The warmth and wisdom of mud buildings

There are a lot of resources given by nature for free - all we need is our sensitivity to see them and our creativity to use them, says architect Anna Heringer. Heringer uses low-tech materials like mud and bamboo to create structures from China to Switzerland, Bangladesh and beyond. Visit an awe-inspiring school, an elegant office, and cozy social spaces -- all built from natural materials - in this delightful talk.

I was visiting my mother's birthplace in mid-summer. It was insanely hot. We went inside this mud house, which was partially in ruins already... but it was fresh inside! I can't really put it into words. The feel inside a mud house is completely different. It felt so comfortable. I'd like to live in one someday.
Earth structure materials may be as simple as mud, or mud mixed with straw to make cob. Sturdy dwellings may be also built from sod or turf. Soil may be stabilized by the addition of lime or cement, and may be compacted into rammed earth. Construction is faster with pre-formed adobe or mudbrickscompressed earth blocksearthbags or fired clay bricks


Coursed mud construction is one of the oldest approaches to building walls. Moist mud is formed by hand to make the base of a wall, and allowed to dry. More mud is added and allowed to dry to form successive courses until the wall is complete. With puddled mud, a hand-made mud form is filled with wetter mud and allowed to dry. In Iran, puddled mud walls are called chine construction. Each course is about 18 to 24 inches (460 to 610 mm) thick, and about 18 to 24 inches (460 to 610 mm) high. Typically the technique is used for garden walls but not for house construction, presumably because of concern about the strength of walls made in this way. A drawback to the approach is that a lot of time can be spent waiting for each course to dry. Another technique, used in areas where wood is plentiful, is to build a wood frame house and to infill it with mud, primarily to provide insulation. In parts of England a similar technique was used with cob.

Mud brick or adobe brick

Mudbricks or Adobe bricks are preformed modular masonry units of sun-dried mud that were invented at different times in different parts of the world as civilization developed. Construction with bricks avoids the delays while each course of puddled mud dries. Wall murals show that adobe production techniques were highly advanced in Egypt by 2500 BC. Adobe construction is common throughout much of Africa today. Adobe bricks are traditionally made from sand and clay mixed with water to a plastic consistency, with straw or grass as a binder. The mud is prepared, placed in wooden forms, tamped and leveled, and then turned out of the mold to dry for several days. The bricks are then stood on end to air-cure for a month or more.

In the southwest United States and Mexico adobe buildings had massive walls and were rarely more than two stories high. Adobe mission churches were never more than about 35 feet (11 m). Since adobe surfaces are fragile, coatings are used to protect them. These coatings, periodically renewed, have included mud plaster, lime plaster, whitewash or stucco. Adobe walls were historically made by laying the bricks with mud mortar, which swells and shrinks at the same rate as the bricks when wetted or dried, heated or cooled. Modern adobe may be stabilized with cement and bonded with cement mortars, but cement mortars will cause unstabilized adobe bricks to deteriorate due to the different rates of thermal expansion and contraction

Thanks to Wikipedia: Earth Structure

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