Monday, May 01, 2006

Rammed Earth Structures



If the production of cement is one of the highest carbon dioxide emitters in the world today, how can we reform the way we build in order to reduce these emissions? One of the answers might lie in the use of rammed earth as a material for construction of buildings.

Julian Keable of Pearce Mccomish says "...Ramming earth has been a method of construction used for centuries in various parts of the world, and is commonly known by its French name Piseg .Earth is extracted from the ground and compacted in layers inside specially constructed formwork. After compaction the formwork is released and moved along to a new position in the wall, or upwards to the next layer. In this way the building goes up rapidly, layer by layer, row by row.

This technique can produce buildings that are strong, durable, safe and desirable. Above all, because earth is an abundant and cheap resource, rammed earth buildings are very economical; in addition, the majority of the investment goes directly into the local economy. The method has an essential simplicity, and with its unskilled labour intensity, rammed earth can be seen as a valuable tool in the generation of low-cost housing in developing countries, in both urban and rural areas.

Well built, rammed earth walls will compare favourably with other masonry materials, such as bumt clay bricks or concrete blocks, in compressive strength, erosion by moisture or seasonal changes of dimension. Costs will also, in most cases, be highly competitive..."

Photos and Illustrations courtesy of Pearce Mccomish

13 comments:

corey said...

It seems you are using very confusing wording. It is not "rammed earth" but "rammed soil" one must presume since one cannot possibly "extract Earth from the ground" any more than one can remove a black hole from a well. The Earth is a planet and is not synonymous with soil.
Additionally, all soil is not the same. One would assume that sandy soils would not be as "strong, durable, safe" as soil with high clay content. Therefore, it is not a panacea.

Mark Miron said...

Just coming here from the Make:Blog write up and I am left scratching my head at Cory's comments. In follow the links, it would seem that 'rammed earth' is the commonly agreed on terminology for that type of construction, the concept is pretty obvious and going all english major on us, splitting hairs over the use of the word earth vs. soil seems pretty trivial.

I would like to now the common types of 'earth' used though and it looks that there are a few books out on the topic. Check out Rammed Earth Works-Publications for a listing.

Anonymous said...

Look up the word 'earth' in a dictionary before you criticize people on syntactical correctness.

The first definition of 'earth' from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is:
1 : the fragmental material composing part of the surface of the globe; especially : cultivable soil

I hardly believe anyone other than you was confused by the author's use of 'earth' instead of 'soil'.

----

Nice little article on "rammed earth" building. Thank you! I'm curious to see if I could actually do something like this on a smaller scale (perhaps a shed or some such).

Anonymous said...

note that earth is not used in the proper sense here.

WonderWheeler said...

Whether you call it earth, dirt, soil, or whatever, it can be used as a building material in certain circumstances. If it has enough inorganic material (to resist decay), clay or Portland cement (to keep the particles stuck together), a little water and a bunch of pressure to squeeze out most of the air, you can make a wall.

In its simplist way, its a bit like a very big dirt clod. Can be cheap, but not indestructable. Can be subject to earthquakes, but on the other hand, would probably stop a bullet and help keep out the elements.

WonderWheeler said...

Whether you call it earth, dirt, soil, or whatever, it can be used as a building material in certain circumstances. If it has enough inorganic material (to resist decay), clay or Portland cement (to keep the particles stuck together), a little water and a bunch of pressure to squeeze out most of the air, you can make a wall.

In its simplist way, its a bit like a very big dirt clod. Can be cheap, but not indestructable. Can be subject to earthquakes, but on the other hand, would probably stop a bullet and help keep out the elements.

WonderWheeler said...

Whether you call it earth, dirt, soil, or whatever, it can be used as a building material in certain circumstances. If it has enough inorganic material (to resist decay), clay or Portland cement (to keep the particles stuck together), a little water and a bunch of pressure to squeeze out most of the air, you can make a wall.

In its simplist way, its a bit like a very big dirt clod. Can be cheap, but not indestructable. Can be subject to earthquakes, but on the other hand, would probably stop a bullet and help keep out the elements.

a Make subscriber
Modesto, California, USA

Anonymous said...

To the tards saying "earth" is not used in the proper sense, bite me.

New Make User said...

From a sustainability standpoint, this is a big deal- huge R-value for insulation, environmentally friendly-- but I'd like to know more about the "ramming" process. I'll bet it still uses less energy than it takes to manufacture your average cinderblock.

(And I'd also like to know more about getting these pesky black holes out of my well-- or is that a post for the quantum physics blog?)

Thanks for posting this-- I've been doing a lot of sustainability research and this will be a good starting point.

Bob Darlington said...

I've recently researched this type of construction as well as using recycled tires for forms (www.earthship.com). Thes types of housing, along with cars like a Prius, are for tree huggers. (Do the math some time on a Prius!) You might have inexpensive materials but at 5x the labor costs most people cannot afford to do this. If you have a large group of people willing to work for free, then building a house out of dirt may pay off. If not, concrete is cheap, easy to work with, and fast. Please explore the use of PumiceCrete. This is pumice coated with portland cement, has roughly R1 insulation factor per inch wall, and takes no time at all to mix and pour. It's mostly air -just a *thin* layer of cement to hold it together. No 80,000 PSI strength walls, but who needs that for residenses?

Bob Darlington said...

I've recently researched this type of construction as well as using recycled tires for forms (www.earthship.com). Thes types of housing, along with cars like a Prius, are for tree huggers. (Do the math some time on a Prius!) You might have inexpensive materials but at 5x the labor costs most people cannot afford to do this. If you have a large group of people willing to work for free, then building a house out of dirt may pay off. If not, concrete is cheap, easy to work with, and fast. Please explore the use of PumiceCrete. This is pumice coated with portland cement, has roughly R1 insulation factor per inch wall, and takes no time at all to mix and pour. It's mostly air -just a *thin* layer of cement to hold it together. No 80,000 PSI strength walls, but who needs that for residenses?

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