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Special Issue "Engineering Sustainable Building Materials: Advancing the Structural Performance of Earth-based Technologies"

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A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 June 2010)

Special Issue Editors

Guest Editor
Dr. Esther Obonyo

Rinker School of Building Construction, University of Florida, PO Box 115703 (or Rinker 304), Gainesville, FL 32611-5703, USA
Website | E-Mail
Fax: +1 352 392 9606
Interests: sustainable building technologies; green building materials; earth-based bricks; sustainable composite and hybrid materials; sustainability development in developing countries; intelligent information and knowledge-based systems; productivity improvement
Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Charles Kibert

Powell Center for Construction & Environment, Rinker School of Building Construction, University of Florida, PO Box 115703 (or Rinker 304), Gainesville, FL 32611-5703, USA
Website | E-Mail
Phone: 352 273 1189
Fax: +1 352 392 9606
Interests: construction waste management; environmental impacts of construction, construction and demolition (C&D) debris recycling, sustainable development and construction

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Earth-based technologies for building systems include adobe, cob, straw and compressed earth bricks. Earth architecture and construction when properly executed results in buildings that are economical, energy-saving, environmentally-friendly and more sustainable. Earth-based technologies have been successfully being used for load bearing purposes in some tall structures. Examples include the 175 feet-high Al-Muhdhar Mosque in Tarim – Yemen. It is however not possible to replicate the technology used in such applications throughout the globe. The exaggerated thickness of earth walls which give such buildings thermal mass works only in the hot and dry climate; they would not be appropriate for hot and humid regions. With the latter, in addition to securing thermal comfort for the occupants, the earth-based elements must also resist the combined effect of moisture and temperature. In general, key areas of concern include lack of durability especially as far as resisting hygrothermal loads is concerned and low performance with respect to physical and mechanical properties. There are also significant variations in the performance of earth-based building elements depending on the source of the soil, manufacturing methods and climatic conditions. Such factors have limited the structural use of earth-based technologies around the globe. Although the use of such technologies constitutes a sustainable approach to erecting building, several issues will have to be thoroughly investigated before the number of people using earth-based technologies can reach a critical mass. This special issue will focus on identifying strategies that have been used successfully to address the existing concerns. Papers will address a wide spectrum of topics including but not restricted to 1) defining potential strategies for enhancing the physical and mechanical properties of earth-based technologies for building systems in different parts of the world; 2) Critiquing different experiences with the use of earth-based technologies and the structural challenges that limit their widespread adoption based on selected case studies of earth-based technologies; 3) Identifying strategies for enhancing the durability of earth-based technologies, and ; 4) Addressing quality control concerns in the production and construction processes.

Prof. Dr. Charles Kibert
Dr. Esther Obonyo
Guest Editors

Keywords

  • earth-based technologies
  • sustainable construction materials
  • hygrothermal loads
  • durability
  • physical and mechanical properties

