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Sustainable construction: Enhancing earth brick strength and durability through interdisciplinary analyses and biomimicry

Project Description

This multidisciplinary project spanning built environment engineering, archaeology and biological sciences is concerned with a novel sustainable technique for enhancing the strength and durability of unfired earth bricks. Earth is a material that has made a comeback into modern construction. For example in Cornwall, monolithic rammed earth has been used with success for the walls of the entrance building of the Eden Project. Unfired earth bricks can be considered in place of energy intensive alternatives as a sustainable and low carbon construction material. In addition, in developing countries, unfired earth bricks are the main construction material for millions of people. However, such bricks typically lack durability, strength, have poor structural stability and suffer from extensive damage during floods and wet weather. Moreover, a major concern of the construction industry across the globe is the vast volume of carbon dioxide emissions during product manufacture. Because unfired earth bricks are air-dried, the process results in substantial savings in carbon emissions and embodied energy. However, current unfired bricks are not as strong or resilient as fired bricks. Our project aims to address this problem.

The aim of this work is to use a novel sustainable approach to enhance the strength and durability of unfired earth bricks through interdisciplinary studies and biomimicry.

Unfired earth brick walls are a sustainable and construction material which can be used by both the developed and developing countries. If properly manufactured, they can be used internally and externally. Overall this research project will lead to novel stabilisers which have the potential to increase the compressive strength of unfired earth bricks, enhance the durability and decrease the rate of erosion. This can lead to a substantial reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from firing earth bricks, and in developing countries could have a significant impact on health and quality of life.

Funding Notes

A minimum of a 2:1 first degree in engineering, architecture, biological sciences or chemistry

How good is research at University of Reading in Architecture, Built Environment and Planning?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 34.90

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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