• Scarlett Lee

Baek In-je House: erosion checks, water-resistant earth construction technique

Updated: Jul 17, 2020

I would like to introduce one of interesting earth construction techniques to reduce the impact of rainwater, which is erosion checks. They serve to slow down the speed of rainwater flowing along the surface of the earthen wall and eventually halt the erosion. These erosion checks containing bamboo, stones, tiles and bricks are integrated with earth during the construction of earthen walls.

I have first come to know this technique through the book ‘Martin Rauch: Refined Earth: Construction & Design with Rammed Earth’. Martin Rauch house epitomise the aesthetic and technical function of erosion checks with a modern earth house design.

Martin Rauch House (ref: http://www.lehmtonerde.at)

Extruded mud bricks play as erosion checks protecting rammed earth from excessive erosion (ref: http://www.lehmtonerde.at)

I have recently visited Baek In-je House (백인제 가옥) in Seoul and seen the erosion checks on the Hanok walls, which were absolutely beautiful!

Linear roof tiles were used as erosion checks to protect the Hanok wall against rainwater

Extruded roof tiles and circular lime plastering integrated between soils play not only a technical function to minimise the erosion caused by rainwater, but also display a delicate and rhythmic design approach being harmonised with the roof.

Though soil cracked due to a consistent swelling and shrinking process by the exposure of rainwater, the swollen soil stops the water from permeating the wall further. Therefore, the natural earthen wall still maintains a good standard although any chemical stabiliser was not used.

With a brief explanation, Baek In-je House is one of representative Hanoks showing the modern Hanok style in the Japanese colonial era.

Including Baek In-je House, I have found several interesting examples of erosion checks in hanoks at the Bukchon Hanok Village (북촌 한옥마을), which proves that erosion checks were widely used in the traditional Korean house Hanok as a water-resistant earth construction technique.

Considering chemical stabilisers such as cement are not affordable in most of developing countries, and also not eco-friendly, I believe that erosion checks are one of excellent advanced water-resistant earthen construction technique to protect earthen walls, therefore, I have proposed my PhD project related to this subject.

I will post some more examples of erosion checks in Hanoks in the next posting.

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