West of England Metals and Materials Association
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Earth Buildings

Traditional and Modern Innovations in Earthen Construction in the UK

Prof Peter Walker, University of Bath

Venue: Burwalls Centre for Continuing Education

Wednesday March 5, 2008 at 19:30

Unfired clay or earth is one of the oldest building materials with use in ancient China and India. Some estimates suggest that one-third of humanity lives in buildings of earth. Traditional techniques include adobe block masonry (sun dried mud bricks), cob (stacked wet clay and straw), rammed earth (compacted in-situ sub-soil) and wattle and daub. There are an estimated 500 000 occupied earthen buildings in the UK, most built before the 20th century.

Because of its low embodied carbon and energy, and other favourable environmental characteristics, earth construction has been experiencing a renaissance in recent years. Modern innovations include much thinner walls of unfired clay.

In outline, the presentation will cover:

  1. traditional earth construction techniques in the UK
  2. findings from recent projects using traditional techniques
  3. advantages and drawbacks of earth building in a modern context
  4. the characteristics of clays in outline
  5. modern innovations with unfired clay, including results from current research at the University of Bath

Earth Wall

Earth Wall at the Eden Centre, Bodelva, Cornwall

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