Part of Historic Environment Scotland

Unfired earth conservation

Examine the use of unfired earth construction in Scotland's historic built environment.



Our Advanced Diploma prospectus contains information about all our short courses:

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3 weeks


10 - 24 January 2020

Study time

Taught:3 days


As a stand-alone short course:£240


Looking for a related qualification? Learn about our Accredited Diploma that can be taken part-time or full time.

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A pile of earth and people standing in the background


Unfired earth construction is an ancient practice with obscure origins. In this short course, learn more about how this material was traditionally used in Scotland's vernacular buildings.

What you will learn

Examine the use of unfired earth, turf and clays in a wide range of Scottish vernacular (built according to local traditions and resources) structures. Earth is a very versatile material, which was often used in walls, floors, and coatings, as well as for canal and bridge construction.

Study the geology and mineralogy of building clays and associated earth or turf products. Find out how they work together with other vernacular materials like timber and thatch.

Get an overview of the fundamental physical properties of unfired earth, its weathering and decay processes, and the effect of man-made wear or damage. Get a through understanding of current conservation principles, and the means and methods.

By the end of the course, you will have learned everything from repair and restoration techniques using traditional and modern tools and how to survey a site through to specification, procurement and on-site installation.

Topics covered

  • Origins of the material and Scottish traditions
  • Unfired earth in construction
  • Decay mechanisms and conservation issues
  • Repair and conservation

Course content

Short courses offer the opportunity to learn about building conservation through lectures, workshops and site visits.

Classes, lectures and presentations

Students benefit from attending classes and lectures taught by national and international experts. Forthcoming lectures are to be confirmed.

Previous speakers have included:

Hands-on workshop/lab activities

Students are often offered the opportunity to take part in hands-on workshops or lab activities as part some short courses.

On this short course, you can participate in workshops on:

  • earth mortar and plaster mixing including wattle and daub
  • mud brick making
  • science of clay building


Potential site visits

Students have the opportunity to participate in site visits. These vary from one year to another.

Previous site visits for this course have included:


Although our short courses are not formally assessed, students will be awarded a certificate upon successfully completing this course.

A formal qualification can be obtained by studying our Advanced Professional Diploma on Technical Building Conservation.

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