The ancient building techniques called “ Rammed Earth” is one of the oldest construction methods known to man. Evidence traces it as far back on the human timeline as 8000 BC. The rammed earth materials create a strong and environmentally friendly building. Across the world this unbaked earth system has created homes, palaces, and fortresses. “Commonly used especially in China, the technique was applied to both ancient monuments and vernacular architecture, with the Great Wall utilizing the technique”

What is it ? Rammed earth is made of damp soil or earth that is placed in formwork, and then compressed or rammed into a solid, dense wall. The soil mixture can be sand, clay, silt, gravel, loam and sometimes cement into a building recipe that is then compacted into forms. The wall strength will increase as it cures with the compression and the additional factors of moisture content, soil type, and any stabilizer used.

Rammed Earth Building – An Ancient Technique for our Modern World

Benefits to considering a Rammed Earth Home are:

  • Affordable building materials
  • All Natural materials mean no out-gassing
  • Strong Thermal Mass
  • A key advantage of building like this is the ability of the earth walls to absorb the heat of the day and disperse it through the night as the temperature drops outside. It works best in places with hot days and cold nights.
  • Thick walls create good acoustic properties
  • Beauty and unique quality that marries the building with the earth.

Some Challenges are:

  • Labor costs can be costly
  • Location restrictions
  • Local Regulations

Some additional measures are utilized to improve any shortcomings to the rammed earth walls. Often extra insulation is added to upshift thermal performance. “If applied externally, the insulation should be vapor-permeable to allow evaporation; if applied internally, insulation options are much more flexible, although the insulation should not be attached directly to the face of the wall. “ Protection from water damage is achieved by designing and utilizing long overhanging eaves and/or by lifts with solid raised footings above ground level.

Rammed Earth requires a knowledge of the area’s climate and the proposed location. Ideally, the rammed earth building works best in climates with moderate temperatures and high humidity. A colder climate would require additional insulators, and areas of high rainfall would need special protection measures against the water.

If the Rammed Earth building calls to you, learn more with some great resources. Rammed Earth Works is the original rammed earth building in the United States.

“Our work captures the essence of what draws architects and owners to rammed earth in the first place – native rock and soil transformed into elegant, emotive, resilient shelter. Yes, we’ve mastered a technology, but we’ve done so in such a way as to highlight the natural, made-by- hand character, the je ne sais quoi – of the material itself. Step inside a building with thick earth walls and you’ll have trouble going back”

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Article resources: Arch, Dwell, Tree Hugger, Design Curial