Building a luxurious home with earth

Using earthen technology, one can build a very luxurious and an aesthetically pleasing home. Rammed earth or even simpler
Nubian Vault roof, made of mudbrick
mudbricks can be used to build walls. The Nubian Vault technique can be used to build a roof. A luxurious home made out of nothing but earth or local dirt. 

An earthen house when plastered can last centuries when water-proof with water resistant plaster. Water plaster can be made by a mixture of quick lime, water, and tallow (animal fat). Also by grinding cooked clay tiles into dust and mixing it with quick lime, one can generate a water resistant plaster called putty, used by the ancient Romans.


Rammed Earth

Rammed earth wall

The rammed earth technique can be used to build walls. The aesthetic value can be seen in imperial Chinese Architecture, the Great Wall of China. The Chinese were the masters of this method. Rammed earth is the process of creating rock. The best soil for rammed earth should be 70% sand and 30% clay. A detailed breakdown is as follows. 

Soil    Percentage
Course Sand   19%
Fine Sand   42%
Clay   17%
Fine Clay   3%

A good test of soil makeup is to get a jar, fill it up halfway with soil, then with water. Shake the jar, until soil and water is mixed. Let the jar stand until soil and water separate. Measure length of the mixture. Then measure height of settled soil. Divide total length of mixture into length of settled sand. This will give the percentage of soil. Subtract the percentage of soil from 100. This is the percentage clay.

First the soil is moisten not wet. A good test is grab a scoop of moisten dirt and squeeze into a ball and release. If the ball does not scatter, the soil is ready to be rammed. One is not creating mud. The moisten soil is placed in a rectangular frame and rammed or compressed down. The earth is continuously rammed until it can't be rammed further. The rammed earth then becomes as hard as concrete.
Richard Rowland house of Nubian Vault roof and rammed earth wall, made of
nothing but dirt


Mudbricks can be used to make walls. The aesthetic appeal of mudbrick, can be seen in the palaces of the Egyptian Pharaohs, the forts of the Ancient Egyptians, Nubian Churches, and the Ziggurut of Ur, all built with mudbrick. Mudbricks are easy to make. A box frame is created. Mud is made and placed in the box and frame is removed. The brick is left in the sun to dry. The bricks can also be fired for more hardness. Bricks are stack like cement bricks and mud is used as mortar, to hold brick in place.


Using the Nubian Vault technique, one can create a stable roof from mud brick. The technique is Egyptian in origins, but was preserved by the Nubians. It requires no frame to construct. Mud bricks are arranged like a long dome.

Water Proofing

House of Nubian Vault roof and mudbrick walls, completely from dirt

The roof will need to be water proof. This can be done with a lime/clay plaster. An earthen house made of rammed earth or mudbrick can last for centuries, when plastered. 

A water proof plastic can be added on top of the roof to prevent water damage. 

A white wash solution can also be added to walls and roof to water-proof. To create a white wash solution quick lime, tallow (animal fat), and water is mixed, creating a high alkaline solution. This solution generates a lot of heat. Make sure ones hands are covered or open skin is not near solution. A brush is used to apply the solution.

Works Cited

Rammed Earth

"A turning of the soil" Earth house, by  k5designsource, on YouTube
Rammed Earth with David Suzuk, Thomoco, On YouTube
Rammed earth house visit. Video 1 of 2, ironknackers, on YouTube
Rammed earth house visit: Video 2 of 2, ironknackers, on YouTube
Rammed Earth Eco-Shed, Thomoco, on YouTube


Adobe Masters, paytas, on Youtube
Mudmasters, redpharmacists, on Youtube
Making Mud Brick in Rwanda, Musanzelnc, on Youtube

Nubian Vault

Nubian Vault, by Unesco, on YouTube
Adobe mud bricks vault,ultrajoro, on YouTube
Minke, Gemot(2006). Building with earth: design and technology of a sustainable architecture. Springer(2006), pp. 121-122,  ISBN 3764374772, 9783764374778.
The Nubian Vault On BBC, uploaded by horellou, on Youtube
T. Granier, A. Kaye, J. Ravier, and  D. Sillou. The Nubian Vault: Earth roofs in the Sahel. Association la Voûte Nubienne (AVN)(pdf).

YouTube Video

YouTube Video