Researchers champion cause of earth building blocks in Germany

A German research institute is investigating the use of earth block masonry (EBM) for sustainable housing construction.

The Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM is the acronym in German) aims to examine the load-bearing behaviour of EBM in terms of failure mechanisms to ensure the design complies with the generally applicable masonry standard, DIN EN 1996/NA.

The project, with contributions from the Technical University of Darmstadt and ZRS Ingenieure GmbH, is technically and financially supported by the German Federal Environmental Foundation.

BAM said that in light of the ever-increasing need for housing, ecological construction is important.

"As a natural building material, earth offers numerous advantages," said Dr Marc Thiele, Project Leader in the Buildings and Structures Division at BAM.

BAM said earth requires a minimum amount of primary energy, is available almost everywhere and is 100% recyclable. Due to its high mass, it also offers excellent sound insulation properties and is non-flammable.

Intensive research on earth construction has already led to the introduction of product standards in Germany for earth blocks, earth mortar and earth plasters in 2013, and for loam boards in 2018.

Earth plasters have already been integrated into the general application standard for plaster mortars.

BAM wants the same to happen with earth blocks and earth mortar to enable the broad application of EBM based on the generally applicable design regulations.

The goal is to achieve a simplified design of EBM, similar to the conventional masonry design standard DIN EN 1996/NA.

Preliminary studies have revealed that the load-bearing behaviour and bearing capacity of EBM are comparable to those of conventional masonry, BAM said.

Image: Typical earth blocks (BAM, Division Buildings and Structures)

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  1. This sounds promising, but how will they fare against the planets unpredictable weather. Its time we changed our ways and i don,t think material research is where it should be. But the biggest barrier we face
    is funding how do you obtain funding without a return to an investor. I can think of only one way and that would be to introduce some form of tax.

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