How do you build your own Mud Brick home?

What is Mud Brick Construction?

Mud brick building is also known by the alternative name `adobe'. There are other ways of building with mud apart from `adobe'. These will be considered briefly in this course. Of all the mud building techniques, `adobe' or `mud brick' is the most foolproof. For the novice, there is not a lot which can go wrong if you choose to build with `adobe'. This course has been written with the assumption that you, the student, are a beginner in `building with earth'. If you do have some experience, you should let your tutor know so that they might consider this as they guide you through the course.

Two of the most common types of `earth building' are:

·    Adobe (i.e. mud brick) involves making bricks (i.e. blocks) out of mud; allowing them to dry and then laying them to form a wall; the same way that any other type of brick would be laid.

·    Pise (i.e. rammed earth) involves forming a framework to encase the earth (i.e. two timber walls are built perhaps 300 mm or so apart) with the ramming earth between these two boards. Once one section of wall is completed, the framework can be moved higher and another section of wall built.

These are discussed in greater depth later on in the lesson.

ADVANTAGES OF MUD BRICK CONSTRUCTIONS

There are several major attractions associated with earth buildings:

Cost Savings

Earth building can be a very cheap way of building. This is not necessarily always the case however. If you become too ambitious in your plans and design a building full of cathedral ceilings and stained glass, you are likely to find that any savings you might make by using mud are offset in the added expense of these features).

Self Satisfaction

Earth building can be so very simple that (with adobe at least) a beginner can attempt and successfully build his own home. The self satisfaction to be obtained from building your own home should not be underrated.

Aesthetics

Earth buildings have an appearance which is very unique. Many people build out of mud simply because they like the look of it.

ECO Friendliness

Earth is a natural material that can create a more environmentally friendly building. If done properly it can place less demand on planetary resources than other types of construction both in the actual building and in the running costs (eg. You are not chopping down trees to build, or burning fuel to create bricks. Thick earth walls are great for insulation, reducing heating and cooling costs).

Human Health

If done properly an earth building can be constructed with less use of toxins. You may not need pesticides to control termites. You may not need so many plastics, adhesives and other building materials that emit toxins into the air. An earth building can however be dusty if not constructed properly; and that can lead to problems with dust mites, allergies etc.

When it comes to making an earth building people friendly, you do need to pay attention to how things are constructed. Just because it’s an earth building does not mean it is automatically going to be a healthier place for you to live in.

HISTORICAL NOTES ON EARTH CONSTRUCTION

In early history man needed to construct some form of shelter from the harsh environment. If located in rocky areas, strong solid but crude building could be erected. If however there where no rocks or timbers available for building, then soil was the only alternative. The walling for buildings were built of crude soil blocks prepared from a mixture of earth and water dried in the sun. Straw, reeds, grass, twigs, leaves, etc. were usually added to prevent cracking of the blocks during the drying process.

  • There is evidence that soil constructions existed at the end of the Neolithic period.
  • Ruins in many countries such as China, India and throughout Asia indicate structures of soil construction.
  • Countries and ancient times known to utilise earth constructions include: Babylon, Mesopotamia, Assyria, Sargon, Persia, Asia Minor, Syria, Palestine, Crete, Ionic Archipelago, North Africa, Egypt, Israel, Greece and Italy. The Romans then introduced the concept to the Europeans (French, Germans and the English).
  • The rammed earth method of construction was introduced by the Romans to the French, where the French name "pise" originated for this method of construction.
  • In the Middle Ages of central Europe, the wattle and daub method was extensively used due to the availability of materials.
  • On the American continent, development occurred independently. Ruins of various earth structures are known in the south west of the United States, Mexico, etc. and also in South America. Spaniards introduced the abode method of construction into Mexico and the South American countries.
  • During the 17th and 18th century, rammed earth construction was extensively used for the erection of various buildings in France.
  • The extent of earth constructions declined during the second part of the 19th century, particularly in towns with the introduction of more modern materials such as burnt clay bricks and concrete.
  • Soil construction is also practiced in Australia where there were reported over 10,000 buildings by the 1970’s.
  • Developments over this last century has been centered on the improved design of construction, methods to extend life of structures, surface coating development, biology design and ways to improve properties of the earth used.

     

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