DVL Earth Building Prize for Young Academics 2020

The DVL Earth Building Prize is awarded to young academics on the occasion of the LEHM International Conference on Building with Earth, which takes place every four years. This is the second time the German Association for Earth Building (DVL) has awarded the prize, however, both the conference and award ceremony could not take place due to the coronavirus pandemic. We are therefore announcing the prize winners online and have awarded the prizes virtually.

The prize aims to promote the study of earth building in an academic context. It recognises academic work of excellent quality that demonstrates a firm knowledge of earth building and makes a forward-looking and original contribution in the fields of design, construction, research or development.

Theses / final projects are invited in one or more of the following subject areas:

  • Regulations and building codes,
  • Research (e.g. development, testing or assessment of materials),
  • Education and professional training,
  • Sustainability,
  • Design approaches (modern / traditional earth building).

Applicants were invited to submit a successfully completed bachelor, diploma or master thesis project or doctoral dissertation in German or English. Submitted projects or theses had to have been completed within the three years prior to the prize award in November 2020.

The award ceremony

The award ceremony took place online with the DVL board members Constanze Küsel, Uli Röhlen, Christof Ziegert and the prizewinners Maximilian Brinkmann, Rosie Paul and Liam Owen Winckler.


A total of nine submissions were received from university graduates from Germany, Switzerland and India. The exceptional standard of the submitted work prompted us to award not just a first and second prize, but also a special prize. Prizes were awarded for work on aspects of sustainability and for research, most notably on the load-bearing capacity of earth building materials for construction.

1st Prize – Liam Owen Winckler

Liam Winckler, 1. Preis, DVL Lehmbaupreis 2020
Liam Winckler, 1. Preis, DVL Lehmbaupreis 2020

The first prize, endowed with 500 euros, goes to Liam Winckler for his master’s thesis entitled “Building with earth – production-specific and composition-dependent influences on the compressive strength of rammed earth” (Bauen mit Erde – Herstellungsspezifische und zusammensetzungsabhängige Einflüsse auf die Druckfestigkeit von Stampflehm).

Jury statement:

Mr. Winckler devoted his master’s thesis to an important topic that until now has not been researched extensively: the design of rammed earth constructions taking into account all relevant influencing factors, and the resulting re-evaluation and revision of the safety concept currently used for determining the partial safety factors in the Eurocode. The thesis can make a decisive contribution to the optimisation of structural design methods for rammed earth elements. This is an area of research in which considerable work still needs to be undertaken.

The high level of the submitted work is also attested to by the first examiner, Prof. Dr.-Ing. Ludger Lohaus, University of Hannover, Faculty of Civil Engineering and Geodesy, who describes the thesis as an outstanding achievement in his letter of recommendation:

“The thesis makes a very significant contribution to the planning and structural design of loadbearing rammed earth elements. Mr. Winckler shows a way in which the hitherto empirically based structural design of rammed earth elements can be transferred to the semi-probabilistic partial safety factor concept of the Eurocodes. […] In addition to the extremely demanding probabilistic evaluations for the proposal of specific partial safety factors, the results also serve as a proposal for a well-grounded process for ensuring a minimum level of compressive strength. Together with his seminar paper, Mr. Winckler’s master thesis can already be understood as a draft of an improved procedure for approvals in individual cases (ZiE) for loadbearing rammed earth structures. Mr Winkler has thus made a crucial and outstanding contribution to rammed earth construction and has essentially already elaborated a basis for a possible future norm”.

2nd Prize – Maximilian Brinkmann

Maximilian Brinkmann, 2. Preis, DVL Lehmbaupreis 2020
Maximilian Brinkmann, 2. Preis, DVL Lehmbaupreis 2020

The second prize, endowed with 500 euros, goes to Maximilian Brinkmann for his master’s thesis entitled “The load-bearing behaviour of unreinforced earth masonry under compressive stress” (Tragverhalten unbewehrten Lehmmauerwerks unter Druckbeanspruchung).

Jury statement:

The outstanding academic thesis addresses one of the most pressing problems in modern earth building: the practical optimisation of structural design methods for loadbearing applications of earth masonry in Germany. The supervising professor Prof. Dr.-lng. C.-A. Graubner at the lnstitut für Massivbau at the TU Darmstadt points to its relevance in his recommendation:

“In my view, the submitted thesis provides excellent theoretical groundwork on the material behaviour and load-bearing capacity of non-reinforced earth masonry. […] By comparing the results against the current design regulations for unreinforced masonry, the author’s work has high practical relevance and makes an important contribution both to the development of a consistent structural design method based on the partial safety factor concept and to the integration of earth masonry into the masonry standard DIN EN 1996.”

The results presented in the thesis can make a significant contribution to overcoming the remaining obstacles to developing a practical structural design approach for loadbearing earth masonry.

Special Prize – Rosie Paul

Rosie Paul, Sonderpreis, DVL Lehmbaupreis 2020
Rosie Paul, Sonderpreis, DVL Lehmbaupreis 2020

The special prize, endowed with 500 euros, goes to Rosie Paul for her dissertation entitled “An inventory of traditional stabilisers in the earthen plasters of Kerala”.

Jury statement:

Taking the cultural background of the region of Kerala as its starting point, the dissertation undertakes a comprehensive analysis of the natural additives traditionally used to stabilise earth plasters in the vernacular architecture of the region. The author shows the potential and importance of the use of natural resources, developed over centuries, for ecological building, and specifically for earth building. She then connects this to the global perspective through the UN’s “Sustainable Development Goals Report” (United Nations Publications, New York, 2016), and points to the relevance and necessity of returning to natural resources in an appropriate and adapted manner.

Based on this, the author developed and successfully implemented a programme of practical tests for investigating and determining the specific properties of these natural recipes in earth building. Her work shows that we are at risk of neglecting the knowledge of natural building materials and that is important that we draw on the experience of vernacular building methods. Her dissertation and her further work in the field can contribute to this. With this special prize, the DVL would like to support and raise public awareness of her contribution.

In addition to the prize money, all prize winners receive a year’s free membership of the Dachverband Lehm.