Post-Earthquake reconstruction project creates earthquake-proof houses

The Post-Earthquake Reconstruction project, executed by the Chinese University of Hong Kong and Kunming University of Science and Technology, innovates traditional rammed earth building technology to provide people a safe, economical, comfortable, and sustainable reconstruction strategy.

The earthquake in Ludian County, China, in 2014 destroyed most of the local buildings in the village of Guangming. These buildings were made from rammed earth, a cheap construction method. Concrete and brick provide a sturdier alternative, but because of the increasing price of building materials, this was not an option for most of the villagers.

The team built a prototype to validate the technology and building performance of the system. To improve the seismic performance of rammed earth, the components of the wall are well-adjusted using clay, sand, grass and other local materials. Steel bars and concrete belts are added to improve the structural integrity and to avoid vertical cracking.

Thanks to these additives, the building passed the shake table test, showing that the seismic performance of the rammed earth building is improved and now meets the local seismic codes. Double-glazed windows and insulated roof are used to improve the thermal performance of the building.

In the project, it was important to use local technology, materials, and labour. The environmental impact of the buildings is minimised, thanks to the use of local and natural materials, while good thermal insulation and daylight performance guarantee low energy consumption. In addition, the construction and operating costs are minimised the villagers themselves construct the houses with only manpower and simple tools.

In social dimension, local residents are fully engaged in the entire process of reconstruction. Local government and multidisciplinary university resources are used to supported rural reconstruction.

In the next stage, the anti-seismic earth building system will be applied to more rural projects in Southwest China. This strategy will also provide guidance for local reconstruction policies and rammed-earth building standards.

The Post-Earthquake Reconstruction project won the World Building of the Year 2017 during the World Architecture Festival (15-17 November).

Photos: CUHK / KUST (via Archdaily)