Earth movement: Clay - a climate- and resource-friendly building material

Manufacturing processes and transport of building materials are energy-intensive and cause high CO2emissions. In addition, many building materials pose a health and disposal problem due to their content of disruptive and harmful substances. Locally available clay can replace conventional materials if appropriately prepared and processed, and helps to save both manufacturing processes and transport routes.

Short Description

The building sector contributes significantly to resource consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. Regarding the energy demand in the use phase, the performance of our buildings has been significantly improved over the last decades. However, sustainability in the building sector does not end with the energy efficiency of building systems, as this approach does not take into account the large amount of grey energy used to extract, produce and dispose the material resources required for construction. The intensive use of materials that can only be reused by means of downcycling or materials that have to be deposited poses major challenges and burdens for the building sector. Urban mining, building stock surveys and specifications for dismantling of buildings are measures to keep used material in cycle and thus save resources and energy.

Barely any building material is as suitable for recycling as clay. It is available almost anywhere, does not require any additives that could be harmful to health and can be returned to the natural cycle without hesitation. The material is available locally, can be used locally and disposed locally. Clay can be processed with little energy input and be reused several times without loss of quality. Clay accumulates as excavated material especially in large-volume construction projects, can take on various construction tasks and can be used as a substitute for CO2-intensive materials in various areas, for example in plaster, screed, but also in wall-forming materials such as bricks or reinforced concrete.

The aim of the project is to expand the use of clay in the building sector. This goal is to be achieved through a range of approaches. (1) A major obstacle to the use of clay is the uncertain legal situation regarding its application. In addition to a research of the existing regulatory framework and its applicability in Austria, the aim is to create better legal certainty in the use of earthen building materials. (2) The development of a building system made of wood, renewable insulating materials and clay for prefabricated construction for multistorey residential buildings can simplify ecological construction and accelerate building projects. (3) By developing a method for assessing the environmental impact of regionally produced and distributed building products in very small quantities, the environmental impact can be better represented by including aspects that have not yet been included in the assessment. (4) The expansion of existing education/training measures in the academic sector as well as the creation of a validated training for craftsmen should create the widest possible range of training initiatives in loam constructions.

Key data

  • Running time: 2.1.2023 – 1.1.2026
  • Project number: FO999897807

Project Partners

Project management

Ute Muñoz-Czerny


IBO – Austrian Institute of Building and Ecology GmbH

Partners of the project consortium

  • Andreas Rischanek / Camillo Sitte Research Institute for building technology
  • Alois Hirschmugl / Hirschmugl KG
  • Martin Simlinger / Simlinger GmbH
  • Andreas Breuss
  • Andrea Rieger-Jandl / TU Wien – History of Architecture and Building Archaelogy

Contact Address

Alserbachstraße 5/8, 1090 Vienna
+43 1 3192005