Durability of Earth Materials: Weathering Agents, Testing Procedures and Stabilisation Methods

Domenico Gallipoli, Agostino W. Bruno, Quoc Bao Bui, Antonin Fabbri, Paulina Faria, Daniel V. Oliveira, Claudiane Ouellet-Plamondon, Rui A. Silva

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


This chapter reviews the potential impact of six environmental agents (water, ice, wind, fire, solar radiation and chemical attack) on the long-term stability of earth buildings together with some of the most common techniques for measuring and improving material durability. Liquid water appears the most detrimental of all environmental agents, not only because it can significantly reduce capillary cohesion inside the material but also because water can penetrate inside buildings through multiple routes, e.g. rainfall, foundation rise, ambient humidity and utilities leakage. Water can also be very damaging when it is present in solid form as the expansion of pore ice may induce cracking of the earth material. The high resistance of earth buildings to wind is instead proven by the good conditions of many historic structures in windy regions. Earth buildings also exhibit good resistance to fire as the exposure to very high temperatures may even improve material durability. Solar radiation has, in general, a beneficial effect on the stability of earth buildings as it promotes water evaporation with a consequent increase of capillary cohesion. Solar radiation may, however, have a detrimental effect if the earth is stabilised by organic binders that are sensitive to photodegradation because, in this case, it may produce material damages ranging from a simple surface discoloration to a much more serious deterioration of the intergranular bonds. Unstabilized earth is generally inert and, hence, largely unaffected by chemicals though, in some instances, the precipitation of salt crystals inside the pore water can induce material cracking. Chemical degradation can instead be severe in both stabilised earth (due to the dissolution of intergranular bonds) and steel-reinforced earth (due to the corrosion of rebars). No international standard protocol exists to measure the durability of earth materials, which is currently assessed by multiple experimental procedures depending on which environmental agent is considered. Testing standards may, however, be devised in the future by differentiating between weathering protocols, which reproduce the effect of each agent on the earth sample, and durability protocols, which adopt a unique experimental procedure to measure a given material property regardless of weathering history.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRILEM State-of-the-Art Reports
EditorsA. Fabbri, J. C. Morel , J. E. Aubert, Q. B. Bui, D. Gallipoli , B. V. Reddy
Place of PublicationCham
Number of pages31
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-030-83297-1
ISBN (Print)978-3-030-83296-4
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Publication series

NameRILEM State-of-the-Art Reports
ISSN (Print)2213-204X
ISSN (Electronic)2213-2031


  • Durability improvement
  • Durability testing
  • Earth ageing
  • Earth weathering
  • Environmental impact


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