Simple and Sustainable Earthen Architecture: Innovative Buildings from Local Materials

By GH Hossein Memarian, Asgharmohammad Moradi and Narges Dehghan.

Published by The Sustainability Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

In nearly all hot-arid and temperate climates, earth has always been the most prevalent building material. Even today, one third of the human population resides in earthen houses; in developing countries this figure is more than one half. It has proven impossible to fulfill the immense requirements for shelter in the developing countries with industrial building materials, i.e. brick, concrete and steel, nor with industrialized construction techniques. In the developing countries, requirements for shelter can be met only by using local building materials and relying on do-it-yourself construction techniques. Earth is the most important natural building material, and it is available in most regions of the world. It is frequently obtained directly from the building site when excavating foundations or basements. In the industrialized countries, careless exploitation of resources and centralized capital combined with energy-intensive production is not only wasteful; it also pollutes the environment and increases unemployment. In these countries, earth is being revived as a building material. Earth as a building material comes in a thousand different compositions, and can be variously processed. Loam, or clayey soil, as it is referred to scientifically, has different names when used in various applications, for instance rammed earth, soil blocks, mud bricks or adobe. Increasingly, people when building homes demand energy- and cost-effective buildings that emphasize a healthy, balanced indoor climate. They are coming to realize that mud, as a natural building material, is superior to industrial building materials such as concrete, brick and lime-sandstone. The data and experiences and the specific realizations of earth construction contained in this paper may be used as guidelines for a variety of construction processes and possible applications by engineers, architects, entrepreneurs, craftsmen and public policy-makers who find themselves attempting, either from desire or necessity, to come to terms with humanity’s oldest building material. Then in concluding the paper, various buildings of this kind are documented. They can be traditional or modern, simple or sophisticated, humble or exclusive. This paper deals with earth as a building material, and provides a summary survey of all of its applications and construction techniques. Written in response to an increasing worldwide interest in building with earth. No theoretical treatise, however, can substitute for practical experience involving actually building with earth.

Keywords: Earthen Architecture, Local Material, Sustainable Architecture

The International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability, Volume 6, Issue 5, pp.43-70. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 2.646MB).

GH Hossein Memarian

ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, Iran University of Science and Technology, tehran, Tehran, Iran (Islamic Republic of)

Associate Professor, 1985: Statal Architectural Studio, Architect, 1986: School of Architecture of University of Science and Technology, 1990:Ministry of Culture and Higher Education of Islamic Republic of Iran, Consultant, 1999: Research Manager, School of Architecture of University of Science and Technology, University of Science and Technology, Tehran, Tehran, Iran (Islamic Republic of) School of Architecture. the University of Science and Technology of Tehran. Gh. Hossein Memarian taught from 1985 to 1994 at School of Architecture of University of Science and Technology at Tehran. He was trained as an architect at Genoa University in Italy. His Ph.D. has been taken at School of Architecture, the Manchester University in 1998. He has held the chair of Architectural Research Center at School of Architecture of University of Science and Technology from 1987 to 1994.

Asgharmohammad Moradi

Iran University of Science and Technology, tehran, Tehran, Iran (Islamic Republic of)

Narges Dehghan

Academic Member, Candidate for Ph.D. in Architecture, Iran University of Science and Technology, Tehran, Tehran, Iran (Islamic Republic of)

Narges Dehghan Having graduated with a Bachelor of Art in Architecture from Iran University of Science and Technology, I was interested in understanding more fully the linkages between the different aspects of sustainable architecture. Doing a Masters of Arts in Sustainable Architecture at the University of Science and Technology. The decision to read for a PhD is based on the well-established need for effective communication and participation in understanding ill-defined situations within the context of sustainable development. Sustainable development is an ambiguous goal rather than a measurable target. However, if current knowledge and the real concerns of the stakeholders involved/affected are not incorporated into the appraisal process, then just the experts’ views on what the future directions are or should be are unlikely to produce sustainable outcomes.


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