Thursday, January 12, 2006

M Again

The Millers the Millers the Millers. How could we forget David and Lydia Miller?

Perhaps you remember REII or the Rammed Earth Institute International, a Non-Profit corporation dedicated to:

bringing together those interested in research on rammed earth in all its phases...

Searching for all publications on rammed earth and preparing a World Wide Bibliography on rammed earth...

Public education on the advantages of rammed earth compared to all other building materials in cost, availability, comfort and durability

Conduct, sponsor and support scientific research of rammed earth as a building material
...and so on and so forth--you know, that kind of open source left crap that insults our better proprietary monopolist pay-day instincts.


The Millers also wrote a book, most likely long since out of print. I found it at this crazy free book store called the library. But if you hate the library because it cuts into private sector profits, you might be able to purchase a copy here.

In doing virtual (as opposed to actual) research on the Millers, I came across this article from Mother Earth News, Jan/Feb 1980.

While I am certain you'll want to read the entire article, here are some "nibblies:"

You see, because rammed earth has such a low rate of thermal conductivity (it's actually near zero), warmth takes almost 12 hours to work its way through a 14"-thick wall.

In addition, the compressional strength of rammed earth can be as high as 625 PSI, which—though it's only two-thirds the value of a similar thickness of concrete—still makes a rammed earth building nearly as durable as a bomb shelter.

Then— in 1938— the U.S. Department of Agriculture actually erected an experimental community of rammed earth buildings. The results of that test were quite positive: The USDA's final report noted that rammed earth structures—which would last indefinitely— could be built for as little as two-thirds the cost of standard frame houses. The earthen abodes were also shown to be considerably less expensive to heat and cool, and—because the homes were labor (as opposed to material) intensive—it was clear that they would allow do-it-yourselfers plenty of opportunity to save money.

We can only speculate as to why postwar America snubbed the rammed earth concept: Perhaps the modest pise technique seemed too basic in the face of our newly formed technocracy. Or it may have been the construction industry—which depends so heavily on material intensive methods for its livelihood—that helped deprive rammed earth of its rightful position in building. Furthermore, the public's then increasing yen for miracle synthetics certainly had something to do with the lack of acceptance for so "earthy" a technique....

Perhaps the best feature of rammed earth is that almost anyone can build with it! As you'll see in the sidebar, constructing the massive walls is actually rather easy, and most people have the necessary raw materials in their own back yards! And, if you're willing to supply the labor, a rammed earth dwelling can be far less expensive than a conventional (energy inefficient) house of the same size.

According to Lydia and Dave, rammed earth homes lend themselves particularly well to construction on the community level. Because digging, sifting, and tamping the earth requires a relatively extensive amount of labor, a work exchange arrangement among a number of potential rammed earth builders can offer a way to construct pise dwellings quickly and economically. Better yet, the spirit of such a group effort harks back to the days of house raisings in the formative years of our country


Ah the "formative years" of our country. Thank goodness they're long gone! Heck, even as late as the 80's some "dangerous elements" were "fucking with the formula" with notions like Perhaps the best feature of rammed earth is that almost anyone can build with it! That kind of talk is most certainly not going to goose along the global economy, nor is it going to sell anything that's "laser cut." And after all, isn't that the end game: laser beams, monopolies and the separation of labor into it's most absurd, isolated constituents?

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Greetings enlightened ones,
We should be incorporating more of this technology in general construction practices and home building. I have known of the adobe and rammed earth building for some time and hope to find away to incorporate these and other natural mrthods in the future - either for others or myself in my area.
arie trockman, carpenter
phoenix, az

Anonymous said...

Greetings enlightened ones,
We should be incorporating more of this technology in general construction practices and home building. I have known of the adobe and rammed earth building for some time and hope to find away to incorporate these and other natural mrthods in the future - either for others or myself in my area.
arie trockman, carpenter
phoenix, az

David said...

The Millers were delightful. I visited their rammed earth solar home (1950) about 1977 and had a great visit with them. Their rammed earth book is free on the web as a scratchy microfiche -

strawbale db

jakubsafar.cz said...

Hello, I can not find the book on the net. Is there any copy available (be it in any format).? Jakub