earth unit logo SML

The choice of earth as material and building technique stems from the qualities of the material and the technique. The material is readily available and cheap if it does not have to be transported over long distances. It gives extremely good insulation against heat and cold, it is waterproof, and building in earth has a strong tradition in SA. The building method can create employment, it is a simple technology to master, and certain basic skills already exist and only need to be developed. It is a very diverse technology and can be used in wet or dry conditions, rural or urban situations. The UEC is making a contribution to the development of modern earth-building techniques and introducing it to people at all levels of the society.

The use of earth as a building material and construction technique is a very old and well-known technique in SA as well as in the rest of the world. Many of the old Cape-Dutch houses as well as farmhouses in the rural areas of SA are built with earth.

The UEC wants to address various problems in the Free State as well as in the whole country: They are the following:

  • To help upgrade existing skills regarding earth building in communities and in so doing, create jobs and build capacity.
  • The enormous shortage of affordable housing in the country.
  • To help solve unemployment through job creation.
  • Offer alternatives to the high cost of conventional building construction.
  • To continue building a centre that is known for its specialisation in earth architecture.
  • Research and document traditional earth-building methods.

The unit is the only one of its kind in the country as well as in Southern Africa. A similar unit exists in Nigeria in Western Africa and at the University of Uganda in Central Africa. The activities of the UEC address earth construction as a building method throughout the country.

Earth Unit activities in 2016 prototype house


Elfrieda van den Berg (Marketing Manager)
T: +27 51 401 2531


Dilahlwane Mohono (Faculty Officer)
T: +27 58 718 5284

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