Thursday, October 25, 2007

Does Rammed Earth Burn?

Californians seeking to build in fire-prone areas should consider rammed earth walls as part of a building system with a minimum of flammable components.

I live in a very fire prone area, so my home was designed with a minimum of ignitable surfaces; RE walls, metal roof, stucco on the second floor's OSB siding. The rammed earth walls also keep things cool through the 40 degree days we sometimes get in the summer.

I've only heard of one rammed earth building that was destroyed by fire in California.

The house in question should be of interest to Rammed Earth historians as it was featured prominently in Anthony F. Merrill's seminal book "The Rammed Earth House". If I ever get my hands on another copy, I'll examine it thoroughly for construction details to share with you.

Built by artist Millard Sheets in Padua Hills, California after WWII, the house was destroyed by fire exactly four years ago today. All that remained of the rammed earth portion in 2004 were two columns.

A brief investigation indicated that there was a fair amount of wood within the rammed earth walls.

Keep organics out of your earth walls if you want them to last (cob people, don't hit me) !

Looks like Millard didn't think a little stucco or paint was such a bad thing.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Historic Rammed Earth in Spain and India

Are you interested in RammedEarth? Will you be in London on the 8th of November?
Paul Jaquin is giving a presentation at the Institution of Structural Engineers in London on the 8th November at 6pm. He will present work carried out in Spain and India made possible by a travel award from said institution. Paul will talk about historic rammed earth construction techniques, how and why historic earth buildings fail, and the success of ancient and modern repair techniques.
If his flickr photoset is any indication, it will be a fascinating presentation.
Click on the poster for more details about dinner and drinks afterwards with like-minded scholars and professionals.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Don't call me a Luddite

Labour costs are so high in North America.

Why not treat yourself to a nice new earth blending machine?

Rammed Earth In Germany

We get more queries from South Korea, South Africa, Italy, Brazil, Mexico and Thailand than we do from Germany.

That seemed odd because all Germans speak english perfectly and are way ahead of the eco-curve, so why no questions about this groovy and traditional building method?

They have no questions, because they have the answers, and now they want YOUR answers too!

The Dachverband Lehm e.V. extends an open invitation to all interested professional colleagues to submit thematic relevant contributions and papers for the LEHM 2008 conference as well as for a poster session which will be exhibited parallel to the conference. The theme of the conference programme will include the following subject areas:

1.Earth building norms and regulations
2.Education and training in
earth building
3.Current research into building with earth
networks in earth building
5.Current problems in earthen building practice
6.New projects and exemplary conversions forum

Candidates wishing to present a paper or poster at the conference should submit a short overview (abstract) of not more than 500 words with title and name of the author. Submissions can be in German or English.

I wonder which of our North American Experts will be presenting papers at this event?

Who Likes Barometers?

If you really like barometers and rammed earth buildings, you owe it to your self to visit, either virtually or in person, The Denmark Visitor Centre in Western Australia.

photo by Bert Bolle
I'm still trying to find out the name of the construction company.

Rammed Earth In Alabama

These photos were taken by rammed earth builder Thomas Hibben durning the construction of houses in Gardendale, Alabama for the Farm Security Administration.

 The prepared earth is spread in the wall form in layers of three inches in depth.

 After each three-inch layer has been tamped, another layer is spread in the form and work resumed.

 Forms sections should not be larger than can be handled by a crew of three or four men.

 Three-inch layers are tamped in the forms until it is filled.

Bolts are removed.

The bulkheads are firmly braced so as to maintain vertical alignment

 Under tamping, the earth is compressed approximately fifty percent.

The workmen stand in the forms and knead the loose earth with tampers.

 Lots of old timey goodness to be found here. A real time-eater.

Thursday, October 11, 2007


There is much to be learned from Bhutan. While we're learning it, enjoy these inspirational photos.

photo by Marc Gibbens

photo by Marc Gibbens

photos by Marc Gibbens

photo by Marc Gibbens

photo by Anita Huang

photo by Junko Taguchi

Friday, October 05, 2007

Domes for Dads

While I grapple with the enormity of the Mouyal Family Oeuvre, here are some photos not entirely related to rammed earth. Witness a dome being constructed for one of ADAMA Building and Architecture's projects in Tel Aviv.

My father is a big fan of the domes of this region, I thought he might be interested to see how they are constructed.

A lost art?

We need to start a brick dome building academy pronto! Oh wait, there already is one! Better yet, instructor Simone Swan was a student of the great Hassan Fathy.

I love these peachy colours!

It's almost like basketweaving or rug braiding.

This is a breathtaking photo.

It almost seems a shame to fill in the centre after seeing the light in that last photo.

How dry is the mortar he's standing on?

Does he get dizzy going in a circle like that?

We'll return with more on this firm.

One Time At Rammed Earth Camp

The love affair with Flickr continues.

These links lead to hundreds of photos of contemporary canadian rammed earth forms, formworks, forming systems, construction techniques, strategies and tips for the enjoyment and edification of students, teachers, builders, architects and engineers.

If you are a rammed earth builder, homeowner, scholar or traveller, join the rammed earth flickr group and post your photos there.

With participation, the group can build a global database of people building with and living in earth. There's so much we can learn from one another when we share.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Rammed Earth In ISRAEL

These fantastic photos come to us from ADAMA Building and Architecture of Tel Aviv, Israel.

Be sure to click on the link to see their projects completed. They are sublime and rightly so, designed as they are by Moroccan architect Elie Mouyal. Readers are encouraged to peruse Mr Mouyal's oeuvre.

We're very interested in the production details here at REi4E; the nuts and bolts, the walers and stongbacks....

Rammed in-situ pre-cast window frames.

So, uh, where's the rebar? Insulation is not necessary in the Mediterranean.

BLOODY KNUCKLES! An occupational hazard. They use the SULLAIR MBT6 rammer weighing in at a hefty 40 LBS delivering 550 BPM with a 10" stroke.

Want to see it in action?

Slip form using 2x6 tongue and groove.

No, seriously, where's the rebar?

4m high? 5?

How is this attached to the supporting walls?

How to get the soil up two floors?

Conveyor Belt!

It certainly looks handy enogh for delivery, though we on upper left side of North America worry that automated placement might lead to a rough, boney surface.
We love our shovels!

Let's see it in action, shall we?

What lovely window and door openings! Where these a challenge to install? Manufactured off-site?

Compression tester!