Jacketing, gabions and more

Stone masonry is a thing of the past. Is it ? Mankind used to build with stone for millennia because it's a locally available material. For this very reason people in many parts of the world still use it: being available locally makes it often cheaper than modern building materials that have to be transported from afar.

In richer parts of the world where building materials are cheap but the workforce expensive stone masonry has become a luxury. But its durability and esthetics make it a material of choice for buildings that should last. When used smartly stone masonry doesn't have to be that expensive, as demonstrated by arch. Perraudin.

on jacketing

Jacketing walls by adding a wire mesh on both sides is a way of adding coherence and tensile strength to the masonry. It is frequently used to strengthen existing stone or brick masonry walls. In retrofitting work jacketing is also employed to repair or strengthen reinforced concrete elements such as columns or beams.

Jacketing adobe buildings with a polymer wire mesh has given excellent results when applied together with mud mortar. This method is particularly interesting when used during the construction phase rather than being applied later on.

retrofitting stonehouse Battagram SDC co

Retrofitting through Jacketing of the Housing Reconstruction Centre office in Battagram, Pakistan: a short presentation, by Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation SDC and Prof. Dr. Qaisar Ali of the University of Engineering and Technology Pakistan, 2006

Lemme A., Pasquale C., Miozzi C. e Cifani G. (2006), Analisi delle principali tecniche di intervento ritenute invasive dalla vigente normativa sismica e delle soluzioni alternative, Commissione Sismica "Sismo Molise 2002", Regione Molise, Italia, 2006

Boen T., Imai H. (2019), Brief report of Shake Table Test on Mud Mortar Stone Masonry House Strengthened with 2mm Gabion Wire, in Journal of Scientific and Engineering Research 2019, 6(8): 42-52


on gabions

Gabion walls are made of galvanized wire baskets filled with stones. Gabions mostly used for retaining walls. However, architects have used them for design purposes, sometimes even with an seismic function.

In order to resist in time gabions must a) be made with galvanized steel wire with the correct strength and thickness, b) have the right size (not too long) and c) be filled in with carefully placed stone (not just thrown in).

AWG Const Guide gabions-coverpage.jpg

ArtWeld Gabions & Gabion Faced M.S.E. (Mechanically Stabilized Earth):  Construction Guide, by Hilfiker Retaining Walls, Eureka, California, 2001


Construire en mur de pierres confinées: Améliorer l'habitat des populations fragiles au Maroc, par Architecture et Développement (Association de solidarité internationale). Voir aussi la vidéo.

Comment by tom: Good against earthquakes, but cheap enough for poor communities?


"Gabion Bands", a ProposedT echnology for Reconstructing Rural Rubble Stone Houses after the 2015 Nepal Earthquake, by Randolph Langenbach

Comment by tom: An interesting idea to reduce the need for precious timber.

Samayoa J., Baraccani S., Pieraccini L. and Silvestri S. (2018), Seismic Behaviour of One-STorey Gabion-Box Walls Buildings, in Frontiers in Built Environment, vol. 4, art. 7


on retaining walls

Pure dry stone retaining walls, as they have been made for centuries, are rarely built these days. At most, the front part is built with stone while the back towards the earth is cast in reinforced concrete. Much century-old know-how been lost. Retaining walls are inherently dangerous and should be calculated by a civil engineer.

However, for low walls basic know-how and good reasoning may be sufficient. Architects, nobody expects you to understand the calculations in the following documents. But please study the illustrations, they already offer good explanations.

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Les murs de soutènement - Leçon préparée par le Centre de Compétence Reconstruction de la DDC (SDC) Haiti, 2013

16_Les murs de soutenement-coverpage.jpg

Los muros de conteción - Lección preparada por COSUDE (SDC), Ecuador, 2017

Arya A.S. and Gupta V.P. (1983), Retaining walls for hill roads, University of Roorkee, India

Brady K.C. and Kavanagh J. (2002), Analysis of the stability of masonry-faced earth retaining walls, Transport Research Foundation, Transport Research Laboratory, London, UK

Claxton M. et al. (2005), Rigid Block Distinct-Element Modeling of Dry-Stone Retaining Walls in Plane Strain, American Society of Civil Engineers ASCE, Reston VA, USA

Chan Y.C. (1982), Study of old masonry retaining walls in Hong Kong, GEO Report No. 31, Geotechnical Engineering Office, Civil Engineering Department, Government of Hong Kong

Geotechnical Engineering Office (2003), Guidelines for Assessment of Old Masonry Retaining Walls in Geotechnical Studies and for Action to be taken on Private Walls, GEO Circular No. 33


on stone masonry in general

Here a small collection of documents that came handy when working on stone masonry. The field manual by the Joint Research Centre of the European commission offers an excellent classification of various types of stone

masonry (from page 27 onward). The tutorial by Bothara and Brzev provides an overview of stone masonry from many parts of the world and gives some useful notions on retrofitting in chapter 4.

Baggio C. et al (2007), Field Manual for post-earthquake damage and safety assessment and short term countermeasures (AeDES), JRC Scientific and Technical Reports, European Commission

Bothara J. and Brzev S. (2011), A tutorial: Improving the Seismic Performance of Stone Masonry Buildings, Earthquake Engineering Research Institute EERI, California, USA

Carocci C. (2001), Guidelines for the safety and preservation of historical centres in seismic areas, in Historical Constructions, Lourenço and Roca, Guimarães, Portugal

Dipasquale L., Rovero L. and Fratini F. (2016), Ancient stone masonry constructions, University of Florence and Institute for Conservation and Promotion of Cultural Heritage, Sesto Fiorentino, Italy

Tributsch H. (2017), On the reddish, glittery mud the Incas used for perfecting their stone masonry, in SDRP Journal of Earth Sciences and Environmental Studies.