Present concerns for sustainable development have led to a revival of traditional building practices using natural or recycled resources. There is a perception that buildings constructed from such materials are environmentally benign. This perception is questionable, as often no evaluation is undertaken to assess the associated environmental impacts. Rammed earth is one such construction technology that has seen renewed interest in recent years. The energy required to manufacture materials (i.e. embodied energy) is a significant component of the life cycle energy associated with buildings. This paper assesses the embodied energy of rammed earth construction relative to brick veneer and cavity brick construction. Rammed earth was found to have significantly less embodied energy than cavity brick construction (to which it is closer in thermal performance), but was approximately equivalent to brick veneer construction. Topics of further research identified include thermal performance and strategies for reducing the embodied energy of cement used for earth stabilisation.
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