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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
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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07/04/2013

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In the ideal situation sufficient quantities of soil suitable for rammed earth construction
will be sourced from the spoil material arising from foundation excavations and other
groundworks and/or a suitable borrow pit on site. The ideal soil will require no further
treatment (screening or blending) and will be at its optimum moisture content for the
chosen method of compaction. Not surprisingly this situation is the exception rather
than the rule for rammed earth construction. In-situ soils are likely to require some
processing, such as drying or screening, following excavation. In the absence of a suitable
in-situ material soil will require transport from a remote source and possible storage on
site prior to ramming.

Soil homogeneity is of course important in rammed earth construction both for
structural integrity and architectural finish. Therefore, it is important that once the soil
has been excavated and prior to placing it into the formwork, variations in soil quality,
including most importantly moisture content, are minimised. Pre-processing of soils for
rammed earth construction depends on the type of soil, but broadly speaking consists of
excavation, screening and mixing thoroughly to correct moisture content.

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