Building with earth in a cold climate

Examensarbete för masterexamen
Architecture and urban design (MPARC), MSc
Moene-Omholt, Klara
The climate crisis is one the biggest challenges that have ever faced humanity. The building industry is responsible for almost 40% of all emissions. Looking at the high emissions from many commonly used building materials, changes in choice of material have the potential for making great impacts on the total emissions of the building industry. The low emission material, earth, is not a new building material. It has been used for thousands of years, and even today, one third of the planet’s population lives in houses made from earth, mostly in warm climate developing countries. Earth, being a widely available material across the globe, has the potential to become a common building material in colder climates. In this master thesis, first, the advantages of earth are explored, including sustainability, recyclability, and relative humidity regulation. The challenges of building in a cold climate are then found, in addition to their impact on earth building. Lastly, how to solve these challenges are studied, including erosion, moisture control, thermal mass, and insulation. In each of these categories, factors that could impact the performance and advantages are identified, in the form of criteria. Existing earth buildings in Europe are used as reference projects, to compare them, and the climate they are located in, in order to discover trends and similarities. Three projects, which are close in scale and function of the redesign of a rowhouse which will take place in the end of this thesis, are then studied closer as case studies. The different solutions in the case studies are evaluated using the criteria, created in the theoretical part, and effectiveness and relevance is discussed. The results from the reference projects and case studies are then used as a base for the redesign of a rowhouse in Höganäs, Sweden. Four suggestions for a redesign have been made. The differences are representing priorities when building with earth in a cold climate. The purpose of this is to see how this rowhouse could have been built, had it been built in earth.
Earth, sustainability, indoor climate, cold climate
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