Start your review of The Rammed Earth House Write a review Shelves: architecture , environment-and-earth-sciences , household , reference , regional , general-science-math-technology , history A very good history, analysis, and step-by-step guide to the planning, design, and construction of rammed earth houses and other buildings. For anyone who is thinking about building a house and researching different construction techniques, or who has definitely chosen this as their planned method, this book will be very useful. Along with the information on the history and science of rammed earth construction, the book is well illustrated with photos of many examples of rammed earth buildings A very good history, analysis, and step-by-step guide to the planning, design, and construction of rammed earth houses and other buildings. Along with the information on the history and science of rammed earth construction, the book is well illustrated with photos of many examples of rammed earth buildings in a variety of places and environments, enough so to make it a decent coffee table book as well.

Author:Zulkira Dulrajas
Language:English (Spanish)
Published (Last):14 May 2009
PDF File Size:14.7 Mb
ePub File Size:17.55 Mb
Price:Free* [*Free Regsitration Required]

Monday, April 29, Oliver Atwood Interviews Building materials and resilience are intrinsically linked. Rammed earth is perhaps the longest-enduring building material, employed by the babylonians and the ancient chinese to build fortresses, temples, and even parts of the Great Wall of China. Its legacy continues through to the present day, where modern technology has transformed it into a truly unique and beautiful material.

Building materials and resilience are intrinsically linked. Rammed earth is perhaps the longest-enduring building material, employed by the Babylonians and the ancient Chinese to build fortresses, temples, and even parts of the Great Wall of China. In a basic sense, rammed earth is a kind of human-made version of sedimentary rock.

Earth is compacted layer by layer in a formwork, which is then removed, revealing a beautifully stratified surface. David Easton, President of Rammed Earth Works, has been building with rammed earth for the past four decades. I sat down with him at his workshop in Napa, under a smoke-filled November sky, to talk with him about his experience bringing this ancient material into the modern era.

David: It was right after I got out of college. I was looking for a way to build my own house with a minimum investment in the cost of building materials. O: What inspires you most about this material? What has kept you interested in it all these years? It was a situation of finding an enormous challenge that you could set a major goal to overcome.

It was how difficult it was that made me want to perfect it. David Easton, in , preparing a sample of rammed earth by hand. D: There are people building rammed earth all over the country and all over the world. I believe that our company has been able to refine the process to bring it more in line with contemporary building standards and project management standards. What sets us apart is our professionalism.

A lot of the other rammed earth builders as I understand it are mavericks. O: When you started, you were acting as a full general contractor, responsible for every part of the building process.

When did you make the switch to specializing on just rammed earth and what inspired that decision? D: Well, I switched about seven years into it because I wanted to concentrate on improving the rammed earth technology. I needed to build more rammed earth — I needed to do 12 projects a year rather than one. To make good rammed earth there is just experience. O: It sounds like profit is not your primary driver.

D: No, not at all. My driver was to develop a construction system that was more ecologically responsible. The Windhover Contemplative Center is built around a series of massive, monolithic rammed earth walls. Photo Credit: Matthew Millman Rammed earth, with a legacy that goes back millennia, is a timeless material. The work of Rammed Earth Works has transformed it from a rudimentary construction process into something closer to an art form.

Photo Credit: Matthew Millman The beauty of these walls is the culmination of decades of practice and refinement. I thought I knew everything back there in and I was so wrong. O: What were the greatest obstacles you faced in making rammed earth an accepted part of the California building code? D: Repetition. Just plain doing it. I have building permits in 42 California counties. How can we work this out? There are now structural engineers throughout all of California that have designed big buildings with rammed earth and they are supportive of the system.

So it has something to do with volume. Now, people still misunderstand what rammed earth is. What do you say to those people? D: Oh, god. In fact, mostly we use crushed stone now instead of earth. O: What do you say to someone who needs to be persuaded in the opposite direction? How do you justify the sustainability aspect of it given how far removed this material is from traditional rammed earth? We can look at these and year-old buildings without cement, without reinforcing steel, that are still standing, but the modern codes require that we meet these certain structural minimums.

As much as I regret it, to achieve these minimums I still rely on Portland cement. My hope is that we can develop alternative binders, that we can get engineers and building officials to recognize safety at lower compressive values, but where we are right now is that if I want to continue to build rammed earth walls, I have to accept the reality that I need to use Portland cement.

O: What about if you were based in Texas or Arizona? D: If I was in the desert, I could use way less cement. Cast-in-place rammed earth walls, made of a blend of local aggregates, give this modern residence in St.

