Earth building heritage

PP GIS - Public Participation Geographic Information System

Earthen architectural heritage in Austria provides one of the largest historical ensembles in Europe, and numerous modern projects show a lively awareness of the building qualities of clay. In this section data on historical earth building in Austria are collected, processed and made accessible via a PPGIS tool with the participation of the public. For this purpose an App was developed. It is a living tool, which grows with the participation of the public. The entered data are checked by a professional team and made available for the public. [ACTIVE IN AUTUMN 2017]


What is it all about?

A continuous reduction of historical structures is endangering the survival of architectural heritage that has grown over the centuries and demands documentation, preservation and adaptation to modern requirements.

A specialist group for earth building in research and practical application, associated with the University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences, Vienna (BOKU) and the Institute of Applied Geology (IAG), has set itself the aim of meeting these challenges.

For that purpose, earth buildings, traditional earth building techniques and building materials in Austria are collected and recorded in a web map.

The only thing you need is a smartphone or a computer – the Lehmbau BOKU team provides the platform and important background information. Either you download the APP to your smartphone or use the analogue sheet of survey, which is downloadable from our homepage. The APP allows you to record, describe, and upload objects to a web map. The collected objects are checked by the Lehmbau BOKU Team and made available to the public for further use. A main note is the different clay building techniques. Thus, valuable knowledge is collected collectively and preserved.

Clay as a building material

What is clay?
The term “clay” is used differently. When one speaks geologically of clay, one means a mixture of clay, silt, sand and gravel with sound components that vary within defined limits.

Sticky or coarse clay?
Depending on the clay content, one can differ between "sticky" clay (high content of clay) and "coarse" clay (less content of clay). The various earth constructions depend on the mineralogical composition of the locally available clay.

What is so special about clay?
Clay is still the world's most widely used and most ecological building material in many places of the world. The reason for this is obvious: inexpensive, easy to process, versatile, moisture-regulating, reusable, biodegradable, etc. Long considered a low-grade building material, clay is now increasingly recognised as one of the best building materials. Lost knowledge is to be rediscovered within the scope of this project. Improper handling of clay buildings can lead to stability and moisture problems. The "how-to" is important – the Lehmbau BOKU team is striving for solutions.


Earth building traditions in Austria

Existence of earth buildings
Core regions of earth building history in Austria are in Lower Austria or Burgenland. Examples include the Weinviertel north-east of Vienna, where most of the clay buildings in Austria remain. But also in other regions, earth buildings have an important place in Austria’s vernacular architectural history.

Various earth building techniques
Over the centuries, various clay constructions have developed differently. Usually these are “mixed”, often in combination with other materials such as fired bricks, wood and stone. The unambiguous assignment to a technique is therefore not always easy. For the basic determination of certain techniques you will find information on this site.

We are looking forward to discovering, documenting and (at least digitally) conserving valuable earth constructions, and we wish you a lot of fun with our "tool"!


For further information please visit the German site.