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The Rebirth of Earth: Low embodied-energy construction method


In concern with embodied energy in construction, I attempt to find an ecologically friendly material. Through researching various vernacular earth architecture around the world and comparing these through different eras of earth building, I’m trying to discover how it can and is, this ancient practice, used nowadays. How going back to the absolute basics our ancestors used can help the current climate crisis we are facing. Gathering information and proposing a new modern pillar of architecture.

Carrara Marble Quarry, Italy

Watching the “Anthropocene: The Human Epoch”1 film, I was mesmerized by the Italian Carrara marble quarry. After seeing this beautiful senary it got me thinking, what is the cost on our planet to export one of the most prestigious marbles worldwide and how can we cut down on embodied energy. The most used material, concrete, I found out it contributes about 8% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. If the entirety of the cement industry was combined into a country, it would be the third-largest emitter, behind China and the US.

The industry contributes more CO2 than aviation fuel and it’s not far from the global agriculture industry (12%). But this is not slowing down, the cement industry quadrupled since the 1990s and is likely to increase even more in the future if we won’t find greener alternatives.

1 Anthropocene: The Hum


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Trying to find a material with low embodied energy, I didn’t have to look far but just below me, Earth! Mudbricks have been used widely across the globe for centuries as the main building material. For some of the greatest ancient civilizations, Mesopotamia, not only used it as a housing material but also for megastructures that are still standing centuries after construction. Such as the Taq Kasra which is the largest single-span vault of unreinforced brickwork, made from mudbricks, in the world till this day.

Truly shows the durability of soil. That got me questioning how can this material that withstands the test of time can be adapted to the modern world and practices. Mudbrick is a rectangular mold-made brick from the soil, chopped straw, and water. Vernacular architecture is the “native science of building”1 as mentioned by Oliver P, so why don’t we go back to this.

1 Oliver Paul, Built to meet need: culture issues in vernacular architecture, Architectural Press