Local Materials: Sustainable Clay-Fired Desert Architecture

Creative and Sustainable Environmental Earth Housing

Imagine a sustainable building system that requires only the skills of a potter to complete. A basic earthen structure is formed and finished by traditional clay-firing processes. This remarkable building process culminates in baking every room from the inside, for up to an entire day at up to 1,000 degrees Celsius. The end product is vernacular yet avante garde, traditional but sustainable.

Gelfaltan Process of Sustainable Building Construction

Clay Fired Earth Architecture

Essentially, the various bricks that compose a building created by using this Geltaftan system are fused into a solid whole after being assembled. The firing process is essentially the same as that which is used in a kiln to finish pottery. Interior furniture (tables, benches and so on) can be fired with the building. The Iranian architect who developed this process first created buildings in Iran but now teaches others who wish to learn his methods in the United States.

Mud Brick Building Construction Process

Local Materials Classroom Building Design

The result is inexpensive, durable and homey. Modifications to the process have been developed to improve the resistance to weather, seismic and other natural forces. This process is particularly applicable in desert landscapes where thick packed-Earth structures can reduce internal heat gain during the day and heat loss and night and where land is more abundant than stone, trees or other building materials.