Evaluating shear test methods for stabilised rammed earth

Jing Siong John Cheah, Pete Walker, Andrew Heath, Te Kipa Kepa Brian Morgan

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Rammed earth is an accessible, sustainable, and increasingly popular building material. Due to a lack of research, current design standards for rammed earth have taken a conservative stance on material attributes like shear strength. Evaluating the shear strength of rammed earth is particularly important in seismic areas due to the material's high mass, low ductility, and propensity to fail in shear. Shear test methods designed for other materials have typically been used in practice to determine the shear strength of rammed earth.
In this research the design shear strength guidance available in current earth building standards was compared with experimental shear strength results for stabilised rammed earth. The triaxial (geotechnical) and triplet (masonry) tests were used to evaluate specimens reinforced with natural fibres; Sisal and New Zealand flax. Both shear test methods showed that the shear strength capacity of cement stabilised rammed earth was greater than the current guidance provided in the earth building standards. Recommendations were made to use the triaxial test to evaluate the shear strength of stabilised rammed earth and to allow the use of a lower bound shear strength in design equal to 7% of the compressive strength.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)325-334
Number of pages10
JournalProceedings of Institution of Civil Engineers, Construction Materials
Issue number6
Early online date2 Apr 2012
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2012


  • Codes of practice & standards
  • structures & design
  • Buildings
  • Strength and testing of materials


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