rammed earth building
what is it?
It is building with earth (subsoil rather thantopsoil). Two billion people worldwide live inearth constructions and rammed earth buildingis on the increase in Europe as well as in otherareas.The oldest surviving rammed earth buildingsare around 8000 years old, and were built inareas with few trees, like the ancient city-statesof Mesopotamia; the Romans introduced it intoEurope. The technique was also used on theGreat Wall of China. Cob and adobe buildingsare not rammed – a mixture of earth and wateris built up slowly to form walls, or made intoblocks.True rammed earth building involvescompacting soil into formwork. Particle sizescan range from gravel to clays, although themain constituent will be sand (50-60%); clayswill be between 10-20% - higher than this willcause shrinkage. Rammed earth is a versatilematerial and can be used equally effectively forcurves and arches as well as straight walls.Rammed earth buildings have low materialcosts but high labour costs, so are comparablein price with conventional buildings; they comeinto their own when you consider the health,environmental, thermal and aesthetic benefits.
what are the benefits?
as earth walls don’trequire bricks to be fired in a kiln, or cementmanufacture, there is a massive reduction inemissions of CO
(the most importantgreenhouse gas). Around 10% of global CO
emissions are from the cement industry. Somewebsites say that 5-10% cement should beadded to the earth, but it’s not necessary; RamCast CIC (see resources) have been buildingrammed earth structures for years without it.
it’s just plain old earth, which canbe used again on a new building, or be re-absorbed into the environment easily.
high thermal mass:
walls can absorb the sun’swarmth during the day, and leach it slowly intothe building at night; this reduces the energyrequired for heating, and so further reducesCO
emissions and pollution.
no toxic, or factory-producedmaterials in the walls at all – just earth.
cement and bricks are heavy, and theirmanufacture is centralized; earth can be duglocally, reducing transport requirements, CO
emissions and pollution
if you’re looking for a naturalhouse, then earth can play a part, along withstone, timber, straw, slate and lime. The moveto plastics and processed building materialsafter the war is slowly being reversed now.Non-toxic, breathable, natural materials aregood for the environment, for your health, andfor buildings and their air quality, which is goodnews for asthma sufferers.
this wall at the Eden Project,Cornwall was built of rammed earth by Ram Cast CIC - see resources.
into formwork with a pneumatic ram to construct walls.