Published Papers (7 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessCommunication Optimizing the Physical, Mechanical and Hygrothermal Performance of Compressed Earth Bricks
Sustainability 2011, 3(4), 596-604; doi:10.3390/su3040596
Received: 13 February 2011 / Accepted: 25 March 2011 / Published: 30 March 2011
Cited by 7 | PDF Full-text (1498 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
The paper is based on findings from research that assesses the potential for enhancing the performance of compressed earth bricks. A set of experiments was carried out to assess the potential for enhancing the bricks’ physical, mechanical and hygrothermal performance through the design
[...] Read more.
The paper is based on findings from research that assesses the potential for enhancing the performance of compressed earth bricks. A set of experiments was carried out to assess the potential for enhancing the bricks’ physical, mechanical and hygrothermal performance through the design of an optimal stabilization strategy. Three different types of bricks were fabricated: soil-cement, soil-cement-lime, and soil-cement-fiber. The different types of bricks did not exhibit significant differences in performances when assessed on the basis of porosity, density, water absorption, and compressive strength. However, upon exposure to elevated moisture and temperature conditions, the soil-cement-fiber bricks had the highest residual strength (87%). The soil-cement and soil-cement-lime bricks had residual strength values of 48.19 and 46.20% respectively. These results suggest that, like any other cement-based material, compressed earth brick properties are affected by hydration-triggered chemical and structural changes occurring in the matrix that would be difficult to isolate using tests that focus on “bulk” changes. The discussion in this paper presents findings from a research effort directed at quantifying the specific changes through an analysis of the microstructure. Full article
Open AccessArticle Flooding Effect on Earth Walls
Sustainability 2011, 3(1), 69-81; doi:10.3390/su3010069
Received: 15 November 2010 / Revised: 13 December 2010 / Accepted: 16 December 2010 / Published: 27 December 2010
PDF Full-text (583 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Earth building is a sustainable, environmentally friendly and economical method of construction that has been used worldwide for many centuries. For the past three decades, earth has seen a revival as a building material for a modern construction method due to its benefits
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Earth building is a sustainable, environmentally friendly and economical method of construction that has been used worldwide for many centuries. For the past three decades, earth has seen a revival as a building material for a modern construction method due to its benefits in terms of low carbon content, low cost and energy involved during construction, as well as the fact that it is a sustainable technology of building. Climate change is influencing precipitation levels and patterns around the world, and as a consequence, flood risk is increasing rapidly. When flooding occurs, earth buildings are exposed to water by submersion, causing an increase in the degree of saturation of the earth structures and therefore a decrease of the suction between particles. This study investigated the effect of cycles of flooding (consecutive events of flooding followed by dry periods) on earth walls. A series of characterization tests were carried out to obtain the physical and mechanical properties of the studied earth material. In a second stage, Flooding Simulation Tests (FST) were performed to explore the earth walls’ response to repeated flooding events. The results obtained for the tested earth wall/samples with reinforced material (straw) reveal hydraulic hysteresis when wall/samples are subject to cycles of wetting and drying. Full article
Open AccessCommunication Durability of Compressed Earth Bricks: Assessing Erosion Resistance Using the Modified Spray Testing
Sustainability 2010, 2(12), 3639-3649; doi:10.3390/su2123639
Received: 12 October 2010 / Accepted: 18 November 2010 / Published: 25 November 2010
Cited by 10 | PDF Full-text (211 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
The discussion in this paper is part of research directed at establishing optimal stabilization strategy for compressed bricks. The deployment context for the use of the compressed bricks was Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) where manually fabricated bricks are increasingly being used in low
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The discussion in this paper is part of research directed at establishing optimal stabilization strategy for compressed bricks. The deployment context for the use of the compressed bricks was Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) where manually fabricated bricks are increasingly being used in low cost housing units. This discussion specifically focuses on strategies that can be used to counter deterioration due to wind-driven rain erosion. The impact of using cement, lime, fiber and a commercial stabilizing fluid was assessed. Factory-produced bricks were used for benchmarking. The durability of the bricks was assessed using the “modified” Bulletin 5 Spray Test. The different brick specimens were sprayed with water at 2.07 MPa and 4.14 MPa over one-hour time period while measuring the depth of erosion every 15 minutes. Factory-produced bricks hardly eroded at both 2.07 MPa and 4.14 MPa pressure levels. The maximum depth of erosion for Soil-Cement bricks ranged from a maximum of 0.5 mm at 2.07 MPa water pressure to 0.8 mm at 4.14 MPa. The maximum and minimum depths of erosion for Soil-Cement-Lime bricks were 25mm and 17 mm respectively. The inclusion of natural fiber in the bricks resulted in a sharp increase of the erosion depth to a maximum of 40 mm at 2.07 MPa and 55 mm at 4.14 Mpa. As the use of natural fibers and lime enhances some physio-mechanical properties, further research is necessary to determine ways of achieving this goal while maintaining acceptable levels of erosion resistance. Full article
Open AccessCommunication Advancing the Structural Use of Earth-based Bricks: Addressing Key Challenges in the East African Context
Sustainability 2010, 2(11), 3561-3571; doi:10.3390/su2113561
Received: 15 October 2010 / Revised: 4 November 2010 / Accepted: 15 November 2010 / Published: 19 November 2010
Cited by 4 | PDF Full-text (94 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
The research discussed in this paper is a subset of a bigger, NSF funded research project that is directed at investigating the use of sustainable building materials. The deployment context for the research is the hot and humid climate using selected cases from
[...] Read more.
The research discussed in this paper is a subset of a bigger, NSF funded research project that is directed at investigating the use of sustainable building materials. The deployment context for the research is the hot and humid climate using selected cases from the East African region. The overarching goal for the research is advancing the structural use of earth-based technologies. Significant strides can be made through developing strategies for countering the adverse factors that affect the structural performance of the resulting wall, especially ones related to moisture dynamics. The research was executed in two phases. The first phase was a two-day NSF supported workshop which was held in Tanzania in July 2009. It provided a forum for sharing best practices in earth-based building technologies and developing a research and development roadmap. The priority research areas were broadly classified as optimizing the physio-mechanical properties of earth as a building material and managing socio-cultural impediments. In the second phase of the research, the authors collaborated with researchers from East Africa to conduct experimental work on the optimization of physio-mechanical properties. The specific research issues that have been addressed are: (1) characterizing the chemical reactions that can be linked to deterioration triggered by hygrothermal loads based on the hot and humid context, and; (2) developing a prototype for a simpler, portable, affordable and viable compressed brick production machine. The paper discusses the results from the characterization work that ultimately will be used to design bricks that have specific properties based on an understanding of how different stabilizers affect the hydration process. It also describes a cheaper, portable and more efficient prototype machine that has been developed as part of the follow-up research activities. Full article
Open AccessArticle Cob Construction in Italy: Some Lessons from the Past
Sustainability 2010, 2(10), 3291-3308; doi:10.3390/su2103291
Received: 10 September 2010 / Revised: 12 October 2010 / Accepted: 14 October 2010 / Published: 21 October 2010
Cited by 6 | PDF Full-text (884 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Raw earth is a construction material unknown to most people. Nowadays, raw-earth constructions are an area of growing interest, both for rescuing the heritage and for a rediscovered environmentally friendly building and eco-sustainability material. However, because raw-earth constructions are a forgotten technique, we
[...] Read more.
Raw earth is a construction material unknown to most people. Nowadays, raw-earth constructions are an area of growing interest, both for rescuing the heritage and for a rediscovered environmentally friendly building and eco-sustainability material. However, because raw-earth constructions are a forgotten technique, we find problems of a lack of skilled people at all levels in this area, from designers to masons, as well as problems of how to carry out compatible conservation works on earthen heritage. This paper tries to fill the gap for a peculiar historic earthen building technology, namely cob (or bauge), which is present in Macerata in the center of Italy. Results are presented on regaining possession of the material and constructional aspects and their initial structural resources, and guidelines are given on how to improve the manufacturing process to reuse the cob technique for construction and for how to accurately work on it for a compatible and sustainable conservation. Full article

