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Rammed Earth - the past has a lot to teach the future

Many builders of the past utilised the earth for not just the foundations of their homes but literally for the home itself. Today, builders are turning back the clock to again build with the strength, durability and insulation of rammed earth.

 

Rammed earth is a method of building as old as the Great Wall of China. It is commonly acknowledged as the world's most widely used building material. Throughout recorded history artisans and village builders have used it to create durable housing. Featuring strong, thick walls, rammed earth structures keep themselves warm in winter and cool in summer, often utilising natural resources harvested from the building site.

They are quiet, comfortable, energy efficient structures that are termite and fire resistant.

Rammed Earth Construction

Simply put a small form is made often as straightforward as two planks separated by 250mm - 600mm cross pieces. Earth is filled into the form and 'rammed' to quickly shape the beginnings of a wall. The form is moved along and the process continued. In this way, communities in the past have been known to build houses in a single day. There is none of the costly time curing necessary for mud bricks nor the inflexibility of strict rectangular structures. Rammed earth is extremely flexible.

 

Rammed earth structures can be load-bearing or non-load bearing. Care must be taken however to consider the weight of earth above door frames and window lintels and appropriate reinforcement made.

 

Benefits

Solid earth walls are amazing at storing energy for long periods of time. Interior temperatures vary very little from day to night. In the summer months, the mass of the walls absorbs excess heat generated during the day, keeping the inside spaces surprisingly cool, then releases that stored heat to the clear night sky. While in winter, the amazing insulation capacities, result in heat being efficiently retained. In a properly designed and oriented building, this can mean significant savings in heating and cooling bills. And because the energy that controls the temperature inside the building radiates directly from the mass of the walls, the quality of the comfort inside is noticeably different than in a space regulated through mechanically altered air. Couple a mass wall with a hydronic radiant slab to achieve the most quiet, uniform, and dust-free heating system available.

Perhaps the best reason to build with earth is the boost it can give to the health of the planet. Earth is an unprocessed, widely available building material with virtually no side effects associated with its harvesting or use. Since an earth walled building saves construction and energy resources, doesn't pollute, and lasts practically forever, it is a wise investment in the future of the planet.

To learn more

 

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