The first International Symposium on Contemporary Earthen Building in Oman was launched at the German University of Technology in Oman (GUtech) on Monday. The two-day symposium, which saw international experts in the field of earthen building aimed to create a platform for discussion and exchange between the academia, the government and the industry.
“Earth is a material with deep historical relevance in Oman. It is in the DNA of Oman. Yet, despite the countless examples of earthen buildings, it is little discussed or permitted as a material for present-day construction. This despite the proven benefits to air quality, recyclability and low-embodied energy,” said Prof Wayne Switzer from the Department of Urban Planning and Architectural Design (UPAD) who initiated the symposium. According to a recent study, if 50 per cent of the residential construction would be substituted with earthen material in Oman, around 2.2mn tonnes of cement and 1.3mn tonnes of CO2 emissions could be potentially saved annually, said Prof Wayne.
The Rector of GUtech, Prof Dr Ing Michael Modigell inaugurated the symposium. He highlighted the importance of the symposium, enhancing awareness about the production and the use of more environment-friendly construction materials, while substituting cement, one of the main contributors of CO2 emissions.
“The construction sector is responsible for one third of the total CO2 emissions worldwide while also producing 30 per cent of the total waste globally,” said Nicolas Coeckelberghs, architect and co-founder of BC architects in Brussels, Belgium.
“Earthen plasters provide better air quality, better acoustics, and regulate humidity,” he said.
According to Coeckelberghs, in Belgium only 37mn tonnes of earth are excavated each year which can be used as a construction material.
“The amount is equivalent to 1mn trucks. To create awareness among architects and to learn how to construct earthen buildings with earth bricks and clay concrete, his company has been organising community workshops in Belgium as well as abroad – for communities in Nigeria and Morocco.
To promote earthen building in Germany, official rules and regulations for earthen architecture were introduced by Dachverband Lehm e.V., the German Association for Building with Earth.
Currently, earth is used as a construction and conservation material in Germany, said Stephan Jörchel from the German Association for Building with Earth.
According to the EU action plan for a circular economy recyclable and environment-friendly raw materials must be used. During his presentation, Jörchel also showed examples of earthen paint and earth plaster finish on a wall heating system.
The first day of the symposium featured presentations from experts, discussions and critical reflection.
The second day will include hands-on demonstrations and a participatory workshop in the engineering workshop.
Experts from Germany, Spain, and Belgium will be on hand to demonstrate and present how different building techniques are already being implemented.
The symposium is the first event on earthen building in Oman, which was launched at GUtech in 2017 when students constructed an ‘Earthen Tower’ on campus.
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