First International Symposium on Contemporary Earthen Building launched

“Earth is a material with deep historical relevance in Oman”

HALBAN To raise awareness about Earth as an abundant, sustainable, and eco-friendly building product creating zero CO2 emissions, the 1st International Symposium on Contemporary Earthen Building in Oman (EBI) was launched at the German University of Technology in Oman (GUtech) today morning. The two-day symposium gathers international experts in the field of Earthen Building. It aims 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 earth 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 Professor Wayne Switzer from the Department of Urban Planning and Architectural Design (UPAD) who has initiated the two-day Symposium. According to a recent study, if 50% of the residential construction would be substituted with Earthen material in Oman, around 2.2 million tonnes of cement and 1.3 million 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 environmental-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% of the total waste globally,” said Nicolas Coeckelberghs, architect and co-founder of BC architects 2/05 in Brussels, Belgium. “Earthen plasters provide better air quality, better acoustics, regulate humidity,” he said. According to Nicolas, in Belgium, only 37 million tonnes of Earth are excavated each year which can be used as a construction material. The amount is equivalent to 1 million trucks. To create awareness for architects and to learn how to construct Earthen buildings with earth bricks and clay concrete, his company has been organizing community workshops in Belgium as well abroad, e.g. 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 environmental-friendly raw materials must be used. During his presentation, Stephan Jörchel also showed examples of earthen paint and earth plaster finish on a wall heating system.

The first day of the Symposium features 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 and regulated. The symposium is the first event in a larger initiative on Earthen Building in Oman, which was recently launched at GUtech in 2017 when students constructed an Earthen Tower on campus.

For more information please visit https://ebi.gutech.edu.om or follow us @ebi_oman

(c) GUtech: Text Dr Manuela Gutberlet; Photo: Fatma Al Balushi

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