The field of designing is ever-evolving, new products, materials, and techniques are discovered and put to use every day. The increasing demand for infrastructure has led to the concretizing of the world, thereby, increasing the threat to the environment. All buildings have a carbon footprint. A building’s carbon footprint is defined as the amount of CO2 it produces during its operations and activities. Every year the construction sector consumes 40% of the world raw material and contributes to 60% of the world’s greenhouse emission.

Many architectural firms all around the globe have started switching to sustainable materials that produce less carbon footprint and are environmentally friendly. Among all these techniques one such green building structure is the use of the gabion walls. 

Initially, the gabion wall was only used for retaining soil; preventing landslides. It stabilizes the slopes and seeks to improve the firmness between masses of earth and rock. It consists of a metal cage called gabion which is filled with either stones or small rocks. Each cage is attached to the other by a wire or steel handle. The pieces are stacked one by one creating a unit. In general, there are three types of gabion: box, mattress, and bag. Each varies in shape and measurement but is made up of similar materials.

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Many of you may wonder why one uses gabions in building construction. So here are five compelling reasons which make you realize the flexibility and true potential of this versatile structure.

1. No foundation required

The Gabion wall requires no concrete foundation, the wall toe restricts the gabion wall from displacing, and the depth of the toe needs to increase as the wall increases in height and width. When building on softer soils, both the size of the base and the depth of the toe needs to be increased to spread the load over a wider area.

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2. Earthquake resistant 

Gabion walls are characterized by significant flexibility that allows the development of large deformations, avoiding brittle and sudden failure. According to a study, during an earthquake, the deformability does not reduce the strength of the structure, but it brings into action all the resisting elements of the gabion unit (steel wire mesh in tension and stones in compression), thus leading to an overall huge capacity of withstanding loads.

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Earthquake resistant house in Ladakh, India  ©www.designboom.com

3. Environmental friendly 

A study shows that the use of a gabion solution can reduce CO2 emissions by up to 80% compared to a concrete wall. If vegetation is allowed to grow within a gabion wall, it can further contribute to the carbon removal of the solution.

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4. Scalable 

Gabion units are perfectly scalable.ie; they can be used in small landscape projects to build massive structures.

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5. Aesthetics are important 

In the words of Mario Pei, “Good architecture lets nature in”, we could say that gabions are a way to secure nature with itself. Classic concrete walls are monolithic, while gabion wall units are more in harmony with their surroundings. Gabion structures can also be designed such that plants can take over the interstitial spaces between the rock fill, thus reclaiming nature. 

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In recent years, gabion walls have become widely used for several functions. Other than its original purpose, retaining wall, the structure has been used as a wall for buildings, urban furniture, planters, and other things. 

Here is a list of 5 projects where the gabion wall has been used in the design as a structural system.

1. Herzog & de Meuron’s Dominus Winery

This winery is a utilitarian design that features gabion walls constructed from locally available stones of varying sizes. The metal caging filters the natural light into the interior and provides a controlled environment essential for the wine-making process.

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2. Metropolitan Park South Access 

The basic concept behind the design was to increase the amount of green space per inhabitant and create A friendly city, gabion boxes were strategically used to provide strength and integrate the landscape into the built space creating an interesting play of light and shadow.

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3. Hermana República

It is a giant metallic box supported by gabion walls that don’t integrate with the box but they stand out of it containing all the services and framing the beer garden used for hosting private parties and gatherings.

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4. Wanaka House, New Zealand

Designed by Crosson Clarke Carnachan Architects studio, this single storey contemporary house has used gabion units very playfully. The gabion walls were designed and specially sculpted to have a hollow section that resembles windows.

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5. Bosque Altozano Club House

The house is a monolithic structure with a large opening that slopes from the ceiling to the ground creating panoramic view frames overlooking the hillside. The gabion units make the structure aesthetic and functional sound at the same time merge with the surrounding landscape. 

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Author

Rudraakshi, architecture is an expression of values, tradition, culture and emotions. She believes in achieving aesthetics through a sustainable and vernacular approach. Through the power of her words, she aims to give a new perspective to architecture.

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