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Research Looks to Improve Rammed Earth

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

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Researchers at the University of British Columbia are researching putting a modern twist on an old building method.

UBC Okanagan engineering professor Sumi Siddiqua and graduate student Priscila Barreto have been researching the resurgence in rammed earth construction, and think they have come up with a way to make it better.

University of British Columbia

UBC Okanagan engineering professor Sumi Siddiqua (right) and graduate student Priscila Barreto have been researching the resurgence in rammed earth construction, and think they have come up with a way to make it better.

“Conventional cement construction is the principal building material for buildings, roads, pipelines and bridges around the world,” said Siddiqua. “But builders today are seeking cheaper and more environmentally responsible construction materials. One such material may be compressed—or rammed—earth.”

The compressed earth blocks are typically placed in molds and bound by clay. And while a substantial amount of the earth’s population still live or work in rammed-earth structures, the construction material faces significant limitations. That’s where the research comes in.

Published in the journal Construction and Building Materials, Siddiqua and Barreto tested the addition of calcium carbide residue and fly ash as binding agents in the rammed earth. They found that when it’s cured for 60 days, walls containing those binding agents were 25 times stronger.

“The core of our challenge was to pinpoint the strongest composition of binding materials,” said Siddiqua. “While research shows that some amount of clay is required to stabilize soils, having a mechanism to better bind the soil grains is the key.”

Barreto added that a goal for the research was to give people who rely on such building materials a little more stability while also providing a better choice for builders who are looking to use more sustainable, local materials.

“We targeted rammed earth structures because local construction engineers have approached us looking to improve traditional rammed earth structures with stabilization techniques like ours,” she said.

   

Tagged categories: Building materials; Good Technical Practice; North America; Research and development

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