News & Current Affairs

Reemergence of Earth Construction

By: Max
November 9, 2011

Changing the way we think about mud

You can make adobe bricks, use it as a plaster, ram it, or dig into it. For centuries, all around the world, people have been building structures with earth. It is estimated today that about half of the world’s population, on six continents, either lives in or works in earth construction. The oldest excavated adobe structure, found in Jericho, dates back to 8300 BCE.

Debunking the Myths of Mud

At this point you may be thinking, “Sure, I understand that people live in mud structures because they cannot afford to build with modern materials.” This is in part true, but what is so wrong with building with cheaper materials? It just so happens that there are many benefits to building with earth in comparison to the modern materials, including that it provides great insulation due to the thermal properties of earth, it can provide increased sound insulation, it can be better for the environment by reducing environmental impacts and reducing traveling distance (and costs) and like stated above, it can be cheaper!

Okay,” you might say, “but I am still not convinced.” This is where questions about building with mud usually get technical. What about the integral strength of the building? What about maintenance? What about rain? All of these questions and more can be answered with incorporating modern techniques of building, including the use of modern materials. The purpose of this is not to promote a type of development that once existed in ancient Jericho, but to encourage people to rethink the way we develop today and to think through the materials they use before they decide to build a structure. It is possible to reduce the amount of modern materials we use, particularly cement, with materials that make more sense, are more environmentally friendly and again can be more affordable!

Traditional mud building with modern engineering at Kibbutz Lotan

Mud Building at the Auja Environmental Center

Earth construction is part of the region’s shared heritage and it has a much smaller carbon footprint than building with cement, which has become the most popular method of construction in the area. At FoEME’s Auja Environmental Center, located just 20 miles north of Jericho, we are working to reintroduce building with mud as an environmentally friendly approach to building.

The Auja Environmental Center has taken its first step in joining the community of earth builders in the region (including Kibbutz Lotan’s Center for Creative Ecology) by conducting a crucial test to determine what combination of clay, sand and straw will make the best plaster and bricks. In the near future we will be constructing several new model structures from mud at the Center.

Mud testing at the Auja Environmental Center

Come and visit FoEME‘s Auja Environmental Center to learn more about building with mud!

— This blog was contributed by Joshua Zuckerman, FoEME EcoCenters Consultant based in Tel Aviv

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