The renaissance of earth building in the UK reflects not only the beauty and utility of the material but also the pressures of rising building costs and the need for lower energy use and waste in building products.
This is Earth Building UK and Ireland, EBUKI’s third Clayfest as a way of sharing specialist knowledge and supporting the growing earth building community. This year we are excited to bring four days of expert-led workshops to Lincoln Heritage Skills Centre, based within the grounds of fabulous Lincoln Castle. These will be supplemented by tours of the best local earth buildings in Lincoln and followed by a conference in the University of Lincoln on Friday about the emerging science on clay.
Workshops will be run by international leaders and will cover a wide range of subjects from earth structures to decorative finishes. Techniques included will be cob, adobe, rammed earth, Lincolnshire ‘Mud and Stud’ and clay and fibre structures. Clay and hemp and clay and lime mortared structures will be joined by master classes in earth plasters to show some of the range of materials and finishes possible.
Hemp and clay is being used as hemp and lime has been traditionally, for insulation, thermal mass, sound and fire-proofing with serious carbon capture and storage capability and cradle to cradle lifecycle. Clay mortars, with or without lime are now recognised to comprise a high percentage of historic and conservation masonry structures. Versatile, locally available, breathable and low emission clay mortars are due a comeback and can be used in anything from self-build to sky scrapers.
Locally Lincolnshire has a long tradition of ‘Mud and Stud’, a robust form of wattle and daub also taken with the first ships from England to North America. At Clayfest Rob Ley and Trevor Oliver, two local experts, will teach this technique from start to finish by constructing a small building, complete with openings and roof connections.
Adobe and rammed earth, two techniques used worldwide, will combine to produce a domed oven that can burn straw and twigs. Based on a Spanish design from a region with little standing woodland this workshop will show the skills needed to make adobe bricks and mortar as well as how to set out simple and complex geometry, all on a rammed earth plinth.
Our cob workshops will show everything from the most basic to complex. With the versatility and durability of this material, it’s no wonder it has been used all up the west coast of both the UK and Ireland in the worst of all weathers, as well as many other places. The cob workshops combine brilliantly with our demonstration on the use of combining clay and fibres to make complex shapes and different surfaces with eye, hand and tool.
Clay plasters are increasingly finding their way into art galleries and fast food restaurants. Their excellent abilities to mop up humidity and VOCs make them ideal for the increasingly sealed indoor environments, where we spend perhaps 80% to 90% of our lives. They can also produce stunning effects, beautiful colours, many textures and all from materials either bought in a bag or dug from site.
There will be pop-up sessions from a range of British and European partner organisations. There will be daily shows of a French teaching system showing how earth, air, water and force are able to produce earth structures, from loose grains to solid walls.
Symposium and Conference
We will also have a day-long Symposium on Mud and Stud architecture, building, conservation, history and the future. Past symposium on turf construction has lead to growing interest and turf projects from Scotland to Chile, where will this one go?
The conference topic is ‘Building Bridges’, between technology and industry, clay and biomaterials, teachers and learners. We will hear papers on the emerging science of clay and internal health and well-being, with speakers connecting new-build lab research with clay building traditions going back ten thousand years to the Middle East.
There will be talks on light earth, building traditions from Ireland and Scotland, making earth building ‘conventional’ and how small and medium practitioners can market it in a sector already crowded and structured to standards and regulations. Clayfest will be a fantastic opportunity for anyone in the building and design world to see materials in use, talk to practitioners, researchers, designers and producers and discover a world of building opportunity.
Clayfest workshops run in partnership with The Heritage Skills Centre, English Heritage, Hill Holt Wood and the East Midlands Earth Structures Society while conference is in partnership with the University of Lincoln, School of Architecture & Design.
Earth Building UK and Ireland are a registered charity working for better understanding, education and wider use of earth as a building material. Established in 2008 EBUKI have a membership drawn from the worlds of design, build, academia, producers, self-builders and heritage.
EBUKI have recently completed a National Occupational Standard and National Vocational Qualification for earth building, are working toward a new British Standard, as well as guidelines, specifications and energy and health standards. EBUKI is a partner to the UNESCO Chair on Earthen Architecture. After decades in the doldrums the thousands of existing earth structures across the UK and Ireland have a voice and a champion.
The past decade has seen a rise in new build with earth from the Eden Project to Holland Park, recent coverage by Grand Designs and the Financial Times has shown the wider interest growing. Changes in legislation and standards make it easier to build with earth too.
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