As well as informing new build designs the team hopes their findings could also aid the conservation of ancient rammed earth buildings by putting methods in place to protect against too much water entering a structure, which would reduce its strength. Paul Jaquin, a researcher on the project is now working for an engineering consultancy (Ramboll, UK) on new earth building projects around the world, using this research to better engineer buildings.
Research project leader, Dr Charles Augarde, of Durham University's School of Engineering, said: "We know that rammed earth can stand the test of time but the source of its strength has not been understood properly to date.
"Without this understanding we cannot effectively conserve old rammed earth or make economic designs for new build.
"Our initial tests point to its main source of strength being linked to its water content.
"By understanding more about this we can begin to look at the implications for using rammed earth as a green material in the design of new buildings and in the conservation of ancient buildings that were constructed using the technique."
Rammed earth was developed in ancient China around 2,000 years before Christ, when people used the technique to build walls around their settlements and the technique spread throughout the world - as documented in another recent publication by the researchers linking up with Dr Chris Gerrard, of the Department of Archaeology, at Durham University (*).
Parts of the Great Wall of China and the Alhambra at Granada in Spain were built using rammed earth.
In the UK the technique was used to build experimental low cost housing, in Amesbury, Wiltshire, following the end of the First World War, and it is a recognised building method in parts of Australia and the USA.
The popularity of eco-friendly homes showcased on
|Contact: Leighton Kitson|