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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Building the case for rammed earth: Investigating potential applications in Ghana

There is expected to be a shortage of 3.5 million homes in Ghana by 2025, a country with a population of only 30 million people. Meanwhile, the rising cost of building materials, up to 80% of which are imported, drives the cost of housing further out of reach for the majority. The challenge of expanding Ghana’s housing stock to meet this demand is further complicated by national commitments to curb carbon dioxide emissions.

Rammed earth offers a low-carbon method of construction, sharing many characteristics with Ghana’s vernacular architecture. However, there is limited research into the current state of rammed earth use in Ghana and its potential to meet current and future housing needs. This study looks at how rammed earth can play a greater role in Ghana’s built environment, framed through the drivers and barriers which influence sustainable construction practices. This is achieved through a desktop study and semi-structured interviews with different stakeholder groups in the Ghanaian construction industry.

The results of this study highlight complex factors influencing rammed earth use in Ghana. Barriers include a low demand for sustainable construction technologies and negative socio-cultural perceptions of earth as a construction material impacting rammed earth acceptance. Furthermore, lack of standards and effective national policy hinder wider adoption. Applications in low-cost housing and improvement of rural dwellings were identified as opportunities where rammed earth can contribute to Ghana’s development. Recommendations include the adoption of standards to encourage best practice in earthen construction and the introduction of policies to address embodied energy in buildings. This study concludes that while rammed earth use in Ghana is nascent, it has a part to play in meeting the present and future housing need.

This dissertation fills a gap in the academic literature by assessing the current state of rammed earth in Ghana and its future prospects. Furthermore, actionable recommendations are provided for policy makers, academia and industry leaders to increase rammed earths contribution to the sustainability of Ghana’s built environment.


Course Overview


The need to engage in better problem definition through careful dialogue with all stakeholder groups and a proper recognition of context.


An ability to work with specialists from other disciplines and professional groups acknowledging that technical innovation and business skills also must be understood, nurtured and combined as precursors to the successful implementation of sustainable solutions.


An understanding of mechanisms for managing change in organisations so future engineers are equipped to play a leadership role.


An awareness of a range of assessment frameworks, sustainability metrics and methodologies such as Life Cycle Analysis, Systems Dynamics, Multi-Criteria Decision making and Impact Assessment.