD OFFSHORE MAP. ... 32

36
List of tables
TABLE 1: COTTAGE PRICES BASED ON THE LOCATION AND MATERIAL REPORTED BY (HUTTON, 1892). .......................................... 8
TABLE 2: MAIN TYPOLOGY VARIATIONS OF VERNACULAR DWELLINGS IN IRELAND (DANAHER, 1957B). ...................................... 12
TABLE 3: MECHANICAL PROPERTIES OF COB. .................................................................................................................. 18
TABLE 4: TYPICAL SOIL CHARACTERISTIC PROBLEMS AND RECOMMENDED SOLUTIONS PROVIDED BY KEEFE (KEEFE, 2005). ............. 25

37