M. H. RAMAGE, © 2006

Department of Architecture, University of Cambridge


Aircrete (aerated autoclaved concrete block) is a lightweight microcellular material widely used in the construction industry as an alternative to aggregate concrete masonry units. It has many advantages in the building trade, including light weight, high R-value, fire resistance, ease of cutting and ready-to-finish surfaces. Recent research demonstrates that aircrete is an ideal material for structural masonry spans built in the Mediterranean tradition of timbrel vaulting (also known as Catalan vaulting). Vaults constructed with aircrete show it has potential for both innovative and traditional structural forms. Its light weight and workability are distinct advantages when constructing timbrel vaults, which are built without structural formwork. Qualitative tests show that a variety of block sizes are effective for vaulting, and that the versatility of bearing conditions and strong adhesion with gypsum mortar allows for innovative structural form. Quantitative research shows that aircrete vaults are economical and behave in a brittle manner similar to traditional masonry.