EARTH ARCHITECTURE AND CERAMICS: The superadobe construction system

by / Saturday, 13 August 2011 / Published in Uncategorized

The accumulated human knowledge of the universal elements can be integrated with space-age technology to serve human needs on earth; its timeless materials and timeless principles can also help achieve humanity’s quest beyond this planet. Two such areas of knowledge are in earth architecture and ceramics, which could be the basis for a breakthrough in scales, forms and functions. . . .


Approximately one third of the people of the world live in houses built with earth, and tens of thousands of towns and villages have been raised practically from the ground they are standing on. Today, world consciousness about the use of natural resources and the new perception of building codes as the steward not only of individuals’ safety, but of the planet’s equilibrium, are leading us into the new millennium of sustainable living. The superadobe  technology  is the spinoff from several consecutive techniques. It is the integration of the ancient technologies of building with earth into planetary construction techniques.

Superadobe is a form of earthbag construction that was developed by iranian architect nader khalili.the technique uses layered long fabric tubes or bags filled with adobe to form a compression structure.the resulting beehive shaped structures employs arches, domes, and vaults to create single and double-curved shells that are strong and aesthetically pleasing. It has received growing interest for the past two decades in the natural building and sustainability movements.

A new approach to sand bags: the superadobe building system builds on four fundamental aspects of historical sandbag modules, resulting in a permanent system of construction:

1. The most serious drawback in the past concerning sandbags as a structural element is that a stack of bags has no tensile capabilities, superadobe uses four-point barbed wire (or a similar element) between sand bag or bags filled of materials like plastic, paper etc….. Layers, allowing one to develop the tensile and shear capabilities that have not been previously achievable.

2. Previously, sandbags were not considered part of a permanent structure due to the use of loose fill material, superadobe fabric tube or individual sandbags are packed with different mixes of fluent, particulate material that form into a permanent block.

3. Historically, the potential deterioration of the bag and the subsequent effect on the structure has precluded permanent structures. Superadobe construction shields the sandbag walls from the elements with protective overlay materials.

4. Superadobe techniques enable the construction of mono lithic structural systems built entirely from earth in curved forms. The sandbag, because of its flexibility, allows the construction of curved surfaces. In the case of wood construction, this can save up to 95 percent of timber, allowing not only for forest products to be more wisely utilized but also resulting in fire-safe buildings. By working with the principle of gravity, these features can be built without special formwork.

Results of tested prototypes:

Single- and double-curvature compression shells transfer their stresses along the surface of the structure and not from element to element like column- and beam-type buildings. When a single element in a beam and column construction is overloaded leads to a dome, this results in the excessive load being shed with only localized damage; the remaining stresses in the vicinity of the failure are transmitted around the failed area, and other loads continue to be held by the structure without any problem.

Dead-load and live-load stresses are transferred to the supporting ground, spreading uniformly along the perimeter of a dome or bearing wall. In a beam and column structure, the loads are concentrated and transferred to the ground via a footing under each column. This situation creates the two basic structural problems of differential settlement and frost heaving. These can cause severe localized stresses within the upper structure, resulting in cracking and other failures.

One of the most significant advantages of a domed or vaulted bearing wall structure is its performance in earthquakes. It is difficult to design conventional structures to withstand earthquake stresses.

Universal applications: flood control; erosion control; stabilization of waters’ edges, hillside slopes and embankments; and retaining walls, landscapes, and infrastructures are applications in which the superadobe system has shown great potential. Individuals are enabled once again to build their own homes without the use of heavy equipment, with materials native to the country of use. All the skills required are simple and can be acquired by anyone who wishes to learn them. There is a great potential for long-term emergency shelters with superadobe because of the simplicity of construction. Labor can be unskilled and high physical strength or formal training is unnecessary for the workers, so women and children are able to substantially contribute to the construction process.

Thus such a technology used in our motherland would lead us to a sustainable and pollution free environment. So, the upcoming civil engineers must encourage such techniques to reduce the impact of construction on environment. Hope, this idea would soon change our country.


K.shanthi sri  (09241a01a2 )  [civil-b, 3rd year]

A.swetha (09241a01a7 ) [civil-b, 3rd year]

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