Alastair Marsh



I am a Postgraduate Researcher in the Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering at the University of Bath.



My PhD title is “Developing earth-based construction materials to provide sustainable, practical and affordable mass housing in LEDCs”.


Here follows a short description of this project:



The aim of this research is to develop earth-based construction materials that can sustainably, practically and affordably supply the mass market for housing.


There are problems in many parts of the world with inadequate, unsustainably produced housing. This is most acute in LEDCs with high population growth and fragile ecosystems. The demand for construction that is affordable, practical and sustainable is not convincingly met.

Currently, there is an extensive body of understanding around the basics of earth building, and many case study buildings made from earth. From this evidence, the family of earth-based construction materials are a good option to meet this demand.


Although vernacular techniques have been proven to be very successful in isolated examples, their requirements of construction technique and maintenance are not conducive to mass deployment. In order to become more widespread, it is likely that soil stabilisation is required. Cement is the most commonly used stabilising agent. There are alternative stabilisation methods, including geopolymers, which have the potential to fulfil the required functions both more cheaply and sustainably than cement. However, there are many knowledge gaps around the use of these alternative stabilisation methods, particularly around regional variability with soil type.


The objectives of this research are to: conduct an evaluation of the candidate materials for this context; identify the technical knowledge gaps that are barriers to further development; answer the most pressing of these knowledge gaps.


With a view to developing construction materials that will eventually be used on a mass scale, research first needs to establish which materials are likely to be the best candidates. This will require evaluation of the technical and environmental attributes of each option, as well as the contextual constraints and drivers that would likely be encountered in mass deployment. Both of these are likely to be regionally dependent.

If stabilised earth-based materials are judged to be a suitable candidate, technical investigations will be done to answer the many unanswered questions around alternative stabilisation techniques. The most prominent issue is understood to be the high variability in stabilisation performance between soils of nominally similar composition. This phenomenon is unexplained, and will need to be addressed for alternative stabilised earth materials to be used on a mass scale.


My lead supervisor is Prof Andrew Heath. This research is part of the “Decarbonisation of the Built Environment” Centre for Doctoral Training (dCarb CDT), funded by the EPSRC. Through developing construction materials more sustainable than those currently used in this context, this research follows in the dCarb CDT’s aim of “design and creation of zero-carbon buildings and technologies that will potentially transform the future of our built environment”.


Before joining the University of Bath, I worked in the Sustainability & Physics group of BuroHappold Engineering for 2 years. I graduated from the University of Oxford with a MEng in Materials Science in 2013.

Full Name:

Mr Alastair Marsh


Dept of Architecture and Civil Engineering

Job Title:

PhD Research Programme in Civil Engineering

E-mail Address:


Postal Address:

Mr Alastair Marsh
Dept of Architecture and Civil Engineering
University of Bath
United Kingdom