The state of earthen housing worldwide: how development affects attitudes and adoption

Alastair T.M. Marsh*, Yask Kulshreshtha

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
27 Downloads (Pure)


Housing is a cross-cutting issue that is crucial to achieving several of the Sustainable Development Goals. Earthen housing is found across the globe, particularly in developing countries, but there is a lack of up-to-date information about its distribution and trends. This knowledge gap is a barrier to developing more effective research and policy for earthen housing. In this study, national demographic datasets were used to investigate the distribution, trends and attitudes towards earthen housing worldwide. Data was collected and analysed for the most populous 26 countries, which make up >75% of the global population. Globally, earthen housing is in decline relative to non-earthen housing, driven by demographic changes and negative perceptions of earthen materials in developing countries. The proportion of households living in earthen dwellings worldwide is estimated to be 8–10%, and the average across developing countries to be 20–25%. There is a negative correlation between countries’ level of development and prevalence of earthen housing. Whilst data is more sparse for highly developed countries, the development of standards and commercial interest suggests more favourable attitudes to earthen housing. A focus is encouraged on high-quality earthen dwellings which can help meet housing needs in both developing and developed countries.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)485-501
Number of pages17
JournalBuilding Research and Information
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • census
  • development
  • earth construction
  • Housing design
  • Sustainable Development Goals


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