Sustainable earthen materials have many benefits, but stigma against ‘mud bricks’ and limited scientific scrutiny prevents their widespread adoption.Engineers at the University of Bath and the Indian Institute of Science are jointly set to investigate how to create bricks, paints and other building materials from earth, in an effort to make our homes more sustainable with improved indoor health and wellbeing.

The Wellbeing Achieved from Earthen Residences (WAFER) project, run by academics in the University’s BRE Centre for Innovative Construction Materials and IISc’s Centre for Sustainable Technologies, have started work to investigate the viability of earth as an environmentally benign and affordable building material, with the aim of reducing carbon emissions associated with the construction industry.

While earthen materials have a low impact on the environment and can improve indoor air quality, they are rarely adopted in the modern world as social status is associated with materials considered ‘modern’ or ‘developed’, such as concrete, glass and steel. Such materials, however, are highly carbon-intensive and do not promote indoor wellness.