1 February 2016

Using glacial mud to build houses in Greenland

Playing with mud

A new project at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) investigates if Greenlandic glacial mud can be used to make unfired bricks. If the project succeeds it might be a step on the road towards a more sustainable construction industry in Greenland – and towards a better indoor climate.

Recent studies from the Arctic Technology Centre at DTU have demonstrated that there is a technical potential for making fired bricks from the glacial muds that are found throughout Greenland. The production of fired bricks, however, is a highly specialized and energy demanding technology, which will be costly to start up in Greenland.

(Louise Belmonte (left) and Ida Bertelsen (right) working on the characterisation of glacial mud from the Nuuk region in Greenland

(Louise Belmonte (left) and Ida Bertelsen (right) working on the characterisation of glacial mud from the Nuuk region in Greenland

Based on this, a new Greenland Perspective-project at DTU will investigate the possibility of making the glacial mud into unfired or compressed bricks, thus making the product more sustainable in both an economic and ecological sense of the word. At the same time, using glacial mud bricks might contribute to improve the indoor climate in Greenlandic houses. The Toubro Foundation supports the project. 

A well known technique in a new setting

The Greenland perspective team at DTU Civil Engineering, which consist of Assistant Professor Louise Belmonte, Ph.D. student Ida Bertelsen and Associate Professor Tove Lading, explains: 

”The use of bricks made out of mud is a well-known technique which has been used for centuries in African countries, America and in the Middle East but it has not been used in Greenland yet. We want to test if the use of unfired and compressed bricks made out of glacial mud might be a way to improve the indoor climate due to the thermal mass which absorb and releases heat. Combined with the fact that the material we use is local and thus more sustainable than imported materials it might be a good idea – and maybe even create small businesses in the Greenlandic villages”. 

During the project different types of bricks will be produced in order to test their durability and other properties. Part of the project will be carried out in collaboration with the company Egen Vinding & Datter. The researchers behind the project expect that the bricks can be used in the Arctic for interior walls and not for exterior constructions.