Terra 2022


University of Minho Video Series

This month, two video series on testing of earthen materials and systems from the University of Minho will be highlighted. See below for full descriptions and the videos for each series.

Video Series 1

Video Series 1: SafEarth project: Seismic Protection of Earthen Built Heritage

Series 1 Description:

The preservation of the earthen built heritage is endangered by several factors, among which earthquakes have particularly devastating consequences on the structural integrity. Nevertheless, the seismic performance of these buildings is not yet sufficiently understood. Portugal is among the countries that holds an expressive earthen built heritage affected by an important seismic hazard, which endangers its preservation and puts the life of the inhabitants at risk. The project SafEarth (Seismic Protection of Earthen Built Heritage) was born from the need to better understand seismic performance of this built heritage, while proposing approaches for a better seismic preservation. It is an initiative from the University of Minho in collaboration with the Faculty of Engineering of the University of Porto (FEUP), University of Aveiro and the Portuguese National Laboratory of Civil Engineering (LNEC) with the purpose of developing experimental and numerical investigation to respond to the aforementioned needs. The project resulted in a series of 2 videos that illustrate some of the experimental works conducted.

The first video deals with the in-plane shear behavior of rammed earth walls, which was investigated experimentally using tests of different complexities. In this case, the diagonal compression tests conducted on unstrengthened and strengthened rammed earth wallets were presented. The main objective of the experimental program was to evaluate the strengthening efficiency of compatible TRM (textile reinforced mortar) solutions, which consisted of glass fiber mesh (GRE) or nylon mesh (NRE) bonded to the external surfaces of the wallets with earth-based mortar. The video illustrates the construction, strengthening and testing of the wallets, as well as the response curves and full-field strain and crack pattern development.

The second video deals with the investigation of the structural behavior of adobe vaults from traditional adobe houses of the historical city of Yazd, where the application of different TRM strengthening strategies were tested, namely strengthened at the extrados or/and at the intrados. Scaled vaults (1:3) were built in laboratory and were tested by loading the 1/3 span section. The vaults were tested unstrengthened or strengthened, where the TRM solution consisted of a fiber glass mesh (GRE) bonded with an earth-based mortar stabilized with lime. The video presents the construction of the vaults, application of the strengthening strategies and test setup. Finally, the results are portrayed in terms of response curves, damage development and failure mechanism.



Project Principal Investigator:

Rui A. Silva | ISISE, University of Minho

Rui A. Silva is PhD in Civil Engineering by the University of Minho and KU Leuven (Dual-PhD), since 2013. He is currently a Junior Researcher at the Institute for Sustainability and Innovation in Structural Engineering (ISISE) of the University of Minho. His research interests are related with the characterization, modelling, strengthening and repair of earth constructions, namely in the repair with grout injection and strengthening with textile reinforced mortars (TRM). He has also been dedicated to the development of sustainable building materials based on geopolymeric binders and construction and demolition wastes. He authored more than 70 scientific and technical publications, including 24 papers in peer-reviewed International journals. He participated in 7 research projects, inclusively he was the Principal Investigator of the project SafEarth - Seismic protection of earthen construction heritage, funded by FCT (Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia). Currently, he is a member of the ongoing committee RILEM 275-TCE: Testing and characterization of earth-based building materials and elements.

Series 1 Participating researchers:

Antonio Romanazzi, Daniel V. Oliveira, Michiel Van Gorp, Neda Sadeghi, Nuno Medes and Mariana Correia.

Series 1 Project Website:


Series 1 Acknowledgements:

The project SafEarth was funded by FEDER through the Operational Program Competitiveness Factors (COMPETE 2020) and by national funds through the Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT) within the scope of project SafEarth - PTDC/ECM-EST/2777/2014 (POCI-01-0145- FEDER-016737).

Video Series 2

Video Series 2: HiLoTec project: Development of a Sustainable Self-Construction System for Developing Countries

Series 2 Description:

The future of the building industry will require adapting to new challenges, converting needs to opportunities and simultaneously contributing to the solving of social and environmental problems. A change in attitude will be observed in the coming decades, with a strong tendency to adopt natural and recycled materials, as well as betting on green technology and social innovation oriented to emerging countries. On the other hand, emerging countries have a high demand for housing construction on a large scale, but the current techniques in developed countries for building requires a large amount of natural resources and skilled labor. This contextualization brings sustainability problems for the construction sector in emerging countries, often with scarce natural resources and with the construction sector underdeveloped. The project HiLoTec was born from this need, with the purpose of developing a building technology based on the use of Compressed Earth Blocks as part of a social concept for innovative small houses, favoring the adoption of local and natural materials and with the main premise being dedicated to self-building. This project was developed in close collaboration between the University of Minho and the company Mota-Engil, from which resulted a series of 5 videos that illustrate the main outcomes of the project.

The first video presents the different tests conducted to determine the material properties of the interlocking compressed earth blocks and dry-stack masonry, namely: compression and Brazilian tests on cylinders, compression and bending tests on blocks, and compression and shear tests on masonry specimens. The second presents the different phases of the production of the compressed earth blocks. The third illustrates the cyclic shear tests conducted on two dry-stack masonry walls built with the produced interlocking compressed earth blocks. The fourth portrays the construction process of a small dry-stack interlocking compressed earth block house. Finally, the fifth presents the shaking table tests conducted on the constructed house at the Portuguese National Laboratory of Civil Engineering (LNEC), in Lisbon.


Project Principal Investigator:

Luís F. Ramos | ISISE, University of Minho

Luís F. Ramos is currently serving as city councilor of the municipality of Póvoa de Varzim. He is Assistant Professor at the Department of Civil Engineering of the University of Minho, where he is also a researcher of the Institute for Sustainability and Innovation in Structural Engineering (ISISE). He concluded his PhD in Civil Engineering at University of Minho in 2007, on the topic Damage Identification on Masonry Structures based on Vibration Signatures. He has been the coordinator of different research projects and supervised about 50 master and doctoral students. His current research interests include non-destructive tests for damage detection, structural health monitoring of historical constructions, dynamic tests, finite element analysis, non-linear analysis of masonry constructions, and earthen and vernacular constructions, being the author of several publications, in both conferences and in specialized journals, on these topics. He has been involved in several specialized consultancy projects in monuments.

Series 2 Participating researchers:

Thomas Sturm, Paulo Mendonça, Rute Eires, Aires Camões, Paulo B. Lourenço, Vânia Silva, Cláudia Ramos, Alfredo Campos Costa and Paulo Candeias.

Project Website 2:


Series 2 Acknowledgements:

The project HiLoTec was financed by the company Mota-Engil S.A.






The Terra 2022 year-long virtual lead-up event series, running from June 2021 to June 2022, presents the richness and diversity of earthen architectural heritage around the world, the individuals and organizations working in the sector, and the communities who care for this heritage and its traditions.

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