THE SUSTAINABILITY OF RAMMED EARTH CONSTRUCTION

Abstract

This research is a descriptive research that aims to establish the sustainability of rammed earth construction in comparison to conventional construction techniques. Used in Kenya, which characteristically involve the use of industrialised materials such as natural stoned, glass and concrete. Vernacular architecture in Kenya responded to the environmental, social, cultural, and geographical contexts in which they developed. It involved the use of natural materials such as earth and grass thatch which had minimal environmental impact, and the architecture responded to cultural forces in terms of expression. However, during and after the colonial period, Western influence led to the decline of vernacular architecture and the adoption of industrialised construction materials and techniques which were unsustainable and expensive, thus limiting the access to shelter for a majority of the population. It is therefore necessary to carry out research on sustainable practices to mitigate this problem.

From Literature, it is proposed that sustainable construction can be applied through the site and land use, community, health, choice of materials, energy use and water. The factors pertaining to the building are material, health and community. Rammed earth construction is proposed to be sustainable since it utilizes a natural material, and has minimal environmental impact in its sourcing, harvesting and preparation. In addition, the construction process utilises minimal energy. It is also proposed that rammed earth walls have the ability to balance the indoor air temperature and humidity, which is a key factor in the preservation of the health of the occupants of the space.

The data for this study is collected form both international and local case studies, which have similar climatic and socio-economic contexts. The case studies selected are all located within semi-arid climates and are located in developing countries. The international case studies are located in India, Zimbabwe and Botswana, while the local case studies are located in Kyumvi, Machakos. Each case study is analysed using the same parameters, which are material sourcing, harvesting, transport and preparation, the construction process, social and economic sustainability and the building envelope performance. The case studies are then analysed and compared.

The data collected showed that rammed earth construction in each case study was a sustainable construction technique in comparison to the conventional techniques in terms of the material and construction process, social and economic sustainability and the building envelope performance.

This study concludes and establishes that rammed earth construction is indeed a sustainable construction technique in Kenya in terms of environmental impact, social and economic sustainability and building envelope.

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