The use of unfired earth as a building material, which is part of the tradition of many countries, is reconsidered in order to perfect details for improving the quality of walls in locally constructed buildings. Some examples of unfired earth buildings in Italy and elsewhere are shown. The disappearance of the unfired technique as a result of the introduction of "modern" building methods is pointed out. Recent environmental concerns, as well as renewed interest in this outdated technique, have led to its reappearance. The need for a standard which defines the application contexts of unfired earth and identifies the test procedures for assessing physical and mechanical characteristics is pointed out. Attention is focused on rammed earth blocks for use in constructing low-cost homes for developing countries using local unskilled labour. Blocks were produced using earth obtained from the Alessandria region of Italy (where the "pise" building method is used for unfired earth). Compression, bending strength and induced tensile strength ("Brazilian") tests were carried out on blocks stabilised with 0-10% cement. Their performance, modifications made to the manual press used to form the blocks, and practical on-site experience are outlined.