Helena a feeling of harmony with its surroundings. Do you see it becoming affordable for everyone? In California, our market is the luxury home buyer or the real estate developer or the property owner who wants a beautiful piece of art in their structure. Labor rates are through the roof. Engineering fees, legal fees, everything combines to drive the cost of a rammed earth wall away from the average consumer. Mostly labor rates. When we go some part of the world where labor rates are low, then rammed earth is a very valid alternative to other methods of construction.

And when they have to travel and you put them in a motel, that doubles the cost right there. O: Watershed Block was intended as that midpoint. What happened? It seemed like such a good idea. So it just kinda fell by the wayside. Which is why we pivoted to the idea of a transportable block plant. Instead of selling block that we make here at the factory, now we are trying to make machines that go somewhere where there is a pile of aggregate and someone who needs blocks.

O: For centralized production, do you imagine automation or drastically decreasing the cycle time of the machine would make a big enough difference to reach that price parity point with CMU?

D: No. That was a mistake that I made at the outset. If you are going to use compression — ultra high compression — to squeeze the block hard enough that you can get it strong without cement, that takes time. The compression cycle takes 20 seconds. Watershed Block is a modular version of rammed earth technology.

The blocks are dimensionally identical to concrete masonry units CMUs and fit into an existing masonry trade.

The natural variation of Watershed Block, combined with a creative bond pattern, allows this modular material to share in the earth-tone character of its cast-in-place cousin. Rugged yet refined, these blocks made of local aggregates give buildings a sense of familiarity with their surroundings. Photo Credit: Mark Luthringer Watershed Block, seen here in a modern Napa home, brings the beauty of rammed earth to a wider market. Photo Credit: Jacob Snavely The modularity of Watershed Blocks allow them to interface cleanly with windows, doors, and other building systems.

Photo Credit: Jacob Snavely D: Someday people will realize that the ground beneath your feet or in that nearby hole in the ground can make building products. And what we have done at Rammed Earth Works for all of these years is build credibility for this beautiful material. I believe, having written those books and done this high-visibility work, that we have built credibility for rammed earth — for earth as a modern building material. So he and I agreed to allow more time for every step of the process.

So there were fewer risks and fewer callbacks. The cost went up, but the quality doubled. Well, actually the quality quadrupled and the cost doubled, so we were actually in a better place.

So it was really after that change in our approach that we elevated our game and got to a different clientele. Photo Credit: Michael David Rose Precast rammed earth panels are rammed, cured, and cut to size in the company warehouse in Napa. These panels have expanded the range of contexts in which rammed earth can be installed.

Precast rammed earth panels being installed on a construction site. Precast panel being installed at Reformation clothing store on Valencia Street. Photo Credit: Jessie Gillan Careful formulation of mix designs has allowed Rammed Earth Works to incorporate a wide variety of colors into their panels without the use of cement dyes.

Photo Credit: Jessie Gillan O: What are the biggest challenges faced in building rammed earth of consistent quality in the field? D: The biggest challenge is consistent mix design. But those fine particles will vary from region to region and parent rock to parent rock.

How do you test mix designs? Primarily you are looking at gradation — the relationship between the very fine particles — the clays and silts — and the sands and gravels, because there is a certain proportion between fine and coarse that creates the best possible packing index. Then you test the fine particles that are in that aggregate to see if those fine particles are clay and hence sticky or silt and inert. Then you will also test for shrinkage and the specific density — is the rock itself hard and is it absorbative?

But your two key tests are your gradation and your plasticity which is the percentage of the material that is clay. Those are your standard geotechnical tests.


The rammed earth house

By rediscovering the most ancient of all building materials —earth—forward-thinking homebuilders can now create structures that set new standards for beauty, durability, and efficient use of natural resources. Rammed earth construction is a step forward into a sustainable future, when homes will combine pleasing aesthetics and intense practicality with a powerful sense of place. Rammed earth homes are built entirely on-site, using basic elements—earth, water, and a little cement. The solid masonry walls permit design flexibility while providing year-round comfort and minimal use of energy. The builder and resident of a rammed earth house will experience the deep satisfaction of creating permanence in a world dominated by the disposable. Read more Collapse About the author David Easton is the founder, along with Cynthia Wright, of Rammed Earth Works REW Associates , a firm that over the past thirty years has designed and built more than residential and commercial rammed earth structures around the world.


The Rammed Earth House


Related Articles