Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Stanley Russell, M.Arch.

Committee Member

Vikas Metha, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Robert Hudson, B. Arch.


Earthen Construction, Seismic Architecture, Low cost housing, Peru, Adobe


Human vulnerability can be characterized as people living with uncertain livelihood options, precariously settled in structurally unsafe buildings. A striking aspect of this vulnerability is the large number of people living in earthen structures within seismically active zones. This reality is exemplified by the earthquake which occurred this past summer around Pisco, Peru. The earthquake caused enormous damage to more than 80% of the adobe buildings. Although confined masonry is the preferred construction technique for families who can afford it, adobe is still the only economically viable alternative for most.

Presently reconstruction efforts are focused on encouraging residents to build with reinforced masonry, but the reality is that once these volunteers leave, or their funding runs out, people living in these areas will not be able to afford to continue with these enhanced types of construction. The goal then, is to come up with a hybrid of earthen construction found in the area that incorporates what is known of structural reinforcement with found or recycled objects that can contribute to improved tensile strength. This hybrid will allow for the rebuilding of Pisco at an affordable, yet highly stable level.

This thesis will begin by visiting Pisco to conduct forensic studies of structural failures with documentation of physical observations and discussions with local institutions that have researched the crisis. Interviews with residents will also give insight into the events and building failures due to earthquakes as well as local construction methods. Readily available resources will be incorporated into the project in a way that should improve seismic resistance. Throughout this process research will be done on current seismic engineering discoveries in conjunction with indigenous approaches to earthen construction in comparable areas around the world. The possible construction approaches will be tested in collaboration with local Universities’ Seismic testing facilities. Once established, this hybrid earthen construction technique will be applied to one of several different building typologies (housing, schools, churches, etc). The end result will be the creation of a building design that establishes an appropriate reconstruction method at an economic level that will reduce the inhabitants’ susceptibility to future seismic disasters.