Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2011

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

First Advisor

Abbie Liel

Second Advisor

Bernard Amadei

Third Advisor

John McCartney


Stabilized compressed earth blocks (SCEBs) are a historic masonry building material, which now has an increasing appeal to the sustainable building community. SCEBs offer a competitive alternative to conventional building materials because they utilize local resources, can be both cost effective and energy efficient, and closely follow existing masonry construction practices. However, efforts to standardize the production and testing of SCEBs have not been as comprehensive as other materials due to the wide variability of soil combinations. This thesis tests the structural performance of SCE blocks, sub-assemblies, and walls, using testing methods adapted from masonry. Methodologies for creating and testing block composition, initial soil mix moisture contents for block production, shear strength, and curing environment are addressed. As part of the testing program a full-scale SCEB wall section was tested to evaluate shear strengths at various heights within the wall, under the presence of varying axial loads. Results from these tests were compared to prism tests performed using a newly developed SCEB shear testing apparatus.

The results of this thesis highlight general trends in the strength properties of different soil mixes for blocks and mortars, specifically related to the effect of water content, clay-to-sand ratios, axial load, and curing environment on block strength. The need for additional testing and further development of testing methods is stressed due to the lack of research focused specifically on SCEBs. These efforts are necessary to ensure that SCEB technology becomes a more widely accepted building material.