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.

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