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Rammed Earth Building Review

Rammed Earth Building Review

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Published by Peter W Gossner
A Review of Rammed Earth Construction

Rammed earth walls are formed by compacting damp soil between temporary forms.
Together with other forms of unbaked earthen construction, such as mud-brick, rammed
earth has a long and continued history throughout many regions of the world. Major
centres of rammed earth construction include North Africa, Australasia, regions of
North and South America, China and Europe, including France, Germany and Spain.
Rammed earth or pisé construction has been practised in the UK for well over 200 years.
Throughout the nineteenth century a significant number of rammed earth and rammed
chalk buildings were built in Wessex. Following WWI a series of experimental rammed
earth and chalk houses were built in Amesbury, Wiltshire. However, it is the revival over
the past 10 or so years that has led to this review of rammed earth construction,
undertaken as part of the DTi Partners in Innovation project `Developing rammed earth
construction for UK housing'. The project seeks to promote the use of rammed earth
construction in the UK through the publication and dissemination of a set of design and
construction guidance notes.
The review comprises a study of the current state of the art of rammed earth
construction as published in over 200 books, journal and conference papers, scientific
reports and other articles. In addition to the literature review recent and historic rammed
earth projects in the UK have also been studied and these findings are presented as well.
This combined literature and project review forms an important contribution to the
process of writing the guidance notes.
A Review of Rammed Earth Construction

Rammed earth walls are formed by compacting damp soil between temporary forms.
Together with other forms of unbaked earthen construction, such as mud-brick, rammed
earth has a long and continued history throughout many regions of the world. Major
centres of rammed earth construction include North Africa, Australasia, regions of
North and South America, China and Europe, including France, Germany and Spain.
Rammed earth or pisé construction has been practised in the UK for well over 200 years.
Throughout the nineteenth century a significant number of rammed earth and rammed
chalk buildings were built in Wessex. Following WWI a series of experimental rammed
earth and chalk houses were built in Amesbury, Wiltshire. However, it is the revival over
the past 10 or so years that has led to this review of rammed earth construction,
undertaken as part of the DTi Partners in Innovation project `Developing rammed earth
construction for UK housing'. The project seeks to promote the use of rammed earth
construction in the UK through the publication and dissemination of a set of design and
construction guidance notes.
The review comprises a study of the current state of the art of rammed earth
construction as published in over 200 books, journal and conference papers, scientific
reports and other articles. In addition to the literature review recent and historic rammed
earth projects in the UK have also been studied and these findings are presented as well.
This combined literature and project review forms an important contribution to the
process of writing the guidance notes.

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Published by: Peter W Gossner on Aug 02, 2010
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07/04/2013

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Soils for cement stabilized rammed earth tend to have proportionally higher sand and
gravel content and correspondingly lower fines content. Figure 3.4 shows the
recommended composition of soil cement as proposed by various authors.

Materials in Rammed Earth Construction 3

- 10 -

30

25

40

35

70

75

60

65

(ACI 1990, Berglund
1986, Middleton 1952)

(Gooding 1993,
Montgomery 1998, UN
1958)

(Middleton 1952)

(Middleton 1953)

Reference

Proportions

Clay & SiltSand & Gravel

Figure 3.4: Grading proportions for cement stabilization
Figures 3.5 and 3.6 on the other hand present the lower and upper limits for each of the
main soil elements for cement stabilized rammed earth.

10

25

15

20

15

15

10

0

45

45

40

45

(Gooding 1993)

(Standards Australia
2002)

(Montgomery 1998)

(UN 1964)

Reference

Proportions

ClaySiltSand & gravel

Figure 3.5: Lower range limits for particle-size distribution for cement stabilization

Materials in Rammed Earth Construction 3

- 11 -

25

25

55

30

25

0

75

90

80

(Montgomery 1998)

(Gooding 1993)

(UN 1964)

Reference

Proportions

ClaySiltSand & gravel

Figure 3.6: Upper range limits for particle-size distribution for cement stabilization

In broad terms the criteria presented are in agreement. For example, a soil suitable for
cement stabilization should have a significant sand content, at least greater than 50% and
preferably closer to 75%, and at the same time low clay content, typically less that 25%.
As in the case of unstabilized rammed earth, these criteria are intended as a broad initial
guide for soil selection and include recommendations for soil blocks as well as rammed
earth.

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