Building Houses Out of Earth Reading Questions and Answers

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  • IELTS Reading Multiple Choice Questions
  • IELTS Reading Sentence Completion
  • IELTS Reading Short Answer Questions

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IELTS Reading passage – Building Houses Out of Earth

Building Houses out of Earth

AOn every continent, one can find houses or other buildings made of the clay–bearing soils dug up from the ground. In some places, earth building technologies have been around for a very long time. In the southwestern United States, for example, American Indian tribes such as the Pueblo people have been building earth houses and other earth structures for thousands of years. And in China’s Xinjiang Province, archaeologists have found entire earth villages dating back over 2500 years. While building houses out of earth is certainly not new, it has never been very common because of the preference for other materials.

BIn some parts of the world, however, there has been renewed growth in the popularity of earth building. Two such places are Australia and New Zealand, where the practice did not exist until the relatively recent arrival of European settlers. It is estimated that there are now over 2100 houses made of earth in Australia, and 35% of them were built within the past decade. An equal proportion of the 550 earthen structures in New Zealand were built in the last five years. This trend appears to reflect growing earth construction in North America and Eastern Europe.

CWhy the renewed interest in earth building? The building material itself is probably the reason. Earth is available virtually anywhere, literally under our feet. And unlike many other building materials that typically require treatment with chemical preservatives, the earth is non-toxic. This cannot be said for commercially sold timber and brick products.

DAnother well-known characteristic of earth houses is their passive solar capacity – their ability to retain warmth in the winter and keep cool in the summer without the need for dedicated solar panels, plumbing or fossil fuel energy sources. This comes entirely from the effective way in which earthen walls act to store heat.

ESome people claim that earth buildings are cheaper to build than conventional brick or wooden houses, the two most common types in Australia and New Zealand. This appears to be true, according to data from the New Zealand Construction Quarterly. Assuming walls make up 15% of the cost of building a house, then the use of earthen walls would bring a total saving of 10% over timber frame construction and 38% over brick.

FBut perhaps most attractive of all is the unique atmosphere provided by earth houses, with their natural colors, their acoustic properties and thick, solid walls. Not all the earth building is done the same way. The technologies used vary from region to region, depending on the types of earth available and local building traditions. They are also undergoing constant study and improvement, with a view to bettering resistance to earthquakes and weather.

GIn New Zealand, stabilisers such as cement, sand, straw, even cow dung, have been found to make a stronger and longer-lasting material when added to earth. The downside of using particularly effective stabilisers like cement is that they can be expensive and their manufacture may create much pollution. Thus, their use should be kept to a minimum.

HThose who choose to build with earth should also be careful about using paints or other coatings on the surface of the earth’s walls. Some coatings have the effect of preventing the walls from ‘breathing’. When this happens, any water that gets absorbed into the walls may not have a way of escaping and get trapped. This may lead to cracks or other signs of the early deterioration of the earthen material.

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Question 1

Choose the appropriate letter (A – D) and write it in box 1 on your answer sheet.

1In ‘Building houses out of earth’, the writer’s main aim is to ….…

A provide an overview of earth building.
B promotes the building of earth houses.
C reviews the history of earth building.
D examines the variety of earth buildings.

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Questions 2 and 3

Write your answers in boxes 2-3 on your answer sheet.

2Name places where earth building practices have existed for a long time.
Southwestern United States and …….…(2)……….|
3Name places where earth building is becoming more popular.
Australia, North America and ……..(3)………

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Questions 4-7

In ‘Building houses out of earth’, the writer mentions several reasons why some people prefer earth houses.

Read the list of reasons below and choose FOUR that are referred to in the passage.

Write your answers in boxes 4-7 on your answer sheet.

A cost of construction
B resistance to earthquakes
C stability of earth
D heat storage capacity
E availability of materials
F construction technology
G appearance and character

Questions 8-11

Using a NUMBER or NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS, answer the following questions. Write your answers in boxes 8-11 on your answer sheet.

8What percentage of earth buildings in New Zealand were constructed in the past 5 years?
9Name ONE building material that contains chemical preservatives.
10Name the feature of earth houses that enables them to keep temperatures low in summer.
11Name ONE substance that can lengthen the life of earth as a building material.

Unlock your full potential in the IELTS Reading section – Visit our IELTS Reading Practice Question Answer page now!

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Renewable Energy IELTS Reading Question with Answer


1Answer: A
2Answer: China’s Xinjiang Province
3Answer: Eastern Europe
4Answer: A
5Answer: D
6Answer: E
7Answer: G
8Answer: 35
9Answer: brick/ commercially sold timber
10Answer: passive solar capacity
11Answer: cow dung/straw/sand/cement


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