Review

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Open AccessReview Advancing the Use of Secondary Inputs in Geopolymer Binders for Sustainable Cementitious Composites: A Review
Sustainability 2011, 3(2), 410-423; doi:10.3390/su3020410
Received: 9 January 2011 / Accepted: 9 February 2011 / Published: 16 February 2011
Cited by 9 | PDF Full-text (415 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Because of concerns over the construction industry‘s heavy use of cement and the general dissatisfaction with the performance of building envelopes with respect to durability, there is a growing demand for a novel class of ―green‖ binders. Geopolymer binders have re-emerged as binders
[...] Read more.
Because of concerns over the construction industry‘s heavy use of cement and the general dissatisfaction with the performance of building envelopes with respect to durability, there is a growing demand for a novel class of ―green‖ binders. Geopolymer binders have re-emerged as binders that can be used as a replacement for Portland cement given their numerous advantages over the latter including lower carbon dioxide emissions, greater chemical and thermal resistance, combined with enhanced mechanical properties at both normal and extreme exposure conditions. The paper focuses on the use of geopolymer binders in building applications. It discusses the various options for starting materials and describes key engineering properties associated with geopolymer compositions that are ideal for structural applications. Specific properties, such as compressive strength, density, pore size distribution, cumulative water absorption, and acid resistance, are comparable to the specifications for structures incorporating conventional binders. This paper presents geopolymer binders, with their three dimensional microstructure, as material for structural elements that can be used to advance the realization of sustainable building systems. Full article
Open AccessReview Laterite Based Stabilized Products for Sustainable Building Applications in Tropical Countries: Review and Prospects for the Case of Cameroon
Sustainability 2011, 3(1), 293-305; doi:10.3390/su3010293
Received: 19 December 2010 / Accepted: 18 January 2011 / Published: 19 January 2011
Cited by 6 | PDF Full-text (502 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Lateritic soils are formed in the tropics through weathering processes that favor the formation of iron, aluminum, manganese and titanium oxides. These processes break down silicate minerals into clay minerals such as kaolinite and illite. Iron and aluminum oxides are prominent in lateritic
[...] Read more.
Lateritic soils are formed in the tropics through weathering processes that favor the formation of iron, aluminum, manganese and titanium oxides. These processes break down silicate minerals into clay minerals such as kaolinite and illite. Iron and aluminum oxides are prominent in lateritic soils, and with the seasonal fluctuation of the water table, these oxides result in the reddish-brown color that is seen in lateritic soils. These soils have served for a long time as major and sub-base materials for the construction of most highways and walls of residential houses in tropical and sub-tropical countries of the world. Civil engineering applications of these lateritic soils are continually being developed with the use of different types of stabilizers. The stabilized soil-based products are as such viewed as environmentally-friendly and low-cost energy materials for sustainable building applications. This work aims at presenting a global view of what has been done in the field of lateritic soil improvement for construction purposes in tropical countries such as Cameroon. This shall be discussed through the presentation of the structure, composition and properties of lateritic soils, the various ways of improving their properties for construction purposes, the properties of products obtained and other prospects. Full article

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