Ten questions concerning the potential of digital production and new technologies for contemporary earthen constructions

Marcel Schweiker*, Elisabeth Endres, Joschua Gosslar, Norman Hack, Linda Hildebrand, Mascha Creutz, Andrea Klinge, Harald Kloft, Ulrich Knaack, Jan Mehnert, Eike Roswag-Klinge

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Earth is one of the oldest and till now intensively used natural building material. Around 30% of the world population still lives or works in buildings constructed out of earth. Most of them dwell in simple huts of rural communities or traditionally hand-crafted buildings. However, a growing number of people looking for healthy, environmentally friendly buildings in so called developed societies experience benefits of earthen construction materials. Due to the hygrothermal potential of clay, these benefits of earthen constructions include evaporative cooling during cooling periods and stable relative humidity levels indoors during the heating season. In addition, earthen building materials may contribute to the urgently needed circular economy, as earthen constructions like earth blocks or earth dry boards are reusable and earth plasters and mortars are replasticisable through the addition of water, as long as no chemical binder is added. Research gaps regarding physical properties, missing standardisation concerning building law and modern construction methods, and a limited number of manufacturers are hindering a wide application of earthen construction worldwide. Meanwhile, new digital production techniques evolve, which may elicit the potential of earth as future building material. Therefore, this Ten Questions article presents the state-of-the art and research gaps related to earth as building material in light of the potential of new digital production techniques like robotic fabrication or additive manufacturing. Such discussion includes new opportunities to combine the natural performance of the material with future-oriented construction systems and a new growing circular economy.

Original languageEnglish
Article number108240
Number of pages14
JournalBuilding and Environment
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Circular construction
  • Digital production
  • Earth
  • Embodied energy
  • Health
  • Indoor environmental quality
  • Moisture adsorption


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